Young Entrepreneurs: Starting a Business in College
By Vanessa Gabriel | For StudentAdvisor.com
Like many students who attend an out-of-state university, I didn't bring my car with me freshman year - my parents thought I'd die driving in the snow! Since I was car-less, I had to resort to taking buses everywhere or bumming rides from my friends - which got old really fast. When I wanted to shop, which was quite often, I would have to travel an hour on a bus to get to the nearest mall. This was way too much effort!
How I Found the Inspiration to Start a Business in College
To avoid this hassle I turned to shopping online. I came across shopping websites like Gilt Groupe and Hautelook and I loved that they were selling brands for half the price. However, Prada and Gucci at half the price were still way too expensive for my college budget and didn't really cater to my style. I browsed around the Internet a bit more, and didn't find any sites that catered to students in the way that Gilt and Hautelook did. I was amazed because I knew college students like me would dig a website like this if it was just for them. That idea really sparked me, and I decided to create my own website catering just to college students amazing discounts on top fashion brands.
Our name aSociete (pronounced “a society”) represents our generation and culture. If you look up the definition of "a" and "society" it says "used to represent a class of people" and "the aggregate of people who are fashionable, influential, regarded as forming a distinct group in a community.” We are tastemakers and our influence can be an unstoppable force. Our generation is a society in its own, and we're so different from previous generations. We grew up with iPhones, Facebook, Jersey Shore, and texting. No other generation of people can relate to us - we are truly a society of our own.
Why do we spell “society” as “societe”? To be honest, when we first started out we could've paid $2500 for the "y" at the end our domain name, or $10 to spell it with an "e." As a boot-strapped company, our choice was obvious. It worked out well because we believe that we're a breed of new-age entrepreneurs and our untraditional methods are the way of the future.
From Pitches to Relationship Building
Once I had the idea for aSociete and knew that I wanted to make it a reality, I reached out to some friends that I knew would love to be a part of it. I put together an all-star team and devoted every day of my summer to aSociete. We immersed ourselves in the fashion industry and tried to make as many connections as possible. We took people out to dinner or coffee, and just tried to make friends. We showed up to offices with nothing but an idea and pitched it to whoever we could get to listen. We wanted to establish foundations of friendship with our connections – more than having strictly a business relationship. This has benefited us greatly and is one of the main reasons we've been able to feature well-known fashion brands. Not to mention, we get free products and invitations to great parties.
Know Your Customer (and Their Problems)
Even though I started off with a simple concept, I realized that aSociete not only solves a fashion problem, but helps an overarching student budget problem. Among a time of rising prices in tuition, gas, textbooks and living, students are forced to be budget-conscious. aSociete aims to eventually help college students in other ways, such as traveling and local discounts.
Motivation is Everything!
It has been a crazy journey of being rejected by brands, encountering website problems, and losing the support of some of our family and friends. However, at the end of the day, we know that we're making an impact on our generation for the better - that keeps us going. We feel like we're at a good place with the company and currently in search for mentors, advisors, and investors to help aSociete reach that next level. This is just the beginning of aSociete and we have some innovative ideas we're looking to implement soon for students that will change the way they shop forever!
Special aSociete offer for StudentAdvisor readers: Get 25% off Your First Order with Coupon Code SA25
Vanessa Gabriel is a 19-year-old entrepreneur, full time student at University of the Pacific, friend, sister, and book-lover. After her freshman year of college, she started a website called aSociete.com (pronounced ‘a society’) exclusively for college students offering discounts on top fashion brands up to 80% off retail prices. She aims to help college students around the nation save money when they shop! When she's not working she loves to snowboard, go to the movies, and shop for vintage items! Tweet her @VG_aSociete, Friend her on Facebook, or Follow her on Instagram @VanessaGabriel.