Diversity and tension of perspectives are crucial to innovation. Our Alumni Innovator Interview series features a Fahrenheit 212 alumnus who is innovating, and changing the world on the ground. In each interview, we dig into the perspectives, approaches, missions, and drivers of these entrepreneurs, and share practical tips.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I am an inventor and storyteller of products and experiences.
By day, I’m a product marketer at Rent the Runway, working with our subscription team to build the ‘closetless future’ via rental. By nights and weekends, I am the creator of Otherworld – a project that connects curious New Yorkers to immersive experiences in the city and provides a platform to connect and discuss after. I like to say it's a ‘book club’ for experiences. Oh and before that, I started my career at F212 where I was on the Idea Development team for 3 years.
Why do you do what you do?
I found my way to the world of product/experience design because I like to create things that make people feel emotion – delight, wonder, relief, accomplishment. And I love the creative process that comes with it. Immersing myself in the research to understand a consumer’s pain points and values, developing a strategy to solve them, and then unloading all of my creativity on developing something brand new are all things I love to do.
At a higher level, I do what I do right now because this is where my curiosity has led me. I try to make most of my decisions curiosity-first.
What inspired you to create Otherworld?
At F212 I had a built-in excuse to see and experience as many different cultural phenomena as I could. It was all in the name of research. I also was constantly creating products and experiences for others and always exercising a creative muscle. Since leaving F212, I realized I still wanted an excuse to experience all of the weirdness of NYC and beyond. Plus it provides a social and creative outlet all in one. I’m viewing it as an experimental sandbox. Testing out different experiences, seeing what people like, what it could be. Right now it feels more like an art project than a business which is cool by me.
What are the life moments that most influenced who/where you are today?
Growing up, my parents completely encouraged creativity. I had the permission to use my imagination and always ask questions. This has stuck with me and shaped the way I approach life. My parents also deeply instilled the values of integrity and honesty in me.
I’m a big traveler and grew up in a military family so we moved a lot. Being able to see the world outside my neighborhood has given me perspective and opened my eyes to the diverse ways of thinking, living, and doing, that exist out there. It also taught me to be flexible, and open to change in my own life.
What is the first thing you do every morning? The last thing at the end of every day?
I’m an early riser and lately I've been trying to write 3 pages in my journal each morning before I start my day. I got this exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (which I highly recommend). I guess it’s my version of morning meditation.
Before bed I like to think of the ‘bright spots’ of that day – the top highlights that made the day memorable or great. I do this to make sure that the days don’t all blur together in my memory and as a daily reminder to be grateful. I used to write down these ‘daylights’ and ‘nightlights’ but now I just think about them.
What do you never leave the house without and why?
Running shoes and workout clothes.
What is the last book you read and why?
Darling Days by iO Tillett Wright. It's the coming of age memoir of artist/activist iO Tillett Wright, as he grew up in NYC in the 1980s and 90s. As a documentarian myself, I love a good autobiography. I especially love reading NYC lit so I can imagine their stories taking place in the city I call home.
What is your favorite app and why?
Spotify. Music is such an essential ingredient to being creative, forming vibrant memories, creating powerful experiences, and connecting with other people. Spotify makes that happen more freely.
What is the funniest thing that happened to you recently?
I dabble in improv comedy and in one of my shows I played the head of a nudist colony. I was rejecting a would-be nudist from the colony for trying too hard. It was like Mean Girls nudist edition.
What product, service, or industry do you think is most ripe for innovation?
Elderly Care. Today the experience of aging can be sad and dehumanizing. There have been so many innovations in hospitality in the past decade and yet elderly care and all that goes with it (ie. retirement homes, social security, hospice, mobility, medication) still needs a major disruption.
What do you think the biggest disruption of the next year will be? What should we have our eye on?
The closet in the cloud! Just imagine a world where you don’t have to keep 10 years of clothing in your overflowing closet, never have to feel buyer’s remorse, and experience constant newness and variety without settling for disposable fast fashion. At Rent the Runway we’re completely reinventing fashion retail, changing consumer values of ownership and creating a more sustainable option than fast fashion. I’m drinking the kool aid, but my bet’s on that.
What makes a great innovation?
Great innovations are built from a place of consumer empathy. They consider not just the product itself, but the experience surrounding it. They make people’s lives better, easier, and more delightful.
What are your top tips for aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs?
Follow what excites you. Ask a lot of questions, and listen really hard. There’s no set formula for creating something amazing so don’t be afraid to break rules and mix things up.
What is your favorite quotation?
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." —C. S. Lewis