THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP CO-OP EXPERIENCE
April 29, 2021
Drexel’s entrepreneurship co-op provides students with a unique opportunity giving them a chance to spend six months to develop their business idea. If students are accepted to the program, they are paired with an established entrepreneur or executive to work as their mentor; they receive $15,000 in funding and a dedicated workspace in the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship. Last term, two companies, banni, and Sasas Mix had the opportunity to work as part of the entrepreneurship co-op. As their time during the six months came to an end, they shared how they’ve grown, what they learned, and their key takeaways during their time spent in the co-op!
Meet Malcolm Jones, a Drexel student and founder of streetwear & clothing company, banni. Malcolm started the entrepreneurship co-op six months ago with the goal to have $10,000 in revenue, get 5 media placements, create relationships with independent brands and influencers, release five capsules, and grow his audience of supporters to 15,000 followers.
After setting his goals, Malcolm started his journey to find a manufacturing company in the US but found it difficult to find a company that met the standards needed for his brand. After talking and meeting with 40+ companies, he decided to look overseas in hopes of finding a company that shared his vision. He teamed up with Josh, a senior enrolled in Drexel’s fashion design program, and worked with a manufacturing company overseas, this helped him get a better understanding of what he wanted for banni. Following this, he met Mimi Iwasaki, a senior fashion designer from Japan who created a platform for creators like Malcolm, and with her help, he was able to start designing a clothing line for banni that felt right. During his time in the entrepreneurship co-op Malcolm was able to set up his LLC, company bank accounts, social media & business accounts, he refined his ideas and got samples for his clothing line, he finished designing his website and found Mimi who will help him finalize his brand and bring his products to life.
When asked what he learned, Malcolm said, “not everyone is on your team, not everyone has the same vision as you – but don’t let them drag you down. Start to make a schedule and a plan, and follow-through. The co-op let me refine my ideas and created a foundation for me to launch my business.”
Niaka started her entrepreneurial journey selling her freshly baked ricebread, a traditional Liberian dessert which is also known as banana bread. During her co-op experience, Niaka pivoted from selling freshly baked banana bread to providing a baking mix instead. After doing research she found that banana bread was one of the most searched terms on Google during covid-19, and saw that Whole Foods posted their 2020 food trends which had West African cuisine as a major trend throughout the year. With this in mind, Niaka made a list of her goals which included, completing the packaging and branding design, starting production on the mixes, and selling them in three different stores as well as online.
During her time in the entrepreneurship co-op, Niaka went through the process of creating a brand image that displays the essence of the traditional Liberian desert. After three different rounds of design and picking a company name, she chose Sasas Mix. The word sasas comes from the Liberian name for shekere, an instrument that is played in times of celebration, so Sasas Mix symbolizes a celebration of bold West African flavors! After settling on her brand and package design, Niaka began her search for a co-packer and a packaging supplier. During her search, she spoke with over 40 different suppliers and found the perfect co-packer, Hudson River Foods which is startup-friendly and a perfect fit for Sasas Mix. Along with her co-packer, Niaka also found a great packaging supplier, ePac!
During her co-op experience, Niaka was able to solidify a brand name and image, she registered her company, built a distribution system for her products, went through many rounds of recipe reformulation (her mix is gluten free, dairy-free, and top allergy-free), and an e-commerce website too. Some of the main lessons that Niaka took away from her experience included:
- Allowing a lawyer to look over contracts
- Recognizing that things may not always go as planned
- Realizing you don’t need to hire a consultant, believing in yourself and your ideas is more important
- Having a team that compliments your skills and strengths is very important
Niaka is working on getting wholesale accounts but for now, she is selling her mix on her website, sasasmix.com!
Both Malcolm and Niaka were able to get great mentorship and the support they needed to accelerate their business’s growth with confidence during the entrepreneurship co-op. The co-op has helped pave the way for many Drexel entrepreneurs too and provided them with the necessary tools to develop a successful business. To learn more about the co-op and the application process click here!