UsTrendy founder: Vision, courage key to entrepreneurship
In his return to the same lecture hall where he sat as a student of entrepreneurship four years ago, Sam Sisakhti, founder of the online design website, UsTrendy, offered helpful advice to students interested in creating start-up companies. His lecture, "Things I wish I knew When I Became an Entrepreneur," part of the Entrepreneurship Forum sponsored by the Asper Center for Global Entrepreneurship, focused on the challenges posed to young entrepreneurs seeking success.
Tracing his experience back to Brandeis' International Business School, Sisakhti spoke of his time as a graduate student when he focused on finance but had little interest in entrepreneurship. Looking for classes outside his specialty, Sisakhti enrolled in an entrepreneurship class and became interested in starting his own company when he heard a 20-something guest lecturer discuss his two start-up companies. Sisakhti's logic was simple: "If he can do it, so can I."
Sisakhti first came up with the concept for an independent designer online fashion exchange days before graduating from IBS. He pursued the idea following graduation, and - much to the chagrin of family and friends - chose to resign from his microfinance job four days after starting in an effort to dedicate his full energy and attention at UsTrendy.
In the years that followed, Sisakhti took a trial-by-fire approach to growing his company, learning just how difficult creating successful start-ups are. Facing the loss of his co-founder, growing debt, and hesitant investors, Sisakhti hit what he called a "rock bottom point" months into the start-up.
Unwilling to give up, Sisakhti persevered, stating, "I've come this far, I might as well give it a couple of months." He kept his head down and strengthened his resolve. This lesson in persistence would pay off, but would also require a new perspective and approach to his business model.
In a subsequent investors meeting, Sisakhti shifted his focus toward a new revenue model. He also changed his pitch, this time coming from a position of empowerment that framed his start-up as a "train leaving the station." This shift was crucial to the success of his start-up because, in his estimation, investors "are like junior high school girls-they are only interested in you when others are."
Within days, multiple investors had jumped on board and UsTrendy took off. Today, UsTrendy is home to hundreds of thousands of independent clothing designs and is on the verge of turning its first profits.
Sisakhti's advice for young entrepreneurs is to "keep your head down and keep moving" as persistence and a thick skin are essential in the early stages. Furthering this notion in his closing statement, Sisakhti presented his own definition of entrepreneurship-four years after he completed the entrepreneurship course: "Being an entrepreneur is having a vision which could potentially change the way things are done and then having the courage and passion to execute that vision through all odds and adversity."