CHANGE MAKERS IN NEW-YORK. A GREAT FAB FASHION AND BEAUTYTECH COMMUNITY.
On March 7 th , I was invited by Danielle Cohen-Shohet, our awesome NYC chapter leader, grateful to meet mission-driven and data-driven founders. They are all about impact, sustainability, social activism…
We all need to be aware of our cognitive biases. I must say that before the meeting and as a proud Californian, I couldn’t help thinking that NYC was a little bit “old school”, with ‘classic’ brands surrounded by financial institutions, established corporations and retailers.
For me, San Francisco was the place to be for platforms, and LA for lifestyle entrepreneurs inspired by the Californian way of life and diverse influences.
Shame on me!
Guess what: there are good vibes in NYC too! The great entrepreneurs and investors I met are change makers big time! They talk about their purpose, their community, and how to grow in an organic way. And they are obsessed by the customer experience.
There is also a healthy way to talk about their business. Taking the time to grow at the right pace, to have the perfect products, and learn from customers.
MISSION and STORY TELLING: “WE WANTED TO IMPACT PEOPLE’S LIFE BE TRANSPARENT, AND MORE AFFORDABLE.”
We were excited to have Matt Scanlan Founder of Naadam Cashmere sharing his learnings.
His fast growing company sells with a Direct-to-consumer business model has become a reference in the last 3 years.
He traveled for the first time far from Manhattan home. And he had so many challenges that he had to stay for a while in Mongolia, where he was welcome by a family. It was a life changing experience.
As Sarra Sayani reminded us, Naadam is more than a cashmere brand. Matt has transformed the traditional supply chain and is responsibly sourcing the finest fibers from Mongolia while preserving the livelihood of herders.
Here are some quick facts about their story:
- A 20-hour car ride
- a broken-down land cruiser
- 6 motorcycles
- 3 weeks lost in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
- 2 liters of goat milk vodka
- $2M in 32 plastic shopping bags
- 1,000 herders
- 1 non-profit
- 1M goat vaccinations
- 250 tons of raw cashmere… And here it is, you get the recipe for Naadam.
What is their story and Vision? Naadam has decided to change the life of the people sourcing cashmere. Naadam is on a mission to democratize cashmere by translating transparency into real sustainability, better prices, and better quality for customers. Matt founded a non profit.
“We pay the nomadic herders 50% more, invest in breeding and vaccination programs for healthier goats, and develop sustainable grazing practices.
We do real non-profit work and in return we get direct access to rare materials to sell them to you at real prices. It’s simple.” Let’s say it rings a bell. I’m a big supporter of Rothys, Everlane or AllBirds. founded in San Francisco.
We should put forward the other great founders who kinkdly accepted to be guest speakers.
Wthn has been founded by Michelle Larrivee after a ski accident, she desperately needed to heal, and acupuncture was her relief. Her brand is just launching now, stay tuned!
The charismatic Chris Echevarria. is the founder of BlackStock and Weber, and he is obsessed by shoes- high quality and affordable at the same time.
They stand for something. They share values with their community.
Let’s come back to what we have learned thanks to our inspiring moderator and investor Carly-Ann Fergus XRC Labs and Leena Sukumar who has a love story with solutions for growth (and also volunteered to help to organize the event).
PROVING IT EVERY DAY, CUSTOMER CENTRIC WITH AN ENGAGED COMMUNITY
The founders are not just about a big purpose, they are also focusing on how to prove it day after day, to their team, their beloved customers, their investors, and all other stakeholders.
They all talk about how they listen to their customers. It’s not just about communication. Some (may be too arrogant) entrepreneurs assert to do “clean beauty” or “sustainable fashion” while (may be) not really understanding what’s in their ingredient list. Suppliers are always eager to close deals with new startups not asking too many questions and eager to launch fast, which has a cost. May be not getting either what is the impact for employees of their choices even if they sincerely want to do good.
Here are the champions, caring about their customers:
Chris Echevarria still answers to them on social media, chat or by call. For him, it’s a way to check he is on its way with his team.
Rachel Ten Brink is the Co-Founder of ScentBird, “Date perfumes before marrying them” does she claim. She really needs to make sure people are happy with their scent in our monthly subscription box. And she’s proud of it.
Kate Mc Leod has founded The Body Stone. “Body moisturizing stones. No preservatives • No synthetics • No alcohols • No parabens • No additives.” She’s traveling a lot and consider herself not only as a brand ambassador and the brand’s face but a sales representative demonstrating the product. “People need to touch the body moisturizer to experience what we mean. We are different.”
It’s true for Direct-to-consumer models but also Services on Demand such as Artist on the Go, founded by the serial entrepreneur Dharmendra Manvani. He claims to help hair artist to create with freedom.
CHALLENGES AND HACKS
What hurdles were encountered, and key decisions made in the first few years to overcome the zero-to-one phase in the business? All of them say it in an honest and straight to the point way: it’s so tough to create awareness and grow in an organic way!
Here comes the expert. Jeremy Bergstein has founded the Science project. Not only does he work for global brands, but for new emerging brands. The magic recipe is to continue to adjust every day, the rules of the game change. It’s for sure about influencers. Content. Paid media. But the secret recipe is different for every company according to their target and community.
It’s also tough to have the right team.
Matt acknowledges not being the best at listening to his advisors, mentors and investors, focusing on his community and team for insights.
Chris claims to have inspiring mentors who guided him during the first steps and now that he’s scaling his company.
What is the one thing they wish they would have done differently?
All of them! So let’s all stay humble and continue to learn every day.
What ways has your role evolved within the company and where do you spend most of your focus today with the business?
Making sure the products are excellent, the experience unique, the talent around.
Where do you see the fashion apparel category trending and how are consumer tastes changing?
They all seem to be concerned by the buzz words, wise founders!
LEARNINGS FROM INVESTORS
Paul Strachman Red Sea Ventures has invested in many consumer brands including Prose Hair in NY. He underlines the new definition of luxury. It’s not about the status, it’s not about the big purpose. It’s about the new experience.
Affordability, at reach, close to the people. Luxury is not any longer for the wealthy elite.
Chinese and Asian markets will also change the rules of the game with customers under 30 years old being the major population. Compelling us to be inspiring and with a unique tone of voice.
There will be an unfair advantage for those who are with the “radical transparency” as Everlane claims.
Sapna Shah Red Giraffe Advisors shows that being in seed stage or federating business angels matters, has VCs focus on early revenues companies.
Melanie Ullmo (who has worked for J20 Ventures) shared her way to expand her network, better defining what she was expecting from a conversation when she managed to have one. And also being always ready to help on our side. As even as a young investor, she gave insights to founders and other VCs, creating a trust relationship.
Et voilà! As we say in French. Next meeting will take place in Fall.
Any volunteer to help Danielle is welcome as we are all busy founders and funders and it’s a community. Thank you for your support. As you have noticed the Fab Fashion and BeautyTech community has now a new logo and graphic chart ( thank you Funny Bones design studio Paris).
See you at China Connect March 13th or in LA And Sf in June ( June 25th for San Francisco!).
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Thank you for your support 🙌🙌🏾🙌🏿🙌🏻Grateful to meet amazing leaders and proud to see more than 70 % in NY SF female founders and minority founders 💪✨( #internationalwomenday)