It probably started when the children of the first generation confounded their parents. Mom and Dad looked across the breakfast rock and said, “What is the matter with you, Grog?” For his part, Grog’s eyes glazed over because Mom and Dad were both out to lunch and out of touch. He couldn’t wait to move out of the cave in which he had been raised and try out some ideas he was having. Thus began the pitched battle between the generations. Today, 20-somethings are making their own way, much as Grog did so long ago. Money Examiners found some who are ahead of the curve where innovation and creativity are concerned. This is our list of 20-somethings to watch as they give retail a much-needed makeover.
The Stephens Family:
Meet one of Money Examiners’ favorite couples. Mallory and Kory Stevens are the co-founders of “Taft,” the high-end footwear company making the news in shoes and more. The wife and husband duo (aged 29 and 26 respectively) launched Taft in 2014, first as a hosiery brand. They switched over to shoes a year later, stating only “there was a gap.” The Utah-based company’s oxfords, loafers, and floral print boots are a hit! This year, Taft attracted outside funding totaling $5 million. Basketball star Dwayne Wade is an investor.
Mazur and Huang:
Mr. and Mrs. Stevens saw a footwear gap, and so did Steven Mazur and Eric Huang in men’s clothing. While serving with Venture for America, Mazur and Huang realized how few are the clothing options for men under 5’9.” In 2015, they started Ash & Erie, which is now a leading men’s retailer. It specializes in pants and shirts for men 5’8” and below. The Detroit-based duo appeared on TV’s Shark Tank in 2017, garnering an investment totaling $150,000 Mark Cuban. They expect that the end of year tally later this month will show revenue of a million dollars. Huang and Mazur are 27 and 26 years old respectively.
Jenna Kerner and Jane Fisher:
Meet Jenna Kerner who is 29 years old and meeting a need that dismayed her. She was put out by what she calls ” the hypersexualization of lingerie.” Ms. Kerner wanted options in intimates somewhere between flannel and entry-level escort. With her friend and fellow Wharton alumnus, Jane Fisher, Jenna Kerner opened Harper Wilde. Kerner calls it “a bra that takes the B.S. out of bras.” H&W bras feature practical designs, combined with a free try-on at home. Since 2017, the company has raised over $3.5 million in venture capital from M Ventures and Charles River.
(Jane Fisher is actually 30 years old, but you know what they say. Thirty is the new twenty-seven.)
Paul Michaux, 28 years of age, was disdainful of the shampoo he found on the grocery store shelves and even at the local stylist, so Michaux and a few co-founders started Prose. It is a haircare company that uses AI-driven diagnostics to create individualized shampoos, hair masks, and conditioners that use only the ingredients each customer’s follicles need most. Prose raised $7 million in V.C. since 2017 from Lerer Hippeau, and Maveron, among others.
Of course, this is just a short list highlighting a few of the many 20-somethings shaking up retail with new, and innovative, ideas. Somewhere, Grog is nodding his head, because he knew it all along.