My Entrepreneurial Journey
By Natalia Gonzalez Chavez
NC Regional President – Kairos Society
NYC Innovation Fellow
Chancellor’s Student Innovation Team
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – 2015
Some say entrepreneurship is a science. Others say entrepreneurship is an art. Some believe entrepreneurship is natural-born talent. Others believe entrepreneurship is a learned skill. Entrepreneurship is, by definition, a disruptive force that challenges the mindset of a single right answer with infinite wrong ones. Naturally, we see that entrepreneurship is a science and an art, an innate talent and a learned skill. The time when university students were trained to believe that we were learning skills to secure stable, traditional careers is long gone. Now more than ever, students are prepared for jobs that do not exist yet – jobs that we create for ourselves. I am no exception.
My first dive into the world of entrepreneurship occurred when I was only seven years old. My parents gave me a beading kit, and I began making beaded jewelry to sell to family and friends. I discovered two things—I had a deep independent spirit, and I loved creating something out of nothing. My jewelry-making and sales skills carried on through my high school and early college years, as I sold handmade jewelry at local boutiques and online.
When I came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I discovered the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem that was rapidly developing. I jumped into as many networks and organizations as I could, just to get a taste of it all. The world of entrepreneurship is contagious, and I was hooked.
A defining moment in my entrepreneurial journey came my sophomore year of college when I joined the Kairos Society, a global network of collegiate entrepreneurs from the top universities around the world. With the support from UNC’s Kairos Advisory Board, I attended the Kairos Global Summit in February 2013 at the New York Stock Exchange.
That life-changing weekend opened my eyes to the true potential that I had as an entrepreneur. I was surrounded by influential CEOs of companies such as Johnson & Johnson, GE, Autodesk, and many more. Most importantly, I was surrounded by students just like myself who were tackling the world’s biggest problems through their innovative ventures. These are the leaders of the future, and I wanted to be one of them.
Returning from the summit was a wakeup call for me. I was limiting myself in thinking that a jewelry company was enough for me. I wanted to do something new, something big.
Last fall, I began to pursue a new venture. I planned to create a platform that would support not only unknown artists, but would also make art accessible to young consumers. I introduced this idea to my friend Lisa, an artist herself, and together, we created a company called Artwear Designs.
Artwear Designs is an apparel brand that works with undiscovered artists across the United States to share their artwork to a mass audience. We do this by screen-printing their original artwork onto American-made clothing. Our product line includes men and women’s t-shirts, tank tops, and crop tops, which feature a wide spectrum of art including photography, ink drawings, oil paintings, and watercolor paintings. The artists we work with are featured on our website (www.artwear-designs.com) along with their stories. We sell these products as “wearable art” to young consumers at an affordable price, ranging from $19.99-$25.66, which enables our customers to purchase unique artwork through purchases that they are already making, such as shopping for clothes.
My involvement in entrepreneurship allowed me to see that with so much emphasis on technology, it was easy for the arts to be forgotten. Artwear Designs is an innovative brand that puts art back on the radar, and does so in a fashionable way. With the resources I have through UNC, the Kairos Society, and my invaluable mentors and advisors, there is only room for growth. With that, I want to say to all of the aspiring minds out there—stop thinking about how you can change the world, just go out there and do it.
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