Smith, Italy, New Zealand: Being a Global Entrepreneur

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Rachel LaFlamme ‘20

Co-founder of Survival of the Fitted

Do you ever have to guess what size you are when you are shopping online for pants? Rachel LaFlamme ‘20 is all too familiar with the challenges women face when shopping online (and even in stores!) for bottoms across different brands. Recognizing this pain point, Rachel co-founded Survival of the Fitted, a data-driven company that helps female shoppers find their size when shopping online and takes the guesswork out of sizing.

Rachel and her co-founder presenting at the 2018 Draper Competition.

Rachel and her co-founder presenting at the 2018 Draper Competition.

Rachel started her entrepreneurial journey at Smith her first year, when she took Smith’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship course in 2017 over J-Term and first came up with the idea for the venture. Since then, Rachel has gone on to participate in several pitch competitions around the Pioneer Valley, placed among the top 10 in the 2018 Draper Competition, and has received the Grinspoon Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. Her entrepreneurial journey, however, has taken Rachel well beyond Smith and has made her a truly global entrepreneur.

Over J-Term in 2018, Rachel spent two weeks traveling through Northern Italy to learn about successful Italian entrepreneurs. Rachel applied to the Italia Innovation Winter Program and received support from the Conway Center. Rachel follows the Conway Center on Facebook and saw a post about the program. “I just decided to take the chance,” she says.

Rachel exploring Italy in January 2018.

Rachel exploring Italy in January 2018.

The Italia Innovation Winter Program allows students to tour production sites of successful Italian brands, including the renown Italian pasta brand Barilla and the popular coffee company Illy. The program gives participants the opportunity to network with CEOs and managers of Italian companies through interviews and Q&A sessions with the mission to introduce students to businesses that value corporate success and scalability as much as maintaining the humanity behind their products.

“For these businesses, it’s all about combining the beautiful narrative of designing and creating a high-quality product with the drive to push forward,” reports Rachel. “That’s why many of these Italian companies take pride in the environmental sustainability and uniqueness of their products.”

For Rachel, a typical day included waking up in a new city almost every day: Parma, Turin, Milan, Trieste and Verona. One of the best parts about the Italia Innovation Winter Program was the location itself: “every street you walk down in Italy is a piece of art that someone decided to invest in and create.” Rachel’s favorite aspect of the program, however, was being exposed to various companies innovative approaches, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of the other college students who participated.

In July 2018, Rachel packed her bags once more to spend a semester abroad in New Zealand. While Rachel enjoys getting to know the country, exploring the beautiful landscapes, and taking new risks like bungee jumping off the famous Kawarau Bridge, life abroad has also exposed Rachel to new business challenges: “working on Survival Of The Fitted while being abroad has been really difficult,” Rachel says. “The hardest part is the inability to be hands-on and it is frustrating to know that I have to sit back while I’m abroad in order for us to take steps forward.”

Despite these challenges, Rachel’s abroad experience has provided her with new insights about the business world that will help her grow Survival Of The Fitted into a successful venture once she returns to Smith in the spring.

“Being in a new country surrounded by people with different values of what they are looking for in a product is always an eye opening experience. It can help a start-up adjust their goals of what they want their company to achieve,” Rachel reflects.

Ultimately, each abroad experience has introduced Rachel to new challenges and have helped her become a more resilient and multifaceted entrepreneur. Rachel will return to campus in January 2018 and will dive right back into her the work as a Smith student and venture founder.


 
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Rachel LaFlamme ‘20

Rachel is double majoring in Statistical & Data Science and East Asian Languages and Literature. She is an avid violin player and has spent several summers interning at Mass Mutual. She is currently exploring the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand during her semester abroad, while pursuing her venture Survival of the Fitted.

Connect with Rachel on LinkedIn