When Kelly and I got back from our travels, we started pulling together our business plan and looking for resources in NYC to help us make our business idea a reality. I had always heard of technology startups joining accelerators or incubators; these are typically programs that provide new businesses with funding and mentoring, often in exchange for equity in the business. They have been touted as the business school of the future. I figured there must be something similar for fashion companies. Unfortunately, I found that most accelerator programs are focused on technology startups. But luckily after scouring the internet, I came across an accelerator program, called the Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator (BF+DA). The BF+DA is a new initiative launched by the Pratt Institute that provides ethically focused designers with the resources they need to transform their ideas into successful businesses.
After reading the requirements I thought there was no way we would get into this program, since it seemed focused on businesses that were already up and running, and we merely had an idea and a business plan. But Kelly being the eternal optimist that she is, said we had nothing to lose and we should just apply. So begrudgingly I relented and we worked tirelessly night after night, with each of us writing up sections of the application. In the end, the application process was extremely valuable, as it forced us to answer the hard questions, like who we were targeting, how we were unique, and if we had a plan to actually make money. After a few weeks perfecting our application, we submitted it and waited to see what would happen. Each day, I would say there is no way we are getting an interview. And then surprisingly one day we received an e-mail saying we had been selected for a phone interview. So we brainstormed every question we thought they could possibly ask, preparing with mentors and friends. The phone interview went well and at the end of the interview, Deborah, the BF+DA Managing Director, invited us back for an in person interview. We were excited, but then quickly realized we only had a few days to put together a compelling presentation about our business and why we would be a good fit for the BF+DA.
We had a wedding that weekend in San Francisco, so we worked on the plane, in the hotel, even gave the presentation to Kelly's parents and our friend Amy after a night on the town. On the day of the presentation we were wracked with nerves as we had to convince a group of fashion experts that despite our lack of fashion experience we could build a fashion brand. The presentation was a huge success and we finally came to realize that after 4 months of research and networking, we did in fact know what we were talking about. So, we left feeling confident that we had done our best no matter what happened. It was an agonizing two weeks waiting to hear back. The longer we waited, the more we became invested in the incredible opportunity we had at our fingertips, and wanted it even more. Then on a rainy Sunday morning we got an e-mail saying that Kirrin Finch had been accepted into the BF+DA program!!
Kelly and I can't be more excited to join this group of amazingly talented designers and entrepreneurs. We moved into our space at the BF+DA in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on September 16. It is the old Pfizer manufacturing building, which is ironic, because I worked for many years as a consultant at Pfizer. We are already meeting and collaborating with many inspiring startups that integrate local manufacturing and an ethical supply chain into their bottom line.
I guess the lesson here is: follow your dreams and take chances. Coldplay said it best in their song, Fix Me, "but if you never try, you'll never know just how much you're worth." Well said Chris Martin.
Learn more about the BF+DA
Check out the great TED talk from Deborah Alden, the Managing Director, about the mission of the BF+DA