Realizing a great need, Amanda Curtis and Gemma Sole have revolutionized the fashion industry. Nineteenth Amendment allows designers access to affordable manufacturing and showrooms while creating a gateway for consumers to discover new, cutting edge fashion by these upcoming designers.
Meeting in class at The Harvard Innovation Lab in 2012, these two women understood what they could do in the tech space and applied it to the fashion world where nothing has really changed in the past century. After validating their business model by making sure there was an audience on both sides, consumer and designer, they built a robust technology and tested it extensively. They developed relationships with dozens of domestic manufacturers, creating a vast network so designers can use the platform to oversee their manufacturing through the network, offering them more tools and resources to run their businesses in an efficient, lean way.
“Our values are really aligned with our designers. We want them to sell and make money,” Amanda explains that unlike many e-Commerce marketplaces which take 40-60%, Nineteenth Amendment charges a straight transaction fee (an extremely low percentage) allowing accessibility to everyone, from students to seasoned designers. Also, by cutting out retail stores, the cost is next to nothing compared to how much a traditional start-up cost would be to launch a brand.
“We really wanted the playing field in fashion to be more equal and more about the product,” Gemma says while explaining the meaning around the name, Nineteenth Amendment. Since the company is co-founded by women, purchasing within the industry is female dominated, female designers are generally underrepresented, the majority of people who make the clothing are female, the name is an excellent representation for the company playing this pivotal role that will go down in history.
Becoming a designer with Nineteenth Amendment is easy. A free trial period is offered to use their platform to see just how easy it is to gain an audience, communicate with your manufacturer, and gain business insights like cost per unit and customer demographics. Monthly subscriptions are available, providing three different package options depending on business level. Aside from the platform, Nineteenth Amendment provides additional services such as marketing, PR, production, merchandising, photography…literally everything needed to succeed.
For the consumer, Nineteenth Amendment offers 19-day pre-sale discount shopping opportunities, the ability to follow your new-found favorite designers, email notifications when new lines launch, and get a $19 credit for each friend you refer. That’s a quick and easy way to a new wardrobe ladies and gentlemen! (Just say I referred you, wink wink!)
“It’s great to get industry recognition, to know that there’s such a need and that the design community is actively seeking us out,” the ladies graciously and humbly explain that bigger retailers and brands have reached out to work with them and have acknowledge them for making something positive happen in the industry.
Thank you, Gemma and Amanda, for all your hard work and honoring all us women with Nineteenth Amendment.
How did it all start? What made you decide to pursue this path?
It all started with a Craigslist ad and the Harvard iLab. Like-minded in their need to create something game changing, co-founders Amanda Curtis and Gemma Sole applied and were accepted into the first class of Startup
Institute at Harvard where they collaborated on Amanda’s original Nineteenth Amendment concept. At the beginning, Nineteenth Amendment was their second job, working on the concept part time - picking up a Wayfair backend developer and Harvard grad, Jason Kleban - as Amanda co-launched a fashion line and Gemma joined Redstar. As Amanda delved deeper into the difficulties for emerging talent of launching a line, Gemma got firsthand experience building a venture company - a communication and financial tool for family caregivers - learning key lessons about consumer marketing, product distribution, and revenue models. While a VC, Gemma recruited Chris, a full-stack web developer at social shopping startup LoopIt and Lucy, a freelance creative (art) director who had worked on consumer products for TJX, Marriott, Revlon, and Nivea. One pilot, bootstrapping with 10k, thousands of lines of code, and three accelerator programs later, the team is forging a path of fashionable disruption.
What was it about each other that made you feel that you would make a good team?
GKS: Amanda and I always say we are left brain/right brain. And it’s generally accurate in terms of how we approach situations. It allows us to be a formidable team and be as productive as possible to let each other pick up where we leave off if it’s a strong suit.
What steps did you take to make your dream a reality?
GKS: We started slowly and purposefully and really took the time to understand the kind of push back we got. Once we started to get traction, we were able to pick up speed because we already were prepared for the nay-sayers. We spent a lot of time de-risking the business, whether it was by working full-time jobs in the initial stages or figuring out kinks in the model before launching.
How do you manage to stay away from envy, ego or jealousy from getting in the way of your friendship/partnership?
GKS: Amanda and I actually didn’t know each other before we started the business. This helped a lot in terms of having us establish a culture of communication that was only business, never personal, so we can be honest about what is and what isn’t working without hurting feelings.
What qualities must a good partner have?
ALC: Adaptability. Things almost never go according to plan and in this world you have to adapt quickly to change.
What do you love most about your profession?
GKS: I get to wear lots of hats...
If you were to pinpoint a few tools for success, what would they be?
GKS: Great communication skills and punctuality. And a change of shoes.
What advice would you give a young girl about getting out in the “real” world?
GKS: Sometimes the real world hurts but you’ll be a better person for it! Always do things outside your comfort zone. Those are the opportunities where you grow and learn the most.
Finding a mentor is key. Did you have a female mentor or idol growing up who has significantly impacted your lives? How?
ALC: Gemma and I gather inspiration from many people we consider to be roles models. I think it’s important that we can learn many lessons from many people, not just one person.
What/who inspires you to get through each day and overcome every challenge?
GKS: I love making people happy and excited by products. Whether it is software or fashion, if they feel like their life is easier or more beautiful, there is no better high than that.
What is your definition of BEAUTIFUL?
ALS: The definition of beautiful is authentic and unhindered self-expression, which is brave and rare.
What is your favorite shade of Lipstick?
ALC: As a general rule I like to go bold. Purple Dior Mauve Mysterie is my favorite empowering lipstick.
Why do you think women’s organizations like Lipstick Sister are important?
GKS: Women are always facing uphill battles - sometimes, we’ve internalized it so much we don’t even realize when it’s happening. I think it’s important to take a step back from the race and celebrate successes and hard work because I don’t think women do that as often - but they often deserve it the most!
Do you have a favorite quote that empowers you, if so, share it with us!
ALC: My grandfather always said, “What you worry about today is gone tomorrow”. It’s empowering to be reminded about the ephemerality of problems.