Meet the cofounders of Pizzaslime, who created Gen Z’s go-to for meme fashion and recently launched a record label with Diplo

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Nick “Stove” Santiago and Matthew Hwang, founders of Pizzaslime.

  • Streetwear brand and creative agency Pizzaslime has made a name for itself among Gen Z with meme fashion.
  • Now, it’s expanding. Pizzaslime recently launched a record label and is working on a TV show.
  • The founders spoke to Insider about how the internet sits at the center of everything they do.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Wearing the Bernie Sanders inauguration meme, sleeping on a pillow emblazoned with the Musk tweet “Bitcoin is my safe word,” and donning an “Oprah 2020” hoodie are all possible because of Pizzaslime.

Even the website for the streetwear brand and creative agency, where you’ll see much of the merch mentioned above is sold out, is a play on the gossip website TMZ, filled with satirical articles and ads.

“Sometimes we’re not even sure if it’s going to connect with people all the time,” said Nick “Stove” Santiago, one of the brand’s millennial cofounders. “We’re trying and having a good time with it. And it works.”

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A Pizzaslime Tweet pillow.

Work it does. Pizzaslime has gained traction among Gen Z and DJs alike, appearing on influencers Emma Chamberlain and Addison Rae and on Diplo and Skrillex. While Pizzaslime found cult fandom in its early days, cofounder Matthew Hwang said it exploded during the pandemic thanks to the rise of TikTok, where Pizzaslime has 1 million followers.

The merchandise line, founded in 2013, has acted as both a sly observer and ironic commenter on political, economic, and cultural moments that have gone viral. By offering an implicit critique on media consumption and internet and celebrity obsession, the merch itself tends to go viral.

In 2020 alone, the clothing side of Pizzaslime raked in $2 million in sales, peaking in April, according to screen shots verified by Insider (they declined to share total business revenue overall). That’s a lot of stonk for a brand with only two employees: the 33-year-old Stove and 34-year-old Hwang.

The pandemic has only thrown up more memes for Pizzaslime fodder. “When all the WallStreetBets stuff was happening, it was energetic,” Stove said. “Me and Matt were waking up at six in the morning to text each other about stocks. Like we were in it, you know, it’s real and authentic to us. And that was the [thing] we thought would be funny to make.”

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Pizzaslime is known for turning memes into fashion.

The result: a typically Pizzaslimish graphic tee featuring a mashup of things easily identifiable by the young and internet-savvy: the logos of Reddit, WallStreetBets, and Gamestop; a fat pile of money; a stock board; and Elon Musk’s famous tweet, “Gamestonk!!”

Pizzaslime’s success has propelled them to new ventures: the launch of a record label with Diplo last spring, their New York Fashion Week debut in February, and an expansion into film television. At the center of it all is the internet.

The art of meme fashion

Stove and Hwang met as coworkers, doing marketing and creative direction at a music management company, but not all their merch ideas fit the artists they were working with. So they decided to make T-shirts for themselves, wearing them backstage at concerts or events, and the entertainment crowd gravitated toward their designs.

As they tell it, the Kardashians were wearing Pizzaslime’s Gucci-Versace-Louis Vuitton mash-up at a Kanye West concert. “Kris Jenner just turns around, and is like, ‘I love that shirt,'” Hwang said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, OK. Let us contact you.'”

These organic moments of “being in the right place at the right time,” as Santiago describes it, put Pizzaslime on track to being the internet-savvy brand it is today. They count the Gucci-Versace shirt as their first big streetwear hit. Since then, their merch has flown off the site, from their Crocs collab that repurposed the shoes into crossbody bags for $300 to their “Stop looking at my” line, famously worn by Billie Eilish.

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Pizzaslime’s Crocs collab.

Pizzaslime has tapped into the emerging trend of meme fashion before the powerhouses caught on, with major players from Balenciaga to Maison Margiela now in the space, Morgane Le Caer, content lead at global fashion shopping platform Lyst, told Insider.

“Virality has become one of the key factors in determining the success of fashion products,” she said. “What matters to younger consumers is what captures their attention and has the ability to spread like wildfire across social networks – and this is exactly why meme fashion is so popular.”

Read more: The CEO of the BUZZ ETF backed by Dave Portnoy breaks down the 3 strategies his social media-driven index is using to capitalize on the GameStop revolution

Santiago was hesitant to use a buzzword like “authenticity” but acknowledged he couldn’t find a better term. “There’s a real rawness and authenticity to what we do,” he said. “We aren’t afraid to make a statement or post something and lose 1,000 followers.” He added that this caught on with Gen Z because it relates to authenticity more than his own generation, which he finds a bit more susceptible to marketing.

“It’s hard to define what Pizzaslime is,” he said. “For some people, it’s sort of like a barrier of entry they find confusing. At the same time, it’s given us the ability to build all these verticals and do everything and try everything.”

But that’s not to say Pizzaslime lacks strategy. “We’re not just sort of like throwing darts to the wall,” Santiago said. “The strategy really comes in with like, OK, now, how do we present the idea? How do we get this out there?”

The power of being undefined

Pizzaslime’s greatest strength is its lack of definition.

The verticalization allows them to move in all sorts of spaces differently. The work, Santiago said, is figuring out how all of these verticals intertwine to fit into the Pizzaslime ecosystem.

“We don’t have to think like a traditional clothing brand because we also act as an agency and we’re developing TV shows,” he said. “It’s just all feeding each other and having a division for that, so what we’re really doing is building our Willy Wonka factory.”

While the internet informs and inspires its creative decisions, it also helps them figure out what sort of strategies and mechanisms they want to try with clients like Crocs or Paramount Pictures for their marketing arm. Santiago likened it to a proof of concept – trying things with their own brand, only to apply those discoveries to the agency side.

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Pizzaslime made their New York Fashion Week debut in February in the form of an animated virtual presentation.

Building out these verticals has put Hwang and Santiago at full speed. When asked for some of Pizzaslime’s key turning points over the years, they took pause.

“We’re going like a billion miles per hour because we’re doing so many different things at the same time,” Santiago said. “These are interesting reflection points where like, ‘Oh, right now I feel like I’m slowing down and processing this.’ It’s hard to pinpoint those moments because I’m always onto the next thing right away.'”

That they are. They’re currently working on a TV project that Santiago described as an “internetty” version of “American Idol,” all while collaborating with Amazon on a new animated TV series called “Fairfax.” And the first song of their record label, they said, just crossed 75 million streams on Spotify.

They plan to start plugging more into the label, looking at how they can tie music to products and build trends through products and sounds on social media, such as incorporate music from their record label into their TV show or collaborating with artists to put merch on Instagram. “If we’re working with a client and they want to make a TikTok campaign, we have the record label and the ability to make that TikTok song also a real song released through our record label,” Santiago said.

While they’ve been approached by venture capitalists, they said they’re taking the time to find the right strategic partners that would help scale up Pizzaslime.

“We want to jump into spaces and places that don’t have strong internet voices or tones like we do,” Santiago said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if you can find Pizzaslime skincare at some point. “We want to do some pretty unexpected stuff.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

28-year-old Tyra Myricks makes 7 figures and has 5 side hustles. Here’s how she typically spends a day.

Tyra Mavericks
Tyra Myricks

  • Tyra Myricks, 28, makes seven figures a year working a day job and five side hustles.
  • She works for Drake, has a fashion line, a branding company, a website for entrepreneurial resources, a pizza shop, and co-owns a gym.
  • To Insider, she breaks down what a typical day looks like.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If the Land of Side Hustles had a queen, it would surely be 28-year-old Tyra Myricks, daughter of hip hop legend Jam Master Jay. It all began in 2009 when she launched a fashion label while still in high school that eventually helped pay her way through college. She initially went to university to study pre-med but dropped out after the label saw her earning over double her tuition.

She took the streetwear world by storm with celebrity partnerships, and advertising on Instagram’s TMZ the Shade Room. In 2012, she rebranded the company now known as Wealth as high fashion streetwear.

“It’s not the business you do, it’s what you do differently,” she told Insider.

Aside from owning a fashion label, and branding and merchandising company, she’s also the co-owner of The Method, Los Angeles’ first Black-owned gym. Myricks is also about to launch a pizza shop with T’yanna Wallace, daughter of rapper Biggie Smalls, and she’s co-creating a platform to provide young entrepreneurs with resources to start their own businesses.

“It’s not an easy game,” she said of being an entrepreneur. “Everybody on the internet shows the glorious side, but nobody shows the treacherous side where it’s hard to get up in the morning.”

Her day job, of course, is working as director of design, merchandising, and development for Drake’s OVO lifestyle brand, which earns her six figures a year. In total, she makes about seven figures a year and says a secret to her success is knowing how to constantly be agile with the opportunities life brings.

To Insider, she breaks down how she puts that process to use on a typical day.

She wakes up at 5:45 in the morning

Waking up before the break of dawn, Myricks prays, takes a shower, gets dressed, and downs six espresso shots. Her first stop this morning is to The Method to prepare the gym for opening.

Around 6:30 a.m. she leaves the house and puts on gospel music as she drives downtown, trying to beat the morning traffic rush.

At 7 a.m. she opens the gym and gets breakfast

She arrives at the gym and inspects everything to make sure space was cleaned properly before closing the night before. She also folds extra towels and gets the system ready for patrons.

Myricks became co-owner in the gym after investing a substantial amount last year, though she declined to share how much she gave. There are no employees at the gym, though it has 17 independent contractors. It opened in a new location last summer in the middle of the pandemic. Myricks remembers that day clearly because a few days later, the city of Los Angeles shut down again due to COVID-19.

“It was a grand opening, grand closing,” she said.

Tyra Mavericks
Tyra Myricks

During the shutdown, they moved classes outdoors, which helped cover overhead costs (rent is $6,500 a month). Currently, the club has nearly 300 members, giving it a feel of exclusivity, which is something Myricks prizes in all of her entrepreneurial endeavors.

Membership is $99 a month, another reason to ensure service is top-notch. “What’s stopping someone from going to planet fitness for $30 a month?” Myricks said.

After opening the gym she gets breakfast. This day: a green smoothie.

Then, she preps for her day job

Myricks is also the director of design, merchandising, and development for rapper Drake’s OVO lifestyle brand. At 9:30 a.m., still at the gym, she prepares for a Zoom call with the OVO team to discuss upcoming projects. That lasts until about 11 a.m.

Cofounded by Drake in 2011, OVO is known for selling high-end streetwear and has done collaborations with Canada Goose, and the Major League Baseball, as well as having hosted pop-ups at Nordstrom and the once-popular retail store Colette in Paris. “I look at the recipe and formula a lot of successful people use and get little pieces of that to create my own recipe and formula to be successful,” she said.

Tyra Mavericks
Tyra Myricks

Afterward, another business partner meets her at the gym to discuss upcoming projects for the branding agency they own together. Drake offered Myricks a job after seeing some of the branding and merchandising work her agency did for an artist signed to his label. She moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2017 to take the job.

Without giving exact numbers, Myricks said she makes six figures a year from working at OVO, where she leads the design team, approves and denies designs, and deals with manufacturers overseas. “It’s a constant 24-hour job because China and other manufacturers are 12 hours ahead of us,” she said. “When you ask what is a day like – it’s literally a day. It’s a constant revolving door that never stops.”

At 11:28 a.m. she starts working on her fashion side hustle

Next, she heads to the factory she co-owns with a business partner and begins ordering fabric for her Wealth fashion line which she primarily sells online and in one store in downtown LA.

“This isn’t because other stores aren’t interested,” she said. “We like to keep exclusivity.”

She also discusses plans with her business partner on renovating the space next door to expand the factory, makes sure production is on track and approves new patterns for sweaters. There are 16 people currently working for her company, and the brand produces about 2,500 units each week. Each item sells for between $13 and $1,300.

Tyra Mavericks
Tyra Myricks

Finally, it’s lunch time

An assistant brings her lunch around noon, which today is a grilled chicken salad. Before eating it, however, she heads to the screen printer to drop off samples for Wealth’s upcoming fall/winter collection.

When she gets to Wealth headquarters around 2 p.m., she finally eats lunch as she packs all of the orders that arrived the day before, preparing to ship them to customers.

Next, she orders a double shot of espresso from Blue Bottle Cafe. Then, she keeps it moving.

Around 4 p.m. she finally ships off the Wealth packages, then heads to the Inflamed store downtown, the only brick-and-mortar location that sells Wealth. There, she restocks and checks inventory.

On to another side hustle

Next, she heads to a meeting at the pizza shop she’s opening called Juicy Pizza to discuss patio design and merchandise. Myricks said she came up with the idea of Juicy Pizza because, as a New Yorker living in Los Angeles, she felt there was “no good pizza in Los Angeles.”

Tyra Mavericks
Tyra Myricks (L)

“The more I thought about how to bring that New York theme to Los Angeles, I felt, who represents New York more than Biggie Smalls?” she continued. So she called her friend T’yanna Wallace, daughter of the late rapper, and presented her with the idea. “She loved it,” Myricks said.

Myricks also knew the importance of reaching out to Wallace because, being the daughter of the late Jam Master Jay, she knows first hand what it’s like to have people profit from her father’s name and career. “I was like I don’t want you to invest anything,” she recalled telling Wallace. “Let’s just make money together. Let’s make moves.”

The shop is set to open later this year.

Last stop: a dinner reservation downtown

At 7 p.m. she meets two friends at a Latin restaurant called Dama downtown, where she orders a celery salad with pineapple juice, Mexican corn, and an Oxtail Tostada.

She picks up shipping bags from the storage unit before heading home.

Around 9 p.m. she finally arrives home and begins to unwind, if only for a moment. She answers emails before starting her next project, a website for celebrity client merchandise, which is part of the branding agency she co-founded.

Around midnight, she falls asleep. In five hours, she will get up and do it all over again.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Gen Z is going to have a hard time getting rich

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Gen Z is set to make less money on stocks and bonds.

  • Gen Z will earn a third less on stock and bond investments than past generations, Credit Suisse found.
  • They can expect average annualized returns of just 2%, according to the bank’s investment returns yearbook.
  • Another obstacle for Gen Z: they’ve been the most unemployed during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gen Z is walking a rocky road to getting rich.

They’re set to earn less than previous generations on stocks and bonds, according to Credit Suisse’s global investment returns yearbook.

In fact, the generation can expect average annual real returns of just 2% on their investment portfolios – a third less than the 5%-plus real returns that millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers have seen. Credit Suisse’s analysis took in average investment returns since 1900 and forecasted them going forward for Gen Z.

The yearbook acknowledges that marked deflation could increase bond returns, The Economist reported, but it said inflation is more of a concern. What the report calls a “low-return world” is yet another another financial obstacle for the generation, who may be on track to repeat millennials’ money problems.

A December Bank of America Research report called “OK Zoomer” found that the pandemic will impact Gen Z’s financial and professional future in the same way that the Great Recession did for millennials.

“Like the financial crisis in 2008 to 2009 for millennials, Covid will challenge and impede Gen Z’s career and earning potential,” the report reads, adding that a significant portion of Gen Z is entering adulthood in the midst of a recession, just as a cohort of millennials did. “Like a decade ago, the economic cost of this recession is likely to hit the youngest and least experienced generation the most.”

Gen Z was hit hardest in the workforce

Gen Z been been impacted the most in the workforce, facing the highest unemployment rates.

They entered a job market crippled by a 14.7% unemployment rate in May – greater than the 10% unemployment rate the Great Recession saw at its 2009 peak. Those ages 20 to 24 had an unemployment rate of nearly 27% when the unemployment peaked last April according to data from the St. Louis Fed, more than any other generation.

Recessions typically hit younger workers hardest in the short-term, but can reap long-term consequences.

“The way a recession can really hurt people just starting out can have lasting effects,” Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, previously told Insider. “There’s a lot of evidence that the first postgrad job you get sets the stage in some important way for later.”

Recession graduates typically see stagnated wages that can last up to 15 years, Stanford research shows. That was the case for the oldest millennials graduating into the Great Recession, who in 2016 saw wealth levels 34% lower than that of previous generations at the same age, per the St. Louis Fed.

A follow-up study showed that by 2019, this cohort had narrowed that wealth deficit down to 11%. Such financial catch-up could be an optimistic sign for Gen Z in terms of regaining any ground lost building wealth during the pandemic.

However, millennials have had a 5%-plus annualized investment return on their side. With a projected 2% annual return for Gen Z, building wealth may be even harder to do.

There’s more to building wealth

Of course, stocks and bonds are just two asset classes. There are other ways Gen Z can build wealth, such as investing in real estate or by becoming successful entrepreneurs. Many Gen Zers have already embarked on an entrepreneurial path as early as their teen years, which could go a long way in wealth creation.

But the pandemic has caused a housing frenzy that led to depleted inventory and inflated housing prices, making it more difficult to buy real estate – and build wealth through it. And while more prospective new businesses were formed in 2020 than ever before, almost a third of existing small businesses were wiped out by the pandemic. Altogether, the pandemic could ultimately cause Gen Z to potentially lose $10 trillion in earnings.

Within the next decade, Gen Z’s income will rise to such a point that they’ll effectively take over the economy, but their wealth could well be far behind previous generations by the time they get there.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How a 23-year-old UN rep, manager at billion-dollar beauty brand Deciem, and nonprofit founder spends her day

Harjas Kaur Grewal
Harjas Kaur Grewal

Harjas Kaur Grewal is always busy.

As an activist, writer, and UN youth ambassador, her days are filled with researching social issues and implementing strategies to help solve the political tensions ever-plaguing the world. She ran her first petition at 13, became a Youth Ambassador for the United Nations Youth Assembly at 19, and is currently a Young Innovator for UN Global Compact. Last year, Grewal won the Diana Award for her humanitarianism, which inspired her to start her own volunteer organization, United Women.

During the day, however, Grewal works for the billion-dollar beauty company Deciem where she helps create and run its corporate activism initiatives. Deciem is known for its cult-favorite brand The Ordinary and Grewal started working there in February.

To Insider, Grewal maps out her typical day, including smoothie lunch breaks, meetings with Deciem CEO, and late-night United Women Slack meetings. “I’ve learned that routine is important,” she said. “But it’s okay to have every day look different and become comfortable with imperfection.”

Her first alarm goes off at 7 a.m.

Grewal’s first alarm goes off at 7 a.m., but if she’s too tired, she’ll press the snooze button and stay in bed for another two minutes. “I open my blinds and window to get some fresh air first thing in the morning,” she said. “It always makes me feel refreshed, light, and ready for the day.”

Moving back home during the pandemic was “hard” she said, but there have been perks. “Waking up to the warmth of the sun, sounds of birds chirping, and smelling spiced chai (tea) is refreshing,” she continued. “Finding gratitude in the small things is always important.”

Around 7:30 a.m., she starts her skincare routine

She always starts her day with a skincare routine. She became a “skincare lover” when she was just 13 after discovering Korean skincare routines. “Over the years, I would always tell my friends and family to take care of their skin because it’s a form of self-care,” Grewal said.

Harjas Kaur Grewal
“The art in the background with my name on it was created by my good friend, Zsofia, and the flowers represent my resiliency because they grow in winter,” Grewal told Insider.

She starts off with a gentle cleanser before putting mist on damp skin. She follows up with a rosewater toner, before, of course, using The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% as a serum. After that, she puts an eye contour serum to cover hereditary dark circles.

“And as every good skincare routine ends, I use a moisturizer to lock in my skin and soothe,” she said. “I also spritz some perfume on because it’s a habit that’s comforting and helps normalize working from home for me.”

At 8:00 a.m., she starts to journal

Shortly before the workday begins, she journals her thoughts, “whether it be poetry, emotions, memories, or things to be grateful for,” Grewal said.

She’s been a writer and poet since she was a child and has been spending more time [during the pandemic] writing new work. She recently launched an Instagram page to showcase some of her writing. “Many people don’t know that I used to be a child actor, loved the theatre, started writing by the age of seven, and by the time I graduated high school I was a published playwright and won the provincial Young Authors Award,” she told Insider.

“Writing and poetry is a hobby I try to make time for because it is a true passion of mine and I believe everyone needs to make time for what makes the heart and mind content.”

The work day begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.

The Deciem office was previously featured in Vogue, highlighting its 70,000 square foot office in Toronto, Canada. Sadly, since the pandemic, Grewal has been working from home and has only been able to go into the office a few times.

“A colleague has the cutest black lab mix, Matthew, who greets us at the door and provides the best company someone could ask for,” she said.

Harjas Kaur Grewal

On this day, she reviewed the social impact and activism strategies and campaigns to prepare for an internal listening session she was co-moderating. The company is prepping to kick off its “We Are Eight” unconference, which is a participate-driven meeting without a set agenda.

She starts her day with a new hire call with executives including the CEO and COO. “We got to personally introduce ourselves and learn more about the senior leadership team,” she said. Each week, she connects with the company’s director of sustainability and social impact Jacquelyn Kankam, to whom she reports.

“She has a unique, inclusive, and liberating leadership style that I am thankful for because I am constantly learning as well as executing,” Grewal said.

Harjas Kaur Grewal
Meeting with Jackie Kankam

Grewal contacted Jackie last summer on LinkedIn for a virtual coffee after noticing her extensive sustainability experience as a fellow woman of color. “I found her inspiring because she paved her own path and career,” Grewal added. “When we spoke during our initial meeting, she mentioned opening a Social Impact, Activism role one day but wasn’t sure when this role would open or the details.”

After that meeting, Grewal said she made it her goal to become Deciem’s top pick and created a 13-page visual proposal outlining ideas she had for the role if it ever opened up. Four months later, Grewal found herself interviewing for the role and she was hired.

“When Harjas contacted me, I could tell her passion and dedication to activism and social impact was unmatched,” Jacquelyn Kankam told Insider. “One of our goals at Deciem is to build growth to power good, we needed someone who is agile, smart, and creative and Harjas fit the bill to a tee.”

“This role meant I had achieved a goal to make my passion for social impact and activism into a career,” Grewal added. “Moments like that prove that resiliency opens doors. “

Lunch is usually from 12 to 1 p.m.

She aims to eat a quick meal and has her daily fruit smooth for a boost of energy. Every day she picks up a book to read, and typically alternates between two at once.

“Currently, I am reading ‘Faith, Gender, and Activism in The Punjab Conflict’ by Mallika Kaur to learn more about the events leading up to the violence against Sikhs in Punjab in the 1980-90s,” she said. “I have written about Partition of India, conflicts in Punjab, and violence against Sikhs extensively throughout my undergraduate degree, and as a Sikh, I am constantly pursuing knowledge about my community and history.”

Harjas Kaur Grewal

She is also reading “Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey, the first book she picked up to read for “pleasure” after University ended. “My favorite quote from Greenlights, which is now my lock screen on my phone is: ‘Less impressed, More involved,'” she said.

At the end of the workday, she takes a walk with her family

After her workday, she makes sure to spend time with her family before starting her work with United Women, the organization she founded. “My younger brother, Jujhar, is rocking a t-shirt in support of the farmers protesting at the Delhi border in India right now in this photo,” she said, referencing the picture below. “My entire family is passionate about social justice and we often talk at length about world issues, philosophy, and activism.”

Harjas Kaur Grewal

Around 6 p.m., she logs in to work at her nonprofit

After a break, she logs into Slack and starts working on United Women, her platform seeking to amplify young BIPOC voices, provide mentorship to youth in women’s shelters and community housing, and platform human rights issues. She is managing a team of about 17 volunteers, alongside her co-founder Aimée Lister, who is based in the United Kingdom.

Harjas Kaur Grewal

“We just wrapped up a human rights campaign and are working on expanding our partnerships, finalizing the mentorship program, and responding to the youth who are interested in joining the organization to make an impact,” Grewal said.

She also attended the United Nations Generation Equality Forum last week on behalf of United Women to create an alignment with the 17 SDGs, which include eradicating poverty, combatting climate change, and fighting for quality education.

Around 11 p.m., it’s bedtime

After she’s done working on United Women, she takes the time to wind down and turns on some old Bollywood music. Right before bed, she might even FaceTime her friends. “My friends are the best support system I could ask for.”

Then, she goes to sleep and does it all over again the next day.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How a 27-year-old founder created Gen Z’s defining sunglasses, on track to rake in $6 million in under 2 years

Zane Saleh_Lexxola
Zane Saleh founded Lexxola in late 2019.

  • Zane Saleh launched sunglasses brand Lexxola in 2019, now a staple among the Gen Z “it” crowd.
  • The unisex eyewear is designed for city life and breaks a mold in the eyewear market.
  • Saleh spoke with Insider on growing the brand during the pandemic and its community-led approach.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you want to see the world through the eyes of Gen Z, just put on a pair of Lexxolas.

The sunglasses’ sheer tinted lenses have been spotted on everyone from Emma Chamberlain to Kaia Gerber to Sofia Richie. And beyond these members of Gen Z’s “it crowd,” many other members of the generation are taking to TikTok to share examples of affordable Lexxola dupes.

That’s because you have to shell out designer prices for the London-based indie brand’s ergonomically designed, sleek modern-meets-’70s vibe, which are priced from £190 to £220, or $200 to $260. The line continues to grow, with two new styles just launching, a cat-eye frame named “The Ally” and a more oval frame named “The August.”

For the record, Lexxola’s CEO and founder is a millennial, and the 27-year-old Zane Saleh told Insider that since launching less than two years ago, in late 2019, they’ve viewed everything as an experiment. “That freedom of thought to just say ‘try everything’ has really allowed us to figure out what’s working quite quick and figure out what isn’t and just push forward,” he said.

Along the way, Saleh says he hit upon a Gen Z-friendly business model: direct collaboration with his customers. Instead of designing based off his own inspiration, Saleh said he uses a community-sourcing model to create styles – a creation process that has the potential to reshape fashion retail.

A post shared by emma chamberlain (@emmachamberlain)

It’s a strategy that’s worked, as Lexxola might be small and young, but it’s growing. The company has evolved from just Saleh running the whole show to four employees working remotely. At time of publication, several styles were sold out, available only for pre-order, and with the US being its biggest market, Saleh said the company is planning to open a warehouse in Virginia and headquarters in New York City this year so it can offer domestic shipping rates to US customers.

Lexxola has operated under pandemic conditions for the majority of its existence, and the brand is growing at an unlikely time, as 2020 hit the retail industry harder than the Great Recession did. From February to April of last year, Deloitte found, retail sales plunged by 20%, with an 89% decline in clothes and accessories. By June, Insider Intelligence predicted that retail sales worldwide for the year would be down 5.7% from 2019.

But Saleh said that being a young, agile, and digital company at a time when brick-and-mortar stores were closing left it uniquely placed to grow and gather market share. A solely online presence speaks to a Gen Z community which often shares and expresses itself digitally, he said. According to screenshots of Lexxola’s analytics dashboard that Saleh sent to Insider, Lexxola’s sales grew by over 5,500% from February 2020 to February 2021, and annual revenues for this year are projected to exceed $6 million.

Saleh spoke to Insider about launching Lexxola, growing it through the pandemic, and his community-led approach. What’s emerged is a brand made by a millennial for a Gen Z audience, with social media at its heart.

Made for the city

Saleh originally studied economics, but said he quickly realized finance wasn’t for him. He found himself in the art world for five years, and he began getting Lexxola off the ground while he was working at Sotheby’s. He ultimately left, his full-time job three months before Lexxola’s official launch.

Growing up, he said he noticed that sunglasses marketing campaigns were always about summer. “It was the guy and the girl running down the beach,” he said. “Whereas the eyewear experience that I knew was about wearing a product year-round, it was something for city life.”

He long wondered why there wasn’t a brand speaking to that concept, and decided to fill the gap himself. The year prior to Lexxola’s 2019 launch, the global sunglasses market was valued at $14.5 billion and growing, thanks to an increase in disposable income. While sunglasses stores declined in revenue during the pandemic, IBIS World found, it predicts revenue to grow as the the economy rebounds. Americans are now sitting on more than $1.6 trillion in savings, some of which will likely be deferred disposable income.

ALLY Lexxola
‘The Ally’ is Lexxola’s latest style.

Saleh described beginning Lexxola as “diving into the deep end,” as he had no prior experience in the eyewear sector. He managed to source a factory in Italy and find a warehouse, both of which were hugely important, he said.

“When we first set up our warehouse, it was probably a bit early, but if we didn’t have that we’d for sure be out of business,” he said. “Putting the right building blocks into place in the first sort of six to eight months of the business, prior to the pandemic, really allowed us to springboard through it.”

A community-led approach

Saleh said he did everything when first launching, from packing boxes to answering customer service. Now that the team has expanded to four, he said he still has touch points in all aspects of the business.

Lexxola’s community-led creation process involves aggregating data on Gen Z consumers to create new styles for them. It’s a contrast from many fashion companies, Saleh explained, which are typically headed by a singular figure creating a product, putting it to market, and hoping that people like it.

“What we do is speak with our community,” he said. “We’re almost in a position where we’re a brand that actually acts as a service to create a product.”

A post shared by Jude Taylor (@jude)

But Saleh said this strategy has some challenges, such as ensuring they have styles that meets everyone’s needs. Continuous iterations of new sunglasses can also be quite labor and time-intensive, he said, but ultimately worthwhile. He cited a time when the team gathered product-return data, which helped it make specific changes to a product that led to 90% fewer returns.

The data process also enable them to design an upcoming frame named “The Antonio” combines the brand’s two best-sellers, “The Jordy” and “The Damien,” in what Saleh says is “almost a mathematical form.”

Product evolution is “never finished,” according to Saleh, “it’s just something that can get better.”

Speaking to Gen Z

Lexxola’s community-led approach helped Saleh understand and cultivate a Gen Z community, Saleh said, along with strategically hiring full-time and part-time Gen Z employees.

Saleh said the company found its feet with influencers six months in. Since then, it’s been a “knock-on” effect, as “People see other people wearing them and they become aware of the brand … it just sort of balloons that way.”

It helps, too, that Lexxola capitalizes on some of the things that matter the most to Gen Z when deciding where to spend their money. It’s part of a growing genderless market that WWD considers the future of the fashion industry. In recent years, designers have been launching genderless collections and unisex lines to appeal to changing norms and the Gen Z consumer. Lexxola was a step ahead by launching a unisex brand from the start.

More than half (56%) of Gen Z consumers shop “outside their assigned gendered area,” Phluid Project founder Rob Smith said at a 2019 WWD Culture Conference.

A post shared by Kaia (@kaiagerber)

Sustainability has also been a focus from the get-go. The sunglasses are produced in factories fueled by renewable energy, dispatched from LED-lit warehouses, transported via eco-integrated carriers, and delivered in recycled cardboard packaging. Lexxola also donates 1% of its annual sales to 1% For The Planet Organization.

That’s a plus for the 62% of Gen Z who prefer to buy from sustainable brands, according to a consumer spending analysis by First Insight. They’re more willing than any other generation (72%) to pay more for sustainable products.

There, too, is Lexxola’s curated modern aesthetic. A quick scroll through its Instagram grid shows colorful close-ups and selfies of the fashion-forward artfully posing against a backdrop of city streets or nature, making it difficult to discern campaign shots from real-life photos.

Such an integrated feed is part of Lexxola’s social strategy, according to Saleh, who said his audience loves to see real people wearing Lexxolas in real situations. Once the company began creating campaign content that visualized this and ran it alongside user-generated content, he said Lexxola’s social platforms took off.

A post shared by Lexxola (@lexxola)

“Gen Z are mobile natives, they’re digitally minded,” Saleh said. “They want authenticity and they’re extremely pragmatic.”

Right now, Saleh is focused on improving the way Lexxola designs new products. His team is currently working to develop an online page where customers can suggest new styles or colors they want to see.

What they’re really trying to do is build out more data points to inform future decisions for production, he said. “We try to build products that inspire confidence,” he added.

“Everyone’s still learning as we go,” he said. “It’s very much business as usual, and continuing to not rest on our laurels and improve.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Razer is leveraging its loyal fan base to introduce new fintech products for both gamers and non-gamers alike

MIN LIANG TAN   Razer
Min Liang Tan, CEO and cofounder of Razer

Gaming hardware manufacturing company Razer has come a long way since CEO and cofounder Min-Liang Tan had the idea to design a computer mouse specific for gamers back in 2005. According to the firm’s latest financial results, 2020 was a record year, with Razer for the first time achieving over US$1 billion in revenue, in the process also registering its first ever annual profit.

Razer’s success naturally lies in its hardware business, where it enjoys a hugely loyal fanbase for its controllers, headsets, keyboard, and laptops. But there is another business segment that is growing fast and which is pointing to a new – and potentially highly profitable – revenue stream for the gaming industry: fintech

In 2017, Razer stepped for the first time into the fintech sector with the launch of in-game payment service Razer Gold, which now has 26 million registered users. This was followed in 2018 by Razer Fintech, a digital payment network targeting both B2B and B2C end users across Southeast Asia.

Revenue from the financial services arm grew over 66% in 2020 to US$128.4 million. Speaking at an earnings briefing in March, CEO Min said the financial services growth was “truly phenomenal”, adding that it had been driven by surges in Razer Gold usage in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the demand for Razer Fintech B2B services due to the accelerated digitization of many businesses in the region.

Digital payments in Southeast Asia

When it comes to fintech, Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, outpacing the US, the UK, and even China. Razer is one of a number of companies with no previous financial sector experience that are now making significant steps into the sector. From ride hailing apps to e-commerce platforms and even airlines, more companies in the region are now also offering fintech services such as digital payments, loans, and even virtual banking.

“The usage of fintech, especially e-wallets, is a growing trend in Asia, especially in East and Southeast Asia,” Darang Candra, director of Southeast Asia at Niko Partners said. “None of Razer’s fellow unicorns in the region, such as Sea Group, Grab, and Gojek, started as fintech companies, but they later created their own fintech services – SeaMoney, GrabPay, and GoPay, respectively. This helped in pushing brand loyalty to their respective services. Razer seems to be in line with this trend.”

For companies such as Razer, moving into the fintech space is simply a case of responding to customer needs. This is especially true when it comes to providing digital payment services in a region that has some of the world’s lowest levels of financial inclusion.

KPMG estimates that as many as 73% of Southeast Asia’s population does not have access to a bank account. What they do have, though, is access to the internet. According to the e-Conomy 2020 report, co-produced by Google, Temasek, and Nain & Company, over 70% of people in Southeast Asia are now online, including an additional 40 million who came online in 2020 alone. The report also said the estimated gross transaction value (GTV) of digital payments in Southeast is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion by 2025, up from US$620 billion in 2020.

“In the past few years, we witnessed strong growth in gamers in Southeast Asia,” Limeng Lee, chief strategy officer at Razer and CEO at Razer Fintech, said. “However, we also noticed that while gaming activity was on the rise, monetization by our gaming partners did not see similar growth. We identified as a gating issue the ability for the young gamers to make digital payments for their gaming and entertainment needs, especially in countries where a large proportion of the population was still unbanked.”

One example of how Razer has moved quickly to fill the financial inclusion gap can be seen in the launch of the Razer Visa card, a virtual prepaid service that doesn’t require users to have access to a bank account. Instead, card owners can top up or cash out at a network of offline touchpoints.

As well as regular card benefits such as cash-back rewards, the Razer Visa also allows users to access an in-app gamified rewards system. Razer and Visa completed the first trial of the card late last year in Singapore and expect to roll out in other countries during 2021.

“Razer’s main business model is still focused on selling hardware products and based on what we see from the cooperation with Visa through their Razer Card, it seems that they want to specialize in providing rewards, cash backs, and even gamified-based bonuses for using Razer’s fintech services to buy hardware products,” Candra said. “This would be similar to how Sea, Grab, and Gojek’s fintech products are all connected to their respective ‘traditional’ businesses.”

Focus is firmly on the youth market

While Razer’s fintech ambitions are not exclusively targeting gamers, they are nonetheless focused heavily on Gen Zs and millennials – a demographic where the Razer brand is already well established.

Razer famously attracts a cult-like following. Tattoos of the company’s three-headed snake logo are especially popular. One Razer devotee even went as far as having his leg tattooed with Min’s face in return for a free Razer gaming smartphone. It is unimaginable that any of Razer’s competitors, such as Switzerland-based Logitech, could inspire similar brand devotion.

Looking to the future, this brand awareness and customer loyalty, combined with a huge customer base in the region, could be a key differentiator for Razer’s fintech plans in what is becoming a crowded and competitive market.

Says Razer’s Lee: “We are constantly in discussions with partners on potential collaboration who either want access to our 50,000-plus online merchants where we can help upsell their services or want association with the Razer brand to gain access to our 125 million-plus user base. These partnerships will be a win-win for both parties.”

At the end of last year, Razer unsuccessfully bid for one of Singapore’s two virtual banking licenses under the brand name Razer Youth Bank. While a setback for the company – local fintech rivals Grab and Sea were part of the winning consortiums – the bid nonetheless showed both the scope of Razer’s ambition, as well as its clear market position as a youth-focused fintech.

“Moving forward, Razer Fintech intends to aggressively scale up our core B2B business which has been driving the growth of our business in the past couple of years,” Lee said. “We will invest in further geographical expansion in the SEA region and other high growth emerging markets such as Latin America and the Middle East.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Meet the top ad agency search consultants

Good morning and welcome to Insider Advertising for March 11. I’m senior advertising reporter Lauren Johnson, and here’s what’s going on:

If this email was forwarded to you, sign up here for your daily insider’s guide to advertising and media.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Drop me a line at LJohnson@insider.com or on Twitter at @LaurenJohnson.


Joanne Davis

13 top consulting firms that help decide which advertising agencies will win millions in ad spending

Read the story.


Maria Bartiromo.
Maria Bartiromo.

Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo bet big on Trump. Insiders say it’s a gamble that may destroy her career.

Read the story.


alan jope unilever
Unilever CEO Alan Jope

Unilever is shifting a $30 million chunk of its North American advertising account to Publicis in a big blow to ad giant WPP

Read the story.


More stories we’re reading:

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow! You can reach me in the meantime at LJohnson@insider.com and subscribe to this daily email here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SIGN UP HERE FOR OUR LIVE EVENT ON THURSDAY: Next-Gen founders on racial equity and inclusion in tech

insider events racial equity in tech 2x1
(L-R) Urenna Okonkwo, Jordan Walker, Vernon Coleman

The Black Lives Matter protests last summer helped fuel a new drive for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how far have we come since then? And how much farther do we have to go? 

Every industry in Corporate America has its own issues to grapple with. Insider is taking a deep dive into tech to talk to Next-Gen founders about racial equity and inclusion in this industry. 

On Thursday, February 25th at 12 PM ET, Insider’s entrepreneur reporter Dominic-Madori Davis will moderate a panel featuring Vernon Coleman, CEO and cofounder of the video networking app Realtime, Jordan Walker cofounder of the audio messaging app Yac, and Urenna Okonkwo, founder of the finance app Cashmere.

They’ll talk about their journeys in Silicon Valley and tech, the importance of mentorship, access to capital, and opportunities for Black founders looking to launch businesses.

They will also take questions from the audience. 

You can sign up here to watch. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Gen Z is already shaking up the venture-capital industry. Meet 29 up-and-coming investors.

Hello everyone! Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Insider from Business co-Editor in Chief Matt Turner. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday.

Read on for more on Gen Z VCs, Citigroup’s $900 million blunder, Walmart slowing its healthcare ambitions, and what happened next at yoga brand Gaia

Read time: 5 1/2 minutes.

gen z vc
Nik Sharma, Sujude Dalieh, Josh Richards, and Rahul Rana

Hello!

Former President Donald Trump is set to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, next week, in his first public appearance since he left the White House. Here’s what’s trending this morning.


Gen Z VCs

From Margaux MacColl:

Gen Z venture capitalists have made headlines by starting syndicates, networking in Slack groups, and making a racket on Clubhouse. It has quickly become clear: Gen Z is already shaking up the venture-capital industry.

There’s no set path for Gen Z, people born between 1995 and 2010, to break into venture. Some landed their first jobs by getting lucky with a cold email, while others got the attention of bigwigs through ambitious personal projects. For example, one Gen Zer on our list landed his venture-capital job after writing a book at age 18 that impressed a venture-firm partner. Others are forgoing traditional firms entirely, opting instead to angel invest in startups led by Gen Z founders that they believe in.

But there are some commonalities between the rising stars on this list: Almost everyone leverages social media in some way (see: the three TikTok superstars), many deeply understand the importance of forming their own Gen Z venture-capital communities, and pretty much all of them want to change the world.

Read the full story here:

Also read:


Citi’s $900 million blunder

Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup
Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup

From Yoonji Han and Dakin Campbell:

It was around 9 a.m. on Aug. 12 when Arokia Raj first realized that something had gone terribly wrong.

Raj, a member of a Citigroup team that processes and services asset-based loans, was reviewing the previous day’s transactions when he noticed large gaps in the numbers – a discrepancy of just under $900 million.

Raj quickly put two and two together: The figure matched, down to the decimal point, the outstanding principal balance on a loan that the beauty company Revlon had taken out nearly five years ago. 

With a few fatal clicks, Raj had mistakenly sent Revlon’s lenders not just the accrued interest of less than $8 million, as intended, but also the total outstanding principal. 

Read the full story here:

Also read:


Walmart’s healthcare slowdown

Walmart Health
Walmart is already rolling back its bold clinic strategy.

From Shelby Livingston and Blake Dodge:

Walmart’s ambitious plan to build thousands of low-cost health clinics across the country is slowing down, less than two years after the retail giant embarked on a big push to expand access to primary care.

Walmart launched its first comprehensive health center in September 2019. The one-stop-shop clinics were an attempt to leapfrog the competition and capture a piece of the $3.8 trillion industry while sending more people into Walmart stores.

Walmart’s vision was to become “America’s neighborhood health destination.” The push deeper into healthcare came as competitors like Amazon and CVS Health also bulked up their healthcare ambitions.

Now Walmart’s clinic strategy is in flux, Insider has learned from conversations with eight current and former employees, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak with the press because of confidentiality agreements. Their identities are known to Insider.

The most concrete sign of the slowdown is that the company isn’t on track to meet its earlier projections for the number of clinics it wants to build this year, according to documents obtained by Insider.

Read the full story here:

Also read:


ICYMI: What became of Gaia

gaia conspiracy streaming 2x1

From Rob Price:

Only a select group of employees were allowed to know about the corpse.

It had surfaced in the valleys of southern Peru, and word quickly made its way to Jirka Rysavy, a former athlete from Czechoslovakia turned serial entrepreneur. Rysavy, now operating a young video-streaming service called Gaia, got to work, dispatching a video crew from the company’s crystal-strewn headquarters in the shadows of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to document the find. The team was sworn to silence, hiding its mission even from coworkers.

The body looked, at first glance, almost human. But the mummified cadaver had just three disturbingly long fingers on each hand. Each foot bore a trio of freakishly long toes. Its eyes were unnatural, alien slits.

Read the full story here:


INVITE: Next-Gen founders on racial equity and inclusion in tech

From Dominic-Madori Davis:

The Black Lives Matter protests last summer helped fuel a new drive for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how far have we come since then? And how much farther do we have to go? 

Every industry in Corporate America has its own issues to grapple with. Insider is taking a deep dive into tech to talk to Next-Gen founders about racial equity and inclusion in this industry. 

On Thursday, February 25th at 12 PM ET, Dominic-Madori will moderate a panel featuring Vernon Coleman, CEO and cofounder of the video networking app Realtime, Jordan Walker cofounder of the audio messaging app Yac, and Urenna Okonkwo, founder of the finance app Cashmere.

Sign up here to watch. 

Lastly, don’t forget to check out Morning Brew – the A.M. newsletter that makes reading the news actually enjoyable.

Here are some headlines from last week that you might have missed.

– Matt


JPMorgan says 2021 is a stock-picker’s paradise offering big money-making opportunities. Here are the firm’s 22 highest-conviction small-cap investment ideas.

H-1B visa regulations are changing. An expert and top Silicon Valley immigration lawyer share 4 alternatives to the lottery system.

An asset manager overseeing nearly $100 billion divested from Exxon on concerns it is failing to move fast enough to address climate change

More than 4,000 advertisers including Pfizer, Walmart, and even the CDC ran ads alongside vaccine misinformation

I’m a former Amazon VP who was there for 12 years and also served as Jeff Bezos’ chief of staff. Here are the top insights I personally learned from him that have helped me in my career.

Billionaire Seth Klarman’s Baupost pumped nearly $200 million into 6 new SPAC bets in the fourth quarter

The startup behind MrBeast Burger sees a huge opportunity in influencer ‘ghost kitchens’ and plans to expand the brand to 1,000 restaurants

Read the original article on Business Insider

SIGN UP HERE FOR OUR LIVE EVENT ON FEB. 25: Next-Gen founders on racial equity and inclusion in tech

insider events racial equity in tech 2x1
(L-R) Urenna Okonkwo, Jordan Walker, Vernon Coleman

The Black Lives Matter protests last summer helped fuel a new drive for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how far have we come since then? And how much farther do we have to go? 

Every industry in Corporate America has its own issues to grapple with. Insider is taking a deep dive into tech to talk to Next-Gen founders about racial equity and inclusion in this industry. 

On Thursday, February 25th at 12 PM ET, Insider’s entrepreneur reporter Dominic-Madori Davis will moderate a panel featuring Vernon Coleman, CEO and cofounder of the video networking app Realtime, Jordan Walker cofounder of the audio messaging app Yac, and Urenna Okonkwo, founder of the finance app Cashmere.

They’ll talk about their journeys in Silicon Valley and tech, the importance of mentorship, access to capital, and opportunities for Black founders looking to launch businesses.

They will also take questions from the audience. 

You can sign up here to watch. 

Read the original article on Business Insider