by Tara Robinson, MBA Student
One of most anticipated courses in the LIM College MBA is Capstone. This project allows MBA students to access all the tools and information learned throughout the program. The course revolves around real-world case study situations incorporating retailing and fashion merchandising along with financial, marketing and strategic plans. The students develop their own fashion or beauty business venture that they believe will be successful in the industry. The professor for this course was Patricia Hoeltge, the Graduate Studies Director of LIM College. She felt that one of the projects that especially stood out amongst the class was Curvators™, which was developed by a group composing of Kristal Davis, Shari Driver, Dionna Matlock and Cierra Sanders. Here is an interview with the team on their amazing business idea!
What is the name of your business and explain what it’s all about?
The name of our business is Curvators™. Curvators™ is an ecommerce platform that offers a unique shopping experience by globally sourcing independent plus-size designers and providing an engaging educational and social platform for its plus-size customers. Curvators™ aims to become the premier plus-size fashion authority that offers a one-stop-plus shopping experience unmatched by any retailer. Curvators™ e-commerce products have double benefits to both consumers and designers. Consumers are offered bolder and daring fashion forward trendy apparel based on their personality, while worthy plus-size designers maximizes brand visibility to help fill gross margin gaps. In addition, Curvators™ offers services that help to transition imagery of real models and fashion houses to mirror the everyday full-figured fashion consumer. It provides reputable wardrobe consultation services and an amazing CurV-Log social experience hosted by well-known fashion bloggers. Curvators™ goes further to reach its customer by partnering with non-plus size fashion designers to create exclusive small lines as a surprise flash sale.
Did you know what you were going to do when you started?
Initially, Kristal Davis came up with the idea. When we first started coming up with ideas for our capstone project, each one of us had our own great business venture. However, given the current need in the industry for a more concentrated focus on the plus-size market, we all agreed that the idea for Curvators would be the best one.
How did you come up with the idea?
We thought about what it means to be a plus-size consumer and the frustration of not having a consistent source of contemporary trendy fashion styles. One of our teammates is a plus-size fashionista and one of her main complaints as a consumer is the lack of style and sizes available for her to choose from when shopping. We were all familiar with other online retail sites like Sonsi and Madison Plus that cater to the plus-size customer, but the sites lacked a social media component that would help customers make the best styling decisions for their individual personality and body type. We wanted to develop a platform that married the concept of ecommerce with social media to provide a full range of service for our customer.
What sets it apart from the other capstone projects?
I believe our project truly focused on a niche market that has yet to be targeted by existing fashion brands. There are several brands that offer fashions to other market niches like maternity wear – a niche that was targeted by the capstone group Glammy, but we felt that Curvators is on the cusp of a new movement in fashion retailing, catering to the underserved market of the plus-size customer.
What were some of the difficulties you faced?
Time management was one of our biggest challenges. There was so much research and data available to help us identify our target market, but to "curate" through all the resources took a lot of time and effort from the team.
How did this prepare you for the real world?
Fortunately, we were a very diplomatic group and we all listened to each other’s ideas with an open mind and critiqued each other on ideas that need further development. Occasionally, a creative difference would come up (i.e should we start source global designers right away or focus on domestic designers first), but we discussed the pros and cons of the issue until an agreement was made. Sometimes, ideas were revisited and we had to keep reminding each other about the overall mission and vision of Curvators.
How did you resolve your creative differences?
Preparing a business plan is a great way to really understand who you are as an entrepreneur. A business plan allows you to see the business idea in its entirety and not just the idea itself. It is a realistic approach to discovering if you really want to start the business and will you be able to handle the unforeseen struggles that come along during the startup phase. Overall, I believe this business plan preparation pushed each of us to go beyond our comfort levels and pushed our creative limits further than we otherwise thought were not possible.
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An LIM College MBA Student Guide to Finding a Place in the City
By: Tara Robinson, MBA Student
You somehow completed the GMAT, finished your application and have painfully waited to hear the response that will determine the next 15 months or more of your life. Then that email comes and YOU’RE IN! You now have the “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys playing in the back of your mind simultaneously with scenes from The Devil Wears Prada.
You then stop your moment of glee, MID happy dance; to the painful reality that you have no place to live! Take some deep breaths and continue your happy dance because just 4 months ago I was in your shoes. This post will give you all the dos, don’ts and all the stuff I wish I knew 4 months ago.
First thing first, create a budget to know what your price range is before you start looking for apartments. Don’t start looking at these amazing apartments and then realize it’s completely out of your budget, trust me it’s too painful for one soul to bare. If you have a roommate in mind you’re on the right track! If you don’t, you can contact us so that we can put you in contact with other students who are looking for roommates as well. Also use the Facebook groups and pages as resource to meet other students.
Okay now that that’s out of the way there are a few things you need to know about apartment hunting in NYC.
Don’t start looking until about three to four weeks before your move in date. I know this one is a tough one but apartments go off the market quickly in New York. If you look at something months before it probably won’t be there when you’re looking again. I do advise that you make a list of areas you want to live in or possible buildings that list availabilities. Boroughs such as Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx are good alternatives when looking for more space and lower rents than you will be able to find in the city.
Make sure you check the commute from your apartment to LIM College (type in Maxwell Hall’s address because this is where all your classes will be) and make sure there is public transportation nearby .
You don’t need a two bedroom apartment just at apartment that can fit two bedrooms! This is a trick you will learn in New York, some apartment buildings will let you put up a flex/pressurized wall that can separate a space and make a 1 bedroom apartment into a 2 bedroom. This can cost you up to 700-950 depending on which company you use. This includes the door and taking the wall down when you move out! This is what I’ve done in my apartment because we had a huge living room and my room is actually bigger than my roommate’s. If you know you want to do a flex wall make sure you call them as soon as you find an apartment because they can take a while. Also ask your leasing office what contracts or forms the wall company will need to present in order for them to put up the wall.
Try to avoid using a broker! There are a lot of apartment hunting websites that will show you great buildings. However, you then have to contact the broker to view the apartment and each apartment will have a different broker and a different broker's fee! You can end up paying thousands in broker fees. So avoid these sites because it’s an unnecessary additional cost to finding an apartment. Here’s a list of websites that can help you avoid those pesky fees. Also if you can find the name of the apartment contact the leasing office yourself! (Envision Miranda in that scene in Sex and the City following the movers with the couch. You have to be aggressive!)
NYBits (Our favorite as you can search listings as well as find buildings, property management companies, property developers and a ton of other information to help you find that dream apartment on your own)
Have a co-signer in mind! Let's say that you and your roomie have found the perfect apartment and it’s time to fill out the application PAUSE; you don’t make enough money for the apartment to approve you and you need a co-signer. This is one of the many annoying parts about apartment hunting in New York as soon as you find an apartment and contact them they expect you to have all the documents and applications done in the next 1-3 days (not business days!) or they will put the apartment back on the market. So it’s really important that you have all your information ready so that you don’t miss the perfect apartment when you finally find it. Here’s a list of documents that you and your co-signer/guarantor will typically need:
Recent pay stub
Letter of employment/enrollment letter
Copy of two or three recent bank states
Fill out an application (SSN# for background check and credit check)
*Listen up International Students! What if you don’t have a cosigner or your co-signer is out of country? Most apartments in New York will not take out of country co-signers (still ask) but don’t worry you do have other options.
Some Apartments will let you pay up to 6months-1yr up front if you don’t have a co-signer. Always offer 6 months first then up to a year.
Some apartments cater to alien residents like the Avalon apartments so look up your country’s embassy in New York and ask them what apartments their diplomats live in.
If any of the previous steps haven’t worked for you should think about subleasing a room for a while until you can find a more permanent location. Craigslist is a great resource for subleasing rooms. Just make sure that you meet anyone from Craigslist in a public area!
Say all hope is lost and you just can’t find a place or don’t want the hassle, then there is always on-campus housing. It’s on a first come first serve basis. Also keep in mind it will be the typical college dorm room.
Fashion 2.0: The Digital Evolution of Fashion Week
by Laurie Espino, MBA student at LIM College
Just a few years ago, Fashion Week was an exclusive, by-invitation event that was reserved for elite editors and journalists. These days, just about everyone can have access to the latest designer shows and collections thanks to the infinite advancements of the digital age. Social media is one of those new digital toys that have changed the way the world sees Fashion Week.
As a fashion journalist, I was blown away by the amount of social responsibilities we now hold to our readers: they turn to our Tweets to get style details; they check our Instagram posts to get an inside look at what designers are showing. Live tweeting has become so common at fashion shows that we hardly have enough attention span to actually watch the collection being displayed before us. Pretty crazy since that’s the main reason why we were sent to shows, right?
During my post-NYFW recovery, I attended Style Coalition’s Fashion 2.0: The Digital Evolution of Fashion Week. The panel was led by Style Coalition Founder & CEO Yuli Ziv, and featured industry leaders from all parts of the fashion industry. There was BuzzFeed Fashion Editor Amy Odell, DVF’s EVP of Marketing & Communications Michelle Horowitz, Fashion GPS’ Director of Sales Jill Melz, and WGSN Trend Forecasting Editor Rachel Arthur. Each panel member shared their personal and professional experience with the growing advancements of social media. It was great getting to hear about the digital revolution of fashion, and how it affects different business segments. As an MBA student who hopes to advance in this very area of the fashion industry, I found the experience to be priceless.
Fashion 2.0 was just one of the many events MBA students have the opportunity to attend. Our next event will be the CEO Roundtable Series with Brant Cryder, President of YSL America.
Photo Credit: Jillian Bove, http://www.meetup.com/fashion20/photos/11047052/
|Fashion 2.0 speakers from left: Style Coalition Founder & CEO Yuli Ziv, BuzzFeed Editor Amy Odell, DVF EVP of Marketing and Communications Michelle Horowitz, Fashion GPS’s Director of Sales Jill Melz, and WGSN Editor Rachel Arthur.|
|MBA students Riki Tang and Rahul Zala take time to snap a pic before the panel takes their place.|
So you want to be an entrepreneur. As you round out your MBA studies, and map out your entrepreneurial career, you’re probably wondering how to move forward. Recent LIM College MBA graduate Kristen Pagan co-founded her new business, SeamBliss, while still in school. Join us as we follow her story, and discover what it’s like to truly build a business from the ground up.
LIM: What is SeamBliss?
Kristen Pagan: SeamBliss is an online community for unique, handmade apparel. It connects customers who are looking for one-of-kind fashion directly to its designers. For designers, we offer great marketing exposure, so they can focus on their craft.
LIM: How did you get started on the entrepreneurial path?
KP: I was working a corporate job in fashion, and was very unhappy. While I was job-hunting, I heard that my current business partner was looking for someone to help with his start-up idea. We met up, and he showed me his business plan. After a thorough analysis, I felt confident about his venture and decided to join him.
LIM: What gave you the ultimate push to go forward with a start-up?
KP: At my corporate job, there was no excitement. There was a lack of engaging…in short, boring. With SeamBliss, I get to see a business build from the ground up. It’s very fulfilling, and I love it.
LIM: What’s on SeamBliss’s horizon?
KP: Well, right now we are working with an accelerator program in New Jersey called TechLaunch. They give us guidance with accounting, legal, and networking. We have our Demo Day coming up on November 1st, where we will be pitching to investors.
LIM: What LIM class do you think best prepared you for the challenge you face in your new business?
KP: Definitely Entrepreneurial Finance and Intrapreneurship. Those classes were pricelss.
Don’t forget to tune-in for more updates on Kristen’s entrepreneurial journey, and don’t forget to check out SeamBliss.com!
There are so many things to look forward to in the Fall: Pumpkin Spiced Latés from Starbucks, digging out our boots and scarves, and the start of our CEO Roundtable Series! Ben Fischman, CEO of the oh-so-addicting website Rue La La, kicked off this year’s series. MBA student Laurie Espino shares her thoughts on the event:
“I always love hearing how industry leaders got to where they are. Ben’s story is particularly fascinating because he started off stating that he never envisioned himself in the fashion industry. Before the presentation, I found it’s always good to read a couple of articles about the company they are representing. It shows you’re interested. Plus, it helps you think up a question during the Q&A section.
It’s important not just to attend these events, but to take the chance to meet the speaker. A lot of them are open meeting students, if only for a moment. Take a deep breath and introduce yourself to the speaker at the end of their talk – even if it’s just to thank them for coming. Also, try to score their business card at the end. This is especially handy when you’re on the job hunt!”
The thought of studying abroad can be equally terrifying as it is exciting. Getting to explore a foreign city and experiencing a new culture is an amazing opportunity for any student, but may require some courage to take the chance. However, LIM College MBA student Amanda Castilone knew she wanted to seize the opportunity. She took that chance and is now studying at PoleESG in the heart of Paris. Now, she shares with us the fears she had, and why she boarded that plane to France!
Why did you choose Paris out of all other places to study abroad?
I originally thought I wanted to study in London, but the graduate program at LIM College was still working on the exchange agreement with London College of Fashion at that time. Then, I found out I was able to study at PoleESG in Paris, and was thrilled! I knew that I would get a better experience studying in Paris, because the city really values fashion like New York.
Also, the Parisian way of life is very different from what we are accustomed to in the United States. I knew it would be difficult because the only French words I knew we're Bonjour, Merci, and s'il vous plaît... but I was up to the challenge!
What was your biggest concern when you considered studying abroad?
My biggest, initial concern was not knowing how to speak French. After being here for about a month, I find that almost everyone I talk to is more than willing to help me if I simply say "bonjour" and tell them "Je ne parle pas français" which means "I do not speak French." After people hear that they almost instantly speak English, and are very accommodating! Now my biggest concern is how to conserve my money with all the traveling I want to do!
What made you decide to go for it?
I didn’t take the chance to study abroad during my undergrad, and I knew this would be my last opportunity to study in another country. I knew as soon as I interviewed with LIM College and learned that they offered study abroad programs that I was going to go for it. As soon as I was sure the exchange program with PoleESG was in place and I was able to apply there would be no turning back for me!
What classes are you taking?
I am taking International MBA courses at both ESG Management School and Paris Business School. At ESG, I am studying International Marketing and Branding for Luxury Products. At PBS, I am taking Fundamentals of Luxury and Fashion.
I came to LIM College to learn more about the industry and expand myself into the corporate environment. So far, LIM College is meeting my expectations with guest speakers, CEO Round Tables, and assistance from professors and career services to make my goals become a reality.
I plan on studying abroad in Australia in the spring to expand my international fashion knowledge and experience life in another culture. When I return, I anticipate completing an executive training program to make my professional goals come true.
I recommend this college for anyone who has a dream to expand their fashion knowledge or get into the corporate environment. This college is also great because you get the opportunity to gain this knowledge by experiencing New York City in the process.
Beginning my academic career at LIM College has been a big adjustment for me. Not only am I new to the school, but the New York lifestyle is completely different from my southern upbringing in Florida. I have downsized my living conditions and traded my car for the overly crowded subways and I have to say that the tradeoff has been worth it.
At LIM College not only am I learning how to be a leader in the fashion industry, I have also had the opportunity to network with CEOs and executives of well-known brands.
Being bold enough to make the change and accept the challenge has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made and I wouldn’t trade this experience for a walk-in closet filled with Chanel. ;-)