Founder of the Week: Peter Chen

If you only learn one thing from Peter, it should be that:

Persistence is key. Challenges are inevitable, but it’s the mindset and method with which you tackle these challenges that really defines what an entrepreneur is.

Growing up in a shop that sold bare computer parts after his parents moved into the city from a rural village in Eastern China, Peter (Baile) Chen, the adults around him told him to take jobs that were common for his area. That means aiming low and becoming a waiter or a truck driver. However, Peter knew that that was their ceiling, not his. Today, he channels his experience with a lack of support and mentorship in his youth to become the co-founder of Peer, and has grown to fit his true potential.

Peer is a peer-to-peer mobile app that connects high school students with qualified college student mentors with similar experiences and interests in order to bridge the knowledge and opportunity in the Asian youth demographic. His company addresses the scarcity for mentorship for a large portion of youths in America — ⅓ to be exact — which can greatly impact these individuals lives. The advice that engaged high school students may receive include anything from academic advice to career guidance to general life tips.

As a freshman, Peter is already an accomplished entrepreneur, but he also notes that time management is a challenge at this point in his life. His academic course load may make balancing his entrepreneurship responsibilities difficult. This doesn’t stop him from achieving numerous prestigious accomplishments, though. Peer has secured funding from both the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, and landed a place in the WeissLab Accelerator’s current cohort, along with winning several prizes.

Founder of the Week: Melina Flabiano

If you only learn one thing from Melina, it should be that…

Done is better than perfect! Don’t be afraid to put your ideas or products out into the world just because they’re not perfect. Giving your customers the opportunity to react early can be extremely valuable insight for you as an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of wiggle room in the early days of a startup, and getting feedback can guide you to improve later.

During a successful career in retail, Melina Flabiano noticed something that bother her: her workwear. Some of them were not machine washable; some had pockets so unreasonably small they were practically useless, if any at all; some wrinkled after a long flight. She was definitely not the only one who ran into these issues — most women echoed her frustration with having to choose between functional or fashionable workwear. So Melina turned these pain points into her startup, Keaton.

Keaton is the solution to women’s workwear problems. Its first product, a pair of thoughtfully designed work pant whose design is informed by interviewing 300+ professional females, solves all the issues that products currently on the market have. It’s machine washable, it has large pockets, and it doesn’t wrinkle. This means that a woman no longer has to spend a lot of money  on dry cleaning or show up to a meeting with wrinkled clothes. Keaton’s work pants strive to be both a functional, stylish, and reliable staple in a working woman’s closet. Finally, it’s an article of clothing designed by women, for women.

Being any entrepreneur is challenging, but for student entrepreneurs especially, the leap from idea to action can be even more difficult. Ideas may be easy to generate, but when is an idea worthy of pursuit? For Melina, her confidence in Keaton came from large amounts of thorough consumer and industry research. Her participation in WeissLab Accelerator’s Fall cohort last semester allowed her to pave tremendous progress, and she is currently part of the VIP Xcelerate program as well. Keaton has officially launched about three weeks ago, and their pants are now available for purchase at wearkeaton.com. Other exciting upcoming events for Keaton include on-campus trunk shows and the beginning of fundraising for its first round of pre-seed investments.