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Annarose Zelano
Oct 19, 2016

RISD LEADS - Punk Entrepreneurship

Oct 19, 2016 by Annarose Zelano

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”
- George Bernard Shaw 

          On Monday October 10th, RISD LEADS welcomed Unicorn Goods CEO, Cayla Mackey, and Unicorn Goods CCO, Dave Pittman, to lead a session on “Punk Entrepreneurship”. Attendees were welcomed into the session with an all vegan, animal product-free meal while The Sex Pistols played in the background. Once the session began, Cayla and Dave explained what exactly “Punk Entrepreneurship” was to them: a lifestyle and approach to activism that uses business as a means to create positive change in the world. While most people may know punk as a music genre, Cayla and Dave shared that it is so much more than that, it is a cultural movement. Some characteristics used to describe those involved in the punk entrepreneurial cultural movement include wanting to change the status quo through unconventional, DIY methods, not wanting to conform to a mold, aren’t afraid of being scrappy, and valuing freedom and impact over money and status.

          The speakers made the argument that artists and designers who want to create change while remaining free make excellent punk entrepreneurs. Some real life examples given included Shepard Fairey, Jay Z, and Jessica Walsh and Stefan Sagmeister. There can sometimes be a stigma or attitude towards “normal entrepreneurs” that “punk entrepreneurs” like to differentiate themselves from. Some examples of comparisons between the two are while a normal entrepreneur’s end game is to make a lot of money and and sell out, a punk entrepreneur does not care about the money and is against selling out. A punk entrepreneur’s venture is more mission driven and geared towards making an impact and change while a normal entrepreneur's venture is more profit-driven and geared towards making money.  

 Cayla and Dave went into detail about each of their punk entrepreneurial ventures they have created, worked with, and run throughout their many years as professionals. Although they are not still involved in every single one and not all of them are still in existence, they argued that each venture brought forth a valuable lesson of entrepreneurship and sticking to your true self. Each experience they have had leading up to now has taught them everything they need to know for their current venture, Unicorn Goods. Unicorn Goods is the world’s largest online vegan catalog. The mission of this venture is to reduce animal suffering by changing what people buy, which is fulfilled through providing an easy access market of animal free products to the public.

          The session was ended by sharing the 9 Step to Punk Success as well as the Golden Formula to leave attendees with some words of wisdom for starting their own Punk Entrepreneurial Venture. The 9 steps encompassed finding like-minded people, finding a way to pay for it, registering the business, getting a tax ID, setting up a website, setting up a bank account, keeping your receipts, paying taxes, and always being a cockroach (subtle, scrappy, and a fighter). The Golden Formula can be seen as a way of saying that the size of a company does not matter as long as the: “revenue - business expenses ≥ the money you need to keep the company alive”.