I started my first company in high school selling custom hand-illustrated sneakers. I was studying fine art at the time, and loved the idea of making wearable art that was accessible and custom to the individual. I didn't really intend at the time to "start a company"; I was just doing something that I loved and it happened to catch on.
In college, I cofounded Packback with three other cofounders, where I now run brand, design and user experience. We founded Packback as juniors in college after spending hundreds of dollars in our freshman and sophomore years on textbooks, and used many of those books only once or twice. We wanted to create a better textbook option for students that put the control in their hands and saved them money, so we pitched the concept for One-Day eTextbook Rentals in Illinois State University's Business Plan Competition and took First Place. We've since graduated and we launched Packback publicly in Spring of 2014. We are now are helping over 30,000 students save money on textbooks, with 3,000 textbooks in our One-Day Rental Library, and even appeared on Shark Tank in March.
Over the past year, I've been lucky enough to be a part of the movement towards design in venture capital. I was one of two designers in the country chosen to participate in the inaugural class of the Lightbank Design Fellowship, during which I worked with Fooda, Snapsheet, Bevel, Highground and Brad Keywell. I then spent the remainder of the year working with Listen Ventures, a brand consultancy and angel investment fund that provides world-class branding services to early stage startups in exchange for equity only. In both, I witnessed first-hand how empathetic design can accelerate the growth of a start-up and help create a lasting connection between the brand and its users.