Vintage belts, earrings and home spa products led to an informal discussion Monday at the Tuck School of Business on how Dartmouth students can launch their own businesses. Lisa Porter Kable ’90 and Lisa Salzer ’04 addressed students, mostly women, about their experiences starting companies and advised their audience on how to establish themselves in the business world.
The event was attended mostly by student members of Women in Business and the Club of Dartmouth Entrepreneurs, two undergraduate groups.
The two women addressed the importance of business experience before starting a company. Kable, who worked for companies such as Quaker Oats and Remington Products for 12 years before starting a home spa and skin care company in 2002, said it was important to “build your Rolodex.”
“You get your training and you establish relationships. Then later, if you don’t know the answer, you at least know who to call,” Kable said.
Her company, Artemis Woman, designs and markets high-end home spa products, appliances and skin care products now sold in stores including Bloomingdale’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Ulta Cosmetics and Salon, as well as certain natural food stores. The duo has also had success selling its products on QVC, the cable shopping channel.
Salzer held the opposite view, having no experience with brand management before starting her firm. “It’s worked to my advantage because I wasn’t afraid to try anything,” she said.
In contrast to Kable’s 12 years of business experience, Salzer started her clothing and accessory business, Lulu Frost, before she graduated from Dartmouth last spring. She is currently living and working in New York City, where she just expanded her company to include interns and production assistants. Her jewelry is sold in boutiques in the Upper Valley area and New York, and Salzer is hoping to expand to even higher-end stores such as Bendel’s.
Both Salzer and Kable agreed that there are always pros and cons, whether starting a business “by the seat of your pants” or building experience first.
As a relatively new company, Artemis Woman is run out of the homes of Kable and her partner. The company’s office consists of just a post office box and 15 brokers who are paid on a variable basis until it hits profitability and can support its overhead.
Most questions from the audience circled around advice for aspiring business people. The alums repeatedly stressed the importance of “passion” in making a business work.
“If it’s an absolute passion, then you should absolutely go for it, but you’ve got to have it in your heart,” Kable said.
“If something’s in your heart, you can make it happen. I’m so excited about it that I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it,” Salzer added.
“And network, network, network,” Kable noted.
For those students who want to pursue business but don’t yet have a focus, there’s no need to worry, the women said. Kable, who majored in Chinese at Dartmouth, recommended getting out in the world. “Work, live — an idea will come to you,” she said.
Both women finished the forum by inviting students to contact them if they have any questions or are in need of business advice. “I’d love to be pulled away from my work for a little bit,” Kable said.
“Me too,” Salzer said. “Please call.”