Last December, Erica Bell, BC ’06, was sitting down over coffee with her now-business-partner Katie Finnegan, trying to make the holiday season work for her taste and her budget. So basically like the rest of us. Except that now she’s the co-founder of a more-than-successful start-up called Hukkster, which recently received a not-so-insignificant investment by the Winklevoss twins (yes, those ones), designed to make that process more manageable at any time of year. Now she’s been featured on Barnard’s website, Forbes and the Huffington Post, and, let’s face it, “hukk it” is a great catchphrase.
Erica: Hukkster is an online personal shopping concierge that tracks specific products across your favorite stores online and lets you know when they go on sale. They key word here is specific. You, the shopper, pin point the specific style (down to the size and color) and Hukkster lets you know when that style goes on sale (including coupon codes and promotions) in real-time so only relevant information is sent your way.
How did the two of you get together to start Hukkster, and what was the brainstorming process like?
Katie and I met at J. Crew over six years ago where we worked side by side as apparel merchandisers. Last December around the holidays, we sat down over coffee and were commiserating. We were working in management consulting at the time and no longer had access to our J.Crew corporate discount, nor did we have the time to sort through our email inboxes for all of the special offers and holiday deals. We felt like we were missing out on all the great deals and knew there had to be a better way to pull relevant content our way.
Erica, did your experience at Barnard influence Hukkster at all? If so, how?
Having attended Barnard College, I had the opportunity to take advantage of internship opportunities in New York City as early as my freshman year in college. It was this early access to professional experience in the fashion industry that allowed me to hit the ground running upon graduation.
How has the Winklevoss investment changed the way things work at Hukkster? Do you also laugh when you say Winklevoss?
We were introduced to the Winklevoss twins by a mutual friend. Having met with many formal and informal investors over the past couple months and after speaking for only a few minute we know that the Winklevoss twins “got it.” They completely understood Hukkster’s value proposition from a technology standpoint as well as from the user’s perspective. So many sites today are pushing social. Hukkster, on the other hand, is not an overtly social platform, as we believe that commerce is not inherently social and therefore it is critical that we allow our members to “hukk it” in private and share hukks at their discretion. This is a key differentiator for us in the market place and it is important to us that our investors understand and stand by Hukkster’s mission statement.
Any advice for CU students interested in breaking into fashion or with ideas for a startup?
If you’re interested in breaking into fashion, you’re in the right place. There are so many amazing internship opportunities at your fingertips in New York City, so leverage your resources at CU to get your resume out there and make time to embrace these opportunities as it will definitely pay off when you start applying for jobs.
As for anyone that has ideas for a startup, a great start would be to jump into a startup environment and really see how a startup operates first hand. This will give you a comprehensive understanding of how to own and operate your own business. Also, network network network. Talk to everyone you can get your hands on in the startup space as you will gain valuable advice and learn from other entrepreneurs’ best practices and mistakes.