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entrepreneur

Starkweather at the Lost Labs Showcase

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Starkweather at the Lost Labs Showcase

On Friday, April 13, Starkweather, along with four other Chicago startups, presented to a room of 100+ individuals in an old warehouse building on Goose Island. The event was the culmination of three months of incubation through the first Lost Labs program. Run by Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter and founder of Lost Arts, Lost Labs is an opportunity to "[apply] ambition, to explore the potential of curiosity," for "anyone with a tenacious creative spirit." 

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As part of the first cohort, there was a loose framework for us to structure our goals and a timeline to achieve it. I found myself motivated to challenge myself and reach higher than I had initially outlined. The result for Starkweather was a full-on new business plan and pitch that has been updated to reflect all the lessons learned, all the new resources that are available, and the forecast of where the industry and consumer behavior is going in the future. 

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The capstone event gave me a platform to share those organized thoughts to a group of intelligent, curious professionals who then had an opportunity to come speak with the founder (myself), see the products, try them on, and share their feedback. I walked away inspired with new ideas, and excited to get the product into waiting customers' hands. That excitement will serve me well, as motivation and foundation to overcome the challenges to come. Truth: the hard work begins now.

Writing this on a 30º day in mid-April, I know even as I wait for the warm weather to come, that getting cold-weather product to market for fall 2018 will keep me occupied until the weather turns cold again. 

Over the next several months, I will be getting the word out, taking lots of meetings and copious notes, and building out the resources to make the Fall's launch a catalyst for Starkweather's future success. 

Thank you to Charles and Elizabeth @LostArts, and to the rest of the cohort founders.

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2018/1 Cohort Companies:

CoLab
Founded by Louis Vowell, CoLab is an online collaboration platform that connects artists and alumni from different art universities across the country. CoLab was created to alleviate post-graduation isolation, with the aim of facilitating cross-campus communication and producing collaborative artworks.

Fertile Design
Fertile Design is a biodegradable plastic, partially made of food waste, that is chemically balanced to feed the soil when it is discarded in the ground. This product, which can replace traditional plastics, is the creation of Jessica Gorse.

Fossick
For the artistically inspired, Fossick is a homewares and accessories company with an ethical and sustainable twist. Cate Breasley started the company to a range of uniquely designed, one-off pieces in vibrant colors and patterns that celebrate individuality, creativity, and hidden potential. 

Sojourn Fare
Roman Titus founded Sojourn Fare to make the mushrooms (and their medicinal and culinary potential) more prevalent in the world. The company builds farm-tech software that empowers growers to control, monitor and optimize mushroom cultivation.

Starkweather
Starkweather creates outerwear for urban environments, combining low and high-tech solutions to design products that marry technology, function and aesthetics. Lee Anderson created Starkweather to provide an alternative for people who wish to wear something other than the ubiquitous black puffy jacket all winter, while maintaining warmth and functionality.

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On Starting Somewhere : now available on Amazon

On starting Somewhere is now available on amazon for download. http://amzn.to/1j9v7DC

Entrepreneurship is not only a career choice, it's a way of life and a state of mind. The early stages of any venture will bring us face to face with issues that can help us and our businesses evolve in unexpected ways. 
On Starting Somewhere is an account of entrepreneurship during the tumultuous time before success. Author Lee Anderson came into entrepreneurship with a non-traditional background, and shares her experience on how to navigate the first steps of this arduous but life changing adventure.

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If you don't have a kindle, you can read kindle books on kindle cloud reader, or on several apps available through your web browser. 

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On Starting Somewhere : E-book excerpt

On Starting Somewhere addresses the beginning phases of an entrepreneurial life, before success. As designers and entrepreneurs our lives are made up of questions and experiments, successes and failures. But what drives us to first choose that path, and then to continue down it despite the hardship? There are endless accounts of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, but what about those years during which we know only failures, it can feel like we're doing everything wrong while we perceive others to have all the answers? On Starting Somewhere is an account of this phase of my own career, what I have learned and why I keep going. Release date May 19, 2014 on amazon

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It sometimes feels indulgent to step away from work, but in the end we have to turn ‘off’ sometimes. We have to revitalize. There is a misconception across many industries, and pervasive in the startup world, that the more you work the more dedicated you are. The less you sleep the more passionate you are. Like I’ve said, I am not fully functional without my sleep, so if I am really thinking of what is best for my business and for myself I will force myself under the covers. It also seems to me that if we are really working all the time, we might just be terribly disorganized. There are most definitely exceptions to this rule, and I have known deadlines to keep me working around the clock. But I would never make a habit of it, and I definitely don’t consider it a badge of honor.   

In between all of this work, there are the moments when we have to be out in the world exposed to inspiration. Without taking in information from the outside world, our internal monologue becomes self-centric and unrelatable to others. Business ideas that don’t connect with the public are not worth a whole lot. Similarly, most artists feel satisfaction only once they’ve made a connection with others through their work. Before establishing this connection, it is a lonely place. A business without customers is lonely, as is a leader without followers. The more that we understand of the world around us the more convincing our argument can be to get people behind our cause.

I especially love cross-disciplinary discussions because the world has a way of leading many of us to the same conclusion at the same moment in time which we than express through a wide variety of media. The thoughts in this book, for example, relate to thoughts that have been trickling out into the world recently in conversations, various arts and writing, which I think has propelled the urgency of these words. It is a conversation that is happening right now, and the transparency of my rhetoric is only to point out the fact that we have developed this engrained sense of immediacy in our commentary. If we join the conversation, we can find connection, and that is the ultimate satisfaction for the designer, the artist, and the entrepreneur alike.

Many creative thinkers find this kind of connection difficult without using their work as a conversational tool or vessel. Relating to the humanness in us and around us, we find people who relate to the work we produce. Until first experiencing this recognition, it can feel like a very vulnerable act to produce creative work. But in the end, once we take that risk we satisfy a visceral need for expression that when suppressed can cause all kinds of unhappiness. Once released, offers a strong sense of empowerment.

While that soliloquy might resonate more with the pure artists, starting a business has much the same effect. It begins when we identify something within ourselves that leads us to seek something more, usually not in the material world, but in the immaterial. It is scary to think of taking that leap, but if we deny it we end up feeling a sense of loss for something we never had. 

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Book Cover Research

I've never looked at book covers as a graphic designer before, I've only ever looked as a reader and an aesthete. But this past week I've been delving into the digital world of cover art and coming out with some pretty inspiring examples and a great direction for the book cover of On Starting Somewhere. 

I am definitely someone who is biased towards beautiful cover art. Even different editions of the same book will fall into a hierarchy of design in my eyes. Another think I looked at was the list of best sellers on Amazon, where I'll be releasing the book on May 19. They will tell you themselves that good cover design is all important for an online purchase, because it is what makes your book stand out from the others amidst a whole lot of words.  

Here's to hoping that the result will sell some copies and get the book out into the world! For now here are some book cover examples that I love with a nice retro vibe. I think I'm focusing on the Alvin Lustig model: Suggest, don’t explain.

Alvin Lustig: Suggest, don’t explain

Alvin Lustig: Suggest, don’t explain

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'Designer' and 'Entrepreneur' Have Become Synonymous but are still Divergent

While working on a writing project, on Starting Somewhere, the words ‘artist’ or ‘designer,’ and the word ‘entrepreneur’ kept popping into my writing interchangeably. It occurred to me that I should be addressing one or the other, as it might get confusing and certain thoughts might be misconstrued as exclusive to one or the other. I realized the dilemma: that I’m trying to reach both with the same message because both are functioning in much the same way these days, we just don’t recognize it yet in our rhetoric or in our communities. I know this because I actually consider myself a hybrid of these categories, and but have had a hell of a time coming to terms with that and communicating to people where I fit in this disjointed system.

Although their activities are very similar, just packaged differently, it still challenging for an artist or a designer to be seen as an entrepreneur. The worlds are entirely separate, although the values and experiences are often the same. For artists, as for entrepreneurs the goal is to connect with an audience to sell your product or service. The term ‘design’ is being used more often to describe business practices and in job titles as industries evolve. The relevance, therefore, of the artist in the business world is understood now not to be a purely aesthetic thing. Design is systems and programs and infrastructure and interface. Startups use design skills everyday, employing their creativity and their inner artist.

Because artists are always expected to make choices for the sake of their art rather than to make money, they do not fit our conventional idea of an entrepreneur, whose primary pursuit is commerce. But this line has been blurred now that artists run businesses of their own and have access to many of the same outlets as businesses through which to reach their community, some of whom might be other businesses looking to outsource artwork or design work. Artists have had to learn to become entrepreneurs to promote themselves and build a following. And so a conversation with an entrepreneur and another with an artist might have many parallels. The startup and the artist pass through the same phases of discovery, experimentation and diffusion.

When starting out after graduating from Parsons in 2009, it took me years to understand that the language I was speaking was not the language of a fashion designer, but rather a hybrid of a fashion designer and an entrepreneur. It meant me meeting the right people at the right time, having conversations that I never thought I would have, and stepping off of a path that had been laid out in front of me since my first taste of fashion industry at the age of 18. In doing so, I had to step away from what I knew and into an abyss, hoping to find my voice and my people.

Once you decide to be a designer there is only one path to take, whether you have your own design business or you have a job with another brand: you must keep up with the cycle of all of the other fashion businesses. When you are in a startup you are basically required to do something totally different than what already exists. There is a huge dichotomy here, and for anyone who is interested in change and progress, fashion as it exists is quite suffocating.

 There is a real opportunity here to start considering the business of fashion at all of its levels and in all of its shapes and sizes, and accepting entrepreneur as synonymous with designer.

There are bridges forming between the fashion world and the startup world, but they are all being built from the land of technology towards the land of fashion. The land of fashion has little moments celebrating the innovations of technology, but mostly through content creation and in various novel ways. They know how to create buzz, but they aren’t changing the world. Even an example like Burberry, celebrated for their embracing of all things digital, are only dressing up a business that remains tied to the cycle.

The innovation in these big companies has to be in communication and marketing, because they are too big and working too well to alter from the bottom up. The problem is not that heritage companies all function in the same way, but that all fashion businesses starting out head down the same path by default, without questioning it. that's just the way it's done. We celebrate unique aesthetics and content creation, but new business models cannot take off because they are rejected by the gatekeepers. Our innovation comes in marketing strategies and commercial channels, but not in business models. And where would we go to find a mentor to guide us through innovation? Likely to tech land, where a new idea can be flushed out and developed rather than scoffed at. 

When you are a startup in tech land, you have access to long list of incubators, accelerator programs, and mentors. New ideas are encouraged and plentiful, and are up for grabs to the one who does it best. As a designer our options are limited to competitions, show room sponsorships, and a select few programs, like the CFDA incubator in New York, where the focus on the business is a bit more long term. But these tend to focus on businesses that already have some traction, whereas for a startup you find support from, well, the moment you start up.

This is not a question of fairness, or of all designers deserving a shot. It is an argument that I’ll eventually (in another article) bridge into how fashion can be more sustainable as an industry if we learn a little something from the startup model. And this is speaking to both designers and industry decision makers: we need to start building the bridge back towards tech land. Young designers should consider business models that break from the rules of the gatekeepers, and industry decision makers should encourage this dialogue for future change.

Why are the most exciting things about Fashion the ones happening in underground movements like those of ethics, sustainability and tech?

There is a real opportunity here to start considering the business of fashion at all of its levels and in all of its shapes and sizes, and accepting entrepreneur as synonymous with designer. Conversations on Omni channel retail and Omni channel marketing, interest from big tech companies to collaborate with fashion brands, and organizations like Decoded Fashion are all breaking down the barriers that have restricted movement within the fashion industry for so long.

What I’ve learned is simply that in order to find a place in the no-mans-land that I linger in, somewhere on the fringes of fashion and the fringes of tech, the conversation must continue. Every new discovery leads to a new opportunity, a new idea, and a new door. This is the thrill of innovation and newness that has always inspired entrepreneurs, and has begun to cause fashion to loose its edge. Why are the most exciting things about Fashion the ones happening in underground movements like those of ethics, sustainability and tech? The beauty of the garments becomes, at a certain point, obscured by their detachment from reality.

It’s not just in regards to fashion; the future of all industries is going to be a hybrid way of thinking. To think like an entrepreneur and designer means being capable of imagining new platforms for communication and ways of exchanging and engaging with information, products, and our environments. It means to face problems in the market with a viable solution and become responsible for creating a new way. Not all of us need to be both, but we need to build our businesses and our industries in a way that cultivates this mergence of ideals. We, the individuals to drive that movement already exist and are taking our own steps in that direction. But our real achievement will be showing that it’s possible for us to remove the stigma of classification and adjust perceptions now engrained by adjusting the rhetoric.

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On Starting Somewhere : E-book excerpt

May 2014 will be the release date of my first E-book: On Starting Somewhere.

The book addresses the phase of entrepreneurship or a creative endeavor before success. This usually means in the midst of failure, or a few failures, that we build ourselves back from. 

This first excerpt is from the introduction, which recounts some of my personal experiences leading to the concept of this book.

Once, in one of my first seasons as a correspondent for a New York based fashion website, I was outside of the Ecole de Medecin near Odéon in Paris, waiting for the Martin Margiela Mens’s Fashion Show to begin. Actually, waiting to even get inside to take a place where I would then wait some more for the show to begin. I was surrounded by fashion heavies and fashion up and comers  and fashion wannabes . I don’t know where I fit in in all of that because in my mind I just didn’t belong there at all. As privileged as I felt to be in attendance, I felt terribly uncomfortable as part of the scene. I wished to be invisible. I wished so much to be invisible. Just to take my place and watch the beautiful show and write my article and store it away in my mind bank of experiences. But I was not invisible. (I am still not). So I stood there, out of place and awkward and unsmiling and tense and trying not to make eye contact with people or stare too long at people who were too obviously dressed with the hope of being stared at. 

From  WeAreTheCoolKids  (which makes my point for me)

From WeAreTheCoolKids (which makes my point for me)

When through the crowd I see the Fed Ex delivery-man. He walks purposefully through the mob of people in between his truck and the door he’s heading towards and I thought to myself: “Why can’t I just be a Fed Ex delivery person?” 

He has a sense of purpose, and at the same time can blend into any setting without self-awareness. His workday consists of a list of tasks just like the day before. An unadulterated comfort zone.

From  IBT

From IBT

I truly believe sometimes that this would make life so much simpler. I am so tormented (it sounds dramatic, but it does feel terribly dramatic a lot of the time). If I could just have a simple job that was the same every day, where nothing will be asked of me tomorrow that I don’t already know how to do today. My God, what a life that would be. 

Would I be bored? Would I wonder: “There must be something else?” Is ignorance bliss? And once tasted, does a life of building and problem solving become your curse? Futile questions. The Boss knows it, too. A Jersey boy looking for more: “There's something happening somewhere, baby I just know that there is.”

And it’s not as if, after gaining a certain amount of experience, the questions stop. With every new day comes a new set of unknowns. There is an evident propensity for tackling these daily impediments within the entrepreneurial class. Otherwise we would not get past day one. But this is also that pivotal moment of no return. We can always take the easy way. And so we ask ourselves: “What am I after?”

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