Blog post by ELP Student Natalie Staudacher (Economics | Class of 2019)
How I Knew I Wanted to Work at a Startup
When most people learn I am an economics major, they assume I have an internship in finance or investment banking. While the majority of my classmates do work at traditional, big name companies, I decided I want to try something different. Before deciding on my current job, I worked on political campaigns and so I knew I wanted something with high social impact and a grassroots movement. This led me to consider startups: they are the perfect place to use analytical/business skills while still making a difference in the world. Luckily, I was accepted to the Entrepreneurship Leadership Program (ELP). Through the program, I was able to bridge my skills from economics with my skills from political campaigns in order to prepare for internship recruitment. One of our assignments had us looking at the early reports of LinkedIn. In this exercise, we looked at variable and fixed costs and were able to see how such a tech-giant fared in terms of economies of scale. It was a direct application of my economics material! In another exercise, we had to reach out to various people involved in startups: the founders, customers, employees, etc. This was similar to the cold calls I made while working on political campaigns.
While recruiting for a job might not always be fun, ELP made the process easy and exciting. I loved learning about new companies and talking to people that are passionate about what they are working on. The company I work for is called Kids on 45th. Most kids quickly outgrow their clothes and taking a trip to the store isn’t always an option for parents. Kids on 45th offers seasonal subscription boxes to parents to have gently-used clothes delivered to their door. Our boxes are the most eco-friendly, inexpensive, easiest way for parents to buy clothes. One of our best features is the ability to customize the quantities you receive, so if you already own a bunch of pants for this season – you can skip them! A lot of the current boxes on the market don’t allow parents to customize their quantities and total to $100+, whereas our average cost is $52. The subscription boxes are relatively new for the company. Kids on 45th is also a retail location in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle that has been around for 30 years. My boss, Elise Worthy (CEO & Founder), bought the store a year ago and started the subscription boxes in January. It has been amazing meeting customers who have been shopping at Kids on 45th since the early days and now the store has an online presence!
Kids on 45th
When I first started working at Kids on 45th (around 4 weeks ago), we were at a much smaller warehouse than we are at now. It’s crazy to think how fast this internship has been flying by and how much the company has grown in 3 weeks! Several other employees were hired around the same time as me and we are still hiring! One of the first things I learned how to do was pack a box. Since Kids on 45th does allow you to customize your quantities, each box needs to be sorted as the orders come in. While I don’t plan on having kids for a long time, my knowledge on kids-related items has drastically changed! Did you know there’s a difference in 24 months and 2T? It can also be hard to tell if something is “cut” for boys or girls. We are gender inclusive, but a girl’s navy polo will fit much differently than a boy’s navy polo and these nuances need to be accounted for. It can also be difficult to distinguish between what’s thick material and what’s a swimsuit. Needless to say, if I ever need to buy baby clothes for family or friends, I’ll have it down!
At the moment, I work in the warehouse 3 days a week and I work in the store 2 days a week. Working in the store has definitely been where I have grown the most. I’ve never worked retail before, so learning how to use the register has been eye-opening. While this task might not seem like something a business intern might do, interacting with customers is so important and is keen insight into learning their pain points. Working in the store allows me to engage with our customers frequently, which is important when we’re thinking about how to scale the business. I would say 50% of my time is spent with the boxes and the store, and the other 50% is used to implement what I’ve learned in my business research. While I can’t share exactly what I’m doing, I’m focusing on a lot of tasks that will allow us to scale and reach more customers.
What I’ve learned from being in “growth-gear” is to constantly question the status quo and the importance of working *every* part of the business. My holistic experience in packing boxes, talking to customers, and doing research lets me know all parts of the business. This allows me to empathize which leads to better decision making. The most important aspect of growth-gear is to roll up your sleeves and accomplish what needs to be done. No work is below you. Your greatest insights or discoveries will probably come from working other roles of the company.