Building A Stronger Future Of Top Talent For The Fashion Industry

Matt Laukaitis

The fashion industry is in a constant state of evolution. Moving from market squares, outposts, and big-box stores to today’s pop-ups and e-commerce channels, retailers have changed quite a bit since the industry’s inception. But the inspiration behind every shift has remained the same: how consumers define – and redefine – their desire for convenience, choice, and the “perfect” solution.

To fuel such continuous innovation, fashion houses all over the world search for top talent who have a pulse on what consumers want. The industry newcomers are more than just merchandisers and designers; they are also connecting the dots between shifting behaviors, preferences, and values to create apparel that every consumer can feel good about purchasing and wearing.

And for rising industry stars, there has never been a better time to shine. In fact, companies such as SAP work with the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) to help some of these innovators get their startups off the ground with an accelerator grant.

Nurturing a legacy of innovation to deliver meaningful industry change

The mission of the FSF Accelerator Grant program is to seed the early-stage startups of FSF alumni with mentorship from industry experts and an equity-free grant of $50,000. Each application is rated on five factors: idea viability, growth potential, development and vision, progress evaluation, and brand fit with the organization. The judging process consists of three rounds, the last being an in-person presentation to a panel of industry leaders, including FSF Board members and a representative of SAP.

According to Rick Barber, global account director at SAP, initiatives like the FSF Accelerator Grant program are an opportunity to help shape the future of the fashion industry. “The nature of the industry’s talent pool has changed from strictly merchandisers and designers to people who can understand analytics,” he observes. “As businesses get more and more data-focused, they need people who can connect the dots between customer data and transactions and have the right instincts to apply that intelligence to the right merchandising or design strategies,” he observes.

One exceptional example of such a forward-thinking talent is Eleanor Turner, co-founder and CEO of The Big Favorite and winner of the 2019 FSF Accelerator Grant, underwritten by SAP. “Eleanor’s plans for using 100% recycled material is certainly part of an industry legacy that will disrupt a highly competitive segment,” shares Barber. “This initiative not only addresses the demand for environmentally sustainable products, but also the global initiatives that will undoubtedly impact the entire world.”

Turner plans to allocate the immediate funds from the grant toward website upgrades, including optimizing for mobile, and other back-end upgrades. Plus, she will begin protecting key intellectual property and continue work on innovating and developing sustainable textiles. She will be creating supporting content for digital advertising and preparing for her capital raise in September.

“The grant money is definitely a great opportunity to help me realize my calling to revive The Big Favorite. But more importantly, the FSF Accelerator Grant provides the relationships, connections, advice, and recognition that are critical to any brand’s success,” explains Turner. “Having this lifeline of support is what makes this grant a priceless honor.”

Moving fashion forward with continuous progress

Right now, SAP has a three-year commitment to fund the accelerator grant. But more importantly, the company is actively supplying and participating in events to help scholars and accelerator winners bring their innovative ideas to life with the right support.

With 80% of the world’s commerce running through SAP systems, it is critical that up-and-coming startups not only understand the value of the technology, but also optimize their business by adopting it. For this reason, SAP participates in a number of events throughout the year to support FSF scholars and alumni.

“By supporting and engaging with this brilliant pool of talent, we are not just enabling their businesses and industry skills,” Barber concludes. “We are helping them run their businesses rationally, so they can drive the future of the industry.”

Read more about this year’s winner of the YMA FSF Accelerator Grant – Eleanor Turner, co-founder and CEO of The Big Favorite.

Want to learn more how industry professionals are driving results with people, process, and technology? Join us on October 2–3, 2019, at the Consumer Industries Forum.


About Matt Laukaitis

Matt Laukaitis is Senior Vice President and General Manager of North America Consumer Industries at SAP. He is responsible for the division’s strategy, business operations, and sales performance throughout the region.