HUBgrown: Q&A with Janet Aronica, Cube Riot

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Upstate New Yorker Janet Aronica graduated college during the height of the recession and found herself moving to Boston for a social media marketing internship.

“The people were so helpful. I felt like I had a much greater chance of success finding my first job in Boston than anywhere else even though the economy sucked. So I moved.”

After six years in various marketing roles, Janet is using what she’s learned from her past jobs to become an entrepreneur launching her first fashion startup, Cube Riot. The company’s blazer line will debut this fall, but Janet’s aspirations for the company go well beyond its finely-crafted apparel. She’s also on a mission to produce quality content for the modern career woman. Cube Riot is as much about creating a community to inspire women at work as it is about clothes.

We asked Janet about her inspiration behind Cube Riot and her experience launching a startup in Boston. Here’s what she had to share.

HB: How did you first get the idea to start Cube Riot?

JA: It comes from personal experiences and talking about those experiences with others and realizing they were feeling a similar way.

For me, it was when I was working on a re-branding project at another startup that I started to think about how to step up my game at work. I considered all aspects of that. How do I package my ideas better? How do I sound more credible? How do I dress like a grownup? I was a hot mess in all of these areas and really confused.

I started reading a bunch of stuff on career tips and fashion advice. When I did that, I didn’t find A) A good resource for career advice that spoke about this stuff in a tangible way and B) An awesome and fun brand for professional women.

Currently, shopping for clothes for work is just about as much fun as doing your taxes. I think it can be more fun. After seeing that white space in the marketplace I couldn’t help but go for it.

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HB: You began marketing Cube Riot months ago before you had a product. How has that benefited the company leading up to the official launch?

JA: Marketing and writing has helped us perfect the messaging, build a community, and learn more about what our audience likes and doesn’t like.

For instance, there are many controversial topics when it comes to women in the workplace. To be useful to our audience I want to be involved in those discussions to some degree, but we also have to know when to sit things out and shut up. That stuff is important when you’re building a brand.

HB: You’re not just designing blazers, you’re using Cube Riot as a platform to share your knowledge and past experience with other young professional women. Why is this important to you?

JA: Going back to why I started the company, the career tips and the apparel always went hand-in-hand for me. I think the career advice makes the blazer more meaningful. It’s not just that it’s a cute blazer. It’s how great you feel, what you have the courage to say, and how you act when you have the Cube Riot blazer on. For the Cube Riot woman, that confidence will not just come from visual marketing channels like Instagram and being associated with that stuff, but it will also come from the knowledge gleaned from the content.

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HB: What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered trying to launch a startup? Any challenges specific to launching out of Boston?

JA: The biggest challenge is learning the apparel industry. That’s tough no matter where you live. Getting factories to take a chance on me, building those relationships with fabric and trim suppliers… not knowing what I don’t know…that’s all been new and exciting, but it’s also sometimes frustrating.

On a positive note, I love a challenge. I’m obsessed with the process. I love connecting the dots. It gets me excited.

Also, I’ve had McGarry & Sons, my product team, with me throughout all of this and they really took me under their wing. I’m so glad I worked with them because they certainly prevented me from making some very costly mistakes.

After discovering McGarry & Sons we then found great factories in Massachusetts. I’ve been able to find good marketing, graphic design, and photography talent both here and remotely.

I think Boston has a lot of resources to build an apparel brand if you’re willing to network and put the pieces together. I think sometimes the fact that there’s less noise here than other places can be an advantage, too, because it forces you to focus on the consumer and what the opportunities are in the marketplace.

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HB: While you work on getting Cube Riot off the ground, you’re also working as a marketing consultant. Any advice to others that are trying to juggle full-time work with starting a business?

JA: I’m grateful to get to do consulting. I’m insanely lucky. But I’m going to keep it real: It’s hard to balance both. Bootstrapping is hard. Starting a business is hard.

I’m definitely no beacon of work/life balance, and I’m still figuring this out. But here’s what I’m learning…

  • Running is amazing! I always knew this but I appreciate it even more now.

  • It can be calming to create a routine even if you don’t think you’re a routine type of person.

  • When in doubt about what to say, cutting to the chase usually works out long term.

  • Recognize when decisions are low-impact and/or if they can be easily reversed because that’ll help you decide things faster and get more done.

  • You’re gonna be stressed. You just are. But don’t be a jerk to your friends and your family. But if you are, say you’re sorry. They love you. The real ones will get it.

  • And find founder friends to talk to!

HB: In your opinion, what makes Boston’s business scene unique? What’s happening here that can’t be replicated anywhere else?

JA: The community and the people are magic. Even though our B2C startup scene is still growing, people have a lot of 2nd and 3rd degree connections that I need in the retail and apparel world and the Boston scene has been pretty open about giving introductions. From what I hear, that helpfulness is very unique to Boston.

I’ve had so many conversations where people straight up asked, “How can I help you?” or “Who do you want to meet at this event?” That’s huge.

Connect with Janet on Twitter and make sure you check out Cube Riot (launching soon)!  

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About Mower Boston

Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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