After Orane Barnett graduated from the MIT’s Sloan School of Management and landed a gig as an investment banker at Wall Street giant UBS Securities, he didn’t imagine his greatest passion would be selling T-shirts. But it is. Barnett is the leader of KoolNerds (koolnerdclothing.com), a line of T-shirts, hats and hoodies. The company also serves as a social movement aimed at rebranding what it means to be a geek, donating $4 of every sale to fund science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) programs in underserved communities. Best of all, KoolNerds isn’t just Barnett’s baby. The entrepreneur tapped into the constantly expanding phenomenon of crowdfunding to launch his venture, raising over $15,000—from friends and strangers—in 30 days on Kickstarter last November to get the apparel line off the ground.
“Crowdfunding is opening doors for entrepreneurs and self-starters,” says Barnett, 38, a Jamaican immigrant who grew up in Queens, N.Y. “We can bypass more traditional funding routes, such as venture capital and angel investors, and go straight to everyday people, via online and social media, who believe in our ideas. It’s also a good way to test your concept.” His idea met much success; KoolNerds was such a hit that the campaign surpassed its initial fundraising goal by more than $3,000.
Read more in the July 2015 issue of EBONY Magazine.