Company: Floravere, a new, digitally driven way to shop for a wedding dress
MBA: Stanford, class of 2015
Did you arrive at school with a specific business idea? Yes, I wrote my admissions essay (the one that asks what you want to do) on my business idea. I actually iterated on a bunch of different versions of the idea while at school, but the final version I decided to run with is pretty much identical to the original idea I wrote about in my essay.
How did the business come about? I had the idea for around 5 years and kept waiting for someone to do it – but no one did. I finally convinced myself that it was a good enough idea to pursue but had no idea where to start. It felt pretty daunting to quit my job without a roadmap or any momentum, which is why I felt business school was a good next step so I could spend time incubating the idea and really testing it to see if it could work.
What was it like to start a business while in school? Though Stanford is teeming with aspiring entrepreneurs and is such an ideal environment for starting a business, I found it to be surprisingly tough to simply find the time to work on it. You suddenly get pulled in so many directions (1st year surprisingly has a ton of classwork! Why didn’t people tell me that part?) and there are so many new things to explore that time is much more limited than I anticipated. Second year was easier because I tried to work on my business idea via any class that I could: group projects, individual projects, independent study classes. Overlapping school with working on the business helped tremendously because I felt like I was finally leveraging all the school’s resources towards something I was really excited about.
Did you ever contemplate leaving school? No, when I made the decision to go to school, I committed to the two years mentally so I never considered leaving. I think it’s a different situation for people who start to see immediate traction and momentum, but the nature of my product requires quite a long lead time for product development and to even get to launch, so it never crossed my mind.
Would you make the same decision (to attend school) again? Why? Yes, absolutely, the Stanford network has been invaluable in providing the right connections to get started. Though I did have some people tell me that it’s better to devote those two years (and the money) to your business, I felt much better equipped coming out of school as an entrepreneur. I pitched my idea numerous times and honed the story. I got connected to people who would become my first investors. I spent significant time interviewing potential customers and honing the idea using frameworks provided in startup classes. More than anything, it helped give me confidence knowing what I didn’t know. What I mean by that is, before school, I imagined there was this secret, black box of knowledge about how to start a business. Seeing to the bottom of the black box at school helped give me confidence that there wasn’t some secret formula and that I was just as ready as I would ever be.
What did you learn in school that impacted your business? I’m sure I’ve yet to fully realize the influence of school on my business, but so far (not yet being a year out), there have been some key things I learned on both the technical and interpersonal side that I can directly attribute to bschool. I learned some tactical skills that have proven to be very useful such as how to put together a pitch and what investors care about when they hear a pitch. And the interpersonal or “soft” skills have also been pretty influential: learning what traits to looks for in a team member, who I work well with, who I don’t work well with, and how to communicate your vision to others in a compelling way.
What does the future hold? Hmmm… I have no idea! Can anybody know what the future holds? I can only hope that in my future I will continue to enjoy the work that I’m doing, to be passionate about the product I’m working on, and that I’ll keep an open mind as to what “success” means to me in my work and personal life.
What are your big upcoming milestones for 2016? I’ll be launching Floravere this year, so 2016 will be the year when all of the work and vision of the past several years culminates in putting something out in the world and hoping that it resonates with people – and that it solves what I view to be a really big need in the bridal market for the savvy, millennial digital customer! Besides finally launching the business, I’m also expecting my first child (unexpectedly), so I tell people I’m having twins: my business and my child. 2016 will be a crazy year!
What tools and resources have been most helpful to you that you’d recommend to other aspiring entrepreneurs? For myself personally, the biggest resource I had while incubating the idea was business school. The other resource I would say is invaluable is to seek out other entrepreneurs in a similar space, and talk to them about their journey and what tools they used along the way. The other piece of advice I was given once, is to figure out what the “tipping point” will be to convince yourself that this is worth pursuing. What will be the catalyst to finally make you take the leap? The answer is likely different for everyone, but is it internal or external validation? Is it interested investors? Is it positive feedback from potential customers? Is it a co-founder? Identifying the criteria for the “go/no-go” decision helped me clarify why I was hesitating and when it was the right time to take the leap and just go for it.