Name: Alex Shadrow
Job Title and Description: Owner & Founder of UNItiques
College Name/Major: Boston University, Public Relations
Twitter Handle: @UNItiques
Instagram Handle: @UNItiques
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Alex Shadrow: So it depends on the time of year. In the summer, my job is to review our member feedback and reach out to our best members and ask them, “What do you want to see on UNItiques? What can we create?” That way when you come back to school this year we have new features. My summer is just 12-hour days of testing new features and making sure that everything works right before releasing. Then in the school year, I spend my days going from campus to campus and meeting with teams. We have events and we reach out to “style icons,” who are the most well-known girls on campus, and we get them to be UNItiques girls and create closets that their fans can shop.
Did you have similar jobs in your field before this? If so, how did you get them?
AS: I really always tell people that UNItiques saved my life because it really showed me what my priorities are. Before UNItiques, my priorities were totally out of line. I wanted to be the coolest girl in college and go to all the parties, just be always well-dressed. But UNItiques really gave me direction and made me realize that I’m worth so much more than just being a party girl. And, you know, there’s nothing wrong with having fun, but even party girls have priorities and I didn’t have that at all. So I don’t think that anything I did was exactly leading up to it, but I’ve always loved writing and always loved interacting with people. When I was growing up, I would spend an obscene amount of time on MySpace and Facebook. I had so many virtual friends. I would go home from school, and instead of doing a sport or having friends over, I would go on AOL [and] chat my virtual friends. Then it turned out that for UNItiques, I have to reach out to about 700 people that I don’t know every single week and the ability to communicate virtually was something that I developed as a hobby as a child and now it’s so applicable to my job.
What is the best part of your job?
AS: The best part of my job is definitely inspiring the girls that work for me, and they inspire the other girls on campus, which is really awesome. We did this company-wide survey, and so many of the girls told me that I was inspiring to them, and I think that was just so motivating, that’s the most rewarding part. And of course planning events are so fun and the actual clothing swaps and getting to meet the members in person has been a really awesome part of the job.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
AS: I would say to go for it as intelligently as you can. If you find something in life that’s not worth risking, you don’t have to sacrifice for it. But at the same time, I would have never spent the money that I spent to create the website had I not been really aware that there was a need for it. So I think a lot of people create businesses and they basically hope that the business will work, but they don’t ask themselves if there is a market for their product. They don’t do that research. I think you really need to figure out what the customer wants, whether it’s your business or anyone else’s business that you might be working in, and make your vision fit what is really going to be well-received.
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
AS: The biggest mistake was hiring the wrong people at first. It’s hard to hire people that have skills that you don’t know. For example, if you’re starting a massage therapy place, and you don’t know how to give massages but you’re going to run the place, it’s hard to hire people because you don’t know what’s good or bad in the world of massaging. So when a coder tells me he or she is really great at coding, that they can use X computer language, HTML, Java, CSS—to me, those are just words. So I hired someone without really researching.
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
AS: I think the most important thing is seeing that someone can deliver on small projects. I always tell every single intern the first thing they need to do is create a store, and I see how fast they do it, how many questions they ask, and if they ask questions, that’s always a good thing, because it means they are thinking about it. I think it’s just the fact that I can tell right away from that task if they are committed to making the website better. I look to see how much passion and how much energy they will bring to that small project. Once I see that, it’s immediate. That goes also for full-time positions.
What has been the most surreal moment of your career this far?
AS: Being invited to be a speaker at business schools (Boston University, Harvard, MIT) that I could only dream of getting into when I was applying is so surreal. I’m sitting on panels with people who have 20-plus years of experience. It’s definitely crazy creating your own path after college, like this is my first year having my own salary. I didn’t even get into BU’s business school—I dropped out of it because it was way too hard for me. Being able to actually be a speaker at that college now just feels so good.