Graduate student Lauren Machado developed an innovative business plan that won a national merchandising contest.
Sometimes an assigned project strikes a chord that resonates deeply. For Lauren Machado, creating a business plan for a national merchandising contest did just that.
As a first-year master’s student in textiles, fashion merchandising and design, Machado developed a plan that not only took top honors in the competition, but may one day be the foundation for her own business.
Her business plan for “Co.Lab” beat out 30 other entries—from students at 10 colleges and universities—in the 2020 merchandising competition held by Educators for Socially Responsible Apparel Practices.
“I have a huge feeling of accomplishment,” says Machado, who is from the city of Niterói in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lives in Boston. “It makes me feel I’m on the right track and encourages me to keep up the good work. The company I envisioned represents, to me, a business model that I truly believe in, and I definitely see myself either working for this type of business or opening the business myself.”
Growing up in Brazil, Machado became fascinated with fashion and dreamed of owning a business. Her grandfather owned a chain of retail stores where Machado and her sister would spend afternoons hiding in the clothing racks and playing with the cashiers.
The sisters progressed to playing dress-up and watching Project Runway. At Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing in Rio de Janeiro, she earned a bachelor’s degree in publicity and advertising, then added an associate’s degree in fashion marketing from Parsons School of Design in New York City. When it was time for graduate school, URI caught her eye.
In Machado’s first semester at URI last spring, assistant professor Saheli Goswami alerted her to the merchandising contest.
“Co.Lab” is a play on the word “collaborate.” Machado envisions a socially responsible retailer selling street-style apparel and handbags made of sustainable materials. The company would collaborate with four emerging student designers each season to keep the store and its merchandise fresh.
It received a nearly perfect score from a panel of merchandising industry judges.
“Lauren’s business plan mirrors her innovative ideas to run fashion businesses in new sustainable ways,” says Goswami. “When you hear sustainability in fashion, you start thinking of the environment, waste materials, maybe circular fashion. But Lauren started thinking of social sustainability, along with environmental resources. She thought of empowering future generations, building partnerships for economic growth, and promoting entrepreneurship for responsible production and consumption.”
“I believe in a different fashion industry from what we see today,” Machado says. “I believe fashion is a form of expression, creativity, and therapy—and is essential to us. More than that, I believe the fashion industry has a crucial role of changing our behavior to be more sustainable, in all senses of the word.” •
—Tony LaRoche ’94