Orlee Berlove | Ice Cream Anyone?

My daughter had the second piano recital of her young life the other day in a very grand Beacon Hill abode owned by the Harvard Musical Association. The building, as is true of most of the homes in this part of Boston, was old-world and imposing. There were copies of letters written by great classical music composers affixed to the walls and high ceilings to capture the notes from the beautiful Steinway pianos in the music hall.

I wondered if my daughter, at her tender age of 8, sensed a disconnect between her experience and the grandness of the locale. She has only been taking lessons for 6 months and while she might someday become a great pianist, she’s certainly not there yet. This image resonates with me – someone who is just starting out, as is the case with my daughter – but sees greatness all around her – as perhaps my daughter did in this hall where so much musical history and legend was showcased.

I have a similar feeling of being an 8 year old at times, hoping to be worthy of the halls around me.

Let me provide a bit of background to explain my feelings here. Six months ago my husband and I both lost our jobs which we had held successfully for many years. These disappointing realities were just two data points in what seemed to be a string of bad luck that hit our family. But, as the adage goes, every black cloud has a silver lining.

I have tried emphatically to see these sad events as a platform from which to launch anew. I want to take all that sadness and negativity and have it fuel me to do something really great. Again, I felt like my daughter, the 8 year-old on a Steinway piano. Greatness was all around me but did I have the tools to access that potential and what would the sounds be like when I tried to play the notes?

I have always loved to cook, to try wine, to experiment in the kitchen. I worked in the wine business for over a dozen years in a variety of positions and developed a very sensitive palate for food in addition to wine. One unique product I came up with over the past several years in my kitchen was a great non-dairy ice cream.

See, I have friends and family who don’t do milk so well for a variety of reasons. It’s nothing personal with cows, really. It’s simply that their diets cannot always take milk. So loving ice cream as I do, I came up with an awesome recipe for non-dairy ice cream.

After my friend Fern put some fire under my feet, I decided to see if anyone beyond my family would actually want to try my product. During the course of lunch with Fern and her family, we came up with a rough business idea, business model and delivery mechanism. So off I went and started asking people to try. To my happy surprise, many people wanted to buy my product. I get people e-mailing me every week asking how they can get some of my amazing non-dairy ice cream.

But my success to date is just a first step and I am not clear on how to make the second step. My dirty secret is that I am making my product at home in my (very clean) house. But my home does not let me get very far with my product. My home only let’s me get the product to people who like me. I want to sell my product to people who don’t like me. To achieve that feat, I need to find a commercial space, a commercial ice cream maker, a freezer truck and a food chemist.

Do you remember the part a few paragraphs ago where I noted that neither my husband nor I have jobs?

So, I am now back to feeling like an 8-year old in front of a Steinway. My solution to date has been to spend my mornings on the computer trying to find a job that will help me pay the bills. I have been spending my afternoons working on all things ice cream: calling ice cream folks in the ‘biz’, looking for new recipes, finding out about commercial space, and talking to people who can maybe help me think about funding.

I want to create to create my magnum opus … I’m just having trouble finding the right notes.

Any recommendations re:  jobs, commercial space, ice cream makers, freezer trucks, food chemists and/or bridging the gap between start-up idea and capital short-fall?  Please feel free to respond here, or share your thoughts via the online poll at Honestly, Now.

Orlee Berlove is a graduate of Cornell University with a Master's Degree in Operations Research. She spent four years in the go-go world of consulting before realizing that her true passion was wine and food. She has recently launched Ice Cream By Invitation Only, a gourmet, non-dairy ice cream line. You can reach her at orlee@icecreambyinvitationonly or view her site Ice Cream By Invitation Only.

Brittany Haas | Disrupting the Wedding World

It all started at Cornell University in 2006. My sister’s wedding was approaching fast, and her budget had spun out of control. She was having about 150 guests at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City and had just booked her honeymoon to Bora Bora (which was just about as expensive as the entire wedding itself).

I was a junior majoring in Apparel Design, and my sister begged me to design her wedding gown. While I was happy to design it, sewing was not my strong suit. I encouraged her to go dress shopping, try on some styles, and see what she really wanted. As we shopped around, we were appalled at the high prices and low quality. I refused everything she put on her body due to bad fabric, bad construction and bad taste! The gowns we loved were upwards of $5000.

photo credit Happily Ever BorroWED

“Why would I spend $5000 on something I could only wear for 6 hours of my life?” she asked.

She finally found a dress in her price range, that I approved of from a quality standpoint, for about $2000. Her goal was to re-sell the dress after her wedding. She lived in a 600 sq. ft apartment in Manhattan and had no space to store her gown. (Not to mention the 2nd gown she bought for her ceremony) Wouldn’t you know, 2 years after her wedding, the dresses were still hanging in the hallway of her apartment, and she couldn’t sell them to anyone.

Senior year of college – my thesis was based on Sustainability in the Fashion Industry. Essentially, my experiments proved that it was impossible to be successful. With organics, sourcing all over the world and margins, keeping waste down in the fashion industry is faulty at best. The only thing that was sustainable in fashion was vintage product and sharing. The idea seemed so simple, but how could we encourage this action?

Collaborative Consumption is not a new concept, but it is the answer. Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before. With cost consciousness and environmental concerns on the rise, people are desperate to eliminate waste and save money.

image credit collaborative consumption.com

With this in mind, I set out to disrupt the wedding industry. It is supposed to be the most special day of a person’s life and often, we spare no expense to make the day perfect. However, the idea of a wedding party is quite antiquated and wasteful. We put ourselves into debt to throw a party that symbolizes our love. But we start our newlywed lives with credit card debt instead of a new house. And the number one reason for strife in a marriage…is money. While this may seem like a far-fetched idea, would you want to start your marriage on rocky terms because you just HAD to spend $20k on a Vera Wang gown?

Happily Ever BorroWED started because I noticed a void in the wedding industry.

Fashion is inherently wasteful. But your wedding style doesn’t have to be. Our mission at Happily Ever BorroWED is to provide accessibility, affordability and sustainability to brides all across America. We RENT bridal accessories to brides for their wedding day, so they can use that few hundred dollars saved towards their honeymoon, or inviting more guests to their wedding, or better yet – their future home.

We curate a collection of gorgeous designer bridal accessories from the top designers in the industry and then rent those pieces to our brides for 15% of the retail price. Everything is carefully managed within our control standards, we're getting brand new product straight from the runway, and we supply a pre-paid return label in each order so that all you need to do is “Rent, Wed & Return.”

I started the business with a dream and a vision. In talking to investors, mentors, designers and industry professionals, I pivoted the business to where it is today; an e-boutique renting bridal accoutrements with aspirations of wedding gowns, flower girl dresses and other product categories to arrive shortly. I bootstrapped all of my savings, learned to code to get the site up and running, and now Happily Ever BorroWED is fulfilling the dreams of brides across the United States.

Out of my sisters’ frustrations, grew a business model that is thriving and more importantly, solves a problem.

* * *

If you are looking for a business idea, have you noticed any problems that need to be solved?  

If so, do you you have specific strengths that could be applied to  find a solution? 

What do you already have on hand that would allow you to start a profit-generating business? 

Brittany Haas is Founder of Happily Ever BorroWED. Always drawing and designing, she graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Since then, she’s gained experience as a financial merchandise planner for several top fashion houses including Ralph Lauren & Hermes. She now brings her business savvy to the bridal industry. She has been featured on Women2.0, Forbes.com, and Yahoo Small Business. She is also the leader of @WedTech. Follow her on Twitter at @brittanyhaas and the business @happilyborrowed.

Book Club: There’s a Business in Every Woman

Holmes_business_4Ann M. Holmes' book is exactly what it purports to be, a crash course on starting your own business.

But it's her perspective that makes the book sing.

Ms. Holmes tells stories, including her own, which suggest that for many women becoming an entrepreneur is something that sort of, well, just happens.

Possibly even for you — and for me.

Whether or not you know it, she writes, you have a business in you– if any of the following sentiments sound familiar to you:

Will you quickly scan her list of questions?

What pops into your mind?

Write it down.

And then let the idea percolate….

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