University of Rhode Island  
Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

TMD 402 Spring 2012 "Entrepreneurship"

Propel LLC: Clare King

Summary by Gina Ciavarelli

 
       

“Serial entrepreneurship is something, I believe, all entrepreneurs possess, whether it’s continuously recreating their own business or starting new businesses.” Clare King made this statement in her presentation “Entrepreneurship and the Textile Industry”. This statement proves true with King as well as the other speakers this semester. The innovative, creative, persistent, and knowledgeable characteristics to create or reinvent a business are present in all entrepreneurs. The way in which they do that, however, differs.

King studied economics in school and following graduation got a job in the financial industry in New York City. The everyday tasks of the job were very boring and inspired King to sign up for night classes at Parsons for fashion design. At Parsons, an influential teacher and working designer taught Clare the workings of the fashion business through her own experiences.

When she moved to Chicago, following her husband’s new job, King was in the process of finding out what she would do next. Soon after, she had a baby and created her own outerwear for the baby stroller to withstand the harsh weather. People stopping King on the street to ask about the outerwear and, true to entrepreneurial characteristics, she turned it into a business. She founded the children’s wear company, Cherry Tree, and created and sewed each piece herself. Over time, the business grew substantially with 64 items in its catalog, performing at $7million per year, and signed with large accounts like L.L. Bean. The business proved to be exhausting and King sold Cherry Tree to outside investors. This turned into a learning experience when the investors fired her; King learned the importance of a contract, lawyers, and saying what you want in a business relationship.

In her next endeavor, King was learning a business unfamiliar to her, but realized she was applying the same ideas she had acquired through her experiences. All her knowledge of selling her own business came into play when an unfortunate health situation caused her partner to sell the business they had expanded together.

King continued to take the business opportunities presented to her throughout the years, and with it acquired valuable working experiences, knowledge, and experience. She started to notice strangers calling her for advice and mentoring because a friend of a friend had referred them to her. Once again, King used this opportunity as a business venture. “Never give away your knowledge, put a price on it,” and she did. King started Propel, described as a product innovation management company. The company connects innovations from different sources together in order to result in the most advanced technology for the U.S. Army and fire service, who serve as Propel clients. With years of experience dealing with clients, King shares advice according to the infamous 80/20 rule, “be careful not to spend 80% of your time on a client who will give you 20% of your revenue.” Even if you are emotionally invested in the client and their mission, the bottom line in business takes precedence in the success and longevity of your company.

King exemplifies entrepreneurship and the accumulated knowledge the career brings with time. She took advantage of this superiority, turning it into a profiting business itself. Entrepreneurs have these goals and characteristics for life, also described as “serial entrepreneurs”.

 

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