University of Rhode Island  
Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

TMD 402 Spring 2012 "Entrepreneurship"

Student Presentations 2

Summary by Leslie Lawrence


Steve Jobs: Revolutionary Visionary and Innovator Extraordinaire by Christina Bocchini

Success, innovation, and creativity: these are all words that many people would associate with Steve Jobs. These, however, are not words that people generally associate with college a dropout, which is one of the many things that Steve Jobs was. Besides that, he was one of the greatest technology revolutionists since the invention of the personal computer. He wasn’t always so great at his craft, though. Christina Bocchini told us that Steve Jobs was adopted by parents who did not even finish high school under the condition that they pay for his college tuition. Jobs dropped out of college after just one semester. He became one of Atari’s 50 employees where he made $5 an hour. He went to India shortly after to find his guru and enlightenment and then returned to Atari once more.
Jobs met Steve Wozniak, who later became the co-founder of Apple. Like many entrepreneurs, Jobs and Wozniak had many setbacks. Together they envisioned starting a business together based on computers, but each had different philosophies. Wozniak had designed the Apple I Circuit board and envisioned a system of sharing information with the public, while Jobs planned to keep all information private. Together, they both presented their idea for a new computer to HP who turned them down telling them it would not work. While at the time these were setbacks, Jobs didn’t let them stop him. HP has regretted their decision to reject this idea ever since.

Several years after the company was founded, Apple forced Steve Jobs to leave because he was so harsh to employees. Once again, Steve Jobs was dealt an obstacle, but he found a way to continue his journey. He purchased the small animation company, today known as Pixar and in partnership with Disney, released Toy Story. In the years following that release, Apple produced the iPod, the iTunes store, and the iPhone.  Steve Jobs, whose philosophies include selling dreams, not products and doing what you love, is one of the most well known entrepreneurs. He assumed all of the risks of starting his own business, continuously created new products that kept people interested and created an empire of I-products whose popularity is at an all-time high. Even with roadblocks and down turns, Jobs continued to fight to make the company what he wanted it to be.

John W. Nordstrom: Entrepreneurship Observed by Leanne Pieczonka

Everyone has heard of Nordstrom and thinks of it as a well-known department store with a great reputation, but few people know that it started with such humble beginnings. John W. Nordstrom left his native Sweden and came to America without knowing a word of English and with no money. He started working in the U.S. and when he’d made enough money, he moved to Seattle where he met a man named Wallin. Together they formed Wallin and Nordstrom with the mission to “offer the best possible service, selection, quality, and value.” After disputes with Wallin, the Nordstrom family bought the Wallin share and under the next generation of Nordstroms, it became Nordstrom Best then under the third generation Nordstrom Inc.

The company has continued to expand since then, eventually moving to the east coast in 1988. However, they are strategic about their expansion as the family recognizes that overexpansion can be the source of failure in a business. Instead, they focus on expanding their business from the inside. The company is unique in that it allows for entrepreneurial growth and opportunities by letting employees make many of their own decisions and develop their own opportunities or ideas. The company also expands from the inside by conducting weeklong experiments in order to determine what new ideas will work. They have also embraced technology to improve the company using iPads and mobile POS devices on the sales floor to make transactions faster leaving less time for the customer to back out of a purchase.

Nordstrom has grown from a one-man operation to an $80 billion per year company that employs thousands of people. It provides an entrepreneurial feel even in such a massive company. The company wants to constantly create new ideas and concepts living by the idea to “leave it better than you found it.” Through all of this it strives to uphold its outstanding customer service reputation.

Bernard Arnault: LVMH by Rikki Harris

According to Time Magazine, Bernard Arnault, the CEO of one of the largest luxury goods conglomerates, is one of 100 most influential people in the world. He is also of the most driven entrepreneurs I have ever heard of. Arnault was born in France to entrepreneurial parents where he studied engineering in school and worked for some time as an engineer and ran his parent’s construction and property firm. When socialists were ruling France in 1981, Arnault and his family moved to the U.S. where his biggest project was developing condominiums. A few years later, when socialists were more tolerable, Bernard moved back to France and into the luxury good industry.

The timing was perfect for Arnault’s switch to this industry because Boussac, a textile firm went bankrupt. Arnault bought this company for the sole reason of eventually acquiring the couture house of Christian Dior. In 1985, he became the CEO of Dior, which he helped to expand by adding new brands such as Celine and Christian Lacroix. Later in the 80s, there were several major changes that Arnault was able to benefit from. One of them was the merger of Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy, now know in shorthand as LVMH. This became the world leader in luxury goods with five business segments and now Arnault was president of this conglomerate. He made changes like a true entrepreneur does to continue to develop the image and the products by hiring new designers and creating new visions.

Bernard Arnault has clearly risked billions of dollars and risked losing everything he has by taking on such a large conglomerate and trying to make changes to it. He embodies the true sense of an entrepreneur with his abilities to influence and make change in his company. After starting out as an engineer, he is now the owner of the largest luxury goods group and has a net worth of 41 billion dollars. This clearly came with a lot of hard work and constant innovation.

Tony Hsieh: Zappo’s  by Sharon Miller

Tony Hseih, is another amazing entrepreneur. He is a different story because it didn’t take him very long to be successful. Tony was born in California, but moved to the east coast to go to Harvard where he received a degree in computer science. He created his first business after college that allowed amateur web publishers to barter for advertising. He didn’t think he would go far with this business yet in 1999 it sold to Microsoft for $265 million when Tony was 24.

After that, he reluctantly agreed to invest in an online shoe company named Zappos, after zapatos, or shoes in Spanish, with a man named Nick Swinmurn. The business was being run out of his living room in San Francisco. While the early years were a challenge, 50 companies were still signed to the business within the first year. Tony also was able to develop some interesting business strategies to keep the company alive and successful. He helped make the company known for its customer service reputation and for its defining aspects: free shipping and returns. He knew that the company couldn’t spend money on advertising or marketing so they could only try to make customer as happy as they could so they would tell their friends.

At first, customer service was bad and was only on the phone. Tony came up with some great ideas, though, to change this. He asked all of his employees to write an essay about customer service, which he then put into an unpublished book that became the cultures of Zappos. He made all of his employees go through a four-week training period, at the end of which they were offered both pay as well as $2000 to quit. Tony thought that if you pay people to quit, you save the company time and money on hiring employees who don’t want to be there and who won’t do the proper work.

The company was eventually sold to Amazon and then Tony left the following year after 10 years with the company. With his innovative policies put in place, the company continues to grow and be successful. Tony seems to be one of the brightest young entrepreneurs I have learned about. I am amazed by the success and brilliance of his policies. This is a true entrepreneur who can take a business from a living room to a company that anyone who shops for shoes online knows about. It is skills like his that made the business a success.

Lilly Pulitzer: The Accidental Entrepreneur  by Rachael Griffin

Who knew that someone could accidentally create a massively successful business from a juice stand? Who knew that that woman was the incredibly successful dress designer Lilly Pulitzer? Lilly was born in New York, but ended up following her husband, Peter Pulitzer, to Florida where he grew citrus groves. She became bored quickly and needed something to keep her busy. Lilly decided to take the product from Peter’s groves and made a juice stand. The stand did well because it was a different and unknown business for Florida.

Her clothes, on the other hand, did not. They were ruined after hours of squeezing juice. To solve this problem, she went to her pattern maker with fabrics with the hopes of having a colorful dress made for her that would hide the juice stains if she wore it to work. This ‘shift’ dress became a huge hit. Customers wanted to purchase her dress, not her juice so Lily had the pattern maker create a few different types of clothing. She then started selling the clothing in a store and left her juice stand since juice sales had turned to clothing sales.

Sales really took off for Mrs. Pulitzer when a classmate of hers, Jackie Kennedy, wanted to wear one of Lilly’s dresses. Jackie wore it to a magazine shoot, which ended up on the cover! With the publicity the dress received from the shoot, Lilly decided to open her own store called Lilly Pulitzer Inc. in 1960. The other stores that followed were only opened in resort destinations. The clothing that was sold in them was the face of the resort lifestyle: barefoot with sunglasses and a scarf worn covering the hair. The clothing line created an image of the life Lilly’s customers wanted to be leading.

Years later, Lilly became bored with the shift dress and closed the store and factories. She wanted to retire with her second husband and be with her grandchildren. Her clients, however, were not bored of Lilly Pulitzer and they were very disappointed. In 1993, Jim Bradbeer and Scott Beamont knew that all of the women in their lives were disappointed, too so they approached Lilly to revive her business. She agreed to let them after much convincing. People wanted that lifestyle again so this time, the Lilly Pulitzer line had a broader assortment and variety. New product lines such as mugs, bags, towels and place settings were created. Lilly was always consulted with someone knew so that she can still be involved in all of the decisions.

Lilly Pulitzer is a different kind of entrepreneur from any we have learned about. She is what is called an “accidental” entrepreneur, meaning that she didn’t come up with the idea or think of a product. She fell into it because people liked it. She didn’t have to assume the risks of selling products and being unaware of how they would be received. She did however take on the financial risks of running the business and later on being innovative and creative to come up with new kinds of products such as a jeep cover or golf cart cover as well as the idea of a “Very Lilly Wedding”.

Charles Frederick Worth: Couturier, Entrepreneur  by Nicholas Cloutier
Charles Frederick Worth is known for many things. Many recognize him as the father of couture, as a couturier or an artist. People are aware of his fascination with the depiction of textiles and how they draped on the body or in paintings, but few recognize him for the entrepreneur that he was.

Worth was an Englishman who is believed to have had his first apprenticeship with Swan and Edgar on Regent Street. It was there that he worked with capes and mantels and was able to study his love textiles and draping. Later, he went to Paris and worked in a dry goods shop while learning French and all about customer service. After a year, he went to Gagelin Opigez on Rue Richelieu. He met his wife Marie who was a model and often wore his designs.

Worth’s entrepreneurial abilities came in the form of his innovation with his designs. He created “slopers” or blocks, which are the basis for patternmaking today. He used the slopers based on Marie’s measurements and was able to produce any number of dresses that were custom fit to individual clients. His designs were noticed by the public when Princess Metternich and Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III wore Worth’s dresses at the royal court. The dresses were so well received that everyone wanted to have one.

Worth showed his creativity when forced to follow the rigid rules of attire worn at the royal court. White was the only color that could be worn to balls so Worth had to design many gowns in white, each one completely different from the next in order to please his royal clients. He became very skilled at developing different ideas and using different treatments on textiles. For example, instead of hanging the train from the waist, he sometimes hung it from the shoulders. To add even more to his dresses, he also worked with embroidery companies.

While Worth’s dresses were successful, he constantly felt under appreciated because all of the awards and appreciation went to the House, not to Worth himself. He added to his business by gaining the financial support of Bobergh who made the business possible and helped Worth to be recognized for his special designs. They were hand crafted, had novelty treatments and went even as far as America.

Worth was an entrepreneur unmatched in his time. He continuously had to come up with new designs with limiting conditions. He was also skilled at keeping his business afloat and knew how to keep it fresh. His innovation with his slopers, textile treatments and dress designs make him the entrepreneur few people realize he was.


Return to Speaker Summaries