Business Casual: Focus On Fashion Start-Ups

Kendall is a former fashion editor who has written for NYmag.com, Lucky, InStyle, and NBC. She recently scrapped that glamorous life and is pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan, in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. I’m sitting on my couch, struggling to focus on how to begin writing. But, I can’t pick among any of the what-am-I-doing-here moments I’ve had recently to start with. To be blunt, my life lately has been crazytown. Meeting with one of Pinterest’s co-founders. Shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Playing with robots at Intuitive Surgical. Touring Sequoia Capital’s office. Listening to Polyvore’s CEO. Though these experiences might appear varied and disconnected, one motif binds them all: entrepreneurship. A driving force in my choice to go to business school was to learn more about entrepreneurship in the hopes that (gulp!) I could one day start my own venture. A quick and obvious counterpoint to this is: why go to b-school? Join a start-up! Get real on the ground experience! That’s great for some people. For me, I wanted an MBA. After all, I decided to go to b-school when Gilt Groupe rose to fame, and just as Rent the Runway and Birchbox were starting to--both of which were started by Harvard Business School women. While magazines were on the decline--losing advertisers, cutting staff--things were getting exciting in the start-up world. Today, the lid’s been blown off.
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Kendall is a former fashion editor who has written for NYmag.com, Lucky, InStyle, and NBC. She recently scrapped that glamorous life and is pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan, in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. I’m sitting on my couch, struggling to focus on how to begin writing. But, I can’t pick among any of the what-am-I-doing-here moments I’ve had recently to start with. To be blunt, my life lately has been crazytown. Meeting with one of Pinterest’s co-founders. Shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Playing with robots at Intuitive Surgical. Touring Sequoia Capital’s office. Listening to Polyvore’s CEO. Though these experiences might appear varied and disconnected, one motif binds them all: entrepreneurship. A driving force in my choice to go to business school was to learn more about entrepreneurship in the hopes that (gulp!) I could one day start my own venture. A quick and obvious counterpoint to this is: why go to b-school? Join a start-up! Get real on the ground experience! That’s great for some people. For me, I wanted an MBA. After all, I decided to go to b-school when Gilt Groupe rose to fame, and just as Rent the Runway and Birchbox were starting to--both of which were started by Harvard Business School women. While magazines were on the decline--losing advertisers, cutting staff--things were getting exciting in the start-up world. Today, the lid’s been blown off.
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Kendall is a former fashion editor who has written for NYmag.com, Lucky, InStyle, and NBC. She recently scrapped that glamorous life and is pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan, in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur.

I’m sitting on my couch, struggling to focus on how to begin writing. But, I can’t pick among any of the what-am-I-doing-here moments I’ve had recently to start with. To be blunt, my life lately has been crazytown. Meeting with one of Pinterest’s co-founders. Shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Playing with robots at Intuitive Surgical. Touring Sequoia Capital’s office. Listening to Polyvore’s CEO. Though these experiences might appear varied and disconnected, one motif binds them all: entrepreneurship.

A driving force in my choice to go to business school was to learn more about entrepreneurship in the hopes that (gulp!) I could one day start my own venture. A quick and obvious counterpoint to this is: why go to b-school? Join a start-up! Get real on the ground experience! That’s great for some people. For me, I wanted an MBA. After all, I decided to go to b-school when Gilt Groupe rose to fame, and just as Rent the Runway and Birchbox were starting to--both of which were started by Harvard Business School women. While magazines were on the decline--losing advertisers, cutting staff--things were getting exciting in the start-up world.

Today, the lid’s been blown off. Almost every day I hear of a new idea promising to give us all online closets or let you crowdsource your shopping habits: Stylitics, TheFancy, ModeWalk, Fashism, Svpply. The space is so crowded now; it’ll be interesting to see which sites emerge on top. Any guesses?

Two sites that we can pretty much guarantee will stick around for a while are Polyvore and Pinterest. On my recent MIT Sloan Entrepreneurship trek, I had the complete pleasure to visit these offices. Here’s what I found:

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It was a tad surreal to walk into Polyvore to meet with Jess Lee, the CEO. I’ve been a fan of the site for a while now. My first impression upon entering the office in Mountain View, CA is that the space matched the open creativity they encourage on their website. For example, there’s a stuffed dog welcoming guests at the entrance. Jess came off incredibly approachable and yet clearly is a master of her domain. A former product manager at Google Maps, she switched over to Polyvore after emailing the founder about what she hoped to see improved about the Polyvore product. Perhaps there’s a tip in there for other people looking to get into their favorite start-up? Anyway, her life nowadays is focused on making Polyvore a site that does a few things well; Jess thinks there’s a lot more in the fashion sphere left for Polyvore to explore. She loves how the site has, in a way, democratized fashion. People with a unique eye can be recognized for their talent even if they don’t live in New York or have formal experience. The next day, I was off to Pinterest, the most buzzed about start-up in the area. How frequently the name Pinterest popped up at social events throughout the week reminded me a bit of how a single designer can dominate the conversation at fashion week parties. Out in Silicon Valley, it’s all about the coolest start-up. Pinterest resides in a cheery yellow but otherwise unremarkable building without a receptionist. They have about 24 employees now and are looking to bring on pragmatic, collaborative people with broad interests. It was fun to hear how much they’ve grown already, beginning with two people in a tiny apartment to now being the third most popular social networking site.

Then, because life is absurd at business school, I took a red eye out of California to Israel for an MIT Sloan spring break trip. If you’ve read Start-Up Nation, you know what a hub of innovation the small country is. Thanks to the trip’s organizers, we had the amazing fortune to have a private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Politics aside, it was really something to sit so close to such an important global leader. Also, we spoke with Shai Agassi about his company Better Place which seems like it may revolutionize the world with electric cars and the infrastructure to make them convenient and cost effective. After riding some camels, swimming in the Dead Sea, and eating my weight in hummus, I’m home feeling very grateful and trying to process all of these moments.

Sitting on my previously mentioned couch, it’s time for me to start making choices about my summer internship. I’m torn between going to a major luxury retail company or trying my luck at a little start-up. Mounting grad school debt doesn’t exactly mix well with taking big financial gambles, but is there ever a right time to take that risk? Hopefully, by the next time I write, I’ll have an answer. Meanwhile, please hit me up in the comments with any questions or follow me on Twitter (@kendall_to_go).