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REPLAY: Shobana Mani Talks Start-Ups, Mentoring, and Why You Should Launch NOW

There can’t be too many people in the world who’ve both juggled numbers as a managing director at Goldman Sachs and handsewn textiles for ateliers working with designers like Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler.

But Shobana Mani has.

“I've always been two things: a commercial person and a creative person,” says the Parsons Entrepreneurial Academy mentor.  “My grandfather was a dyer in India, so I grew up among textile looms and seeing saris woven in front of his house. But then I did my master's degree at the London School of Economics, and in my first career, I worked in investment banking.”

When, after a dozen years, she found herself drawn back towards creative work—dreaming of launching a sustainable womenswear brand—she approached it with the finance sector’s rigor.

“A lot of people said to me, ‘You already have this background, why don't you just start the brand?’ But I just don't believe in that. I...

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Interview with Arlan Hamilton: Entrepreneurship is a Winding Path

Think of the most successful entrepreneurs that come to your mind. You may immediately think of their large social media following, their beautiful website, or their high profile connections. What you don’t see are the sleepless nights, the struggle and the triumphs along the way leading up to their massive success. You know, that not-so-glamorous part of the journey. 

What if the most challenging parts of your entrepreneurial journey were the same parts that will help you grow your business? 

Arlan Hamilton proves there is power in sharing your authentic story and why being an industry outsider is your greatest asset. As the CEO of Backstage Capital, she helps underserved founders of color gain resources for their dream. She is the author of It's About Damn Time, but before then she was building her business while homeless. 

We had the opportunity to connect with the author, podcaster, and founder one-on-one last week, where she shared her...

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I Lost Rights to My Own Name: How to Safeguard Your IP

Do you know if your intellectual property is protected? 

Legal considerations aren't usually something entrepreneurs get excited about when they're first starting their business. After all, it's way more fun creating products and finding a customer base who resonates with and appreciates what you do, right?

But, failure to at least think through how you're protecting your work can lead to a lot of problems that can bring your business to a grinding halt - or, worst-case scenario, lose you the rights to your own name or your creative work.

Most entrepreneurs figure this out the hard way... 

But in this panel discussion, you can tap into the experiences of three very successful entrepreneurs who faced - and OVERCAME - early IP issues and don't want you to make the same mistakes. 

Meet the Panelists:

Kay Unger is the CEO of Kay Unger Design and Chair Emerita of Parsons School of Design. She's a fashion designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and top designer...

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Social Media Advertising Best Practices: How to Profitably Grow Your Business on Facebook & Instagram

Advertising on social media is something that a lot of creative entrepreneurs tell themselves they should be doing... After all, it's a proven way to raise awareness for your brand, drive traffic to your website, and get your products and services in front of a new audience of consumers.

... But few entrepreneurs actually take the steps to create and manage long-term ad strategies on Facebook and Instagram. 

You might think it's too expensive to run ads on Facebook and Instagram, or that it's just not in the cards for a startup that might have limited marketing budget.

But social media advertising can actually be very effective for companies at any stage with any budget - IF you approach it the right way. There's a lot of iterating that goes into finding the top performing ads for your unique business. And not only will a winning ad help your business grow, you'll also gain valuable insights on your customers and what messaging resonates with them! 

To help you...

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5 Questions: Featuring ‘Atmos’ Sustainability Magazine Founder Jake Sargent

founder interview Apr 21, 2021

Jake Sargent is a leading voice in sustainable design companies, in part because he takes such a holistic, multi-pronged approach. 

He’s the founder of Atmos, a sustainability-minded magazine and media company that considers environmental issues through a design and culture lens. 

On top of that, he cofounded Magic Hour VC in 2017, and has since backed companies that further environmental consciousness, human wellness, and cultural resonance—like Buffy sustainable bedding, Seed probiotics, Naadam fair knitwear, and This Saves Lives snacktivism products, to name a few. 

Given his wide and deep knowledge of entrepreneurship in service of sustainability, we asked him about inspirations, essentials, and what it means to really think big in this space. Watch the full interview right here:

 

Q: Who are two people inspiring you right now?

Jake Sargent: One thing that really came to the forefront this year is the role that capitalism plays in oppression, and...

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How to Craft a Value Proposition for Your Creative Business

Your creative work is so unique. But how do you convey that value to customers and clients? That's where your value proposition comes into play!

A value proposition is a concise way to describe the unique value you, your company, and your product or service will provide your customer or client. It's a way to differentiate yourself from all the other creatives and creative businesses out there. But it goes even further than that. A strong value proposition allows you to attract the people who truly align with what you're all about. 

Now, actually writing a concise statement that accomplishes all that can definitely feel overwhelming, and that's why we brought in PwC strategy and design expert John Jones to lead an interactive workshop guiding our members through writing their very own unique value proposition tree. 

John has 20 years experience in service design, product design, strategic planning and brand development across multiple consumer touchpoints...

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Self Employed Taxes 101: What Every Creative Should Know

finance founder interview Mar 19, 2021

Taxes - the little word that instills fear in just about every self employed person. So much so that many people put off even thinking about taxes until the very last minute just to be hit with mountains of work digging through paperwork, invoices, and documents to file in time. 

Especially for self-employed folx, taxes stir up negative emotions. 

But it doesn't have to be that way! 

You can approach tax season from a place of empowerment and confidence! All it takes is a foundational knowledge of taxes - what they are, how you're charged, and most importantly, how you can lower your tax rate!

Knowledge = confidence. Seriously, sitting down to do taxes knowing you have all your ducks in a row, or scoring a bigger tax break for your creative business is the BEST feeling in the world. 

That's why we've brought small business financial consultant and instructor here at Parsons Entrepreneur Academy, Andi Smiles to teach you how to become a tax ninja with...

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The Easiest Way to Write a Business Plan as an Artist

As a creative, the very thought of writing a business plan can be well... intimidating as all HECK. Not to mention most business plans seem more like mini books filled with numbers and charts and investor-friendly language. Without business training, it can be hard to figure out where to start, and so it becomes one of those things we know we should do, but keep putting off. 

Thing is -- having a great business plan to follow can actually free up your creative mind, by removing any doubts about whether you’re putting your energy into the right activities…
 
...and creating one is FAR simpler than we’re led to believe!
 
You just need a tried-and-true model, and a mentor who can show you how to use it.
 
That's why we brought in award-winning strategist, business advisor, creative executive coach, and mentor, Shani Syphrett-Haynes to show you how to create an easy-but-effective ONE-PAGE business plan that will set you up for...
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5 Questions: Featuring Celebrity Designer Charles Harbison and Owner of Fashion Brand HARBISON Studio

founder interview Feb 24, 2021

Charles Harbison has always colored outside of the lines in his career. While in undergrad, the North Carolina-native left an architecture program to pursue a double degree in fine art and textile science. There he went on to fall in love with fashion studying indigenous fabric design in Uzbekistan

After graduating from the Parsons School for Design, he became a top designer at Michael Kors, Luca Luca, and Billy Reid, before starting his own line, HARBISON, somewhat by accident after experiencing industry burn out.

Over the years his work has caught the attention of Michelle Obama, Solange, Beyonce and Ava Duvernay, who are fans of his luxury, gender-fluid brand. Harbison will be designing a sustainable fashion line for Banana Republic in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row, available September 2021.

We asked Harbison a few questions about fashion, sustainability, and starting and running a creative business. Watch the full interview right here:

Or read on to...

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5 Questions: Featuring Mandy Bowman Founder and CEO of Official Black Wall Street

founder interview Feb 17, 2021

For some, the idea of quitting a stable 9-to-5 to take a blind leap of faith is terrifying, but for Mandy Bowman, a Brooklyn native and the founder of Official Black Wall Street, the largest digital directory for Black businesses, it was liberating. Shortly after receiving a degree in Entrepreneurship and Global Business Management at Babson College, Bowman decided to pursue her passion: Empowering the Black community overall by becoming a driving force of the #BuyBlack movement. 

In 2016, Bowman created Official Black Wall Street — a digital platform that connects consumers to Black-owned businesses in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom. In addition to alerting users whenever they’re near a Black-owned business, Official Black Wall Street also provides Black entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to thrive. Bowman named the website and its corresponding app after the Black Wall Street Massacre that occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in...

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