HARBUS: At HBS you have combined books with looks – in fact you have started a business inspired by your love of fashion and your unique style.
NETTA: It’s true. It was my belief that everyone should be able to buy and wear distinctive clothes and accessories which inspired me to create AlmaBoutique. Meanwhile, it was thanks to a lot of the studying I did in the RC year that I developed a base of knowledge necessary to start a business.
HARBUS: What was your vision when you created AlmaBoutique?
NETTA: To me, wearing designer pieces is like wearing art. I wanted to bring original handmade Israeli designs to the U.S. to give people the opportunity to wear unique pieces which represent their personality and make them feel confident and poised. AlmaBoutique features an exclusive online collection of stylish jewelry, bags and clothes from some of the hottest young Israeli designers. Shop for your Christmas presents here!
HARBUS: What is unique about your AlmaBoutique business model?
NETTA: 5% of Alma Boutique profits go to design institutions in Israel. Additionally, by working directly with the designers and selling online, I’m able to offer affordable prices, and support young designers.
HARBUS: How did you build credibility necessary to grow AlmaBoutique as an online shopping business?
NETTA: Teaming with Amazon lent critical support to our credibility. Customers can use an existing Amazon account during checkout. By using Amazon technology at Checkout, customers feel their order is secure and backed by Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee which guarantees the purchase, condition and timely delivery.
HARBUS: As a young entrepreneur building a new business, which HBS classes have you found most valuable?
NETTA: TOM helped me when it came to thinking around the supply chain – how would delivery work? How would I buy and manage inventory? How would I pay suppliers? FIN and BGIE helped me when it came to the exchange rate of the Israeli Shekel vs. the Dollar. This has a significant impact on my business. I also employed LEAD and NEG when selecting and then negotiating with the designers and suppliers. And finally, I’m currently drawing from our MKTing class as I go through the first stages of launching the store.
HARBUS: What courses are you taking now in your EC year?
NETTA: I’m taking a field study seminar called “Evaluating the Entrepreneurial Opportunity” with Prof. Michael Roberts. This course is incredibly helpful in thinking about the business opportunity in a structured manner.
It is easy to be excited about a new venture, but the entrepreneur risks neglecting important questions like the profitability of the business or its long term viability. Professor Roberts’ course has taught me to systematically answer these questions.
HARBUS: Has HBS been key to the success of your business?
NETTA: I can’t even imagine starting AlmaBoutique without HBS. Being a student here gave me the confidence and knowledge to start a venture on my own – something I didn’t think possible before school. The people I have met at HBS, professors, classmates, the “HBS network,” have been instrumental. Now, after talking to other HBS students who share similar interests, I’m looking into opportunities to expand the store to include designers from other countries. Above all, my section mates have been instrumental in helping me get the store up and running. I received a lot of support from SECTION I and I’m very grateful for that.
HARBUS: From your colorful glasses to unique jewelry, do your section mates often comment on your style?
NETTA: Actually, they do. These comments drove me to start AlmaBoutique. I saw how positively people here responded to Israeli designer items, like the jewelry and clothes I wear, and started thinking of bringing these designers here.
HARBUS: Are you wearing Alma Boutique now?ÿ
NETTA: Yes. I’m wearing a skirt and by Grund-Land, a brand by Naama Grundland, an Israeli designer. Grund-Land emphasizes being comfortable and looking great.ÿMy bag is by Otilya’s, also from Israel, by a designer called Tali Shpritcer. Otilya’s is all about solid, clean designs with a surprising “twist” like the lining to this bag. ÿMy necklace is by an Israeli designer called Orit Haddad. She uses a unique technique of knitting – she literally knits gold strings to create her pieces. My boots are from Paolo in San Francisco. I love red!
HARBUS: Any advice for aspiring HBS entrepreneurs?
NETTA: HBS is truly a great place to test drive an idea. The risk is minimal and the support network is tremendous. I encourage people to take the plunge – talk to students and professors about your idea, work on it through the HBS business competition. just go ahead and do it. ÿ
More about Entrepreneurship @ HBS here:www.hbs.edu/entreprenuership
More about AlmaBoutique here:www.almaboutique.com