I’m the cofounder of And We Evolve, a subscription box service for secondhand clothing in like-new condition. Picture a thrift store. Now, picture the exact opposite. The AWE Box from And We Evolve makes the experience of shopping for secondhand clothing easy, upscale, and hyper-curated for each customer. We deliver five handpicked items each month in a package so lovely, it feels like having a birthday every month. Our stylists develop a relationship with our subscribers, learning subscribers’ tastes and likes and dislikes; we care so hard.
I stay motivated by... remembering why I wanted to start my company in the first place. When I was 25 and living in the smaller bedroom of a small two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, I was fascinated by this challenge: so many women have clothes they don’t wear anymore, and virtually every woman wants new clothes. How can we create a cycle of giving and sharing, and take care of everyone’s needs? I’m 30 now, and so happy to be building a company that solves a challenge that I’m so interested in and passionate about.
Three adjectives that describe me are... zany, imaginative, and ambitious.
If I could have dinner with one person (dead or alive) it would be... Danielle Laporte because she’s my favorite writer/ thinker on personal growth and meaningful work. I heartily recommend her book, The Fire Starter Sessions.
The most exciting innovation to me is... the company Shine Registry. Their mission is to change the traditions around how we celebrate milestones in women’s lives. Shine is a platform for women entrepreneurs to create wedding-style registries of what they need, from office supplies, to customer reviews on their website, to introductions to venture capitalists. You can easily give your friend a gravy boat when she’s getting married; now, we have a platform to support our friends who are starting companies.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Is having your own business something you always wanted?
I knew pretty early on that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My first career was as a freelance writer. I published a book when I was in college and wrote regularly for newspapers and magazines. I started reading Inc. magazine the summer I graduated from college, which is what initially sparked my interest in innovation and growing companies. I started doing marketing and media strategy for early stage startups, with the knowledge that one day, I would want to launch my own startup. With the exception of a few times I’ve taken jobs on a team, I’ve almost always been self-employed as a freelance marketing strategist. Being a freelancer is great preparation for being an entrepreneur: you learn to hustle, you learn to generate your own opportunities, you learn to manage your time effectively, and you generally develop higher risk tolerance. Also, you learn “how to work with yourself”-- you figure out how you do your best work and create systems that enable you to spend as much time as possible doing so (and as little time as possible stressing about things that haven’t happened yet).
I started working on And We Evolve when I was 28, in June 2017. Honestly, I could have started sooner but I didn’t “feel ready.” A helpful secret is that I don’t think anyone ever “feels ready” to start a company-- you just dive in. However, it was good that I waited, because I moved to Philadelphia when I was 28, where I met my business partner and co-founder, Alisha Ebling. And We Evolve has been made possible by having a co-founder; there’s a reason they teach us the buddy system in kindergarten! Alisha and I are very blessed in that our skill sets complement one another really nicely; I’m a big picture thinker and most interested in external affairs like marketing, business development, and fundraising. Alisha is very systems-oriented and is most interested in web design, user experience, visual design and branding, and all our analytics.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for female founders? How can we overcome it?
I think the biggest obstacle female founders encounter is the fear of asking for things. To broadly generalize, as women, we’re raised to take care of others and be nurturing; we’re generally not the ones raised to have needs and make requests of others. Being a female entrepreneur, the more you ask for the things you need to grow, the better and more efficiently you can build your business/ company/ empire/ platform.
I love asking for things. I see it as an adrenaline rush. But I wasn’t always this way. When I was in my mid-twenties, I read the book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, and it was revolutionary for me. The book’s message isn’t that “nice” girls don’t get the corner office; it’s that nice “girls” don’t succeed in their careers. Meaning that, the nice-cute-docile behaviors that young girls are praised for totally undermine them in their careers. One of my takeaways from the book was that I needed to make a concerted effort to ask for things and to negotiate more (I think those two go hand in hand). So for one month, I had a daily goal that I needed to ask for something: I asked women with impressive careers to lunch, I negotiated what I paid for my gym membership, I asked my then-boss to pay to send me to a conference.
Asking for things opens up so many doors in your career and in your business. The worst that can happen is that someone will say no; best case scenario (outside of landing a “Yes”) is that the person will think, “Wow, she is so confident/ good at advocating for herself/ motivated.”
Who is the one super successful person you look up to? Why them? Can you share their quote/ideology that inspires you the most?
I love the poet Mary Oliver. A lot of her work focuses on nature but has deep messages about life and joy. Her poem “The summer day” ends with the line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?” If there was one motto that drives me, that would be it. What’s a better motivator to do the risky, uncharted thing we’re aching to do? A reminder that we have one wild and precious life!
What is your biggest dream? Why? Describe your biggest vision for your business.
In an ideal world, we want to meet the AWE Box customer just as she is graduating from college. She needs to build her professional wardrobe (which these days, is almost always “business casual”) and she needs fun, affordable clothes for this new chapter of her life. Instead of buying not-inexpensive work clothes from LOFT and splurging on Urban Outfitters for weekend clothes, we want to empower her to build her wardrobe primarily with secondhand clothing from the AWE Box. We deliver 5 pieces in each AWE Box; if she keeps three items from each box, that’s most of her clothing shopping needs for the year met. (The average American woman buys 50 new pieces of clothing a year) This would have extremely meaningful benefits for the environment (clothing production is the second most environmentally destructive industry-- second to the oil industry!), but also, women who build their wardrobes with secondhand have the opportunity to try different designers that they wouldn’t ordinarily encounter (especially boutique brands), figure out which cuts and silhouettes make them feel like their best self, and enjoy luscious fabrics like silk and 100% cotton and cashmere.
Naturally, women will supplement their wardrobes with pieces bought new, but if women relied on And We Evolve for most of their clothes, oh my God! Imagine how much fun women would have getting dressed.