Jessica Huang, who earned a degree in entrepreneurship and marketing this year, spent her final co-op creating an app designed to cut down on clothing size confusion for online shoppers. The Startup Founder co-op, a new program funded through Northeastern’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education, provided Huang with a solid six months to design and create a business model for the app—called Mode—then implement the plan with her own staff. Huang is still in the process of market-testing Mode, and called the opportunity her “top learning experience.”
Why did you want to make this app?
People are all sorts of sizes, and I wanted to make something so that they don’t have to scroll through a bunch of clothing that doesn’t fit, because I think that can be very damaging to someone’s self-esteem. It’s a problem I hate. I’m 5-foot-2, and I think people just assume that shorter people are automatically small. I found a lot of clothing doesn’t fit me when I order online, so if I have a dress I really love, I’ll usually buy it in a size small and a medium and then I’d return the one that doesn’t fit or sometimes return both. That’s a huge cost, and I learned how unsustainable it is with all the packaging that’s wasted. I realized it’s a problem I’d really like to solve.
What prepared you to create a startup?
One of the first things I learned about being an entrepreneur was you really need to be passionate about the product or service you want to create. I also think my two previous co-ops were the stepping stones for me. I started off at TJ Maxx and I got really interested in fashion. I was learning a lot about brick-and-mortar stores and online retail, and one of the trends I noticed was that a lot of retailers were dying because people weren’t going into stores and shopping. My second co-op was at the New England Venture Capital Association and that was a huge learning experience for me. Around that time, COVID-19 had hit and I remember thinking that a lot of people were going to shop online more.
How did your final co-op help your career?
I would say it was probably my top learning experience in comparison to my other two co-ops. As a senior, I was at a point where I had that entry-level work experience, and I wanted to see how far I could go as an entrepreneur. I’m also from a low-income background, so I would always be busy between working and my studies. Having the time, space, and also funding for six months to work on something on my own was just super necessary to me.
What was the most difficult aspect of the co-op?
I think gathering my team was the hardest and the most time-consuming part. You have to have people who you trust and who are just as passionate about your idea. I was reaching out within my network over the summer, and there was a job fair with a lot of engineers so I made an open offer saying I was starting this app and urging anyone interested to get in touch. I got people from all over the place, but as time went by, I noticed a lot of the male members kind of dropped off. I realized that a lot of people who understood the problem were women, and so because they understood they were more willing to work on the problem.
What’s your advice for other would-be entrepreneurs?
For me the greatest thing about Northeastern was that you will always have an opportunity if you go out and look for it. I think my biggest issue was money, similar to a lot of people in entrepreneurship. I think a lot of successful entrepreneurs come from a family of wealth or have money. I definitely have a lot of peers who were like, “Oh yeah, my dad invested $100,000 to get me started.” And it seems really difficult if you’re not coming from that background. Funding in the beginning was my huge problem, but a lot of advisors helped me find opportunities through the Husky Startup Challenge and even a research grant. So if you need anything at all, there’s always an opportunity at Northeastern if you go chase it.
For media inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.