While talk at the Ivy dinner table often revolves around social interests and academics, of late, the dining room at Ivy is also proving to be an incubator for budding entrepreneurs. Several members from the Class of 2015 are well on their way to creating successful business ventures and attribute their success, in part, to the support and guidance of their Ivy peers.
Research Start-Up Takes Root
It was the middle of their sophomore year and Ivy roommates Carter Bradley ’15, Nick van der Vink ’15 and Cottage member John Plonk ’15 were sitting around their dorm room discussing future plans when the idea for a joint company began to evolve. Each had kindled a desire to start something new – possibly a business of their own – but it wasn’t until this mid-year discussion that a tangible idea began to take form.
As they were deliberating concepts the trio realized a common issue that executive leaders across all industries frequently confront. They often have ideas to improve their business or strengthen their product, but don’t have the flexible staff resources to determine the idea’s viability. Recognizing that this might be an opportunity to utilize the research skills they honed through Princeton classwork, the three roommates formally incorporated their company, now known as the Ivy Research Council, and began seeking opportunities to fill this market need.
Ivy Research Council’s first business opportunity arose with Atlantic Media Company, a digital media company located in the Washington D.C. area. Atlantic wanted to learn how breaking news spreads among social media outlets and whether they should be dedicating additional staff resources to sharing news the moment it breaks.
Through extensive modeling of news breaks and the population’s response, the team reported back on the best practices in breaking news identified through looking at other media outlets and on how to effectively leverage social media to get to news faster.
Since their first contract with Atlantic in the fall of 2013, Ivy Research Group’s clientele and team has expanded. Ivy member Cameron Porter ’15 was invited to come on-board as a fourth partner and nine summer interns, many from Princeton’s student body, were hired to address the company’s increasing project load. The client list has grown to include 10 individual customers, including such notable entities as Hospital Corporation of America, NRG, Teach for America, and The Economist Intelligence Unit. As they look ahead to graduation in June, these four Class of 2015 members are planning to dedicate themselves to this venture full-time.
The students behind the Ivy Research Council credit Ivy for a good portion of their business’ evolution. Having coined their fellow Ivy members as their “unofficial Board of Directors”, these young entrepreneurs now reflect that the unbiased, thoughtprovoking discussions they had with other members over dinner influenced the development of their business plan. The guidance of graduate Ivy members, such as Ivy Board member Rob Engel, whom the team met through an Ivy Leadership Program, has also aided in the development of their company. “Rob Engel was a great mentor to us as we were just getting the idea for our business up and running.” remarked Bradley ’15. The team looks forward to continuing to provide the highest quality of research as they strive to hone in on the perfect niche for their company’s long-term growth and success.
Creating Practical Fashion
Not many can say that Reunions provided the driving idea behind their business, but for Liz Lian ’15 that was the case. After dancing into late night hours during the Reunions of 2012, Liz, with a dress saturated with sweat, retreated to the dorms. The following day Lian discussed with her good friend, Sanibel Chai (University of Pennsylvania ’15) how great it would be to have a dress made of more breathable, wicking fabric. It was from this conversation that “38th and WICK,” a fashion line dedicated to creating chic clothing in party-friendly fabrics, was born.
Within a week of Lian’s sweat-ridden evening out, Lian and Chai formed a LLC and went to work figuring out how to create new clothing. Neither had experience or connections in the industry so they began reading textbooks on the business of fashion and enlisted the services of a freelance clothing designer. Their designs rapidly evolved and by the following winter they commissioned the creation of the first pieces for their collection.
With inspiring design samples in hand, but lacking the funding to mass produce 38th and WICK’s line, Lian and Chai decided to attempt a fundraising effort through Kickstarter, an on-line broadcasting site for raising start-up funding. A targeted goal of $20,000 was established to allow for an initial production of 400 units of clothing, including a dress, skirt, top and T-shirt design. Lian spent a month devoting herself exclusively to spreading the word of 38th and WICK’s Kickstarter campaign. She reached out through social media sites, tracked down multiple mailing lists and shared the news of the campaign with all she met. Within just four weeks of its online campaign, 38th and WICK surpassed its goal thanks to 208 individual supporters, 17 percent of which were Ivy members. The company proceeded with production over the summer of 2014 and is now focused on the marketing and sales through its online site, 38thandwick.com. Lian and Chai are motivated by their customer’s rave reviews and are eager to expand their line with new styles.
Lian credits the support she received from her fellow Ivy members as a driving force in the creation of 38th and WICK. “Ivy, as a group, has been the number one supporter of our company’s growth.” Lian remarked. The sincere curiosity and backing of her fellow members provided the extra motivation required to overcome some of her more challenging obstacles such as fundraising and understanding the steps to move her concept forward. Numerous graduate and undergraduate Ivy members contributed directly to the company’s success, some through their generous funding of the Kickstarter campaign and others by modeling outfits for photo shoots and fashion shows. Lian also feels indebted to graduate member Woody Hines ’12, another entrepreneur who has successful started his own college sweater company Hillflint, for serving as an informal mentor through her navigation of the fashion industry.
As these up-and-coming graduates have shared, the think tank of youthful ideas and enthusiasm is alive and well at Ivy. Who knows, tonight’s dinner discussion might provide the seedling concept for the next Amazon. We will be looking forward to seeing what ideas blossom from the Class of 2016!