Entrepreneurial Eye: iVenture from a Fine Arts Perspective
Interview with Industrial Design major & entrepreneur Kofo Sulaiman, co-founder of Slay’d, an app that better connects minority beauty industry professionals to their customers.
iVA: How has your perspective on entrepreneurship changed since the beginning of the iVenture Accelerator program?
KS: My original opinion of entrepreneurship was a vision of old white men with fortune 500 companies. But now that I’m a part of a startup ecosystem, I am able to see that small business owners are entrepreneurs. Hustler and game changers are entrepreneurs. Anyone with a talent, an original thought, and a drive to execute it, is an entrepreneur. I didn’t know an entrepreneur could look like me until I became one.
iVA: You’re an Industrial Design major–what makes your perspective unique on a startup team? What did your background bring to, not only your team, but the entire iVenture cohort?
KS: My background in Industrial Design makes me very design-oriented and centered around creative problem-solving. Being the only FAA student in iVenture this year, I felt that interacting with the iVenture cohort provided an opportunity for a slight culture change. The conversation would start off with, “STEM this, STEM that,” and I would interject saying, “Imagination, creativity, innovation, design.” By the end of the conversation, the exchange was beneficial to both sides. I would walk away with practicality in mind, and them a broader perspective.
iVA: What have your iVenture peers taught you?
KS: As a whole, my cohort has taught me to be even more honest than I was before. Being honest and owing up to your successes and failures truly was the only way to improve the quality of work. I carry that lesson with me into my design class.
iVA: What is your favorite part about the iVenture program?
KS: I really love the exchanging and the creating of new ideas. The fact that breakfast conversations [in the summer] could lead to a big breakthrough for your startup was, and is still, mind-bending.
iVA: What is the most important aspect of the iVenture Accelerator for your personal & professional growth: educational workshops, peer feedback, networking events, advising meetings, financial funding?
KS: Personally, the most important aspect of the iVenture Accelerator is getting a taste of what it truly takes to run a start-up and turn it into a big business. Having to give weekly venture updates [in the summer] made us work harder to have something to update our cohort with. Also, the fact that all cohort members act as each others board members adds something special to the program. The funding was pretty great too!
iVA: How do you think the skills you learn and practice in the accelerator relate to your future career goals?
KS: When iVenture ends in April, I foresee myself walking away with skills in public speaking, idea sharing, professionalism, and hard work. The skills I’m learning in iVenture are universal and have been effortless for me to apply to other aspects of my life, especially to my Industrial Design major.
iVA: When people call you an entrepreneur, how do you feel?
KS: The word entrepreneur has a huge weight to carry. Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of expectations. When I fall short of those expectations it’s hard to remember that I’m only 21 years old. That I’m truly just starting out and haven’t been at this for that long. That it is great for me to even make an attempt. But being called an entrepreneur gives me the boost of confidence to rise to the occasion.
iVA: Do you think enough Fine and Applied Arts students know about this program?
KS: A year ago my answer would have been no, but this year there has been a stronger initiative to inform the students about iVenture and the startup ecosystem in general. There are regular efforts from professors to push the students to make products with a possible viable future so their ideas could turn into a start-up. Our newsletters now include a section highlighting entrepreneurial programs and events on campus.
iVA: What’s next for you? Continue with entrepreneurship or use your entrepreneurial skills to support a larger organization?
KS: I plan to continue growth with Slay’d. My vision of inclusion in cosmetics and beauty is a personal mission of mine. Slay’d has the potential to truly change the way stylists, service providers, hair braiders, beard tamers, brow threaders, and nail technicians alike see and grow their talents. Slay’d has the potential to make black, brown, and mixed girls know that they are important and worth fighting for. I, Kofo Sulaiman, want to be at the forefront of that fight, with Osazomon Imarenezor.