MBA Program: Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Founding Student Names: Rooshy Roy & Justin Silver [Both WG19]
Brief Description of Solution: aavrani is the digitally-native, premium skincare company inspired by India’s ancient beauty rituals
Funding Dollars: $1.5 million dollars
What led you to launch this venture?
Rooshy: As a first-generation Indian-American, my upbringing was enriched by cultural celebrations and traditions. Some of my fondest memories growing up involved the gatherings of women within our immigrant community—grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and daughters—re-creating the skincare solutions our families passed down many generations using household ingredients from our kitchen, such as turmeric, almond oil, and neem. As I got older and started to buy my own beauty products, I became increasingly appreciative of the all-natural solutions that worked best for my skin but didn’t have the time to source all the ingredients myself, let alone create the formulas. That became the inspiration for aavrani!
Justin: My background is in consumer investing, where I helped grow another U.S.-based, culturally inspired skincare company, Tatcha. That company was recently acquired by Unilever for $500M, and I’ve partnered with Rooshy to bring all the learnings from that experience to grow aavrani in the years to come!
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with your venture? We are on track to generate over $1,000,000 in revenue in 2019, have thousands of paying customers and have built a robust team of investors and advisors – an incredible asset to us as operators.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? First and foremost, we received tons of help and support from hundreds our fellow classmates at Wharton—from feedback on the products to packaging, to funding through the MBA Fund, Dorm Room Fund, and Rough Draft Ventures. Professors, specifically Patti Williams through her Strategic Brand Management class and independent study, were also a huge help. We were selected to join Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s accelerator program, VIP-X, and participated during the spring of our first year – the only first-year company ever to do so. We were recipients of Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Summer Venture Award, the Elevator Pitch Award, three rounds of Penn Innovation Funding, and finalists in Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Startup Challenge Pitch Competition of 2018 and 2019.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you?
Rooshy: Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. Her drive to succeed despite her limited resources or resume (at the time of launch) motivates me every single day. Blakely drove growth at every turn– from developing the original product to expanding distribution to building a team. Her ability to remain relentless passionate, and kind, which inspires me to do the same and showcases just how talented and dynamic women can be.
Justin: Vicky and Brad, the founders of Tatcha. Watching these two MBA grads grow their business and succeed is my biggest entrepreneurial inspiration. They fearlessly grew their company from a team of 2 to over 50 people in a few years, all while raising capital, growing their brand, and remaining great, great leaders. My father is also an entrepreneur. Through his decades of hard work and diligence, he created a better life for my family than the one he had growing up.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it?
Rooshy: Venture Implementation. This class allowed us to work on our startup during class, giving us time to focus exclusively on the business and gather regular, candid feedback from our classmates.
Justin: Negotiations. Through my learnings from this class, we have saved aavrani over $250K. Whether it is working with manufacturers, designers, web developers or shipping companies, we are pushed to negotiate daily and this class helped me refine my approach.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our goal is to ultimately reshape the beauty industry and redefine beauty standards. Through introducing ancient Indian rituals to others, we are not only shedding light on non-toxic alternatives and efficacy of natural solutions but also we’re calling attention to the current lack of inclusivity in the beauty space through positivity and celebrating diversity along the way.