Babson Business: Blank Label
Mission: Empowering students to look memorable, and allowing them to carry their youthful individuality to the workplace.
- Year Began: 2008
- Where: Sydney, Atlanta, Boston
- Founder: Fan Bi, email@example.com, 781 591 9924; Ugrad
- Employees: 2 Partners, 1 full-time, 2 part-time, 1 intern
- Founder’s Past Life/Business: Always interested in empowering students, Fan started his first venture, a not-for-profit youth-based think tank, Meeting of the Minds (“MOTM”) in 2007, in his hometown Sydney. Bringing together top college students from different universities in Sydney, all from different academic backgrounds, the aim was to collate youth opinions on topical social issues, and provide vehicles for them to be heard.
- How the Idea Began: A product of his generation, Fan always valued his independence and his individuality. He always liked buying custom tee shirts, and hated the fact that when he started work, everyone would look the same and buy their clothes from the same few stores, so the idea of designing and creating your own suit or shirt was a logical step.
- Initial Preparation to Germinate Idea: “The traditional friends and family as customers has seem to have gone a little out of vogue, but for us, that’s what gave us initial confidence in the business. We would ask them to purchase, get their feedback, go back to the drawing board, and do that a few times, and then we would ask them to refer us to their friends. The initial growth was quite organic, and we would really recommend it to any start-up.”
- Favorite Thing about the Business: “It’s interesting how things pan out. My business partner is from Emory, and I met him when on exchange to Sydney. By the end of the semester, he was taking the business back to Atlanta, I was going to Boston, and we had someone continuing the business in Sydney, and all of sudden, these two kids start running this multi-national company.”
- Worst Thing About the Business: “We’ve done the research, spoken to designers, met with corporate professionals to really understand this balance between youthful individuality and corporate professionalism, but it is still challenging to gently tell a customer that their pick of colors and styling options is not quite right for the conservative, front-office investment banking job they have for the summer.”
- Biggest Challenge: “Most student entrepreneurs struggle with the balance between school and work. My business partner, Max, and I have the added challenge of not being in the same school. As much as the virtual boardroom is effective, a growing number of collaboration tools such as Collanos, communication with Skype, and accountability with JourneyPage, it still is not the same as being in the same room and feeding off each other’s energy. We do the best we can by visiting each other regularly, as well as going to see our satellite employees and campus reps.”
- Lesson Learned: “Withstanding the cliches, I have really come to understand the commitment levels necessary when starting your own venture. I have worked in small firms and large ones, I used to be academically strong, I have trained for a marathon, and have played competitive basketball, but the commitment level for Blank Label transcends anything I have done before.”