Tory Burch Foundation: Investor Kumar Arora

Full Article: http://www.toryburchfoundation.org/resources/finance/ahead-game-investor-kumar-arora/

Ahead of the Game: Investor Kumar Arora

Kumar Arora calls himself a serial entrepreneur and investor, and rightfully so. He is an entrepreneur and investor behind many notable business ventures including Rogue Eyewear and Ilthy. When he isn’t advising companies on the Fortune 500, he is a key investor on LeBron James’ CNBC show Cleveland Hustles.

The moment I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur…

When I graduated during the recession in 2008, finding a job wasn’t easy. My college advisor told me, “If you can’t find a job, you’ll have to make one.” At first, I was in shock, because I spent my time in college working towards the corporate ladder. Years later, I realized it was actually a blessing in disguise.

The most surprising thing I’ve learned from being an investor on Cleveland Hustles

Entrepreneurs in Cleveland come in all shapes, sizes and ages. We work with anyone from an eager high school student looking to start a floral décor business, to an elderly man who wants to expand the vineyards on his winery. It is amazing to see such unique ideas come from all over.

You believed and invested in the entrepreneurs from Old City Soda because…

As soon as I tried Old City Soda for the first time, I was hooked. Their level of detail to the product, their vision, and brand story convinced me that not only could the product be manufactured right here in Cleveland, it could help kick start change within the existing soda market. I love their mission to create a handcrafted product using the freshest ingredients, while still staying close to home.

What I admire most about LeBron James…

LeBron James is far more than just an athlete: he’s a philanthropist, a role model, a superstar, and a prominent businessman. Not to mention, his economic impact to the city of Cleveland exceeds over half a billion dollars. LeBron is a reminder that reaching success is more than just perfecting your craft. It is finding ways to contribute to your local community, going above and beyond for others, and doing as much good as possible.

Key elements I look for in the businesses I invest in…

I look to see if the business is viable, if it’s doing something different from the industry, and if the founder/partners show a lot of passion. I try to make sure those ingredients are there before I jump in and help a business.

Tips for pitching investors…

Lately, it’s been important for startups and companies to put their best foot forward. But I’d love to see more businesses talk about their challenges, problems, and things they need help with. That shows their true character and allows investors to see the business without their walls.

How the city of Cleveland has shaped my approach to entrepreneurship…

Being an entrepreneur is hard. Being an entrepreneur in Cleveland is even harder. We may not have as much accessibility to certain resources as big cities, or a large talent pool to work with, but Cleveland is an excellent destination for young start-ups trying to find their way to success.

Ohio, as a whole, is a great place to be for business development. With much of the U.S. population within reach, it allows businesses to recruit top talent from other big cities and institutions in the area, offer the opportunity to do market research on a local or national level, and also make it easy to deploy services or products within the Midwest. If you are thinking about starting a business, now’s the time and place to do it!

How I identified the opportunity for Rogue Eyewear

The concept came about because I was angry. Everywhere I would go, I would see so many brands doing great things, in much bigger cities, and always charging such high prices for luxury. I wanted to change that. Rogue Eyewear is a departure in every possible way: from materials, to cost, to being homegrown, without compromising in any way.

How Rogue differentiates itself from other eyewear brands…

The word Rogue is actually in our DNA. We try to do everything we can differently: from unique materials like leather and stone, to a more competitive price point, to hailing from Cleveland. I try to ensure that our identity and focus is present throughout our company in as many ways as possible.

Tactics we used to generate excitement and awareness when we launched…

Our early marketing was focused on a combination of local advertising and awareness, combined with strong social pushes towards advocacy of our brand and how we fit into the market. We spent a bulk of our energy and efforts harnessing the power of social to cross into new territories.

Where I get design inspiration from…

For us, design is in our everyday lives. From print, to nature, to our habits and experiences. We use those same inspirations to craft our storytelling.

Strategies I’ve used to build my personal brand…

My brand has continually evolved over the years, but there are some things that remained throughout. I made sure my aesthetics, photography, and web presence all have a consistent theme alongside my social media. For me, I believe that a product should be ready before releasing it to the world – and that applies with my personal brand, as well.

My approach to time management is…

I’m a huge fan of productivity and finding ways to maximize time. I try to focus on the more complex problems early on, try to allow others to handle more operations and day-to-day, while automating any processes that I can. I’m split in many different directions, so I’ve had to find my own rhythm to stay above water.

3 must-read business books…

Some great essentials to start with are:

  1. Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers
  2. Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why
  3. Steven R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

My favorite leadership quote…

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”  – John Maxwell

What I’m looking forward to this year…

I’m excited to continue pushing the boundaries for young investors and entrepreneurs through media, as well as move into new markets and industries with some exciting investments.