November 28, 2020

Fashioning Change: Torn Between Two Start-Up Communities

Fashioning Change

A social entrepreneur tries to change the way people shop.

Most start-ups fail. It’s a fact. It’s also a fact that I don’t consider failure an option. I started Fashioning Change in San Diego where I went through the Founder Institute, a tech accelerator that connected me to some of the top technology minds in San Diego and around the country. I entered the program as the only social enterprise, as one of the youngest participants and as the only woman of the 23 entrepreneurs accepted.

The program was like drinking from a fire hose. It was tough — the intensity actually brought a couple of the guys to tears and only 11 of the 23 entrants went on to graduate. But the experience was invaluable and connected me to a network of brilliant advisers and mentors that taught me what I needed to know to get Fashioning Change off the ground. Most important, I was able to form relationships with mentors, advisers, and investors through the institute, and I anticipated that once I graduated from the San Diego chapter of the Founder Institute I would continue to build the same types of relationships throughout the San Diego community.

It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that the Founder Institute was ahead of the curve when it came to women in tech and that I was going to have to look beyond San Diego to find the capital and support I needed to build Fashioning Change. Based on my experience, I suspect San Diego suffers from what Brad Feld refers to as the “patriarch problem” in his book “Startup Communities.

“The first of the classical problems that stall progress in a start-up community is the patriarch problem. In moments of frustration, I call this the old-white-guy problem. At its core, it’s one of the key challenges of a hierarchical organizational model, one in which the most powerful people are the ones at the top of the hierarchy. In many cities, especially in the United States, these patriarchs are the old white guys who made their money many years ago but still run the show.”

As a San Diego native, I found it painful to see the patriarch problem persist at the expense of the start-up community. And because I wasn’t finding the resources we needed to help Fashioning Change grow, I began to seek them in other places — primarily in Santa Monica and the Bay Area. Last spring, I began driving up to Santa Monica two or three times a month. I instantly experienced a positive extension of the small adviser and mentor network I had met through Founder Institute in San Diego. In Santa Monica, I sensed far more excitement about helping one another and seeing the start-up ecosystem grow. Last summer, my drives to Santa Monica increased to two or three times per week.

The start-up ecosystem is exploding around Santa Monica, which is becoming known as Silicon Beach. To my surprise, I soon met several San Diego start-ups that had moved north only after they had reluctantly given up on San Diego. In Santa Monica, even as outsiders, they found mentors and resources to be far more accessible. Every trip north pushed Fashioning Change forward. I would drive up and then drive back filled with energy and information. As we executed on everything, we continued to build traction.

As time passed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we needed a more permanent presence in Santa Monica. It’s a feeling I fought and struggled with for personal reasons. I didn’t want to turn my back on my city. Also, I’m extremely close to my family. In fact, the process of building my start-up helped me become closer to them because I gave up my cute two-bedroom apartment, sold all of my furniture, and moved back home so that I could cut down on expenses and extend the company’s runway. Living at home allowed me to spend additional time with my older brother who has a disability. On days when the start-up life seemed especially frustrating, coming home always put things into perspective.

Eventually, we decided to rent a Fashioning Change house in Santa Monica that serves as our local headquarters — although we still have an office in San Diego where our developers work. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in San Diego because my co-founder, Kevin Ball, just had a beautiful baby boy. The San Diego office is in a free tech incubator downtown. Last week I was told by the leaders of the incubator that Fashioning Change has to raise more capital.

The people making this demand know nothing about our day-to-day operations. In fact, when we send them update reports, the e-mails aren’t even opened (on MailChimp, you can see who opens the e-mails and how many times). The incubator’s interest in our raising money has little to do with our needs and everything to do with it wanting to report positive news to its own donors. But at this point we have no need to raise more capital, so we’re not going to do it — even if it means we have to move out of the incubator.

We recently heard of a hub of start-ups leasing space in another San Diego downtown building that might be a better location for our San Diego operations. We checked it out, and the leasing company seemed very start-up friendly. One plus is that we would get to be around other start-ups we respect. We will probably make a decision very soon.

Any suggestions? What is your start-up community like? Does it offer the kinds of resources you need?

Adriana Herrera is chief executive of Fashioning Change. You can e-mail her at, and you can follow her on Twitter at @Adriana_Herrera.

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Economix Blog: About That 99 Percent …

I received an e-mail over the weekend from a reader asking for some statistical context for the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ “99 Percent” rallying cry. Who exactly are the people in the top 1 percent of the economy? How much do they make, and how much are they worth?



Dollars to doughnuts.

Here are some numbers:

American households right at the 99th percentile (that is, the cut-off for the top 1 percent) will earn about $506,553 in cash income this year, according to a Tax Policy Center analysis. The income curve is very steep at the high end, meaning that people just a few tenths of a percentile point above that make much, much more. A family at the 99.5th percentile, for example, makes $815,868; its neighbor at the 99.9th percentile makes more than double that, at $2,075,574 a year.

The top 1 percent of American earners receive about a fifth of the country’s income, according to Thomas Picketty and Emmanuel Saez, two economists who study inequality.

But as we’ve noted before, economic inequality isn’t just about what you make each year. It’s about how much wealth you have already accumulated, too. And inequality is far, far greater when you include wealth.

According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization, the top 1 percent of Americans by net worth hold about a third of American wealth.

The cutoff for the 99th percentile in net worth was $19,167,600 as of 2007, based on this research.

That means, of course, that the bottom 99 percent of Americans includes an awful lot of millionaires.

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Economix: Where Do You Fall on the Income Curve?

The Tax Policy Center has updated its figures on the income distribution in America, which we’d previously written about in a post about why most rich people don’t feel very rich. They have now crunched income levels for every single percentile, and the numbers refer to 2011 rather than 2010. So I’ve updated my chart on this subject.

The graph below shows how much income is earned by a household at any given percentile in the income distribution, based on these new numbers for 2011:

DESCRIPTIONTax Policy Center

Incomes grow much, much faster at the top end of the income distribution than in the middle or at the bottom end. That is, the disparity in income between one percentile and a consecutive percentile is bigger among the very rich.

For example, the difference in income between a household at the 50th percentile and a household at the 51st percentile is $1,237 ($42,327 versus $43,564). But the difference in incomes between a household at the 98th percentile and the 99th percentile is $146,118 ($360,435 jumps up to $506,553).

The gaps become even wider at the extreme top of the income ladder: A family at the 99.5th percentile makes $815,868; its neighbor at the 99.9th percentile makes more than double that, at $2,075,574 a year.

In fact much of the rise in inequality over the last few decades has been because of the increasing inequality isolated among the very top members of the income distribution, as America’s wealthiest have pulled further and further away from their slightly less wealthy peers.

(Addendum: “Income” in this case refers to cash income, without energy assistance, imputed corporate income tax liability and the employer’s share of payroll taxes.)

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