Tag: Entrepreneurship

Lloyd Yates, MBA

Everything started with a box of vintage neckties Lloyd Yates sold from his dorm room under the name Tylmen Ties. Five years later, Tylmen has pivoted twice, dropped “ties” from its name and embraced artificial intelligence, 3D modeling and virtual sizing technology. Now, Yates has his sights set on confronting one of the biggest challenges for online apparel retailers: the high rate of returned purchases.

It’s a problem he only began to appreciate as he considered expanding Tylmen’s product line from ties and pocket squares into suits. Body scans and virtual reality, he reasoned, would modernize the experience, letting customers virtually try on the clothes.

“As we were workshopping this, we were learning there was a bigger problem,” said Yates, MBA ’22. “We want to tackle this bigger problem of online retailer returns”—a problem partially caused by ill-fitting purchases.

Consumers spent $650 billion buying apparel online in 2020—the biggest online shopping category. But Yates said consumers are three times more likely to return those items. Some industry estimates put the online apparel return rate as high as 30%, costing retailers nearly $200 billion a year.

As a 19-year-old quarterback-turned-receiver for Northwestern University, he wasn’t seeing that far into the future when his father gifted him an old box of vintage neckties that he sold to classmates on campus—60 in his first week. Soon, he was selling ties and men’s fashion accessories online, based on his own designs. He landed Northwestern as a client in 2017. The work was a legacy to his great grandfather, James Andrew Keyes, a Rock Island railroad porter, who instilled in those around him an appreciation for impeccable fashion.

When the coronavirus pandemic erupted, Yates pivoted into producing facemasks that doubled as pocket squares and reaped a heap of publicity in the process. Now the second-year MBA student credits his professors for challenging him to look deeper—beyond selling suits out of an electric sprinter van—as he pivots toward a fashion technology platform.

“We’re developing a marketplace for customers and apparel brands to connect over common sizing using virtual sizing technology. Every time a customer shops with us, they automatically get paired with clothing items that fit them best,” Yates said. “This results in confident online shoppers who receive style recommendations from all sorts of brands that fit them, while retailers acquire new customers and reduce returns. It’s a win-win for everyone.” Think of it as an online mall that saves your sizing information and only recommends apparel in stock, that fits you great.

In early fall, Tylmen was in the development phase of a new app that would let consumers take a recorded video, get their measurements, and begin to generate custom recommendations. The company is planning to launch before the holiday season to assist shoppers and retailers with 50-plus brands on the platform.

“The endgame is to be the No. 1 platform to take shopping into the digital age,” Yates said. “We want to perfect how consumers shop, giving them the utmost confidence that they’ll get clothing that fits you and looks great.”

Startup Stats

  • Established, 2016
  • First sales, 2016
  • Incorporated as LLC, April 28, 2017

Team Members

Lloyd Yates, MBA ’22, founder and sole employee


  • $5,000, Weston Career Center entrepreneurship grant
  • $1,000, Holekamp Seed Fund
  • $250, Big IDEA Bounce, runner-up

More information


The Skandalaris Center presented The Washington University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards on November 17.

Chuck Cohn, BSBA ’08, received the Alumni Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award to recognize his entrepreneurial success and the commitment he continues to make to St. Louis and Washington University. 

Cohn started Varsity Tutors (now Nerdy) while studying finance and entrepreneurship at Olin.

Read the full article about the awards celebration.

To the St. Louis-area women of Olin, if you’re in the market for professional clothing, accessories and holiday gifts—and would like to support two Olin alumnae entrepreneurs—have we got a pop-up shop for you.

KaLeena Thomas, MBA ’12, and Daphne Benzaquen, MBA ’17, are teaming up from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, December 4, to host a local pop-up shop at The Vault, 2325 S. Brentwood Blvd., in the St. Louis suburb of Brentwood.

Thomas is president and CEO of J. Margaret Weaver, and she designs all the company’s clothing, which is ethically produced in Kansas City using small-batch production techniques.

Benzaquen is the creative designer and founder of daph., a St. Louis-based fashion and lifestyle brand inspired by her Peruvian heritage.

On Saturday, Thomas will offer blouses, dresses, jewelry and gift items such as headbands and paper products from her startup. Benzaquen will offer leather, handmade accessories, handbags and an alpaca fleece sweater alongside pima cotton and alpaca fleece loungewear.

“This is our first pop-up event together,” Thomas said. “We thought it would be fun to bring together each of our communities. We both serve a similar demographic and prioritize building real relationships with our customers.” 

Thomas and Benzaquen also said they’re both committed to slow, sustainable fashion and ethical production.

An Olin introduction

The Weston Career Center’s Allison Dietz, employer relations industry lead, introduced the women last year. Thomas was getting ready to launch J. Margaret Weaver, and Dietz thought Benzaquen would be a good point of contact for her to learn from as someone with an established brand.

On Saturday, the women will provide branded cookies at the pop-up, along with drinks people can sip while shopping. They also plan a giveaway that will include gift cards and accessories from both brands.

While we had them, we asked the entrepreneurs about their top takeaways from their time at Olin.

Thomas: “You cannot be all things to all people. You have to decide who you are and who you serve, communicate with them often and be comfortable with the tradeoffs you’re making when it supports your overall brand.”

Benzaquen: “I learned how important it is to think outside the box when it comes to marketing efforts while staying true to your brand mission and values. The importance and comfort with experimenting with different communication styles, use of technology and even product launches were also essential skills I learned while at Olin.”

Photo: Daphne Benzaquen, MBA ’17, and KaLeena Thomas, MBA ’12

Princeton Review entrepreneurship ranking badge for its 2022 ranking.

Washington University in St. Louis and Olin Business School got more good news this week about their entrepreneurship education programs, this time from The Princeton Review‘s 16th annual ranking of undergraduate and graduate schools for entrepreneurship studies.

Nationally, the school’s undergraduate program placed seventh in the ranking, up two spots from last year’s #9 ranking. The graduate program notched a 13th-place showing, also up year-over-year from 15th. The publication also ranked schools regionally; in the Midwest, Olin ranked first for its undergraduate program and fourth for its graduate program.

The Princeton Review‘s ranking comes on the heels of the third annual ranking of MBA entrepreneurship programs by Poets & Quants, which placed WashU Olin in first place for the third consecutive year.

“At WashU, entrepreneurship is highly experiential and collaborative. We encourage our students to connect with the St. Louis community and beyond, thus expanding their network. Most notably, the majority of entrepreneurial opportunities at WashU are open to ALL undergrad and grad students, faculty, staff, postdocs, and alumni”, said II Luscri, assistant vice provost for innovation and entrepreneurship and managing director of the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “It is this blend of curricular and co-curricular; campus and community; creativity and entrepreneurship; not bound to discipline or school, that distinguishes our entrepreneurial offerings.”

Support of WashU student entrepreneurs has been crucial for venture success. In the last 10 years, 279 companies founded by undergraduate students have engaged with the Skandalaris Center and gone on to raise a combined $5.2 billion. Of those companies, 62% are still in business today.

On the graduate side, in the last 10 years, 240 companies started by WashU graduate students have engaged with the Skandalaris Center and eventually raised a combined total of nearly $288 million. Of those, 55% are still in business today.

“Since the mid-2000s when we first reported these ranking lists, student interest in entrepreneurship has grown dramatically, as has the commitment to entrepreneurship studies within higher education,” Rob Franek, The Princeton Review‘s editor-in-chief, said in a written statement. “We heartily recommend the fine schools that made our entrepreneurship studies ranking lists this year. Their faculties are outstanding. Their programs have robust experiential components, and their students receive awesome mentoring and networking support that will serve them for years to come.”

The Princeton Review‘s ranking is based on the results of a 60-question survey, which collects data on the percentage of faculty, students, and alumni actively and successfully involved in entrepreneurial endeavors; the number and reach of mentorship programs; scholarships and grants for entrepreneurial studies; and the level of support for school-sponsored business plan competitions.

Read more here about The Princeton Review’s entrepreneurship ranking.

WashU Olin

WashU Olin Business School was Poets & Quants’ choice for 2022’s #1 MBA program for entrepreneurship. So, it’s only natural that the business school trade publication would team with us for an innovative showcase of startup ideas. And the winner pockets $50,000 to launch their idea.

That’s one of the announcements that emerged from a P&Q entrepreneurship live stream event today. The event highlighted business school entrepreneurship programs and featured panels by school alumni and students—including a panel of WashU Olin startup founders who discussed their companies and what they gained through their MBA education.

Dean Mark P. Taylor delivered the opening keynote for the event, which was a follow-up to P&Q‘s 2022 ranking of the top MBA entrepreneurship programs—a ranking WashU Olin topped for the third consecutive year.

“We are gathered here today to celebrate a phenomenon that’s become a bedrock part of our lives,” Taylor told viewers of the online event. “Never has entrepreneurship so strongly influenced the ways we live and learn and work and play. Inspiration is all around us, just waiting for someone to seize it.”

Later, three Olin students and an Olin alumnus participated in panel discussions: Kai Skallerud, MBA ’23; Lloyd Yates, MBA ’22; Rhonda Smythe, MBA ’22; and Daniel Schindler, MBA ’19, founder of Buoy. Schindler spoke to the question of why he embarked on an MBA while trying to launch a business.

“One really big reason was the network that you get,” said Schindler, whose company is focused on producing and marketing products to boost all-day hydration among chronically under-hydrated consumers. “It’s also getting another two years to take the time and start the business in the right way. You can really hone in on the business and the strategy and get feedback from that network.”

Smythe spoke about the value in particular of Olin’s entrepreneurship program: “The entire department puts you in touch with experts in your field,” she said. “From Patagonia, Macy’s, and other big B2C companies, to listen and give advice is a great way to be able to get an inside look into the industry.”

See the video of Kai, Lloyd and Rhonda’s panel discussion below.

More about the pitch competition

WashU Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce, powered by Poet & Quants, is a pitch contest open to any business student—current or prospective, graduate or undergraduate—with a great idea and the drive to push it forward.

“We’re really excited about this event,” said Doug Villhard, Olin’s academic director for entrepreneurship, who participated in the competition announcement. “It really promotes the entrepreneurial spirit that is present here at Olin and permeates your programs. I can’t wait to see the entries come in. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

So, how does it work? You submit your original business idea that’s for-profit, nonprofit and/or with social/environmental/sustainable impact. Twenty finalists create a brief video that brings the idea to life. Then three finalists present their ideas at a live event on WashU’s campus in early March.

The competition was announced today at an event sponsored by P&Q to highlight entrepreneurship education at business schools in the wake of its 2022 ranking of MBA entrepreneurship programs.

How to enter

WashU Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce, powered by Poets&Quants, is a pitch contest open to all current undergraduate and graduate school students OR any prospect interest in a graduate business school degree. Here’s the link to the entry page. The contest is set up in three rounds:

  • Round 1: Submit your idea in the fields on the entry page (open through January 7)
  • Round 2: Selected teams will be asked to submit a two-minute pitch video
  • Round 3: The top three teams will present in front of judges on March 3

StartUp Live WashU student roundtable