Sarah Krasley and I are colleagues. Actually, I have now her desk next to Autodesk CEO, Carl Bass. I got this prime real estate when Sarah relocated to our Autodesk New York office. She has since started her own company, and I got an email message from her yesterday that shared her company's highlights and lowlights. As Autodesk VP of Products, Amar Hanspal, recently recounted his lowlights while working at his startup, Red Spark, in this season of sharing, with her permission, I thought I would share Sarah's story.
image courtesy of Bonnie Fischer
Dear Friends of Unreasonable Women,
This was "a growth year filled with teachable moments." Actually, that's just a fancy way of saying: my first full year at the helm of a start-up was at times harrowing, illuminating, and thankfully, once in a while, extremely satisfying. I learned that starting a company is full of plot twists — some fun and some not so fun. In the spirit of sharing both the good and the lackluster...
Here are three highlights and lowlights of this year for Unreasonable Women:
Lowlight #1: We managed to make over 20 prototypes and get to five, ready-to-grade proofs-of-concept funded by our Kickstarter round and some bootstrapped capital, but wish we could have moved further into production and optimization.
Highlight #1: We learned a MASSIVE amount about technical apparel design, patternmaking, grading, and stretch materials and contracted an incredible team of patternmakers, fit specialists, sample-makers, and technical designers (more about that later).
Lowlight #2: We learned that nine months of pitching a women's bathing suit business to investors who've never tried one on is a losing proposition, regardless of a large market size, a stellar team, and evidence of market traction (even The Economist thinks so).
Highlight #2: We also learned there is much more value to be unlocked in the category than what resides in the garment itself. So...
Highlight #3: We pivoted! Starting in the new year, we'll begin a capital raise for Shimmy, a suite of graceful, data-centric technologies that use automation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality (AR) to accelerate conventional apparel technical design workflows now and make customization of apparel a near-term reality.
Highlight #4: X Swimwear will roll out in April 2017 as an e-commerce test case for the technology — so we can be agile and iterate as both users and toolmakers.
Highlight #5: I brought on a co-founder and feminist I've known since business school, Andrew Newsom. He's been in finance for over a decade and most recently dreams up the systems that underpin the next era of mobility for Toyota.
Lowlight #3: We needed to do a lot of traction testing and couldn't afford a photographer, model, stylist, retoucher, etc. to get a website up and running.
Highlight #6: Instead, we relied on the kindness of friends, including an amazing women-led retouching agency. I wrote about the pros and cons of this approach in my first piece for Fortune Magazine.
Highlight #7: Because we mostly DIYed it, we searched for ethical guidelines for how much or how little to retouch photos. We couldn't find any, so we're making some!
Meet our first social impact project: The Retouchers Accord.
We're bringing photographers, models, activists, thought leaders, post production artists, fashion brands, stylists, toolmakers, and models together to develop a Hippocratic oath for the people who make the images we see in advertisements and in the media. Our first symposium for 100 image-makers is on January 17th in NYC. Please let me know if there are individuals or companies you think would be productive in this work.
Dig into the vision, strategy, and plan here. And, yes, we are poking fun at the Kardashians with that photo.
Highlight #8: And lastly, we moved! After an incredible nine months at the Pratt Brooklyn and Fashion Design Accelerator as Venture Fellows, we joined New Lab and get to work in this dreamy space amongst friends and colleagues breaking boundaries in manufacturing and technology.
If you've read this far, we thank you for your precious time.
The trajectory of 2017 is anyone's guess, but we hope you get the humbling gift you helped give us: ideas that wake you in the night and make you grin from ear-to-ear and a supportive group of people who believe in your ability to execute on them.
Wishing you Happy Holidays and a 2017 that exceeds your expectations!
Founder & Principal, Unreasonable Women
@sarahkrasley pretty much everywhere
ventures: shimmypro.com + xswimwear.com + retouchersaccord.com
Thanks, Sarah. Best of luck in the new year. I know all about photo retouching. There was that time CBS apologized about a retouched photo of a slimmer Katie Couric in a darker dress and I used it to make fun of Shaan Hurley.
Fashion is alive in the lab.