2019 SVP Startup Profile: Yad
Babson SVP venture Yad’s line of mugs and pillows add a splash of color to any room. And just in time for the dog days of summer, they have a line of beach towels as well! But did you know that Yad is making a major social impact in Guatemala? The colorful works of art featured on Yad’s products are created by Guatemalans with intellectual disabilities, and the sale of each product contributes to sustaining these artists’ continued well-being. The undergraduate winner of the 2019 B.E.T.A. Challenge, founder Deborah Cohen ’19 continues to grow Yad as she participates in both Babson’s Summer Venture Program and the 2019 MassChallenge Boston cohort. I recently spoke with Deborah to learn more about Yad and her Summer Venture Program experience. Here are the highlights of our interview:
How did you start Yad? What specific experiences lead you to pursue this venture?
I’ve been working with people with disabilities for more than nine years. My work began as part of an organization called Best Buddies Guatemala, which pairs someone with disabilities with someone that doesn’t have disabilities so they can form friendships. That’s how I met my best friend Julie, who was my biggest inspiration to create Yad. I would later learn about the Center of Artistic Creation in Guatemala City, which was about to collapse because it didn’t have any funds. For many disabled people who didn’t have stable jobs, their whole life revolved around going to the center to paint. I saw their artistic talent, and I knew that if the center were to close these people’s lives would be terribly disrupted. When I learned of this I knew I had to act, so I started Yad.
What activity or resource from SVP has helped you the most so far?
The mentorship I have received from the program director Bob Stringer has been key; I really feel connected with him. He has gone above and beyond to help connect me with people in the Boston ecosystem. I am also grateful for the programs SVP offered relating to legal services because all of the advisors and lawyers were people my SVP peers and I could trust.
In what ways have your SVP peers and mentors supported you and your venture?
I’m a solo founder with a team that works remotely from Guatemala, so working alongside a cohort of other entrepreneurs at SVP is great because you can always ask them for help. We complement each other’s skills really well. I’m not much of a “techie” but other people in the cohort are, so we find ways we can help each other. When I was preparing to pitch to a buyer for Bed Bath & Beyond, I spoke to some people in the cohort and they all wanted to go and support me, which to me is priceless.
What major milestones or accomplishments do you hope to achieve during your time in SVP? Or have you reached any already?
Great things have happened for me in SVP! I just incorporated, and I’m bringing all my products to the US to launch my e-commerce. In addition to e-commerce, I’m continuing to build B2B relationships with retailers. Thinking about the stores I love in the Boston area, I am working towards getting my products on their shelves!
I’ve also launched a new product this summer, Yad’s line of business note cards. I could not have landed Babson as a buyer for this new product without the help of SVP.
What is a valuable challenge or learning experience you have faced as a founder?
Patience has been a challenge for me as an entrepreneur. I have learned that it is better to go slow but steady, taking things step by step. Everything is working out just a bit slower than I thought, but that’s normal and it’s okay. To keep myself from becoming overwhelmed, I write down smaller things I can do to work towards my larger goals.
SVP ventures commute to Boston to our workspace at WeWork as well as the Babson Boston campus. Debbie, what do you like to do for fun in Boston? Any restaurant recommendations?
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to “just do it” and don’t let any obstacle or fear take your passion away. Entrepreneurship is not easy, and sometimes it does get stressful or even scary. But when you are really following your passion, looking at the progress you’ve made towards your vision is so self-rewarding.
Where can we find Yad online?
If you enjoyed learning about Deborah’s entrepreneurial journey growing Yad, be sure to stay tuned for more SVP venture profile blogs! To meet the entire SVP cohort and celebrate their progress, join us for the Summer Venture Showcase on Thursday, July 25th. RSVP at this link.