Tag: startup

Daniel Webster-Clark, BSBA’11 & MSF’11, is currently getting his MBA at Kellogg. He and three classmates got to talking about men’s fashion one night and the conversation turned to rompers for guys. Yes, ROMPERS.

Daniel and his friends (soon-to-be-co-founders) got serious and passionate about their romper idea. They saw a void in the fashion universe and believed it could be filled with a romper for men that would allow “guys to be more stylish and fun without also sacrificing comfort, fit, and versatility.” GQ, Vogue, and Buzzfeed have already hailed the RompHim as a welcome innovation. The Chicago Times calls RompHim the Kickstarter campaign that “broke the Internet.”

Daniel took time out of his busy schedule to tell us more about his journey from finance to fashion and the birth of the RompHim.

What did you do between Olin and going back to school for your MBA?

After spending the summer between junior and senior year interning with Bain & Co., I began working there full time in fall 2011. While at Bain, I continued my role as an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. I also took six months away from Bain & Co. to work with the San Francisco 49ers in their Business Operations group as they prepared to open their new stadium.

From finance to fashion is quite a pivot. How did that happen?

My time at Bain & Co. has been instrumental in helping prepare me to tackle a wide range of problems; while I never worked in fashion specifically, I had experience in projects covering everything from supply chain to marketing. In addition, Kellogg’s general entrepreneurial support system encouraged me to explore passion projects. ACED Design and creating the Original RompHim™ began as one of those passion projects.

How long from idea to actual consumer product (RompHim™)?

We launched ACED Design in earnest right as 2017 kicked off, and our Kickstarter went live in mid-May. [Kickstarter campaign was completed in one week. Aced Design expects to start shipping RompHim in August.]

What is your role at RompHim™?

As a small team of 4 co-founders, our roles have evolved quite a bit and are always changing. I dipped my toes into everything from managing a design partner to building our business plan; more recently I’ve taken on the role of running our marketing efforts.

Is being an entrepreneur what you thought it would be?

In some ways yes, in some ways no – certainly a lot of sleepless nights since we kicked off in earnest and a lot of personal investment in how our brand and products are received.

Do you plan to continue with RompHim™ post-MBA?

Absolutely – we’re excited that we had so much initial interest, and believe we have a long way to go as we grow the business. Our first priority is ensuring our Kickstarter backers get a very high quality product in their hands as quickly as possible, followed by delivering on pre-orders we’re collecting through our website, www.romphim.com.

Predictions for next big fashion trend?

Beats me, but it’ll be fun to find out! We get excited about finding ways for people to help express themselves, so hopefully as more and more direct to consumer brands emerge and share their new fun ideas.

Any career advice for the Class of 2017?

Find something you enjoy doing that challenges you. Life’s too short to “put in time” somewhere while hoping things turn around and improve.

Alumni in the news

Angela Zeng came to St. Louis from her native China in 1996 to earn her PhD in pathology from SLU before earning her MBA at Olin in 2005. She’s launched a natural beverage startup in St. Louis called Karuna and has been attracting the attention of local media with her bottled drinks that promote nutrition through plant-based beverages.

The St. Louis Business Journal reported that Zeng is investing $1.5 million to $2 million of her own money in the venture.

small-ingredient-mungbeansprouts-500“Two of nature’s hardest-working healers, Mung Bean Sprouts and Aronia Berries, come together in Karuna Heal to bring you pure revitalization,” according to the website.

“Karuna Heal: Bean Sprout & Aronia Berry juice is rich in vitamins, minerals and a wealth of antioxidant properties.

small-ingredient-aronia-500 fuel-divine-onberry-450x1300“The benefits of these natural ingredient powerhouses will illuminate the path to true nourishment and healing.”

Karuna comes in  four other flavors: Divine Chestnut. Fruity Longan, Divine Three, and Sunny Date.

Link to St. Louis Business Journal (paywall)

Link to Ladue News.


Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro

Did you see the article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Olin alum and entrepreneur Daniel Shapiro, BSBA’98, founder of Fourlaps? We profiled him last fall here on the blog, but Debra Bass gives us an update on Daniel’s athletic-wear startup, in her story, “Midwest-inspired menswear goes the extra mile.”

“He said that he knew his style struck the right Midwest-inspired chord when someone stopped him on Delmar Boulevard, during one of his trips back home, and asked him, ‘Where can I buy that shirt? It’s great, I love it. I want it.’ ”

Daniel shared this advice for entrepreneurs with the Olin Blog in December 2016:

“Being an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding and challenging.  There are no guarantees of success.  You need to love the everyday challenge, you need to love the unexpected and be able to embrace the unforeseen.  I spend so much of my day doing things that I have never done before.  It’s exciting and uncomfortable at the same time.  I wouldn’t trade the last two plus years for anything in the world.”

Student-founded startup GiftAMeal announced another major partner in their innovative approach to feeding the hungry and promoting restaurant patronage. The Missouri Restaurant Association is teaming up with GiftAMeal to fight hunger through an app that allows users to interact with friends and provide meals to the hungry, by simply taking a picture of their food. Participating restaurants donate the cost of meals posted through the app to local food banks.

giftameal logo 1Andrew Glantz, BSBA’17, CEO of GiftAMeal, was incredibly positive about the implications of the partnership, saying, “Our partnership with the Missouri Restaurant Association is indicative of the large impact we are having for our participating restaurants,”said Andrew Glantz, BSBA’17, CEO of GiftAMeal. “The Missouri Restaurant Association will fuel our growth to support more restaurants, increasing the amount of meals we can provide to those in need.”

Jacob Mohrmann, BSBA’16, Chief Marketing Officer of GiftAMeal, told the Olin Blog, “The Missouri Restaurant Association broke the news with an article in their quarterly magazine. It explains how the app provides meals to the needy, and explains that GiftAMeal generates positive publicity and greater customer engagement for the restaurants involved.” Mohrmann added that the Missouri Restaurant Association also named GiftAMeal as an Endorsed Partner on their website.

How do you know it’s time to make a change in your career? Chase Fancher, BSBA’04, shares his decision to leave the corporate world and launch a boutique watch brand called Oak & Oscar. He credits his Olin business foundation with helping him clock out of the corporate world to crafting distinguished works of horology with his own startup.

Q: When and why did you launch Oak & Oscar?
A: Oak & Oscar was first launched in May of 2015. Its not the same old story that “I couldn’t find a nice watch in my budget…so I decided to make my own.” No, frankly, there’s a watch out there for everyone at every price point. You just have to find it.

For me, the decision to start is two-fold:  1) I wanted to spend more time with family.  2) I wanted to love my job and be proud of what I was doing. Oak & Oscar is about doing what you love and taking the risk of going out on your own.  You have to make big plans.

I previously worked in a ridiculously corporate environment and it just wasn’t me; very little freedom and flexibility. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great company and I enjoyed my coworkers I just couldn’t handle the 9-5 style job. Think “The Office” and you’ve got a decent idea of what I was dealing with…

My father really pushed me over the edge though. I remember asking him at Thanksgiving a few years back for advice on what to do. I’d already developed some designs and 3D printed prototypes and was at a crossroads. Either I keep pushing, which required putting some significant skin in the game and committing to make the brand happen, or pull back and let the dream slide. His response to me was, “What would you tell your own kid?  Would you tell him to remain in a stable job that you aren’t passionate about or go out and chase you dreams?”  I mean…come on.  Some of the best advice you can possibly give, right?  I was pretty much set on Oak & Oscar after that.

I wanted to take control of both my own future and schedule. I love that I can go to my son’s music class or take him to the park whenever I want now.  It’s really amazing to be able to spend time with him and my wife (who also works full time running her own small business).

Q: Have you wanted to be an entrepreneur since your business school days?
A: Definitely not. I first took the safe route of working for big firms – not because I thought it was the right path, but just because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. You’re supposed to graduate, go work a 9-5 job, (which doesn’t exist by the way…), get married, have kids and retire one day. As mentioned above, I couldn’t handle the 9-5er any longer and had to find a way out. Luckily I love watches and have made it work.

Q: Where are you based?
A: Chicago, IL

Q: How’s business?
A: Amazing. I’m honored and humbled by the acceptance of my watches by the market and the media. I’ve successfully quit the full time job and haven’t looked back. We sold out of our first model in less than a year and just launched a second model in late July. Of which, one style sold out in less than two weeks. It’s been an amazing run.

Q: Any lessons learned at Olin that have helped you along the way?
A: Olin has given me a solid business background and understanding that allows me to take ownership of every aspect of the company. While I employ professionals to handle stuff like accounting, I can at least have a conversation with them and understand what’s going on. But, truth be told, that’s another thing I learned in b-school: do what you’re good at and leave the rest to the experts. I remember reading business cases about companies who had founders that tried to do it all and failed. You just flat out can’t do it all. Don’t even try!

I’ve also taken lessons learned from Olin’s retail analytics classes (shout out to Prof. Sneider), and of course consumer behavior and marketing classes. And you can’t forget Prof. Nickerson’s MGT101 class – possibly one of the most influential b-school classes of them all!

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