Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Patricia Garcia, Founder and CEO of unithrifts, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
"unithrifts" is creating a model of a circular economy on college campuses through our gamified peer-to-peer platform, which allows students/alumni to buy/sell secondhand collegiate gear and track their environmental impact.
Tell us about yourself
Throughout my time at the undergraduate level, I worked on various engineering projects at institutions across the U.S, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), UC Berkeley, Stanford, and others which allowed me to experience various college cultures. During these times, I noticed there was one thing all these institutions of higher education had in common: inaccessible collegiate gear. I wanted to bring a piece of these places back home with me but couldn't afford anything. A sweatshirt at these college bookstores was about $60, which is equivalent to about 6 lunches!
My lived experiences and passion for a circular economy (starting at college campuses) instilled a passion in me to create a solution for all the students who find themselves unattached from their college communities because they lack the financial resources yet want to feel part of a community larger than themselves. That's how "Unithrifts" came to be!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
From creating an MVP with over 5,000 followers from across the nation (representing HBCUs and HSIs) to now developing an iOS/Android app to scale our nationwide reach, I have been able to hone in on my technical skills to create value for users by using systems thinking and human-centered design principles.
Through this entire process, I have been able to translate technical success into market success by understanding the users, which has amounted to over 25 national pitch competition wins, over $80,000 in non-equity funding, and features in various media publications such as NASDAQ and the Dayton Business Journal. Being an entrepreneurial engineer has allowed me to be more strategic in projects that I undertake and has ultimately made me a more well-rounded entrepreneur.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Being a founder is difficult enough but being a Hispanic female founder adds an additional layer of complexity- especially when starting off. As an underrepresented founder, I've come to realize the inequities that exist in the entrepreneurial space- especially when raising a friends and family round. When those in my immediate circle were more focused on putting food on the table as opposed to supporting my "crazy ideas," I knew I would have to put in 110%.
However, my tenacity and ability to overcome adversity have resulted in various national pitch competition wins and features in various media publications such as NASDAQ, The Dayton Business Journal, Miami Herald, and others. This spirit to overcome has funded the venture thus far.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- As the late Steve Jobs once said, "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice." When those around you are taking the corporate "9-5s", be confident in your decision to take the path less traveled as an entrepreneur.
- Don't spread yourself thin by trying to do so much at once. Be intentional about everything you undertake.
- Leverage your college network as much as possible!
Where can people find you and your business?