Subject: How to Turn a Bad Fashion Internship Experience Into a Fashion Tech Company by Tara Robinson
In 2013 when I found myself at an internship straight from the scenes of The Devil Wear Prada it was only fitting that I turned the experience into an idea for a fashion tech start-up that I never dreamed of starting. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in fashion like most girls of my generation, I was FOOLED and BAMBOOZLED by the glamorous life of Lauren and Whitney from the Hills. I watched as they sat in the mythical sample closets of Teen Vogue with offers to be wisp off to Paris, attending the top fashion shows and the best parties. I saw them rubbing up against industry veterans like Lisa Love and Kelly Cutrone. Interning for People Revolution which would eventually become my dream as I consumed every fashion book I could find and frequented the sites of Fashionista, Teen Vogue and PR Couture.
I was enamoured with it all and I wanted in on a industry that seemed more like fairytale than a real career. I decided on a career path in fashion public relations,which I didn’t even know existed before I watched the show, however I was convinced it was perfectly designed and tailored for me. Since this was a recent career switch, far off course from becoming a dentist, my father would need more convincing on this new trajectory. Therefore my senior year of college I applied to almost all the fashion schools like ESMOD, Savannah College of Arts and Design and Istituto Marangoni but deep down I knew I wanted to be in the fashion capital of the world. I also knew I could convince my father that an MBA in Fashion Management and Entrepreneurship was a great compromise for both parties. In fall 2012, I left Florida to move to New York for the first time to attend LIM College for graduate school and get a start on my dream career in fashion.
When I was in Florida I would always review the internship page of Fashionista with envy so when I got to NYC and was finally able to apply to one of those internships I was thrilled. I applied to a mix of fashion pr, marketing and stylist internships. My eyes particularly lit up when I saw a internship opportunity for a top stylist who did editorial and commercial campaigns allowing me to be on set for photoshoots with top fashion magazines and working with my favourite fashion brands. It wasn’t People Revolution but it would surely be the stepping stone to get me there. I nailed the interview in the small studio on the Lower East Side and besides a small critique about dressing down because of the workload, I thought it was going to be a perfect fit.
Let me give you the tea of what interning for a stylist in New York is like. First off, we never met the stylist who we were working for until weeks into the internship at photoshoot, the office was ran by her assistant and everyone else was just unpaid interns. There was at least 4 of us cycling on and off between our classes. Our job was mainly managing the sample trafficking process so we would be sent all around the New York and I mean all around, collecting samples from different showrooms, retailers and designers. One time I had to do a sample pick up in the sketchy warehouse part of Williamsburg that took me a hour to get to! If we were blessed enough to stay in office we would be constantly managing the numerous samples packages being delivered to our office for an upcoming shoot. We would then have to count each item, take a picture of everything with our phones, email that picture to the one computer in the office, print it out and log it into the huge sample book. We would write in the dates, designer, samples totals and most importantly who checked in those samples. This process could take hours and it was so tedious, I would look at us all cramped in the office with items scattered all across the floor. There was always 2 or more interns frantically counting and all I could think throughout the process was...Wow this is stupid!
In frustration I spoke up amidst a busy day in office and said “ Is there a better way of doing this?! Imagine if this whole process was digital and we could tag everything and it would total it for us wouldn't that be so much easier?!” My comments was responded with blank faces and looks of disinterest as everyone just went back to work. I had made up my mind later that day while I was trying to hail a cab in the middle of a blizzard at night with tons of Bergdorf garment bags in my collaspings arms that I would quit because this was not the fairytale I envision when watching the Hills and they didn't value efficient business practices.
Luckily those months of lugging samples and garment bags would not come to waste because I was starting my Launching New Ventures course, which was part of the entrepreneurship track I was desperately trying to avoid. My professor David Freschman wanted us to create 7 minute pitches to present on a company we created. We grouped up and everyone was having difficulty coming up with ideas so I explained my idea while coming up with more features to add. Everyone love the concept and we agreed to use my idea for the pitch. When we pitched it to the class and other students started to share their sample trafficking horror stories and talking about how badly my solution was needed in the industry. I had students coming to me after class asking if I was really going to start the company because they would love to work for me. I continued working on my project throughout my MBA, anytime we had an assignment that would allow me to further flush out the business idea. When I graduated I had a full business plan, pitch deck even finally settled on the name TracksRacks after many revisions.
However when I graduated I had to work because living in New York is expensive and my business plan couldn't pay my bills. I worked in retail for a few years then landed a job as the Marketing Manager for a Canadian shoe retailer with over 115 stores. The position allowed me to work closely with our web developers since I managed the marketing for the ecommerce site as well. This gave me the language I needed to start working on creating TracksRacks and communicate with my own team of developers. I worked on my company while working my full-time job until March 2018, when I quit my job to work on my company full-time.
I launched TracksRacks in November 2018, 6 years after I wanted to drop those garment bags in the 30 inches of snow and make a run for it.TracksRacks has evolved into an all in one web based management solution for fashion companies. Revolutionizing the archaic sample trafficking process by using product recognition, QR codes and your client database to simplify the process and decrease sample loss; from check-ins to returns. Our solution provides proven and reliable messengers to return samples. Through our system you can view profiles with ratings on each messenger, eliminating the fear of thieves picking up your samples. The platform is made for the fashion company on the go and is fully mobile accessible.
I am always meeting with retailers, ecommerce brands, PR showrooms and other industry professionals discussing how the current solutions are failing their needs. I am constantly listening and learning about the different pain points my clients have so we can continually improve our solution and better meet the needs of potential customers. I have been adamant about creating a solution that has an affordable price range for smaller fashion firms to the big retailers. After having the intern experience I had, which is pretty typical of the fashion industry, I was also very intentional on my company’s culture and made sure when I hired interns that I gave them real valuable skill sets and became a mentor and resource to them to use long after they interned for me.
We are currently raising our seed round financing as we expand our services and create an enterprise platform to meet the needs of retailers.TracksRacks is innovating to meet the sample management needs of every apparel company in the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers. TracksRacks was conceptualized and launched in New York but we are pushing to reach and serve clients in all major fashion markets. We are working on bringing on skilled talent who are ready for the startup environment. They will have the ability to grow and have equity within the company. Our fashion-tech solution will modernize the current processes of fashion industry with truly effective and efficient B2B (business to business) platforms. So even though I never got my dream career in the sample closet of Vogue or on the red carpet with Kelly Cutrone, I got the career I could never even dream of.
Moral of the story: when life gives you lemons or a crappy fashion internship boss babes turn them into a tech startup that will disrupt the entire fashion industry.