The REFASHIOND founder is dedicated to fixing the fashion industry’s supply chain problems.
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In this article, we reconnect with the incredible Lisa Morales-Hellebo who provided us with a profile of a disrupter who is constantly pushing the limits of the status quo by learning the beauty of expecting more from your own life and acting accordingly.
It’s been a year since Disrupters introduced you to readers of the book. We have seen each other since then, including an event at enterprise software giant, SAP, where I interviewed you about laying groundwork to disrupt the much antiquated and inefficient fashion supply chain. What have you been up to since?
Wow. So much has happened. When we last spoke I was in the process of getting REFASHIOND fleshed out, but at the time I was largely working on it alone. I am happy to report that I now have a full-time collaborator, Brian Laung Aoaeh, CFA. Brian founded KEC Ventures — an early-stage venture fund based in New York City. Raising a fund is incredibly difficult. As a VC, you are investing someone else’s money into the unknown. Brian helped KEC grow to become a firm with $98M of assets under management and 51 investments across two funds. At the same time, we’ve built a supply chain community in New York City, that is now on the verge of sprouting affiliated chapters in other cities around the world.
So, you’ve been a little busy. And you have been practicing what every Disrupter knows: No one gets to the finish line alone. Brian is a fantastic complement to your personality and your skills. Tell us more about the new developments with REFASHIOND.
As you know, I have been studying and researching the fashion supply chain since 2014 when I founded and built The New York Fashion Tech Lab. REFASHIOND invests in early-stage startups creating innovations that make global supply chains more efficient. It’s a largely underserved segment of the startup ecosystem. Brian and I have been studying and learning about supply chains together since 2016.
You weren’t building The New York Supply Chain Meetup when our readers first encountered you. Tell us more about that. Does that tie in with REFASHIOND?
You’re gonna chuckle at this. The New York Supply Chain Meetup was originally Brian’s idea. He called me one night in August 2017 and said he had impulsively started the community on Meetup.com the previous morning because he could not find a community in NYC, or anywhere else, for that matter, that brings together supply chain professionals and technologists. He asked me if I would become his co-founder. I didn’t even have to think about it. The mission of The New York Supply Chain Meetup is to nurture and grow the world’s foremost open, global, and multidisciplinary community of people devoted to building the supply chain networks of the future. We now have well over 1250 members that’s the largest supply chain meetup in the world! Learning what worked, we are developing sister-communities in Singapore, Vancouver, Bangalore and Athens. We call the global community that is developing around this mission The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation.
Together with GS1 US we celebrated the NYC launch anniversary on November 15 with an invitation-only workshop and discussion forums. The Bangalore Supply Chain Meetup will hold its public launch on November 24. We are incredibly excited about that. This has been a bootstrapped effort, so we feel very proud of how far our community has come with the hard work of our team of volunteer organizers and some corporate support from SAP.iO, Work-bench and UPS.
You are a Disrupter, so I have to ask: How does what you are doing disrupt the supply chain status quo?
Because supply chain processes and enabling technology are mission-critical, industry professionals become increasingly uncomfortable when “disruption” and “supply chain” are used in reference to one another. The status quo is constructed with separate elements being conjoined in global supply chains in a way that does not place people at the center – a very siloed, top-down approach.
Our thesis for REFASHIOND and the New York Supply Chain Meetup is that the future of supply chains are people-centric and need more connected, collaborative, cooperative, and resilient in ways that make it easier for people to produce and consume products and information. This is a bottom-up approach to thinking about supply chain technology and innovation.
Now that’s disruptive! Why did you and Brian start with the fashion industry?
We started with fashion because retail is a $2.4 trillion global industry that is one of the last to adopt digital technologies. Second, venture capitalists generally do not understand the fashion retail supply chain. As a result, this is an opportunity that is severely underfunded. Prevailing economic, social, and technology trends are forcing the industry to adopt new innovations at an accelerating pace. REFASHIOND will invest in that change. Finally, the fashion industry is second to oil and gas as the largest polluting industry in the world. Market trends now offer the opportunity for sustainability to drive overall industry profitability. We believe one way to accelerate the process is through innovation that is driven by an ecosystem of industry participants and technology innovators.
What’s next? What will you be doing over the next 12-18 months?
We have our work cut out for us. Raising a fund, even if you have as much demonstrated success as Brian does, is extremely difficult. We’re formalizing our global network of enterprises, academics, investors, emerging companies and service providers under the REFASHIOND Ecosystem Coalition as the fund’s network of industry advisors and mentors, partners. Lastly, we’re working with The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation meetup’s organizers in other cities to help them launch soon. In addition to Bangalore, we expect Athens to launch before the end of 2018. We may have a third chapter that launches before the end of this year as well, but those plans are not as advanced. To summarize, we’ll be busy, very busy.
Disrupters: Success Strategies From Women Who Break The Mold has been a best seller for Entrepreneur Press since the day it launch in January 2018. In 2019, I will catch up with many of the disrupters from the book to find out what’s happened since we last caught up and how they are continuing to redefine what success looks like and how it can be achieved.
Rather than telling women that they need to lean-in more in order to achieve someone else’s definition of success, the women profiled in Disrupters: Success Strategies From Women Who Break The Mold help us see why women do not need to be fixed and why men do not need to be blamed and shamed in order to achieve gender equity in the workplace. Rather, true success for both genders requires a deep understanding of the embedded biases inherent in a system designed for one population to have all the power and all the glory. So much so that in order for someone to succeed, someone must fail. Disrupters know this is a flawed and dangerous status quo, one that stunts innovation and leaves trillions of dollars on the table every year. [In my next article, we will catch up with HR technology executive Brenda Reid.]