Startup Snapshots – Victoria Molinarolo, MBA '07 and Lars-Ruben Hirsch, MBA '06: Blue light specials for fashion mavens
Victoria Molinarolo, MBA '07 and Lars-Ruben Hirsch, MBA '06: Blue light specials for fashion mavens
Want hard-to-find boutique-designer pieces without dropping a lot of cash? Gomattagirls.com, the brainchild of Johnson School couple Victoria Molinarolo and Lars-Ruben Hirsch, features one designer "steal" per day, discounted 65 to 90 percent. Subscribers receive a daily e-mail alerting them to the current offering. (Hirsch is also manager of strategy and planning at Yahoo, Inc.)
Los Angeles fashion veteran Molinarolo devised the site to offer boutique designer wear to consumers in midsize towns. While women in L.A. and New York City have ready access to low-priced designer pieces at sample sales, their suburban sisters must pay top dollar for boutique wear. And in the current economic downturn, designers are having difficulty moving their merchandise.
"There's a lot of supply, and we wanted to reach people who don't have access to sample sales. The whole equation seemed to fit together," says Molinarolo, who enlisted fashion and film veteran Stephanie Gisondi as the third team member.
With only viral marketing, the site has grown about 100 percent per month in traffic, subscribers, and sales since debuting in February 2008. The challenge now is scaling the business. The team has been buying on consignment, but, as sales increase, it will have to begin to buy the merchandise. "That's where the risk comes in," says Molinarolo.
As the business grows, the team will have strategic decisions to make. "When an item sells out, will we offer another — moving away from the one-deal-a-day model — or will we sell multiple items at one time?" asks Molinarolo. "We have to strategically think about scalability as the traffic grows."
Wade W. Slome, MBA '98: Investing for steady growth
Six years ago, Wade Slome began co-managing a $20 billion mutual fund for one of the country's largest load fund companies. That was hard to top, but Slome found a way: In September 2007, he left American Century's Ultra fund to start his own hedge fund and investment business.
Slome cites various reasons for striking out on his own. The hedge fund allows him much more latitude in investment strategy and portfolio holdings, for one. At Ultra, purchasing millions of shares of a specific stock could take days or weeks; Slome can complete trades for the hedge fund in nanoseconds. He loves being an entrepreneur, too — and his own boss. "I can spend my day going through models of a company, flying out to a conference or going to my daughter's soccer game," he says.
Slome's clients are high-net-worth individuals. His investment company offers diverse services, from managed accounts to investment seminars. What distinguishes him from the competition? Take your pick of credentials: chartered financial analyst, certified financial planner, Johnson School MBA. "Besides, not that many people have managed a $20 billion fund," Slome adds.
Another selling point is Slome's track record of consistent outperformance over the long term. Unlike peers who seek a knockout in the first round, Slome wants to still be swinging at the end of the fifteenth. Rather than making huge, risky bets on specific companies or sectors, for example, he takes a diversified approach and minimizes risk, cutting back on holdings with lower expected returns and increasing those with higher expected returns.
Slome himself comprises Sidoxia's entire investment staff. As the business grows, he envisions recruiting talented partners. In the meantime, he's staying busy with still more projects — including writing and publishing a new book that's part autobiography, part investment philosophy. And he still reads bedtime stories to his young daughters (investment case studies, probably).
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