Archive for Apparel/Accessories

Maya’s Ideas

Maya Penn is an entrepreneur, coder, philanthropist, designer, animator, writer, and illustrator. She was just 8 years old when she started her first company. Penn got interested in eco-friendly alternatives when her dad taught her about solar energy. She then discovered how harmful chemical dyes were to the environment and sought to combine that into a business idea. Penn out started by making ribbon headbands out of unused fabric around her house. The businesses started out with a $200 budget and grew from the profits received from there on out. Penn was taught how to sew from her mother. Her father was an entrepreneur and taught Penn about business and computers. At an early age Penn learned how to take apart a computer and even coded basic HTML at age 10. She now codes her own website. Her current online store is called Maya’s Ideas where she sells handcrafted clothes and accessories that are eco-friendly. The fabrics are organic or recycled. In 2013, Penn brought in $55,000 in sales and gave 10% to local charities. Penn always gives back to charities because her parents taught her to share with the less fortunate. Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet is her nonprofit and Penn volunteers locally to this day. In addition, Penn creates also creates videos that she animates, writes, and produces about the environment. She has also created two children’s books and has a novel on advice to young entrepreneurs. Penn advises to start an idea journal. She also said to “….believe in yourself and what you’re doing. Don’t get discouraged if things are going slower than you expected. And don’t give up too quickly.”


Designer Daddy

Nephi Garcia, born in the 80s, has a beautiful family with three kids and lives in California as a fashion designer. His specialty is princess costumes, along with others that come out of movies. These costumes are elaborate and are made of high quality materials. That’s not the only point of differentiation, though. Some of the dresses that Garcia makes “transform”. These dresses transform from “peasant to princess!” Not only does he make costumes for his daughter, but also for his sons and wife. Along with the transforming princess dresses, Garcia designs and sells adult costumes that start at $1800, compared to a starting price of $600 for children’s costumes. He spends anywhere from 12 to 48 hours making an adult dress and 4 to 6 on a child’s costume. Nephi Garcia, through his business, Designer Daddy, delivers a unique product that isn’t found anywhere else.


4Ocean was founded by two surfers who noticed the overwhelming amount of trash that litters the ocean. Deciding to act, Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze started the organization. 4Ocean is an organization that cleans trash out of the ocean. They work with volunteers to do beach cleanups, partnerships with other cleanup organizations, and even have offshore cleanups. The offshore cleanups are done by the organization’s seven vessels that are out there seven days a week cleaning up the ocean. To fund the cleanups, 4Ocean sells bracelets online for just $20. Every bracelet bought pays for the removal of a pound of trash. The bracelets are made from recycled materials, including glass and plastic. Because of two surfers’ care for the ocean and willingness to do something about it, 140,188 pounds of trash and debris have been cleaned from not only coastlines and beaches, but also directly from the ocean.

Youngest Fashion Designer to be Picked up by a Department Store

Isabella Rose Taylor became interested art at the age of 3 and later became interested in sewing and fashion design at the age of 8. She started to create clothes for her friends and family. Soon enough Isabelle was creating a collection of clothing and selling it online. At the age of 11, Isabella was introduced during Austin Fashion Week in Austin, Texas. Isabelle also graduated high school the same year, at age 11. Two years later, Nordstrom partnered with her to create clothing for their company. Isabella was at the age of 13 when she was picked up by Nordstrom. She is in charge of a Junior Clothing Company; whose only employees are her mother and father. She is the youngest fashion designer to be picked up by a department store, displayed clothing at New York Fashion Week, and named MAGIC Emerging Designer. Currently she is 15 years old and has partnered with PB Teen to design furniture. She is also working for an Associate’s degree in fine arts. Isabelle manages to balance schoolwork, traveling, and growing her business all at once. Isabelle’s advice is that “It’s just a matter of making things because you love to create.” She is very driven, creative, and mature which allows her to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Alley Cat Designs

Jewelry for the Purrr-fect Touch

When Alyssa was a little girl, she always looked forward to the special times when her grandmother would visit, bringing with her a bag stuffed full of art and craft supplies. Alyssa was creative by nature, so it never mattered much to her what was in the bag – it was all about the joy and excitement of creating something new, something beautiful, something that hadn’t been there before.

It was during one of these afternoons with her Grandmother that Alyssa first discovered her love for jewelry making.  On that particular afternoon, the craft bag was full of beads, string and jewelry wire, and as the two sat making Christmas presents for her mother, a new passion was born.

From that day forward, Alyssa wanted to do more than just make beautiful new things. She wanted to make things that made other people feel beautiful. Alyssa had always found joy helping other people feel as beautiful as they always were in her eyes, and with her grandmother’s beads in her hands, she realized that she now had the tools to do just that: make things that could help women see just how beautiful they really were. And she was right – ever since clasping that first bracelet of plastic beads around her mother’s wrist, Alyssa has been designing the type of jewelry that makes the wearer feel beautiful and which reminds everyone that it is the bird that makes the feathers.

Today, Alyssa is fresh out of Cornell University with degrees in Business and Sociology and is working to launch her jewelry company, Ally Cat Designs . What began as the passion project of a little girl in love with all things beautiful has grown into a business which has inspired and empowered women all across the globe. Alyssa spends as much time traveling as she possibly can, drawing inspiration from women around the world. Along the way, she supports local artisans by collecting materials to incorporate into her jewelry, all of which is utterly unique and designed around the women who inspire her.

Alyssa prides herself on not being limited to one style or aesthetic; instead, she has something for everyone: from classic to edgy, minimalistic to romantic, each piece is handmade and one-of-a-kind, made to reflect the individual beauty of every customer. Her designs also reflect her commitment to sustainability and accessibility. Fast fashion this is not! Each of her piece features timeless style and is made to last.  But rather than using rare metals which are expensive and easily broken, Alyssa carefully selects materials which are more widely available and which stand the test of time. Great thought is put into each and every element of the design process so that each piece tells a story.

Alyssa likes to keep things personal; for her, it’s all about relationships. She is dedicated to her clients and designs with them in mind. Her favorite method of sales is house shows: by bringing clients together in an intimate environment, she gets to meet and be inspired by the women she serves. She mingles among her clients, getting to know them and helping them find that perfect piece. And if you come back to a second show, she is likely to pull you aside to show you something special she designed with you especially in mind!

As her business has grown, she has also adapted her model to meet the needs of a wider audience and has launched a website to make her work more widely available. But even with her expanding platform, Alyssa has sacrificed neither style nor substance. She still makes each piece by hand and each is one of a kind!

Down the road, Alyssa hopes to use her business as a platform from which to support other artists and to promote ethically sourced fashion. She is also passionate about social and economic development in impoverished nations. Having traveled extensively in both South Asia and Africa, Alyssa is committed to building supportive relationships with artists across the globe and using her work to empower and give back to women both at home and abroad.

It has been my great privilege to watch my dear friend Alyssa build and expand her business over the years, and I am so excited to share her story with you. Her’s is truly a project driven by a selfless passion to serve the women of the world, and the more her business grows, the more lives she touches. She doesn’t create jewelry for women to hide their insecurities behind; instead, she creates pieces that tell a story and celebrate the unique beauty of every woman.

Cardborigami: Housing for the Homeless

Roughly 1,750,000 people are homeless in the United States.  Without a place to live or a comfortable place to sleep, people are constantly suffering all over the nation. Especially the homeless people affected during natural disasters.   Tina Hovsepian, a young entrepreneur, has drastically changed the lives of homeless people everywhere with Cardborigami.  Cardborigami provides instant housing to protect  from the elements through innovation and design. The design is lightweight, durable, structural, and treated cardboard.  No assembly is required and the cardboard is insulated. Below is an example of a Cardborigami shelter, costing $250.00.  With its spacious design, the tent can fit two adults comfortably. These shelters can house homeless men and women, but also can be used for a fun camping trip on the beach or in a park.  38.jpgThis shelter, along with most of the tents, was built locally in Los Angeles by veterans and homeless youth.  All proceeds from a purchase of a shelter go directly into Cardborigami’s homeless aid and disaster relief programs.

While the shelters may be more expensive to purchase, the company also sells small and large Nepali bags.  These handcrafted bags were brought back from Nepal by our CEO and Founder, Tina Hovsepian. They are hand sewn by Nepali wosmall+plain+bag.pngmen in the villages of Gorkha. The proceeds from Nepali bags sold will go towards rebuilding more earthquake safe structures in Nepal.

This company has been recognized all around the United States, and has been featured in prominent newspapers and journals across the states.  A simple idea using some simple materials, has revolutionized shelters for the homeless and those in crisis.   

Tina Hovsepian, the founder and inventor, was featured in Forbes 30 under 30 this year.  Her innovative solutions to the homelessness problem continues to bless countless people and I encourage you to donate to the cause!

Penny for Your Thoughts? Fighting Trafficking One Cent at a Time.

One penny may not buy a whole lot, but for Kendall Altmyer it is the key to a successful business.

After working with human trafficking survivors for three months in Greece, Kendall Altmyer knew she wanted to join the global fight against human trafficking. “I didn’t think I could make a dent in a worldwide injustice,” she confessed, “but doing nothing was not an option.” Using the resources and knowledge she had available to her, Altmyer created The Penny Story.

The Penny Story is an e-commerce store that sells small goods made from pennies. Some of her products include bracelets, key rings, and a “welcome box” with a variety of Penny goods. Each penny has the word “worthy” stamped into it, making a bold statement: it is not our material wealth that defines us, but our mere being, because we are children of God. This truth applies to those who are trapped in human trafficking, even though the world may tell them otherwise.

I admire Altmyer’s honesty. The quote above was found directly on her website, letting all viewers know that she doesn’t have everything figured out. This reality applies to all of us; as much as we’d like to learn everything there is about starting a business or making a difference, we simply can’t. But that didn’t stop Altmyer. She is now selling thousands of penny bracelets, and funding one of our country’s leading anti-human trafficking organizations, A21.

How did she manage this? By doing something. Altmyer explains that change begins by realizing you don’t have to be significant to make a significant change. This makes me wonder: if everyone had this mindset, how much more would we create? How much more would we be willing to put ourselves out there and strive to make a difference, even though we don’t have all the answers? I think the effect could be tremendous.

The product itself is beautifully simple, and The Penny Story’s website reflects that.  Altmyer offers only a few products, each one simple. The result of this is that customers don’t get caught up in the variety of stuff sold. Rather, they can see a clear mission through a few appropriate items.

I always appreciate seeing an individual who takes what he or she is passionate about and mixes it with innovation to create something new and effective. Altmyer has done this with The Penny Story, and she has created an outstanding example for young entrepreneurs who know they want to make a difference but aren’t sure where to start. Don’t be afraid to make a move – it’s common cents!

The Success of Tipsy Elves




In 2011, Tipsy Elves was founded by Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton. It started as a seasonal business for goofy and ugly Christmas Sweaters. In the first year of business they had $370,000 in website sales and the next year proceeded to reach almost $1 million in sales. With a booming business and bright plans for the future the two young founders took their idea to Shark Tank in 2013 where they received an investment from Robert Herjavec for 10% of their company. It has since become the most profitable investment that Robert has made in his history on Shark Tank. In 2014, their revenue was close to $12 million. The success of this funky company is mostly on their Christmas season sales of the ugly Christmas sweaters, however they have also introduced Halloween wear, beach wear, and ski wear.

A strange idea for a business turned into a multi-million dollar one because Evan and Nick found a demand for ugly Christmas sweaters that no one else saw. If they can stay focused on the Christmas sweaters and not overt a lot of energy on the other less important products they feature, they will continue to grow until Tipsy Elves is at every Christmas party in the world.


One of the Most Popular Products

Ollie’s Shop : Inspired by Overcoming Bullying

Ollie Forsyth is an 18 year old entrepreneur who started his own company called Ollie’s Shop in 2010. His company all started when he was relentlessly bullied in school for his dyslexia and for “being different”. His peers said “he’d never succeed in life”, and said that “he was a nobody”. Instead of letting the negativity from his peers drag him down, he used that energy to fuel his passion towards starting a business and his entrepreneurship mind. Ollie started out by selling friendship bracelets to his friends and eventually he was selling them to the friends of his friends! From there, is company took off.

Ollie was inspired by a self-made billionaire named Richard Branson. He said he “was determined to become like him.” Driven by the negative energy surrounding him from his peers, Ollie started his first company at age 13 (which was three years younger than Branson when he first started his company). Even before this start, Ollie always had a knack for earning money, whether it was mowing the lawn or reheating his parents’ coffees, he was always looking for an investment.

Ollie’s first business is called Ollie’s Shop which is an online gift boutique that sells cute, trendy jewelry and belts for teenage boys and girls. Once his business picked up on day one, it did not stop. In his first six months, he made 2500 pounds. It is safe to say that Ollie is a great success, and a great entrepreneur at that. Ollie also pairs with specific charities to donate directly to them.

What I admire most about Ollie is his drive and determination not to let the hurtful words from his peers affect him. He instead used that drive to fuel his entrepreneurial mind and become the success that he is today. He overcame his disability and proved to himself and others that truly nothing can stop you from doing something if you are passionate about it. I hope to follow his example in all of my endeavors. I am inspired by who he is and what he has accomplished.

Ollie’s next big idea:

A quote from Ollie, “Things like this happen in life, but you have to crack on with life. Onwards and upwards!”



The Rent the Runway Revolution: How Two Women Changed the Fashion Industry for Good

In 2009, two young women attending Harvard Business School met for their weekly coffee and business brainstorming session. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss both knew they wanted to start a business together, but for many months they brainstormed ideas which never seemed to stick. However, on this particular afternoon, Jennifer Hyman mentioned to Fleiss that her sister would be attending a wedding next weekend, but had nothing to wear. She voiced the frustration shared by women across America, that it is difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a dress you only wear a few times. As she said this, she came up with a business idea which would solve this problem and revolutionize the market of high end women’s fashion.

Jenny Fleiss (left) and Jennifer Hyman (right)

Hyman and Fleiss conceptualized a business model where they would partner with different well-known, high-end designers from around the world and rent these designer dresses out to women for a few days for a fraction of the cost of buying one of these dresses. These two young women started out by buying dresses in their own sizes and going around to different college campuses on the weekends of big events and putting up flyers and sending out emails announcing that the female students could rent these designer dresses for a reduced price and simply return them after the event. With each campus these two went to, their business model proved very popular, and with each event, they continued to refine and adjust their model until they landed on the current business model of Rent the Runway. Since 2009, Rent the Runway has grown from a few designer dresses advertised through flyers on college campuses into a $15 million corporation with an extremely user friendly app and a variety of supplementary services.

One things which makes Hyman and Fleiss stand out as unique in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship is their approach to founding a startup. While many young entrepreneurs look for a problem in their field of study or expertise which they can construct a solution for, Hyman and Fleiss started with a problem they simply observed, despite their lack of knowledge in the fields of fashion or technology.  However, by recording customer reactions to their product and collecting customer testimonials, these young women were able to get the designers on board and soon had enough funding to hire people with expertise in analytics, technology, fashion, and customer relations in order to create the best business possible.

Even eight years removed from its founding, Rent the Runway is an incredible company to watch innovate and expand. Because of the founders’ passion for giving women the opportunity to have that “Cinderella experience” and look elegant, extravagant, confident or professional for an affordable price, the company continues to grow its inventory, expand it market, and offer additional services, such as makeup and jewelry tips depending on the dress or outfit you rent.

Hyman and Fleiss at the opening of their first store

Hyman and Fleiss have also sought to optimize the customer experience by offering free shipping and dry cleaning, along with spending a great deal of time and money on analytics. This has allowed them to find what colors and styles customers prefer, along with how long customers like rentals to last so that they can give the customer the best, most convenient experience possible. Rent the Runway is constantly offering new features, different dresses, and featuring a variety of both well-known and new designers, which keeps their business in a constant state of growth and expansion.

Hyman and Fleiss are truly inspiring to all young women looking to be entrepreneurs. They actively thought about problems, and rather than waiting for funds or investors to back their idea, they eagerly engaged their clientele, pivoted based on the feedback they received, and then sought out investors and designers with confidence in their product and the data and testimonies to back it up. These two women are constantly pursuing excellence, passionate about their product and their clients, and dedicated to inspiring future women entrepreneurs.