My Lesson from Audit Your Closet

I’ve always been interested in fashion and technology. It was just one of those things I was drawn to, even when I didn’t completely understand how I could incorporate various technology. My initial idea was “audit your closet” a place where you could store and categorize your entire wardrobe in one spot. Then, an “e-stylist” would help you figure out how to combine different looks and tell you how to get the most out of your closet. I went as far as testing out the idea on a friend, where she photographed her clothes and I organized them for her into outfits. This was pre-iPhone, and apps so I quickly lost interest. I never stuck with the idea long enough to see how well it would’ve made a nifty app. Years later, I find my idea staring up at me and I feel a pang of regret. 

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It wasn’t that I didn’t pursue the idea that I am regretting (well, a little) since ideas are a dime a dozen and useless on their own. It’s more about the fact that I didn’t truly and consistently stick with that which I wanted to do more than anything else. Why did I not see the importance of sticking to it? Well, hindsight is always 20/20.

This is my general advice to those that have an idea or anything they want to pursue.

  • Start a blog and write in it consistently. This is a good excuse to research and also to build an audience of interested readers. Don’t stop writing ever. This is my single biggest regret, why did I ever stop writing in this blog and this one on menswear?
  • Guest blog on other sites, I did this for a few months, but didn’t stick with it.
  • Attend events in the niche you’re interested in as well as keep up to date on trends and news.

If you continue these three things, then you’ll start meeting the right people and be given opportunities. You may even meet potential business partners or partnerships that make sense.

The key is consistency and not giving up ever. When you lose both of these things, you lose everything because starting from scratch when your competition has already spent time and effort doing what you want to do for years, puts you really behind. Even picking up from where you left off is a disadvantage, since it’s like you’re starting all over again.

I’ll leave you with this, don’t turn your back on something you want to do regardless of if you can’t do it full-time. You can always start small and build it up on the side. Even giving it an hour a week of attention is enough. Also, it’s okay to take a break from it and try other things, but never leave it for good for a stretch of time.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a passion project or subject that you love but haven’t pursued consistently or have left it completely?

The Most Important Advice I could give any Entrepreneur

My last few posts have been India-centric, so you’ll be surprised to know that I am now in San Francisco. I probably wouldn’t be in San Francisco right now, a part of Batch 6 of the 500 Start-up Accelerator program if I had given up or played it safe. It took a slew of irrational decisions and a downright crazy way of thinking to get this far (which is not even half way to where I want to be, but I’ll take it). So if you don’t want to read anymore, than take this advice: having a dream is one thing, but reaching it requires not giving up and risking everything.

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The Journey to Now

As I winded down my full-time involvement in my second start-up (which happened to be in India at the time), I was faced with a decision of what to do next. Fashion and Technology was always something I wanted to get into, it was this pesky thing at the back of my mind that never really went away. For seven years, I filled up Google docs on ideas, made little PowerPoint presentations on various concepts, and even wrote guest blogs on fashion and technology innovations for awhile. So finally, I felt that I had enough confidence and experience to make a go of it, plus I had a bit of cash to live off of for a few months. So it was now or never.

While vacationing in Goa, I began thinking up ideas and landed on women’s accessories at the intersection of travel. I met a few fashion forward individuals to get their thoughts and together I curated a few accessories for women. It was a fun idea, but what I lacked was knowledge on the target market, and technical development. I did meet a girl along the way who had similar interests and killer experience, but lacked the entrepreneur “oomph”. Her idea of entrepreneurship was to take a sabbatical for four months from her day job so she could minimize risk and go back to it if it didn’t work. This thinking was too logical for someone like me who had nothing to go back to after failure, hence failure was not an option.

Having grown tired of being in India and the incessant hot weather after my stay in Goa, I booked my ticket home (Toronto) on a whim in early September. A few days before I left, I connected with my then co-founder’s friend who was working on a cool travel concept for men. I instantly loved the idea. My first start-up was in menswear and It was something I wanted to get back into but with a tech spin (and travel was just bonus), over women’s wear which I knew nothing about. But, he was in the States, and ironically, headed to India right when I was heading back home.

While I was home, I decided that perhaps I would just forget about the idea of fashion altogether, but then what would I do? I wasn’t really in the right mindset to get a job (which was probably a rational move, after years of mediocre success in start-up life). I slowly began working with the other co-founder of the men’s travel concept on various ideas and concepts through Skype. As luck would have it, I had to attend a family wedding in India in November anyways, so it was easy to convince my parents/family that I had to go back to India a few weeks early. I could meet with the team and try to work with them. I had never met them in person, and I went entirely on gut feeling. In fact, I had nowhere to stay, so relied completely on the kindness and hospitality of my eventual co-founder.

From there, we spent about 4 months, playing around with various ideas outside of fashion, pivoting and eventually getting the whole team to focus on one particular direction. It wasn’t easy, as we were all on our third or fourth (failed ot mediocre) start-up so there was that sense of defeat and anxiety as cash was low and was slowly becoming non-existent. A few times, I wanted to give up as our team while brilliant, lacked focus. Between the 1 hour commutes to an office, and the challenging living conditions – I felt that it just wasn’t worth it, especially when I had what felt like a utopia life back home. I went through what I call the dark days of entrepreneurship, where you question everything about your life, your past, your skills and realize how easy it would be to just quit.

But, thankfully, I did have support in Delhi. With that, I knew we had to keep going until we really had absolutely no choice. At the four month mark, we were politely asked to leave our office arrangement. Our last meeting in that office was us deciding that it was time to focus all our efforts on one idea and give it all we had. But with no office, and no money, it did seem impossible. We resorted to working in cafes with free wifi.

After a few weeks of café life, we finally began building something worthwhile and through some borrowing got ourselves an office and some wiggle room to build logistics. It was every so slowly becoming something that we could actually grow and scale, but most importantly, something that we enjoyed working on together as it played to all of our strengths. Regardless, it was still hard, and I had moments where I wanted to give up.. I was paralyzed with the fear of failing on yet another start-up. But, still I persisted.

Thankfully, we had someone who had watched us for months and saw that we did have what it took to grow a company given our combined strengths and past experience. He vouched on our behalf and became sort of our investor “cheerleader” and got us into 500 Start-ups. We had one day to put together a summary of our company and team to be considered.

To an outsider, this may look like luck, or an easy way in. But, nothing comes easy in life. It took years of working on start-ups, relationship building and even coming together as a team from all over the world.

It still feels a bit unreal. To go from struggling and wondering if we should go on, to meeting top investors, mentors and getting legit feedback on how we can improve. This is what I have been working for, not for the past few months, but for the past seven years. To be in Silicon Valley and running a funded fashion and technology start-up to eventually raise more money or sustain ourselves on our revenue.

It would not have been possible without risking everything and never giving up. It would not have been possible without following an irrational gut feeling. I flew half way across the world to find like-minded people who had similar values and  goals, but had a completely different skill set than me.

It’s not easy, and it still isn’t. Things have just gotten harder, or “shit just got real.” But for some reason, I just wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t know, call me crazy. I’ll definitely write another post or several on the 500 Start-ups program.. #staytuned.

[Seat 14A] It’s Alive

…And it’s up.

Three and a half months later, we launched the next phase of Seat 14A. A concept that is not a subscription model of receiving clothing and definitely goes beyond the current e-styling craze. We want to control all aspects of the cycle including manufacturing, and distribution while having a super fast turnaround time. It’s like an online pop-up shop for menswear which features a different designer and completely different style twice a month (or until sold out).

We want to provide distributors and buyers with real time data of exactly what is selling and where. We want to give budding talent a chance to share their wares and designs with our worldwide distribution list. We want to shake up an industry that needs some serious technological and analytic infusion especially at the up and coming designer level.

These are points that the consumer would be unaware of though. On a consumer level, we provide an “outfit” where you buy and wear. No searching for a matching pocket square, scarf, shirt or tie. A painless and super simple way to look incredibly good.

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I would appreciate any feedback! Also, I am looking for any talented designers who want to work with us – get in touch!

Why I left fashion and came back again

The fashion world is a dreamy one, with its fantastical parties, rubbing shoulders with celebrities in front row seats, getting photographed, drinking champagne, eating nothing, and working on a full-time to part-time job in another industry to make this life exist.

Front row at Toronto Fashion week

Why I left fashion the first time was because what I was doing on a part time basis was making me more money than I would ever make in my fantasy life. More importantly, I wanted more than just the small little bubble I felt I lived in. I thought that perhaps fashion was not the right industry to make money in after all. I hadn’t figured out how I could scale using technology without spending even more money on infrastructure to put all the pieces together. I loved menswear and fashion, but I wanted more. I felt that I was ill prepared for taking the company to the next level alone and overall felt exhausted at the prospect, so I abandoned ship. That was two and a half years ago.

Since then, I learned quite a lot about what it takes to build a successful company as I co-founded a funded start-up which allowed me to experiment with marketing, travel around North America, and gain a ton of new skills. My combined experiences have all lead me back to where I initially started: in India, in fashion. Funny how that happens, I guess my work was not done.

Thankfully, this time I am not scared of anything nor do I think anything is impossible. I am willing to hit rock bottom for what I believe is a revolutionary and disruptive concept that it took me 7 years to find. Yes, I have been thinking about fashion and technology for 7 years.

What can you take away from this?

  • If you want to be an entrepreneur (not self-employed), go big or go home. Don’t settle for a small idea, think about the biggest possible thing and go after that.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit, its not failing. If your heart is not in it then don’t waste your time. If it’s really worth it, you will come back to it later.
  • Cash is king, but a true entrepreneur will get over it. Worrying about money takes away time spent making that money. Its a vicious cycle.
  • Fail fast and hard, I have previously written a blog on this. It take 3 months for you to realize if you are on the right track or not, and as you iterate this timeline gets smaller. Don’t be afraid to drown the puppy and move on.

Lastly, I truly believe you spend the first 30 odd years of your life searching for love and meaning, and the rest of your life nurturing, and cultivating that love and meaning. So make it all count.