More than 200 members of the UF community shared in the journeys of some of the College's most successful alumna entrepreneurs at the Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium on April 1.
Allison Adams, Kim Kaupe and Leah Lytle shared experiences and strategies that have shaped their successful ventures, and provided valuable advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Here are a few highlights from each of these successful Warrington women:
Allison Adams: Adams and her brother, Blake Casper, wondered if a retail space inspired by the chic shops of Europe would work in Tampa.
It has, and the Oxford Exchange has been growing in popularity ever since it opened its doors in 2012.
Adams (BSBA ’91) admitted she was a retail novice when Oxford Exchange was launched, and had to learn on the fly. After an initial rough patch, the business has expanded to include shared work spaces for businesses, event space for celebrations like weddings and birthdays, and a design studio.
“You have to get over your fear of failure,” said Adams, “and that feeling that you're not good enough. You really are.”
Leah Lytle: Lytle's career ambitions spanned marine biology and broadcasting until a visit to a quaint shop in Des Moines, Iowa, set her on her entrepreneurial path. That visit inspired Artsy Abode, a gift shop that now has 17 locations with more than 200 employees across the state of Florida.
Lytle's Q&A session revealed some of the intuitive and sensible tactics she's utilized to advance her business, which can be beneficial to budding entrepreneurs. Lytle (BSPR ’94, MAMC ’96, MBA ’02) hosts numerous apparel and jewelry lines in her stores, and it's imperative that she stays updated on how those brands are doing not only in her stores, but nationally and internationally as well. Lytle said those trends dictate how much space and promotion are given to certain lines in her stores.
“You have to manage your line in accordance to the sales it gives you,” Lytle said.
Lytle also was proud of the way she built Artsy Abode dealing with small, private banks for capital—as opposed to a venture firm—allowing her to remain sole owner of the company.
Kim Kaupe: Kaupe had the security of a steady pay check and a 401k while working for an advertising agency in New York. But after witnessing some questionable decisions from the firm's leadership, she decided to venture out on her own.
The result was ZinePak, which creates custom, interactive publications for super-fans of music, movies, sports and other brands. Kaupe (BSBA ’08) has worked with superstars including Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Brad Paisley and others.
When asked if her gender was a disadvantage as an entrepreneur, Kaupe recalled some interesting, but humorous moments when working and networking with men.
“They would mistake me for the assistant, or say ‘You remind me of my daughter,’” Kaupe said. “You have to take it all in stride or else it will drive you completely batty.”
Among Kaupe's advice for young entrepreneurs was to invest profit back into the company, and join professional organizations to network.