The idea for the eLab team, Ethichain, was initially formed to end child labor in the fashion industry. While still a primary goal, the startup is focusing more closely on tackling the issue of transparency throughout the supply chain of apparel that is plaguing the fashion industry today. Ethichain’s mission is to provide a tracking service for the clothing supply chain, documenting each step of an item’s production until it is sold. Founder, Andre Bordokan (MBA ‘19), grew up in Brazil surrounded by the fashion industry. His early exposure to sales and production led to the idea of Ethichain about five years ago while he was completing his master’s degree in his home country. In coming to Cornell, both Sara Schmitt (MBA ‘19) and Sean Leland Swinford (MBA ‘19) joined Ethichain and the team has united under its shared passion for providing accountability for fashion producers and holding companies to high ethical standards.
Ethichain was primarily attracted to eLab for a unique opportunity to obtain connections and mentors that will fuel their business towards continued success. The team believes that its participation in the eLab program will elevate Ethichain to tap into a market that has high barriers to entry. Since joining, Andre, Sara, and Sean have progressed in customer discovery and have really taken advantage of the resources that the program offers.
One of the most integral components of the eLab program to the Ethichain team is the organized blueprint and map for the business that they have been able to construct under the guidance of their mentors. The process of learning how to build and scale their business has been invaluable to Ethichain’s progression this year. All members of the Ethichain team are currently graduate students who still have the time to devote to their startup. They are extremely grateful for not only the mentorship that eLab offers, but also financial resources available to Ethichain. eLab’s travel budget allows Ethichain the ability to explore learning opportunities throughout the United States and gain expertise in the fashion industry by attending conferences and forums. Ethichain’s next milestone is eLab’s annual student pitch to potential investors in April. The team is also exploring a partnership with a software company in Brazil this spring. With several months until graduation, Andrea, Sara, and Sean are devoting as much time as possible to Ethichain to create a viable path for the future.
The Ethichain team advises students interested in entrepreneurship to follow their passions and take risks during their time at Cornell. As long as you are pursuing an idea that is meaningful to you, your motivation to be successful in your business will persist. Regardless of whether your idea results in a practical business during your time working in eLab, you gain teamwork and critical thinking skills as well as experience developing a true business plan unique to any course you can take at Cornell.