Alumni in the News

 

Julie Chaiken, MBA '93

The following is an interview with Julie Chaiken, MBA '93, of Chaiken Clothing.  This article was featured in the Fall/Winter 2004 issue of Innovation Review which focused on women entrepreneurs.  Innovation Review is published by the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at NYU Stern.

 

ChaikenWhat moved you to found your company? And when precisely did you found it?
I came out of business school knowing that I wanted to start a company of my own. I wanted to create something that spoke to who I am, and I came up with the idea of a clothing company to create clothes for women like myself. I founded the company in July 1994.

What have been the greatest obstacles that you have encountered so far?
Where do I start? The learning curve has been huge. But as long as you are willing to ask questions, you can figure anything out. However, one of the biggest obstacles I faced was breaking free from my business partner while maintaining the confidence of our customers. She and I parted ways in 1998, and since then I have seen my business double and add new product categories. It took a lot of work and relationship-building to make it happen, but at the end of the day, the efforts paid off.

What factor or personal strength do you view as contributing to your success?
Tenacity. Things don’t always turn out how you envision them the first time. Having the tenacity to keep going until you get the desired end result is really important.

How does being a woman affect your business?
I design the product to work with my lifestyle. As the customer, I am constantly fine-tuning fit or color.

Looking back, what role has your Stern experience played in the success of your venture?
Business school helped me to understand the big picture and to learn the language of business. Designing clothes is the sexy part, but at the end of the day, it is still a business like any other. I need to speak the same language as the banker, accountant and marketing people in order to create forward momentum.

What does the future hold for you and your company?
In addition to the women’s collection, I also do maternity. This year, I am working on the launch of a swim collection. If all goes well, next year I will be working on retail stores. Never a dull moment!