How working in tech can guide your entrepreneurial spirit
Dhaka, Bangladesh; 2013 - around 1,200 people died and a further 2,500 people got seriously injured in a garment factory collapse. The ugly side of fast fashion reared its head.
The tragedy was a result of poor working conditions and lax regulations perpetuated by the ambivalence of global designer houses and fast fashion labels. I wanted to help change this. Driven by my vision for a fairer socially sustainable fashion world, I launched my own luxury leather goods accessories brand - HOLSTRAP which considers social sustainability from sourcing high quality local materials to the social philanthropic impact post sale.
My tech experience has stemmed from interning for multiple startups over the past 18 months alongside my current day job as an executive business developer at an AI tech startup that predicts the likelihood of road collisions. There appears to be a disconnect between my day job and my brands. One is a B2B SaaS business development role where I work with facts and 'sell’ objective truth through science and technology. The other is a passion to sell on a shared vision for social sustainability in the fashion industry. In reality however, my experience in tech has helped to make me a better business person by channelling that raw passion and provided strong insight into what it takes to make something work.
One of the big takeaways from working in tech, has been learning the importance of data.
Before I worked in tech, I had content-marketing experience. Like most people, that’s what I thought marketing was - posters, social media, traditional advertisements. My experience with Google and working for a range of tech startups, has allowed me to discover the digital marketing space. I understand analytics and utilise data to make informed decisions as to which marketing channels to double-down on and which sales platforms are most effective. Data can also provide more defensible arguments and develop stronger relationships as you become more attune to working with facts and therefore place yourself in a position to be perceived as a trusted advisor and one who can ultimately navigate ambiguous settings by adding value through objectivity. Crucial for sales.
For my fashion brands, I have used objective marketing data to focus on Facebook as my principal marketing and sales platform - data doesn’t discriminate. I have also moved away from vanity measures (e.g likes, impressions) to what really matters (e.g. engagements, conversions) so have iterated and developed creative content that typically wins proper engagements over vanity likes.
Working in tech has demonstrated the value of tailored, actionable, and sustainable solutions informed by data over non-data driven approaches which has led to higher consumer loyalty, stronger brand perception, and external angel investment offers. Additionally, when making product development decisions, I use quantitative and qualitative surveys, not because ‘the customer is always right’, but to understand patterns and trends in consumer behaviour to make more refined brand development decisions, like; ”How many collections a year should I develop?”, or, “when are peak fashion accessories purchasing season for my audience?”.
Working in tech has also fostered in me an ‘always learning mindset’ and led me to continually polish my understanding as the space moves so quickly. As a result, I understand the importance of keeping up with industry innovations. I have taken this mindset to fashion as I take more of an interest in what the market is doing, what new technologies are being developed and how fashion is changing because of this. This is a valuable lesson for all entrepreneurs - you need to keep up with technological changes in order for your brand or company to stay relevant.
For me, edtech has helped to feed this always learning mindset - it’s a flexible and accessible way for me to keep informed and learn new skills that will benefit both my business and career in tech. Platforms such as FutureLearn are great spaces for entrepreneurs to upskill themselves, not just in technology but also in other areas.
For example, I took a course on how to build a sustainable fashion business back in 2016 which made the challenge of creating a responsible fashion brand manageable and allowed me to articulate global environmental and social issues in a brand form. It broke down complex problems down to its moving parts and gave me an insight into the industry.
Working in tech has broadened my perspective and as a result, boosted the success of my startup. I can simultaneously see the bigger picture, as well as the steps to get there. It's not enough to have a grand vision without a robust understanding of what it takes, similarly, taking a ‘one-step-at-a-time' approach without having a guiding True North won’t get you far either.
The scalability of technological solutions, the data driven approach of tech firms, and unspoken requirement to constantly learn has guided my raw enthusiasm and made me make more defensible business decisions. Changing the world won’t just happen, it’s an accumulation of smaller moves that can later be scaled. I thus enthusiastically advocate for technology and tech startups as a priority career focus for anyone wanting a fulfilling and impactful career; for anyone wanting to change the world in some way.