From Hobby to Business
Aoi (Adachi) Kawano (’00) had been handcrafting soaps out of her home in Honolulu since making soaps as favors for her wedding in 2003. With encouragement from friends and family, 10 years later she turned her hobby into a business. Pualani Soap Hawaii—the name comes from the Hawaiian words pua, which means “flowers,” and lani, which means “heavenly” and “beautiful”—offers pure, all-natural, locally sourced soaps, lip balms, and salves.
Pualani Soap Hawaii products are available online through her website and Etsy, the peer-to-peer commercial website for handmade items. Kawano also markets and sells face-to-face at major state exhibitions. “Being an entrepreneur is extremely hard work. If you don’t act, nothing moves forward,” she says.
But from hard work comes pride. “I may have a small operation compared to other soap and natural skin-care companies,” adds the businesswoman, “but I believe I have one of the best—high standards with quality ingredients and processes.”
Ready for Takeoff
When asked whether there was an aspect of his Baruch classes that was particularly helpful, entrepreneur Jesse Potash (’09) says it was “the College’s focus on a real-world education, which allowed me to realize early on the type of life and career I wanted.” The finance major is the co-founder of Trunkster, the world’s first rolltop luggage featuring zipperless, sliding-door entry; USB charging with a removable battery; a built-in scale; and a GPS.
Dissatisfaction with available luggage options was, in part, the inspiration for Potash’s line. “My partner and I had both been living out of our suitcases for the past several years, working and traveling abroad,” he recalls. “So we decided to redesign the traditional suitcase to match our on-the-go lifestyles, prioritizing accessibility and eliminating zippers. We then added some select innovative features that would enhance our travels.” Funded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, Trunkster plans to release a carryon and suitcase in late summer and has already received positive notice from the New York Times.
No doubt this future-is-now luggage will be as resilient as its creator. Says Potash, “My confidence lies, in retrospect, in my failures.” Before co-founding Trunkster, he founded a couple of other ventures. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Head down and keep going.”
Social Entrepreneur and Job Creator
Before founding the eponymous full-service communications firm Anat Gerstein Inc., this School of Public Affairs alumna had tried unsuccessfully to start her own business. Of that first attempt, Anat Gerstein (MPA ’04) says, “I didn’t have enough contacts, nor did I have the discipline to pull it off.” But years later, when her boss, former New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, decided against running for another term, Gerstein found herself out of work “at a time when there were very few jobs available—and none that I wanted,” she recalls. “It was the perfect time to start a business.” Founded in 2010 as a solo shop, Anat Gerstein Inc., works exclusively with nonprofits across a wide range of sizes and fields.
If there’s a lone-wolf paradigm of the entrepreneur, Gerstein certainly counterbalances it. She’s proud to have created a thriving enterprise (her firm now employs eight) and is inclusionary in her approach. “I have a great staff that makes work fun and not a chore. They are helping me build the business, bring in wins, and increase awareness of and develop the reputation of the firm,” she says. Expansion also addresses Gerstein’s biggest business challenge: competing with larger firms.
Speaking for the entire Baruch community, President Mitchel B. Wallerstein says, “Baruch College’s commitment to entrepreneurship at all levels recognizes that entrepreneurs are vital to our economy and bolster innovation and growth in the marketplace. We are extremely proud to train and encourage student-entrepreneurs.” With our cover student-entrepreneur Yan Revzin, FortuneCookieAdvertising.com CEO, in mind, Dr. Wallerstein adds wryly, “We wish them all good fortune.”
Their Cheering Section: Lawrence Field (’52)
Core entrepreneurial activities at Baruch College take place through the auspices of the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship, established in 1993 through a gift from Lawrence Field (’52, DCSc [Hon.] ’04). Field, the founder and principal of southern California commercial real estate development and investment firm NSB Associates, is arguably the College’s most famous entrepreneur and a committed mentor to the next generation. Says Field, an expert entrepreneur with a half-century of experience, “I’m delighted to see the successes of these young entrepreneurs. I know they represent a large community of young Baruch alumni who are building exciting new companies that will create a brighter future for America and the global economy.”
Thoughtfully and with characteristic optimism, Field adds, “Today’s world is vastly different from the one I faced as a young graduate, with both exciting new technologies and daunting challenges. But what has not changed is that, in business, it all starts with an entrepreneur—a man or woman with an idea, who is willing to invest the passion and hard work to turn that idea into a success.”