Name: Lauren Schwab
Job Title and Description: Co-Founder of Negative Underwear
College/Major: University of Pennsylvania/Bachelor of Arts in History of Art and Diplomatic History
Twitter Handle: @negative_wear
Name: Marissa Vosper
Job Title and Description: Co-Founder, Negative Underwear
College/Major: University of Pennsylvania/Political Science & Spanish Language
Twitter Handle: @MarissaVosper
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Lauren Schwab: My best friend from college, Marissa Vosper, and I launched Negative – an e-commerce brand of everyday underwear that merges comfort and cool – this past February. As it’s just the two of us, we do everything to design, develop, manufacture, market and sell our bras, underwear and tees.
While there’s no such thing as a typical day, I generally start my day around 6 a.m. and finish around midnight. But what happens in between those hours can vary dramatically. One day we’re doing a photo shoot in a 40,000 square-foot vintage furniture warehouse in Philadelphia and the next we’re living in Excel spreadsheets, analyzing our sales and planning our next collection.
Marissa Vosper: 50 percent email (honestly), 15 percent strategic thinking, 10 percent hard decisions, 5 percent venting and/or celebrating, 20 percent winging it. There is absolutely no such thing as a typical day!
What is the best part of your job?
LS: There is nothing better than building a brand and a product that I’m passionate about with a partner whom I greatly respect and by whom I’m constantly inspired.
MV: Knowing that we made a tangible product that makes women feel amazing every day.
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
LS: [I had] never had a job in fashion prior to starting Negative. My first real job out of college was as an analyst at an investment firm, which I got through a friend who had joined the firm a few months earlier and passed my resume along to one of the firm’s HR representatives.
MV: I actually never had a job in fashion before launching a company in fashion! My first real job post-college was [as] an analyst at a branding agency in NYC. I had spent previous summers interning in marketing and found my way to brand consulting because it seemed like a great opportunity to combine analytic and creative thinking.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
LS: While everyone talks about the importance of networking, I don’t think I truly understood the value of making and developing professional relationships until we started Negative. It is amazing how much you can learn and how far you can get by just talking to people, asking questions and being likeable.
MV: They say success in fashion is about connections. But now I know. Success in fashion is definitely about connections. Networking is 100 percent essential.
Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
LS: My father continues to inspire me with his work ethic, his commitment and his passion to discover a strategic solution to the most challenging issue. While he has always been my sounding board for academic and professional advice, he is now my most valued mentor and advisor in starting Negative.
MV: My boyfriend (now fiancé) has been hugely influential in my professional life. He’s so ambitious, hardworking and driven, and has continuously encouraged me to think big and follow my passions.
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
LS: Don’t worry about failures; worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.
MV: Always be the nicest guy (ahem, girl) in the room –- kill them with kindness. Irrational optimism is absolutely necessary to being an entrepreneur. Perfection can be the plague of progress. But details really do matter.
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
LS: Read the fine print and be careful whom you trust! No one is going to care about your business or value your money as much as you will.
MV: Be careful and considerate about [whom] you hire and where you place your trust; no one cares as much about your business as you do.
What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?
LS: Since our launch, the customer feedback has been completely surreal. We’ve received emails from customers spanning generations and geographies enthusiastically proclaiming that we’ve created the bra they’ve always dreamed of. We’ve even received emails from boyfriends and husbands thanking us for making a bra that made their girlfriends and wives so happy. It feels amazing to have customers love our product as much as we do.
MV: Our site launched to coincide with a story in the Wall Street Journal. The amount of orders, customers, emails and buzz that resulted and continues to result from that quarter [of a] page of printed press is completely surreal. It immediately put our brand on a national map, reaching a much broader audience than we’d anticipated at such an early stage.
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
LS: A high emotional IQ, passion, commitment, flexibility, positivity and a strong work ethic.
MV: Emotional intelligence, proactive drive, positivity, creativity, problem-solving mentality.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
LS: Find an opportunity in the market. Do your research. Partner with a person you trust and respect implicitly. Leverage your existing network to meet new people, learn things you don’t know and find ways that you can help others. Stay focused and don’t take no for an answer.
MV: Find your niche. Do your homework – make sure there’s an opportunity, know your category inside and out, and define how you’re going to do something compelling and different. Obsess over the details that matter. Force yourself out of your comfort zone. Work harder than your competitors. Network your butt off!