MBA students' fashion tech start-ups thrive in Europe

Within the growing entrepreneurship movement at business schools, MBA students and graduates are joining a new breed of start-up business.

A cluster of firms run by these graduates are helping to recreate the traditional fashion industry, as more and more companies move their sales online to take advantage of the current e-commerce boom.

Traditional tech firms would flock to Silicon Valley, but fashion-blended ventures are instead turning to European capitals. About 50 fashion start-ups have been founded in London in the past five years, according to Crunchbase and there are a troop of MBA up-starters who are hopeful that their businesses will boom, with clever online marketing and innovative ways of upping in-store interest.

Into The Fold

Polly McMaster MBA2011, co-founder of The Fold, said that the company is all about “understanding the professional woman’s needs in her daily life”.

The London-based fashion community sells women’s-specific clothing that is suitable for the workplace. After studying an MBA program at London Business School, Polly joined forces with classmate Cheryl Mainland. The pair officially launched their fabulous fashion label after graduation.

She feels that an MBA program gave them the best chance of success. “What the MBA did was give us the mental space to think creatively and come up with the idea, and also test it in more formalised business way,” Polly said.

Hot Gossip

Elizabetta Camilleri MBA2000, chief executive of SalesGossip, may have an MBA degree but it did not make her rise to start-up stardom easy: “It was ten times harder than I ever could have imagined.”

The company provides an online and mobile service that gives users access to fashion and beauty deals. It was founded out of a need – Elizabetta could not find an app that listed all of her favourite stores’ sales. She met her business partner, Emilio Sanz (who also has an MBA), while studying at LBS.

The founders used the business school’s incubator, and Elizabetta thinks that the supportive MBA network was one of the biggest benefits of paying for a business school program.

“An MBA is an amazing luxury; to be able to have such an in-depth overview of what’s happening in the world of business,” she said. “As an entrepreneur, you are in a very weak position. You are no-one. You’re starting from scratch. It’s essential to have a view of everything that can impact your business.”

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