No longer just for finance grads, New York has become a hub for Wharton consumer and retail startups.
By Jeff Henretig
The Wharton School is churning out a lively and, in some cases, extremely successful generation of entrepreneurs. This new group of entrepreneurs is able to put the value of the Wharton alumni network to work immediately and with far-reaching consequences not typically available to alumni until the later stages of career development.
Where traditional finance and management graduates spend years ascending through the ranks, Wharton entrepreneurs are immediately looking for sales, funding, suppliers, talent and the occasional Facebook shout from our friends in the alumni network. While most graduates in 2009 and 2010 were frantically sending out resumes to anyone who still had a job, I was pitching alumni, students, professors and friends on why they should order from my (now former) startup, Coup de Taco, for their next catered lunch.
Back when I was pitching tacos, the Warby Parker founders were pitching our fellow alumni at First Round Capital for funding that would help grow the company to hundreds of millions of dollars in valuation, becoming one of the most talked-about startups in recent years.
Although not every Wharton alumnus can go on to create the next Warby, the company serves as an important building block for the Wharton entrepreneurial community. When the school combines assets like Wharton’s Venture Initiation Program with the Baker Retailing Center, a world-class marketing department, and the reputation of one of the highest profile startups around, it is no wonder a host of next generation consumer- and retail focused entrepreneurs are emerging quickly and putting the value of the Wharton network to work.
Where New York was once home to many finance graduates, it is quickly becoming a hub for many Wharton entrepreneurs in the consumer and retail industries.
A little over a year ago, I attended the launch party for Chromatic Gallerie, an online shoe retailer founded by fellow alumnus Chris Luhur, WG’09, and it was there that another alumnus from the Class of 2010 introduced me to my first client, a retail startup, for my independent consultancy. Chris has been nice enough to share a copywriter and e-commerce tips with Chipei Tseng, WG’09, who recently launched NYC-based sunglasses company, Smith+Holland. A number of WG ’09s have made early purchases and even acted in the Kickstarter video for Memi, a fashion/tech accessory company co-founded by Margaux Guerard, WG’09.
When Warby Parker co-founder Jeff Raider, WG’10, was looking for office space for his new shaving company Harry’s, he didn’t have to look farther than Warby’s vacant previous headquarters. According to Instagram, that same Harry’s headquarters is now a proud owner of a fantastic, sparkling new skateboard from Ditch Skateboards, a company co-founded in New York by another Wharton alumnus, Arie Barendrecht, WG’10. And of course, whenever any of us in the Wharton entrepreneurial network are mixing up a fancy cocktail, we pump in a few splashes of Hella Bitters, a startup co-founded by Jomaree Pinkard, WG’10, with products manufactured locally in Queens.
New York’s economic development agency’s new motto is “Make It Here,” a double entendre reference to the Sinatra classic that is meant to reframe the way we think about the city’s economic engines. Wharton entrepreneurs are leading the way and hopefully attracting a new breed of recent graduates who are focused on making goods rather than pitching books.
Jeff Henretig, WG’09, is the founder of East Fourth Partners, an independent consultancy specializing in sourcing and structuring strategic partnerships and new business opportunities. Previously, Jeff worked in business development and management consulting roles at Next Street, Goldman Sachs and Opera Solutions, as well as owned the popular Coup de Taco food truck on 40th Street for two years following his Wharton graduation. He received a BA in Psychology from Columbia University in 2004.
Editor’s note: This essay first appeared as a post on the Wharton Blog Network.