Ms. Fashion Twista
As New York City went into lockdown in March as cases of COVID-19 rose, I temporarily moved home to South Carolina to quarantine with my established pod: my parents, brothers, pregnant sister-in-law, and dogs. Just days into lockdown and more than a healthy dose of CNN Breaking News, I gave into the buzz around the short-form video content platform, TikTok. I pride myself as an “early-adopter” of the tech world, however, I was late to TikTok when I joined the 1.5 billion users, primarily the Gen Z, in creating video content. My videos came in with a splash as I disrupted the market with a “millennial’s perspective” of my new normal. As I established a routine not only working from home but co-existing with family, Ralph Lauren (RL) broke the news that I would be furloughed from my role as Director of Merchandising and Planning. After 7 years working for RL, where I earned recognition for my analytical mindset and innovative approach in identifying inefficiencies and creating streamlined processes, I now had the overwhelming feeling that I had taken a huge step back in life.
Hidden between the lines of my resume, my roles at RL gradually gravitated closer to the product and creative side of the business as the years went by. My financial background and analytical mindset were the perfect counterbalances to my passion for the creativity of product assortments. Although it seems obvious in hindsight, I was surprised that the creative expression I used in creating video content on TikTok gave me such fulfillment as searched for ways to remain productive. Just weeks after joining TikTok and gaining thousands of followers, I was a witness to the immense power of this platform. My next step was to monetize the incoming requests from followers who were asking about the products featured in my videos.
As I continued to build the “brand” across various social media platforms, I leaned on the skillset that had differentiated me in my years at RL, analyzing the reactions and engagement on content and then capitalizing on future demand through affiliate marketing programs. I used the data provided through those platforms and Google Analytics to dive deeper into price points, product categories, and demographics to better understand my followers. To maximize my commission revenues, I used these findings to strategize on brand partnerships and products to feature with higher clicks-to-conversion.
While I was wary of what friends and family were thinking of my TikTok venture, I was encouraged by the daily messages from strangers, ER nurses, doctors, and new mothers thanking me for the laughs and comic relief my content gave them through quarantine. I saw engagement grow as I became more vulnerable in sharing more about my life. A TikTok about being furloughed had 300K views within days. People had become engaged and loyal and I felt rewarded by the direct impact I could make on peoples’ lives. With a platform that had grown to nearly 30,000 followers, I expanded into making handmade products. In August, I launched an offering of handmade beaded mask chains, adding a stylish twist to the new mandatory accessory. Immediately upon launching the mask chains, I saw the loyal following from social media convert into loyal customers on my website, with 500 mask chains made and sold by the end of November.
Through endless iterations navigating the Wild West of TikTok meets the “32-year-old — newly turned entrepreneur”, it was clear there was an untapped market of people who aren’t here to see the gloss and glam of the Kardashians; they want the grit! They want to see the sweat and tears of starting a small business, beading mask chains all night, packing up orders, printing shipping labels, and daily trips to the post office, with beads up to the ceiling and GMAT books littering the apartment. All the while, I was the beneficiary of free advertising and low-cost content creation that was gaining momentum.
Late September, RL announced their plan for restructuring which would result in layoffs of over 4000 employees. Though my role had been eliminated, I was offered another role within a newly created division, Retail Trading. Many sleepless nights later, I made the decision to continue the course — to continue building the business born from TikTok. My revenues from mask chains and affiliate marketing had amounted to nearly $40,000, a number that would be just a rounding error at Ralph Lauren. But while a paycheck and job security were extremely hard to walk away from, I realized in this journey what made me “Tik” — those rounding errors were the result of the hard work to build my first business. Through the months of reflection, I recognized that I needed to be more than a rounding error because there was no numerical value I could put on the feeling when an order came through on my phone, even if just for a $45 mask chain.
While my career path will certainly look different from other candidates, I will offer a unique perspective from the 9 years working in the fashion industry, both for a start-up fashion company, Jay Godfrey, as well as my years of experience in corporate America. I spent the better half of my experience at Ralph Lauren navigating the massive contraction of wholesale distribution, with store closures across all retailers. I played a lead role in creating and improving processes within the merchandising and planning departments as our business shifted away from Brick & Mortar stores towards e-commerce. However, while my previous experience was invaluable, launching a business has allowed me to see where I could enhance my skillset to expand my impact on a larger scale. Strategic frameworks, customer acquisition, brand marketing, and integration of revenue channels are a few of the areas in which an MBA will help provide the knowledge that will help me scale my business beyond its current reach.
Undergrad School: SMU
Undergrad Major: Finance
Age: 32, Ethnicity: White
Other Degree/Certification: CFA Level 1
Extracurriculars: Advisory Committee of Gateway Arts, Vice President of Foundation, Fashion Fellowship of 92nd St Y (Bloomberg indicative)
Title: Director of Merchandising & Buying
Company: Fortune 500
Length of Employment: 7 yrs, 5 mos
Title: Business Owner (Current)
Length of Employment: 1 yr
Big Life Wins:
Winner of company-wide Idea Contest – pitched to CEO and executive panel – Ralph Lauren.
Kindness Movement Ambassador: Allocated $30,000 to promote kindness through humanitarian efforts and thoughtful giving, focused on empowering underprivileged youth, leveraging social platforms to inspire others to expand the movement.
Post MBA Goal:
Just a year ago, I sat at my Ralph Lauren office in New York City, unaware that the next 12 months would change my career trajectory in such a profound way. After seven years working for Ralph Lauren, where I had earned recognition for my analytical mindset and innovative approach in analyzing the wholesale business, the news of my furlough, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, came with great disappointment. In the months that followed, I was afforded the opportunity to re-evaluate my professional priorities; this reflection changed my career goals and ultimately led to my decision to apply to NYU Stern.
Hidden between the lines of my resume, my roles at Ralph Lauren gravitated closer to the product and creative side of the business: my financial and analytical skills were a perfect counterbalance to the creativity required for building product assortments. Although it seems obvious in hindsight, I was surprised that the creative expression of my fashion content on the short-form video platform, TikTok, gave me such fulfillment as I searched for ways to remain productive during my furlough. I leaned on the skillset that had differentiated me at RL, analyzing the engagement and then monetizing on future demand through affiliate marketing programs and brand partnerships. Just months on TikTok and gaining over 20,000 followers, I was a witness to the immense power of this platform. TikTok was the beginning of a creative endeavor that I will continue to foster in the short-term as I solidify the direction for long-term sustainability.
While starting as my own entertainment during a period of endless unknowns, I was surprised by the daily messages from strangers, ER nurses, doctors, and new mothers thanking me for the comic relief through quarantine. Those messages were eye-opening to the possibility of a larger-scale impact. I listened to “The Prof G Show,” NYU Stern Professor Galloway’s weekly podcast, as I considered long-term growth, with various revenue streams, global demand, and the accelerated growth of content platforms. My content attracted others trying to spread positivity and I was asked to join “The Kindness Movement”. As an ambassador, my acts of kindness were funded with $30,000 to spread this movement through my community: New York City.
My long-term aspiration is to expand the impact of a social content platform in a healthy and sustainable way, in which my audience gets more than just a shot of dopamine from watching a video of “the glamorous life of NYC”. The goal is to create a brand with authenticity to the caliber of Ralph Lauren, but showing that behind the scenes of every entrepreneurial endeavor, there’s a lot of grit too. Upon experiencing the power of integrating affiliate marketing within social media, I applied for the trademark “Shop My Content”. As brands search for innovative ways to reach their consumers outside the walls of Brick and Mortar, my dream is to evolve into a destination shopping platform that will offer just that.
While my career path will certainly look different from other candidates, I will offer a unique perspective from the nine years working in the fashion industry paired with my recent entrepreneurial experience. Just as the last year was evidence of how valuable my time at Ralph Lauren was to an entrepreneurial journey, the insights of classmates at Stern will be just as valuable. Additionally, I know the diverse experience and backgrounds of the individuals at Stern, classmates and professors alike, will expand my perspective while NYC continues to be a source of inspiration for my creativity.