Leaning In at Textiles for Thinkers, STEM Games

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A Silicon Valley veteran from the Sun Microsystems days (before Facebook took over their Menlo Park campus) became a serial entrepreneur, STEM proponent and venture advisor in San Diego. By Lisa C. Clark (Founder & CEO, Thinker Clothing & STEM Games)

I bootstrapped/launched Textiles for Thinkers right at the real estate crash, learned Web design, and about print industry complexities and domestic versus offshored production. I began targeting the home goods industry, just as retailers were closing, and pivoted to more "mobile" products to build brand by printing/cutting/sewing digitally printed STEM-designed textiles for samples.

Early on, I pitched my company to several key west coast angel group directors preparing for an A round, and all responded positively with the proviso of me bringing on a global consumer brand for my board. I then pivoted again at the financial crash, to offering designs on clothing "blanks". Warner Bros. found my styles at a San Diego Fiesta del Sol sidewalk festival and bought them. Their star "Sheldon" (Jim Parsons) has worn my "Nanotubes"(c), "Mobo"(c), "Roboticus Carpalium"(c) and numerous others on 23+ episodes and TV promo ads viewed worldwide and in-flight. Kunnal Nayyar recommended that my Thinker Clothing(tm) brand gift the Academy Awards, so I presented clothing and samples there and was voted a celebrity and press event "favorite".

My company then also gifted the NAACP awards, by request, and was invited to all the awards events the following year including Cannes. When the USA elected a pro-STEM President, my company gifted the First Family with a holiday package of clothing and received a thank you from The White House. Along the way, my company's products have been requested for "i Gotta Have THAT!" on Network TV, for fashion weeks and for costuming national band acts.

Today, ThinkerClothing.com is viewed in 172 countries and sells direct to customers on five continents.

In 2013. Textiles for Thinkers launched its second brand, Thinker Linens, offering STEM designs on microfiber pillowcase sets. I'm shifting to Web hosting by Magento, owned by eBay, offering flagship e-tailer features. This month, I'm relaunching as www.ThinkerCollection, including brands Thinker Clothing(tm), Thinker Linens(tm) and, if production is secured, Thinker Bags(tm). I know in which top half dozen cities and countries I'd launch my brands through local national retailers where folks love the designs and colors.

Today, I'm positioned to begin licensing my company's designs. I'd prefer to continue to manufacture in the USA to support domestic employment, even if it means making less money for the company due to higher costs. I'd prefer to use website models who are regular people working in STEM, of varying ages and cultures and looks, in exchange for presenting their professional involvements and links - as "social symbiosis" giving back, and to remain true to my company's original social responsibility mission to support and get the word out about STEM.

Leaning in meant that I survived The Dip, that I bit down hard like a pit bull and held on for dear life. That I toughed it out and persevered through what was, essentially, a retail depression as the market discovered a New Normal in "want versus need". Leaning in meant remaining nimble to respond to changing market conditions, shifting the business model to enable growth and widening my horizons in terms of creative partner opportunities. Leaning in meant I kept learning, every day, about my content subject matter, customer reactions to my offerings, business requirements, and my enduring passion for STEM design.

Women 2.0 readers: How are you leaning in to your career, from a corporate job to your entrepreneurial venture(s)?

About the guest blogger: Lisa C. Clark is the founder and CEO of Textiles for Thinkers. She is a serial entrepreneur, venture advisor, strategic marketer and visual/product/brand designer. She is currently developing STEM Games for mobile and based out of San Diego, California. She holds an MBA in Consumer/International Marketing from George Washington University, and a BA in political science/economics from Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter at @LisaCClarkMBA.