Alumni Spotlight: Sam Sisakhti
How One IBS Alum is Helping Designers and Shoppers Find an Idea that Fits
Sam Sisakhti MA ’07 is bringing democracy to the fashion industry.
As the founder of UsTrendy, one of the largest fashion design databases on the web, Sisakhti is giving customers a say in the style of their blue jeans, the cut of their dresses, and the color of their scarves before they hit the production line.
The business model is simple: Fashion designers upload their designs to UsTrendy’s website. Shoppers vote on their favorite items. Then, UsTrendy produces and promotes top-rated pieces. The company, based in Boston and California, was recently named one of the top six fashion sites by Ad Age.
“I started my company for two reasons,” said Sisakhti. “One, I want to help talented indie designers break through the barriers in the industry. And two: I want consumers to play a part in the discovery process. For so long, a select few have decided what fashion we see and wear. I want to give the people who are buying the clothes a voice.”
Sisakhti got his first taste of entrepreneurship in a class at IBS taught by Charles Reed, senior lecturer and expert in business development. “Professor Reed invited entrepreneurs to speak to us, and hearing their stories left a big impression,” said Sisakhti. “I thought you had to work for 20 or 30 years before you could start a company. But that course made me realize that young people could start companies too. It gave me the courage to do it.”
His most memorable lesson was an assignment where he and fellow students pitched hypothetical business ideas to venture capitalists. “They gave us feedback on our presentations and they were ruthless,” he recalled. “It prepared me for what I later had to deal with trying to raise money from investors in Silicon Valley.”
After graduating, Sisakhti spent eight months honing his business plan, hiring technology developers, identifying promising fashion designers, and creating a network of private investors. He raised just under $1 million in his first round of financing, and launched the company in August of 2008.
UsTrendy’s revenue is up 150 percent over the last six months, and the company is on track to be profitable by the end of 2010. The company, which has 11 employees, is also in negotiations to partner with major retailers who want to use its applications.
Sisakhti said his IBS degree prepared him well for his entrepreneurial career. “The professors are so open,” he said. “It didn’t matter if I wanted to start my own business or be an accountant, they let me create coursework around what I wanted to learn. The school gives you the freedom to explore.”