Last Fall, the Harbus got an opportunity to meet and talk with Teman & Teran Evans after hearing them speak at an event at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. They are both HGSD graduates and founders of the DIOSCURI brand. They have worked for star architect, Rem Koolhaas and have been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times, New York Magazine, and on the HGTV television network’s popular series, Design Star. Their work has also been featured on different TV programs including several MTV shows, FOX’s American Idol, The Rachael Ray Show and multiple features on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
They have transformed their design skills into the DIOSCURI brand that offers brand consulting, architectural design and jewelry design, as well as teaching a class at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Graduation is coming up soon and some of the graduating class would love to become entrepreneurs. How did you both transition from newly minted graduates to entrepreneurs?
It all started after we returned from working with Rem Koolhass at OMA, he open our eyes to a world where architecture was more than buildings. We began to realize architecture was not about designing a building but about fixing 3 dimensional problems and those problems could be as large as the size of cities or as small as designing a bottle.
We were having dinner with Rem Koolhaas and he mentioned how a lot of amazing students have this talent in architecture and it gives them the ability to do literally anything but when they graduate they all fight each other for the exact same thing, putting up buildings. He was right and we wanted to be different.
We applied to HBS because we had no business acumen and we were turned down. Actually, every student that year that applied from GSD got turned down because we needed real world experience. So, we decided we were going to get experience by starting our own business in New York. We really believed in ourselves and turned down job offers so we could make our dreams happen and that was a hard decision to make. We had the support of each other and our family was really supportive too.
We first wanted to start a furniture business because there is a storied history of architects making furniture. We did a little research and realized it would take about $500,000 to begin, because the furniture would be manufactured abroad and then it has to be shipped here and then stored.
We changed gears and decided we were going to make scarves! We called a lot of retail buyers and barely got a response so we figured we needed press to sell our scarves. We sent some scarves to the Oprah magazine and one of our scarves was used on a model in her magazine. We waited for the phone to ring with tons of orders but we only sold one scarf; truth was we had a great product but we did not have a great brand.
We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning but we were on a strict budget and we did not take on any debt and that really helped when the economy tanked. We had a friend who brought up that there was an excess of old wood in Thailand and we decided we could use the wood to make bracelets. We made them in different colors and really lacquered them and we loved the end product. We sent them to our mom and she mentioned how they looked like candy or fruit and we realized that we should market them that way! So we got a spray bottle and took pictures of the bracelets with kiwi, lime, citrus and guava. It made the jewelry look fresh, sustainable and good for you. We sent some to Oprah as a thank you and we got a response 4 months later, she really loved them so they made the O list and she said raved about them to her viewers. After her show, our phone wouldn’t stop ringing and we went from 3 stores to over 100 stores in a period of two months.
we decided we could grow our company by consulting and that was never our intention when we left GSD. We morphed from wanting a furniture store to being a company that specialized in different things and it was all because we were willing to try. We are currently working on different platforms today and it is very exciting, from jewelry to consulting and teaching at HGSD.
How did you deal with fear starting out in a new business?
Fear is good, it keeps you on your toes and helps you to hold back from being reckless. You cope with it because it can help drive your success; we treat it like energy, it can’t be destroyed it can only take form. Students are terrified about what is out there, you should go out there and try things out!
We have been able to help students who study design to navigate the business side which is vital. Our class at GSD deals with getting incorporated, getting royalties and selling your idea. The number one question we get is how do I take this idea or concept and transform it into something that would make me money. When students leave our course, they are empowered and can invent their own process and they learn that they can build buildings and so much more.
What advice can you offer a hopeful entrepreneur?
- Don’t rush because you will make mistakes.
- Don’t be greedy because when you are you won’t know when to say no.
- You should love what you do and the money would come as a byproduct.
- Trust your gut, because more often than not it would steer you in the way you want to go.
- Don’t ignore your fear, find ways to cope with it and use it in a productive way.