From the moment Jessica Kaplan (left) got her first fashion sketchbook, she knew that designing outfits was in her future. Jessica brings the marketing perspective to ready dress go. Her major at Vanderbilt University in Human and Organizational Development and her past internships in business development has enhanced her interpersonal and creative thinking skills.
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Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Jessica Kaplan: Our names are Jessica Kaplan and Zoe Antell, and we are Vanderbilt undergrads passionate about the fashion industry and female empowerment. As members of Vanderbilt’s business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi we were finding ourselves in constant need of business clothes. But, when it came time to attend events and internships, everything we owned was either uncomfortable, not feminine looking, or just not cute. And, the rare exceptions to this were way out of our price range. After experiencing this problem first hand, we found that this is something our fellow female fraternity members and college students are also experiencing.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Jessica Kaplan: I believe entrepreneurs are made. Being an entrepreneur is scrappy! You have to dig deep and work extremely hard to make your business a reality. Work ethic is developed, not inherited.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Jessica Kaplan: I would say I am someone who doesn’t take no for an answer. I am empathetic, creative, and motivated to make an impact.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Jessica Kaplan: Ready dress go (RDG) will revolutionize the way in which young professional women dress to enter the business world. RDG is an e-retail platform that helps young, aspiring, businesswomen who want to feel confident in the workplace by increasing the comfort, quality, and accessibility of stylish professional attire.
Over the years, our business has changed in many ways. Initially, we vetted various different business models until we landed upon designing and manufacturing our own products. Then we pivoted to a prelaunch model, and this past February we sold over $6K in pre-sale revenue. Currently, we are a direct-to-consumer brand.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Jessica Kaplan: An entrepreneur must assume the following 3 things:
- Things will take longer than you think, and that’s ok.
- Asking for help is a necessity, not an option.
- You will need to fundraise, to some extent.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Jessica Kaplan: Definitely, 2 assumptions that we made were that we could fabric sources on our own and also that marketing would come naturally. We ended up hiring a fabric consultant to help us with this process, which cost us additional funds and time. Additionally, we assumed that marketing would just happen, which was not the case. We have since developed a marketing plan and spent significant funds on our marketing.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Jessica Kaplan: I would tell myself that no mistake is a mistake. I have learned so much from every single mistake I have made as an entrepreneur, and these mistakes have led to later successes.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Jessica Kaplan: The worst advice I ever received was that you need a lot of money to start a business. I find this to be remarkably untrue. Through pitch competitions, grants, and personal investments, I was able to start ready dress go. I would encourage others to get scrappy when they are raising funds, and to be smart about early on investment money.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Jessica Kaplan: Covid has encouraged additional innovation within businesses. Covid has challenged all of our preconceptions about what is possible. I don’t think anything has changed, but expectations have been challenged.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Jessica Kaplan: A common myth is that most businesses fail. Even if this is true for some businesses, it won’t be true for your business. I would tell entrepreneurs to not focus on other businesses, but instead to focus on their own businesses.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Jessica Kaplan: Grit, assertiveness, extroverted-ness, attention to detail
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Jessica Kaplan: Participating in incubator programs or accelerators is extremely helpful. Additionally, setting up your own internal ‘board of advisors’ is so important for when you have questions to ask about business challenges.
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You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Jessica Kaplan: None!!
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Jessica Kaplan: Ruth Bader Ginzberg.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jessica Kaplan for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jessica Kaplan or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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