How Angela Jiang and Linda Ye Balance an MBA With Helping Women Feel Their Best on Vacation
ThirdLove is a #ByWomenForWomen company, and we make it a point to celebrate strong women who are doing amazing things. Our weekly blog series, #WomenMade, is a chance to get to know some of these standout females who are creating products, services, and tech we love.
Traveling is fun, eye-opening, and rejuvenating. Packing for a trip, on the other hand? Not so fun. It’s a stressful act of austerity that forces even the most seasoned traveler to choose between paying expensive checked baggage fees, or cramming an inadequate amount of clothing into a too-small carry-on. Perhaps the only thing worse than packing is realizing in horror you don’t even have the appropriate attire to pack in the first place.
What was once a necessary inconvenience, Angela Jiang and Linda Ye saw as an opportunity. Entrepreneurs as well as full-time MBA students, the pair created FLOAT/THERE, a personalized style service that delivers curated outfits directly to each customer’s vacation destination. Though being student business-owners has its challenges, Angela and Linda are dead set on helping women nix the packing anxiety and feel cool and confident, regardless of location.
When did you start your company?
AJ: In 2018, when I started business school!
Why did you start your company?
AJ: We started FLOAT/THERE to make traveling easier for the modern woman. Last summer, I found myself living in San Francisco – where there really is no summer weather – but traveling often to other cities for weddings, bachelorette parties, or just to visit friends. I was frustrated because I was spending a lot of time and money shopping for dresses, shorts, etc. to bring on these trips, but never really got any use out of those pieces when I came back home. On top of that, checking bags is always such a burden. So I thought to myself, how convenient would it be if I could just travel with some essentials and have a selection of outfits waiting for me at my destination?
After doing some research, I found that there wasn’t really an easy way for me to rent the vacation-ready styles and brands that I wanted for traveling, let alone an affordable service that would personalize outfit choices for me that fit my style and trip. So I set out to create my own solution with FLOAT/THERE, with the hope of also helping other women look and feel their best while they travel.
Tell us about yourself.
AJ: I was born and raised in West Lafayette, Indiana and then went to school at Princeton to study Operations Research & Financial Engineering. I spent a few years in finance in New York before pursuing my passion of travel in a strategic role at Priceline.com, where I learned a ton about the travel industry from some really impressive colleagues and was initially inspired to pursue entrepreneurship within this field. But I wanted a taste of startup life before fully diving in, so I then worked at an agtech startup called Aquabyte briefly before starting my MBA at Wharton in Philadelphia.
LY: I grew up near Dallas, Texas and studied computer science at MIT. In college, I loved to travel but was always on a student budget and would have loved to use a service like FLOAT/THERE. I worked for a few years in Chicago in finance and then joined a travel startup called Rocketmiles before business school. When Angela told me her brilliant idea, I was sold immediately because it solved a pain point that really resonated with me.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company/work?
AJ: At first, doing everything by myself was a real challenge. Luckily, I met Linda on one of our first trips in business school to the Poconos. We immediately connected on both having worked in the travel industry and quickly became friends. It wasn’t until a few months later though, when we were both in an entrepreneurship class together, when we realized that we should join forces and work on FLOAT/THERE together. It’s been awesome having her on the team because we’re able to bounce ideas off each other and we complement each other in both our skills and personalities.
LY: Being student entrepreneurs has been both rewarding and challenging, as we have to allocate our time across FLOAT/THERE, classes, clubs, and of course, our personal commitments. It’s definitely a unique experience, but we’ve grown a lot by learning how to prioritize, divide and conquer, and set realistic goals. It has been incredibly useful to learn from professors, alumni founders, as well our fellow classmates, who have been so supportive and always willing to provide feedback and help us test new features.
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your career path?
AJ: I would say that my former manager at Priceline, Liz, had a huge influence on me. I looked up to her because she was extremely smart, driven, and wasn’t afraid to speak up and defend her ideas. Learning from her and seeing her pursue her dreams inspired me to do the same.
What are some of the ways women today can help raise and inspire the next generation of ambitious females?
LY: Encourage women to embrace the unknown and follow through with their passions. There are a lot of problems that could be solved through businesses built on a woman’s unique perspective. We shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown or let those who don’t share our vision deter us from staying true to our business.
“Even when there are problems or things are stressful, it’s important to celebrate small wins and especially to keep things in perspective. We have the privilege to try our hand at doing something we love – a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to take that risk.” – Angela Jiang
How would you describe yourself in three words?
AJ: Easygoing, independent, adventurous.
LY: Perseverant, optimistic, spontaneous.
What quality do you love most about yourself?
AJ: That I don’t take things too seriously.
LY: That I’m not afraid to go after things that I want.
When and where are you happiest?
AJ: I love the feeling of being at the airport before a big trip. In fact, when I was really young, my first career aspiration was to be a flight attendant. Something about the bustling atmosphere in airports and the anticipation of an upcoming adventure has always really excited me.
What’s the top song on your playlist right now?
AJ: Die a Happy Man by Thomas Rhett.
LY: Best Part of Me by Ed Sheeran.
What is your motto?
AJ: Just do it (thanks, Nike)…or eat more vegetables.
LY: Live today, love tomorrow, unite forever.
What are the advantages or benefits of being outside of the traditional workplace environment that many people may not realize or know about?
AJ: The flexibility and autonomy.
LY: How incredibly lucky and rewarding it is when your passion is also your job.
Do you think founders/disruptors/creators should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they’re constantly putting out fires?
AJ: Definitely! Even when there are problems or things are stressful, it’s important to celebrate small wins and especially to keep things in perspective. We have the privilege to try our hand at doing something we love – a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to take that risk.
“That I’m not afraid to go after things that I want.” – Linda Ye
Thinking about your time as an entrepreneur, what do you believe is one of the most challenging hurdles women entrepreneurs have to overcome?
AJ: I think for women entrepreneurs who are selling products or services for women consumers, it can sometimes be challenging to get investors (who are mostly men) to understand the problem you’re solving. One time we pitched our business in a competition to a panel of all male VCs, and during the Q&A one of them said something like, “I personally can’t really relate to this, but how many women in the room would use this?” Luckily, I think almost every single woman in the room raised her hand. However, in most meetings you don’t get an audience of women there who can support you like that, which is why I think it’s important we get more women investors at the table.
Can you share what happened when you finally felt like you were on the other side of the struggle?
LY: We’re not there yet, but excited to continue the journey.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
AJ: Going for a run or doing a spin class (I love Peloton lately, but also go to Flywheel every once in awhile). It always helps me to re-energize and refocus. Sometimes I also just like to sit on the couch with my dog Arthur and unwind by reading a good book (a recent favorite is When Breath Becomes Air) or watching a mindless show (ask me anything about The Bachelor/Bachelorette).
LY: I love binge-watching a new channel or series on YouTube. The creativity on the platform always helps me recharge mentally and I find that I have a fresh perspective afterwards.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
AJ: Seeing photos from customers’ travels in our clothes! It’s so rewarding when we hear from customers that we made their trip that much better. We think that everyone deserves to see the world and if we can enhance even a small part of that experience, then we’re doing what we set out to do.
LY: I would have to agree with Angela. Seeing our customers’ journeys and being able to share even a part of that with them is an incredible feeling.