[quote style=”boxed”]I want someone out there (hopefully it will be me) to create an incubator program for startups that mimic the lifestyle of the guys from the show Entourage. Wouldn’t it be amazing if startup guys could live the life style of Vince, E, Turtle and Drama? Could you imagine the apps, websites, companies, etc… that those guys would produce? I think Miami is the perfect location for it; hopefully one day I’ll create it.[/quote]
Amit Dharmani is CEO and founder of YouCeleb, the first e-commerce company featuring weekly deals inspired by popular celebrity fashion. Amit started his entrepreneurial career in the entertainment industry, co-founding the indy record label WITNIS Project in the fall of 2006. In the spring of ‘09 he joined Spanish entertainment-based venture Malianteo.com, where he helped them become one of the most visited websites in Central and South America, pulling in six million unique visitors each month. Most recently, Amit joined the Warrington School of Business at the University of Florida to pursue his M.B.A.
As an avid fan of sports, music, and films, Amit has always enjoyed keeping up with the latest news via magazines and blogs. One day, while surfing ESPN.com, he saw a paparazzi photo of Kobe Bryant wearing a pair of sunglasses that he really liked. It took an hour of searching to track down the designer, only to find out that it was priced well out of range of his entrepreneur-sized budget. Amit realized that this wasn’t the first time this had happened; there were a lot of times where he’d see one of his favorite celebs wearing something he couldn’t track down or afford.
Now, with the launch of YouCeleb, Amit Dharmani has created a place that not only shows users exactly what their favorite celebs are wearing, but lets them purchase the same item at a fraction of the price. Amit states “YouCeleb was born from my own personal experience — it creates the perfect mix of goodwill, publicity and fashion while delivering a great customer experience. I think people will genuinely be excited to visit YouCeleb.com!”
What are you working on right now?
YouCeleb’s subscriber base is growing like crazy and those subscribers expect the best, so we are constantly working on expanding our relationships with new brands, celebrities and charities. We have to work fast as celebrity style is constantly evolving. I’m also really excited about our two newest programs: YouCeleb Entourage – our exclusive blogger network and YouCeleb Greek – our grassroots college marketing campaign.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up and immediately start looking at all the entertainment industry related activities that happened over the past 24 to 48 hours. I normally like to spend at least 30 minutes a day seeing what the latest “celebrity fashion” trends are and then I meet with my team. Our team is mainly based in Miami, but we do have a couple of remote members in India, Chicago, New York and of course LA, so half of the meetings take place over Skype. In general, we have a very open environment, so my day is filled with listening to ideas and suggestions and then making the best possible decision to move forward. I’m a huge believer that everyone around you is a genius in their own way, you just have to take the time to listen to them to see it come through.
What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked as a software engineer for a very reputable company for over 5 years and while the job itself was respectable and the benefits were solid, I simply hated it. I realized that I was not a “corporate” employee type of person. To me, going to work should be fun, you should interact with the people around you and you should be excited. In the corporate world people focus too much on mundane processes and not enough on the exciting end product, it’s almost like the corporate world didn’t get the memo on actually enjoying your work.
3 trends that excite you?
I would be lying if I didn’t say I was still excited by the flash sales/group buying model. I know there has been a lot of negative press around this segment lately, but the concept is still great to me. I think as it continues to evolve we are going to see all sorts of consulting companies popping up to help business owners harness the energy they obtain after being featured on Groupon, Gilt or YouCeleb. I’m also a huge fan of moving EVERYTHING to the cloud as that would help make life far more simple (at least for most people, sorry IT guys!) and finally I’m interested to see where online music ends up, as I previously was very involved in the music industry.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve always been a “dreamer”, so when I have an idea I tend to get really excited about it. I normally talk about it with those around me including friends, family and even my barber (shot out to the Spot barbershop!) Based on the feedback I get I either scrap it and move on to the next idea or I go full speed at it. After working on the idea for quite some time, I stand back and look at it and really see if it is worth it. If I feel that it is worth it, I put my head down and keep working. If it’s not, I put it on hold and see how I can make it work later. I live by the idea of, “if you build it, they will come.” Thus far it has seemed to work.
What inspires you?
My parents. They moved here from India and left everything that was comfortable to them behind. Growing up, I watched my parents work extremely hard every day just to make sure my sister and I had the best life. Not only did they work hard career wise, but also at home. We always had a hot home cooked meal and a helping hand to make sure our homework was complete. My dad always told me “be smart and minimize your weaknesses and success will come.” That saying lives within me everyday and continues to inspire me.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit. I live in Miami today, but I don’t hesitate to tell people who I’m from Detroit. In many ways I think the history of Detroit has many parallels to the life of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs must be hardworking, must be ready to take the world on by storm and most importantly must keep reinventing themselves. In fact, most people have a pessimistic view of an entrepreneur’s career until they finally “make it”, similar to how Detroit’s automotive industry is currently viewed. Detroit shaped me by making me a hard-working person who doesn’t make excuses. Just put your head down and get the work done!
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I’ve never made a mistake… I’m an entrepreneur, I’m always right!!! My biggest headache thus far came from a strategic partner that I brought on. It was supposed to be mutually beneficial, but in reality it turned out to be a nightmare. I don’t think I benefitted at all from the mess, but it was a short-term deal so it ended very quickly. The major thing I learned from that is, always have a deep understanding of who the person/company is that you are partnering with. Make sure the cultures align because if they don’t, it will cause headaches later. If you’re not 100% sure, move forward on a trial basis, otherwise you regret it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I want someone out there (hopefully it will be me) to create an incubator program for startups that mimic the lifestyle of the guys from the show Entourage. Wouldn’t it be amazing if startup guys could live the life style of Vince, E, Turtle and Drama? Could you imagine the apps, websites, companies, etc… that those guys would produce? I think Miami is the perfect location for it; hopefully one day I’ll create it.
What do you read every day, and why?
I’m a sports freak, I have to read every article related to the Detroit Pistons, Miami Dolphins or Michigan Wolverines that I can find. Outside of the sports world, I tend to read TechCrunch just to keep my ear to the ground as well as US weekly (oops did I really just admit that?)
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
I would recommend reading the book the Namsake. There are a bunch of things in that book that correlate to my life so I really enjoyed it. Plus it gives you an idea of how difficult life can be for some 1st generation American families.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I cannot live without my iPhone or my MacBook. I am a huge Apple fan, so I would say that I couldn’t live without either of those devices. However, the app that I use the most is Groupon… how else is an up and coming entrepreneur supposed to live in a city like Miami???
Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?
So, I’m going to break this into 3 categories: tech, comedy and food.
1. Tech Jason Calacanis (@Jason) – He is THE celebrity of the tech world, I mean his twitter handle is simply his name, how cool is that? Plus he speaks his mind and doesn’t hold back; I think that’s an awesome quality to have.
2. Comedy: Aziz Ansari (@azizansari) – I think he’s one of the funnier people in our generation and his tweets make everyone feel like they are good friends with him.
3. Food: Epic Meal Time (@EpicMealTime) – If you don’t know about Epic Meal Time then you got to tune into their YouTube channel. These guys are crazy, have great senses of humor, and make some of the craziest meals that any guy on the web would want to eat (meat saaauce!!!)
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
I think you guys should interview the guys from Epic Meal Time. They’ve created something that is pretty amazing just using simple cameras and editing tools. If that’s not a great idea, than I don’t know what is!
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.
A couple of weeks ago actually, we told one of my buddies — who at the time had no idea what the Mile High club was — that it was an executive membership to a frequent flyer program. When he got on the flight we told him just ask the female flight attendant when you get on the flight because she’ll probably have the paperwork on her. Needless to say the results made me LOL!!!
Do you think YouCeleb will succeed even though powerhouses like Gilt Groupe and RueLaLa are in a similar space?
Great question. We do think YouCeleb can handle this space even though a couple of the players that you mentioned are pretty powerful. One of the beauties of YouCeleb is that we actually work with the celebrities and their charities and we try to get them involved. I think this separates us because we have some popular people organically talking about us online. In broader sense, I think there is a different market for people who want celebrity-based fashion as opposed to fashion in general.
Miami is one of the greatest cities in the US. It’s got a great vibe and I think as an entrepreneur the city you are based in has to have the same energy as you and your company. The sun shines here every day (aside from the occasional hurricane!) so it’s easy to be motivated. People dress well at all times, so it’s easy to be in touch with the fashion world. This city truly never sleeps so it’s a perfect fit for any entrepreneur who enjoys watching the sunrise. And the fact that the Miami Dolphins are partial owned by 10 different celebrities tells you that it’s a great fit for a company like YouCeleb!