The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship awards annual seed grants to fund the launch or early stage growth of a Wesleyan-connected social enterprise, project, program, or venture. Each grantee reports back with blog posts and photos. Here’s the second report from Rachel Verner ’15, founder of Assk, a company that strives to normalize sexual consent through apparel and education, thereby preventing sexual violence. You can read Rachel’s first report and a description of Assk here, and you can read other grantee reports here.
Since writing the last blog post in June, I’ve embarked on an incredibly unexpected adventure. I managed to secure a job, meaning that I’m legally allowed to stay in the country for at least another 8 months. My fortune in securing that job was, in large part, due to Makaela Kingsley, the Director of Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center. My visa restricts me to work related to my major, which I interpreted to mean doing research at a hospital or university, but Makaela hooked me up with an incredible Cambridge-based start up. I’m now doing neuroscience and psychology research, and cannot imagine a better fit, or a better learning environment. Makaela helped me do what seemed impossible: pursue my love for neuropsychology and my love for entrepreneurship at the same time. Unfortunately, the process of securing that job and getting set up in a new city has completely sidelined my efforts with Assk (as evident by this month-and-a-half-late blog post). My big task now is getting back on track. It’s time for another set of “To do’s”:
- We need a new name
There’s another apparel company called ASSK. They’re based in Paris, so I was hoping it wouldn’t be an issue, but after talking to a handful of advisers and lawyers, I’ve been successfully convinced that moving forwards with the name Assk is a bad idea. I’ve been using that reality as an excuse to not work on the business. If I don’t have a name, how am I supposed to make a website? How am I supposed to sell clothing? I was so obsessed with the name Assk that I felt like we wouldn’t be able to succeed without it. Assk encapsulated the brand – it promoted sexual consent while breaking down all gender roles and stereotypes. But the reality is, particularly right now, the name doesn’t matter – and that’s not a realization I came to on my own. I received some great advice from a co-worker who didn’t even realize he was giving it to me. He told me that one of the two main reasons start-ups fail is because they take too long to make a decision. He said it didn’t matter if you made the wrong decision, so long as you made a decision and tried your way down that path. That’s what we need to do. We need to pick a name and run with it. Who cares if we change it for something better later, so long as we give ourselves a place to start. Yes, rebranding will pose its own challenges – but those aren’t challenges we’ll have the opportunity to face unless we start somewhere.
- I need a team
This has been obvious from day one. While I was at Wesleyan, I tried to build a team around myself, but sadly, graduating has seen that team fall apart. I need to find some folks in Boston who are eager to apply creative solutions to social problems. I need to find people to help hold me accountable. I need to find people who want to shift this culture as badly as I do. I’ve been obsessed with finding the best and brightest, but the reality is, none of us have any idea what we’re doing. I just need people that are as motivated as I am, so that we can fumble our way through this together.
- I need to stop making excuses.
This is probably the hardest thing to admit, and the hardest thing to do. It’s really easy now that I’m working a full-time job to put my own projects on the backburner. But now that I have a job, an apartment, and the necessary furniture, I just need to stop making excuses. I need to get to work, because if I don’t try, I’m going to regret it.
It’s time to hold myself accountable. Here’s hoping that publishing an ambitious timeline will help me do that.
- By November 1, I will hold a meeting with people in the Boston area that are interested in the project.
- By December 1, we will pick a new company name and find a graphic designer/fashion designer.
- By January 1, we’ll have built a website and a social media presence.
And with that, I’ve got a lot of work to do.