Story by Katherine Hunt
Drake University students (especially those in the College of Business and Public Administration) meet with professionals who are already several years into their career and eventually worked their way up to being a CEO. However, some Drake graduates are different. They are their own bosses and become a CEO less than 10 years after graduation. Sounds impossible? Lauren Hong, a 2003 graduate, is the founder and CEO of her own handbag company, Lauren, Olivia & Co. The Times-Delphic caught up with this former graphic design major to ask her questions about her inspiration, starting a business and how attending Drake University helped her along the way.
Times-Delphic: How did the project of starting a business come about?
Lauren Hong: “I was on campus looking for accessories, and I only found two kinds: products that were low quality and inexpensive or high quality and very expensive. Eventually, everything started to look the same and nothing had functional utility. When I went to Seoul, South Korea for my Master’s in International Studies, I was inspired by amazing stories from people who were doing everything. It’s uplifting and empowering. It made me ask the question: Can we run with the idea of creating products for people with functional utility, high quality, have an international touch and create a full circle connection between these things.”
TD: What are the company’s future goals?
LH: “Raising the minimum for Kickstarter within our timeline. Build up the company and insure we have appropriate cash flows and scale up, while retaining that personal touch with our customers and making them feel special. That way, they know they’re not just another number or another order.”
TD: What is Kickstarter, and how has it helped you start a business?
LH: “It’s about supporting a dream. Businesses can go and state they have a project, such as manufacturing a signature line. They input a goal and a minimum funding goal. Consumers can then go on and become a backer. In other words, they can pay money to support or buy a product from that business and get a reward for doing so. If we reach our minimum goal, we get that full amount of capital, and all cards will be charged. If we don’t reach our minimum goal, no one gets anything, and they keep their money.”
TD: How have your experiences at Drake helped you with these endeavors?
LH: “Overall at Drake, if you can dream it, you can do it and go after it. You can jump in the deep end. The community there is so supportive of each other and takes time to listen. It’s quite genuine, and those qualities are invaluable.”
TD: Do you have any advice for future designers?
LH: “If you’re going to jump into something, especially a new business, make sure you’re passionate about it. You’re not on a 9-5, your days blur, and you work constantly. Surround yourself by smart people who can help direct you in a positive direction and make smart decisions. Be diligent: understand the market and bells and whistles. Take time to chew it apart so you get it. Lastly, be patient with yourself.”
To check out Lauren, Olivia & Co.’s handbags, go to laurenoliviaco.com. All handbags are under $250 with the emphasis put on quality, functionality, innovative designs and the ability to be versatile. More information can also be found on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.