Gemma Sole: Co-founder of Nineteenth Amendment

WHAT IS NINETEENTH AMENDMENT?

Nineteenth Amendment is a marketplace and scalable production management system for emerging fashion. You can discover the future of fashion and the trendsetters of tomorrow in our online Virtual Studios, and support the designers you love by pre-purchasing exclusive designs by the next big names in fashion.

Molly Flynn: You didn’t have much fashion experience before you started Nineteenth Amendment. Can you elaborate on your professional background and how it led you to a career in the fashion industry?

Gemma Sole: I’m originally from Boston, but I went to the University of Rochester in upstate New York. After I graduated I received a scholarship from the Kauffman Entrepreneurship Foundation. With the grant I started a consulting group in upstate New York that employed college students to work on projects for local businesses. From there, the strategy-consulting firm Booz Allen recruited me. I worked there for two years, but was feeling a little stagnant. I moved back to Boston and decided to try Startup Institute. There I met my co-founder of Nineteenth Amendment, Amanda Curtis. I remember she was one of the first people I saw on the first day. She was wearing heels and an A-line skirt. I was kind of surprised since startup uniforms are typically much more casual.

M: How did the idea for Nineteenth Amendment come to life?

G: Before my co-founder Amanda attended Startup Institute she was working on a fashion line that made it all the way to London Fashion Week. Still, she was having trouble manufacturing and selling her line. Companies were interested in her designs, but she didn’t have the data or previous sales reports for buyers to take a calculated risk on her brand.

At Startup Institute, we learned about lean startup methodology, pivoting, and knowing your customer. With that in mind, she came up with the idea for Nineteenth Amendment as a tool to help other new designers solve the problems she was having. She pitched the idea during the institute and a handful of people worked on the business. After the institute ended, she continued to work on her idea. I came on board to help her as a part-time consultant but it lead to a full time co-founder role pretty quickly.

Gemma with her co-founder Amanda Curtis. photo credit Trish Fontanilla

M: Why the name Nineteenth Amendment?

G: An amendment is a change to an existing institution. We’re trying to change the fashion industry. We want to support independent designers, and give consumers the power to decide what gets manufactured which essentially paves the way for new trends. We want to give everyone a voice in fashion.

M: Explain Nineteenth Amendment to someone who has no fashion knowledge whatsoever.

G: Nineteenth Amendment is a marketplace that connects up-and-coming designers with fashion forward customers. We’ve married a patent-pending virtual studio optimized for social media with an on-demand manufacturing service that young designers need to bridge the gap between design and delivery. We’re a platform to help these emerging designers gain an audience so that they can fulfill orders and gather data in order to sell to larger retailers, such as department stores. To give you a comparison, Nineteenth Amendment is kind of like a combination of Etsy and Kickstarter for clothing, except we’re a lot more selective about who is featured on our site and we do all order fulfillments on the designers behalf.

Find out more about how it works here.

M: Have designers been receptive of the Nineteenth Amendment model?

G: Yes, definitely. Designers love Nineteenth Amendment, because developing an audience online and manufacturing clothing is one of the hardest parts of launching a fashion brand. We’ve thought about the logistics, all the designers need to do is bring their creative design skills to the table.  

Designers have their own private dashboard on the site. Through this dashboard we help them price their items. They have access to how many people bought or viewed they’re clothing and in what part of the world. Customers also have the ability to critique designer’s garments. This helps designers understand who their consumer is, gather feedback, and pivot on their next line. They would probably not have access to this data if they were working independently on their own website.

M: What are the challenges that you run into as a fashion startup?

G: Primarily, our biggest hurdle has been that we’re young women - both my co-founder and I are under 30. In addition, Boston’s fashion scene isn’t as large as other cities. Local investors don’t see the problem we’re trying to address from a manufacturing or a consumer standpoint. 

M: Are your investors mainly women?

G: So far, all of our investors are men. We’ve actually found that women investors are a lot tougher on other women. There are also fewer women investors in general.

M: You were recently involved in the New York Fashion Tech Lab (NYFT Lab). Can you elaborate on that experience and the benefit it had to Nineteenth Amendment?

G: We were involved in the first round of the NYFT Lab. We were selected as 1 of 8 startups out of 127 companies that applied. We were definitely the youngest, and most consumer oriented out of the group.  The goal of the program was to introduce us to retailers or partners that we otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. It was invaluable in that respect. Keep an eye out for some exciting partnerships soon!

M: What do you see for the future of Nineteenth Amendment?

G: Long term, we plan on filling a void in the retailer consumer fashion space. Right now, we’re focused on closing our first round of funding, and getting more consumers to the site so that designers can fulfill the orders that they need to be successful. 

Visit www.nineteenthamendment.com to be an influencer in fashion and learn more.