Why former Wall Streeters find new careers as fashion founders
For financial analysts slogging away for long hours, an escape plan becomes enticing; entrepreneurship looks like a seductive dive into uncertainty after endless scrolls of spreadsheets.
Often, these unfulfilled financiers find their ways to careers in fashion.
“If you spend a lot of time in finance, you eventually want something radically different,” said Diana Melencio, co-founder of the personal shopping service Quinn, who had worked for nine years on Wall Street at a handful of investment banking firms before starting her company. “My days had consisted of 12 to 18 hours of spreadsheets, and I wanted something … not like that. It comes from a desire to innovate, to be a part of the fashion industry, which couldn’t be more different than this sterile environment.”
Wall Street, from heavyweights like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan down to boutique firms, is a vessel for fashion startups. These former analysts-turned-founders can build financial models for new companies in their sleep and talk the same language as potential VC investors. And, after years of analytics and data sheets, left-brained people in the field are looking for creative outlets. The frustration and lack of stimulation, combined with a close proximity to the industry, leads to idea light bulbs.
“We very frequently see analysts coming off of two to three years in finance,” said Pano Anthos, managing director of startup accelerator XRC Labs. “These are very sharp people, with analytical and accounting skills. They’re weaker in terms of fashion experience, but they have a huge interest. They’ll come up with something — usually a product or service, not hardcore tech — that fulfills a need they recognized.”
Young brands like Quinn, performance wear brand Aday, leather goods startup Minku, and Ammara, a direct-to-consumer clothing brand selling just blouses for women, are just a few fashion brands led by ex–Wall Streeters. Each company’s founders said they felt years in finance left them with a particular skill set prime for entrepreneurship: a dogged ability to work long hours, an analytical mind, an eye for performance projections and metrics, and a sharp attention to small details.
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