Student Startup Roundup
October 14, 2013
This is part of an occasional series of articles spotlighting students who are juggling their studies with starting a new business or nonprofit venture.
If the Shirt Fits...
Parag Jhaverie, Full-time MBA 15
Parag Jhaveri started Hucklebury in 2012 with co-founder Dhawal Shah with an idea to apply a crowdsourcing model to manufacture premium menswear. They wanted to design and make a great-fitting shirt without leaving the U.S. for manufacturing—and sell the shirts directly to customers.
On Tuesday, Oct. 15, the pair will launch a Kickstarter campaign intended to raise $20,000 to start work at a factory near Washington, D.C. that already makes clothes for stores including Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Jhaveri's interest in the industry began at a young age in Mumbai, India, where his mother ran a factory that manufactured men’s and women’s scarves and shirts. His engineering background helped him use Six Sigma and lean manufacturing to develop Hucklebury’s crowd-sourcing business model.
A case study at Haas about Spanish retail giant Inditex and its biggest brand, Zara, clarified Jhaveri’s entrepreneurial vision and influenced the company’s decision to let customers choose what Hucklebury makes.
“My first-year operations class at Haas, taught by Pnina Feldman, helped me to understand how Zara was bringing offline efficiencies online,” Jhaveri says, noting that Inditex uses feedback from Zara store managers to update the brand’s fashions twice a week.
Hucklebury (the name is a twist on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn) cuts out the middleman by buying 100 percent Egyptian cotton milled in Italy directly and makes better-fitting shirts with less fabric around the chest, armhole and waist. The high-end shirts will cost $78 each if Hucklebury meets its Kickstarter goal—a bargain that Jhaveri hopes will draw buyers, shirt by shirt.
Fits to a T
Shawn Sheikh, BS 15
Founder, The Hamper
Shawn Sheikh bootstrapped his third venture, The Hamper, with profits from two previous startups, Structured Designs, which he started as a high school sophomore, and HotelsNThings, which he launched as a Berkeley undergrad.
With The Hamper, Sheikh and his 10-person team are turning their startup efforts toward direct philanthropy. Shiekh says he has always been inspired by his mother, who with her nine siblings fled from Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge as a child, and later sent food and money back to Cambodia. His father, a Pakistan native, worked at a health clinic that his family ran for the poor.
When Sheikh started The Hamper, he launched a Facebook site committed to selling t-shirts on behalf of a different cause each week. Sheikh donated $7 per shirt sold. The Hamper's tagline: Cleaning up the world, one shirt at a time.
Now he is revamping its business model, looking at partnering directly with charities run by other young entrepreneurs. One possible new venture would use apparel sales profits to directly fund a new school in Ghana, Sheikh says.
Charitable groups Sheikh has reached out to at Berkeley have been “awesome,” he adds. Haas offers so much to student entrepreneurs, he says, and he gives back by mentoring students and investing in smaller ventures. “I really believe in the power of student leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship.”
Brain Candy for Kids
Tavis McGinn, Evening & Weekend MBA 15
VP of Marketing, Kizoom
After 10 years of management consulting and marketing experience, Tavis McGinn decided to change his focus toward kids' play—and learning.
McGinn is vice president of marketing for Kizoom, which recently received a $500,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant that the startup will use to make software that helps children “know and grow their brains.”
Kizoom was co-founded by neuroscientist Erica Warp and Web designer and developer Jessica Voytek, both Berkeley grads, who raised $26,370 on Kickstarter last year. Kizoom used the money to roll out an ebook called The Adventures of Ned the Neuron for the iPad. It was a great idea, but a niche product looking for a market, McGinn says.
Warp, who created Ned for kids ages 7 to 11, started looking for a marketing exec to help commercialize the firm's future ideas. She met McGinn in January at UC Berkeley’s Bplan Competition, which mixes students from Berkeley’s different schools and departments.
The two clicked and McGinn joined Kizoom. Now, the company is testing new brain-related apps and ideas with students—such as Brain Jump with Ned the Neuron—using Haas Lecturer Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad model to figure out what works. Blank's framework focuses entrepreneurs on developing business models, rather than business plans, and on iterating their models quickly and frequently while engaging and learning from more than 100 customers.
“We’re in a stage now where we are throwing pasta at the wall to see what sticks,” McGinn says. “We’re using the Lean LaunchPad method of letting our customers guide us.”