Open Source Fashion’s first Fashion Tech Founders Caffeine and Convos Breakfast program buzzed with an excitement reminiscent of a Day Breakers concert. Conversations before the program flowed easily among this group of entrepreneurs, fashion gurus and techies. Attendees included Frank Spadafora, Founder and CEO of D’Marie Group, who described his social media analytics firm to Chris Higgins Cofounder and CEO, SparqEE Technologies, a tech entrepreneur on the cusp of finding funding. Others, like CEO and conscious fashion designer Clare Tattersall, come to these events to share experiences and learn from a community of innovators like herself, designing and manufacturing in New York. After a half hour of schmoozing, the crowd went into the back room of The Coffee Foundry clutching their steaming coffees with smiles and eager anticipation for the morning’s inaugural fashion tech founder interview event.
Pavan Bahl, Founder and CEO of Open Source Fashion, interviewed Loni Edwards, Founder of emPOWERED, facilitating a lively discussion while Loni’s Insta-famous pup @Chloe_TheMiniFrenchie sat patiently looking out onto the crowd. As a former practicing attorney, Loni described her transition into entrepreneurship with her first company, Stitch Collective. During her time growing Stitch Collective, Loni quickly discovered that she continued to run out of battery power on her phone half way through her day. With no established office location, she was running around New York from one meeting to another relying on her phone as her office, having to deal with a dead phone and where to charge it.
From that moment Loni “decided […] to do something about this,” this being her motivation to develop her next venture. She founded, emPOWERED, creating handbags equipped with a phone charger inside. Not only are the emPOWERED bags beautifully designed and fashionable, but Loni owns the patent on all chargeable devices integrated into accessories. Loni pointed out that “as an entrepreneur you need to be able to take what you know and use it in new and inventive ways,” With her background as an intellectual property lawyer, Loni was able to skillfully harness her legal expertise to position her company with a competitive advantage so strong that in effect prevented the launch of any encroaching competitors.
By leveraging contacts and media outreach from her first company, Loni mobilized her press contacts to rally behind her when she launched emPOWERED. “We used the Stitch Collective email list to get the word out about emPOWERED, which gave us a launching board for PR outreach,” Loni revealed. The takeaway here the audience walked away with is to utilize your own tools, networks, and skills in new and creative ways when starting and developing your company in order to get a leg up. Loni was able to utilize both her skills as a lawyer and network as an entrepreneur to help make emPOWERED a success.
After concluding the interview with Loni, Pavan turned the program over to the audience for questions. While some audience members tried to engage with the adorable Chloe the Mini Frenchie, others posed pressing business questions. One participant asked how to source and scale the manufacturing demands of bringing a product to market in places like China. While Loni explained that the obstacles to outsourcing in China far outweighed any benefits, she chose solutions closer to home for emPOWERED. Mason Klement, CO-CEO of Smartakus, offered a lively digest of how he spent several years working in China acting as a conduit between factories and western entrepreneurs who are often adrift, burning through investor cash and unable to make headway on their manufacturing needs. Throughout the q & a session, program attendees not only asked questions to the speaker but found and offered solutions among themselves, a group of savvy fashion tech professionals.
And so, the first NYC Caffeine and Convos successfully breaks into the NYC Fashion Tech scene educating, collaborating, and learning from the OS Fashion entrepreneurial community here in the heart of Silicon Alley. Stay tuned for announcements of the July 29th Caffeine & Convos Breakfast.