THE BUSINESS PLAN
From 2017 to 2019, an average 16% of the graduating full-time MBA classes at Stanford GSB elected to launch a venture immediately after graduation. At 47%, Stanford GSB has a higher percentage of elective courses focused on entrepreneurship and innovation than any other full-time MBA program (see Best MBAs For Entrepreneurship: The Data Dump). And nowadays, every single MBA at Stanford takes at least one elective in entrepreneurship and innovation.
Even with all that competition — and even in the current financial landscape — there is funding to be had for Silicon Valley startups. But the nature of their business meant the Frankly founders faced unique challenges.
“When we walked into investor meetings, we’d say, ‘Hope you guys are ready to talk about boobs for the next 30 minutes,’” recalls Eaton. “We feel strongly this shouldn’t be a taboo subject. We are two female founders working on a female-centric product, and most of the VC world is male, which made it difficult for them to understand. It’s a space that they typically don’t like to play in. That’s part of the reason that we are moving towards crowdfunding.”
The company will launch on Kickstarter in October with their first line of clothes. As a way to reduce excess in what’s typically a wasteful industry, items will be offered by pre-order only to ensure that only purchased pieces are produced.
“Our first line is what we call weekend wear; clothes that you could wear around the house and be comfy in but equally that you could wear on a first date or brunch with girlfriends,” Eaton says. “The clothes are feminine, classic silhouettes that you can continue to wear regardless of season and that are traditionally pieces you’d have trouble wearing a regular T-shirt bra with. Items will be priced between $90 and $180, with a discount for our Kickstarter backers.”
‘IF YOU HAD ASKED ME IN 2018 WHAT I WOULD BE DOING … ‘
In Poets&Quants‘ Top MBA Startups of 2020, published as the health crisis was just beginning in March, we reported that Stanford GSB was the runaway leader in successful new ventures in 2019. Coronavirus may change the composition of next year’s list, but Frankly’s founders hope to be among the companies started by Stanford MBAs that are on it.
Asked for the advice they would give to entrepreneurs currently enrolled in B-school, both women say that starting a business in a pandemic — while not ideal — has proven to be less daunting than they anticipated.
“I think people who are starting businesses now, post the onset of Covid, are at an advantage as they have an idea of what the world looks like and could potentially look like post-quarantine. They have the ability to build for that,” Eaton says.
The women’s venture shows that when you keep an open mind and have the courage to course-correct, your actions can lead you on the right path.
“You don’t really know what you’re going to really feel strongly about, until sometimes it hits you,” Dong says. “I came into Stanford thinking I was going to start a software company. I tested a software idea for most of my first year. If you had asked me in 2018 what I would be doing, this is probably not on the top 10 things, nor the top 100 things. I don’t think I would have been able to predict this. I couldn’t be happier. We hope our story can inspire other MBAs to look for chances to improve products and services during this pandemic, instead of just playing defense.”
Eaton encourages other graduates to reframe this time of chaos as motivation to seek new opportunities. “Think about what, in this new world, could be improved?”