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Rachel Stevens, MBA '15

Rachel Stevens, MBA ’15, joins Christopher Reichert, MOT ’04, for a discussion about her journey from corporate mainstream, working at Apple and Tatte; to starting her own business, VIENVIE, a women's fashion marketplace startup that brings together existing designers and consumers—working to solve the problem of fit, style, and discovery for the modern woman.

Sloanies Talking with Sloanies is a conversational podcast with alumni and faculty about the MIT Sloan experience and how it influences what they're doing today. Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Google, and Spotify

Christopher Reichert: Welcome to Sloanies Talking with Sloanies, a candid conversation with alumni and faculty about the MIT Sloan experience and how it influences what they're doing today. What does it mean to be a Sloanie? Over the course of this podcast, you'll hear from guests who are making a difference in their community, including our own very important one here at MIT Sloan. Hi, I'm your host, Christopher Reichert, and welcome to Sloanies Talking with Sloanies. My guest today is Rachel Stevens, a 2015 MBA from Sloan, and the co-founder of VIENVIE, a nod to a life full of vim and vigor, but more on that soon. Welcome, Rachel, and good to see you again after Sloan.

Rachel Stevens: Thank you, Christopher. So nice to be here with you.

Christopher Reichert:  After Sloan, Rachel went to Apple for three years, then joined Tatte, the fastest-growing private equity-based elevated casual food, and beverage chain in Boston. Now, here's where the story gets really interesting. After Tatte, she joined Juno, a sustainable building company in San Francisco. I hope I got that right, but what I think was happening is that Rachel talks about is that she was getting off the mainstream highway, then off a paved road, to a dirt road, to finally jumping off a cliff, starting her own business by the end of 2021. Here we are in 2022. Rachel, why don't you pick up the story there? I think there are threads of essentialism and creating authority. Tell us about your journey talking about going from mainstream to jumping off that cliff.

Rachel Stevens:  Yeah. Well, Chris, what's hilarious about this is the highway to dirt road to jungle is actually an analogy that I pulled from MIT. I can't fully remember where I first heard it, but I've heard the school in different capacities use that framework to describe what it means to be at an institution like Apple, where you're really on the highway, you're on the mainstream, and then maybe something, a little more growth stage, which was my time at Tatte, which is you're on a paved road or a dirt road, and it's much more ambiguous. The going into the jungle, and from my proverbial jumping off a cliff, is really that you have that feeling of, "Here we go," like you have to make a leap to start your own company. When I used the terminology, jumping off a cliff, I don't think that that was from MIT. In fact, I'm not sure they would love if I add that little addendum, but it works for the analogy for me.

Christopher Reichert: I love it. I think it's a great addition to what Sloan's been talking about for years now.

Rachel Stevens: I love it, too, because especially for individuals that are interested in moving in that direction, it nests your journey as even if it's unfamiliar from the sense of you're on a dirt road or you're in the jungle, it nests you into, there's still a path there, to some degree, and so I think that there is something that I appreciated, the moment that I heard it, because you're like, "Oh, yeah. My path might not be the highway," but there still is, it's just more of the Robert Frost version of the one less traveled.

Christopher Reichert: I love it. I love the literary reference. Now, you talked in your blog about that you never thought of yourself as entrepreneurial. Your mother was an architect and your brother was an industrial designer, so they had that creative mantle, and you felt that you had a different identity. Tell us about your transformation and that realization that you, too, were entrepreneurial.

Rachel Stevens:  Yeah, so my dad was a doctor, and my mom was an incredibly talented, I would say, architect on the side, but primarily raised my brother and I. My brother, since graduating middle school, was enrolled in art school, and so my whole dining room table conversation was not around business, the capital markets, probably much of what I have exposure to today. It was engaging. It was still intellectual and stimulating and we sat down as a family and had dinner every single night together, but we didn't really talk about business, and so when I went to college, it was probably a difficult period for me personally. I wouldn't say that I was fully embedded in like what happening next in my life, I was just trying to figure out, how do I get through the day-to-day?

When I graduated, I picked my head up. I was late in figuring out what I was going to do post-graduation. I picked my head up and I said, "Well, everyone else is doing consulting. I guess I should go and do consulting," and that's what I ended up doing. It wasn't until I got to MIT where, this is maybe the way I recall it, but it was the first time I really heard about entrepreneurship, and was really exposed to the startup world.

My first month of MIT, I participated in a hackathon that was actually off campus and it was called Hack Fit. It was the intersection of entrepreneurship and fitness. I have had been a lifelong health and wellness enthusiast and sports player, et cetera, and my mind was blown because we did this three-day sprint. I actually pitched an idea and got enough votes for the idea to build a small team, and we actually took second place in that hackathon. It was so invigorating for me, but I describe that situation in my vlog specifically to talk about how to try to debunk a little bit what your background has to be in order to move into this world, and also, just kind of a nod, I think, to always learning and always growing, and that definitely is a core theme of the vlog.

Christopher Reichert: There are lots of great ideas out there. One of the things I noticed in your vlog about the time we spent together on the MIT Sloan alumni board and about your story about how you persuaded your classmates to join you in your idea at the hackathon is your powers of persuasion and your enthusiasm. I was thinking back about your journey and I wondered about how much of those powers of persuasion have come to bear on your startup now, VIENVIE, in terms of getting people to join you, to bring your idea to fruition, and about that journey over the last year-and-a-half about where you are right now.

Rachel Stevens: Yeah, it's funny that you ask this because I'll share two things. One is I very much respect Jason Calacanis. You may know him. He's sort of prolific in the startup space. Jason Calacanis said, "If you are not a builder, right, if you cannot physically build product, well, you better be a damn good persuader because your job as the CEO is to get people on board who can build."

I will come back to this point, but from a very young age, I think I've always known that... I guess I would just describe it probably as leadership, just capability, and potentially through the mechanism of charisma to some degree, but also very grounded in realness, right, like a backbone of credibility. There were times in my life where, for example, being captain of a soccer team, that that served me really well, and then other times in my life where I knew I was very good at attracting attention, but sometimes that that could be... I wasn't mature enough to sort of wield it in a way that was always productive.

One of the things that I've done as a human, as I've grown, is really trying to be self-aware about the way in which I leverage that pull that I know I sort of have maybe always had, and certainly through things like going to Sloan and really focusing on leadership when, quite frankly, I don't think our program gets enough credit for its leadership capability, but I really leaned into leadership coursework to try to cultivate that even more.

Fast forward to today and we are almost up to 10 people working on a startup that is pre-seed, has only been in operation for three months, and I think that goes to show, one, is it's not really only about me. It's definitely about a phenomenal mission that a lot of people that resonate with a lot of people. I think it's a little bit about that sort of charisma and that infectiousness that you have picked up on from the blog, but I also think it's like, kind of goes back to the credibility of doing your homework.

I think that it's that I have been part of startups before where there's an incredibly charismatic CEO and then you get there and you're like, "Wait a second. That wasn't the bill of goods that I was sold," and so it's always been incredibly important for me to pair the sort of enthusiasm and the pull and my leadership capability with that groundedness and with the credibility that's grounded in facts and what's going on and transparency because you want people to come on board and be like, "This is exactly what I expected and I'm still so excited for it."

Christopher Reichert: 2021 was a year of reflection, and in 2021, you had an insight that you were a master at finding creative ways to avoid focusing on the single most important thing that you wanted to come out of 2021, which was to start a company. But finally, you found the focus, which resulted in VIENVIE, so tell us about that.

Rachel Stevens: Yeah, let me. I'll back up, which is in 2020, when I was taking time off and thinking about business ideas, I got really interested in the intersection of age and consumer products and services. I took a exercise class, actually. I remember, I was taking this class four times a week, and I remember seeing this woman on the side of the class. She must have been in her probably late 50s, and I'm sitting here going, "This class is kicking my butt and I'm in great shape." I mean, this woman is a superwoman for keeping up, but it's got to be hard, right? Your body does change, point-blank, and so I was thinking to myself, "When I fast forward 20 years," I was 35 at the time, "Where am I going to be exercising? Where am I going to be shopping? Where am I going to be doing all these things?"

I started to investigate, and you look at advertising spending, just as a data point, 90 to 95% of marketing and advertising dollars focus on Gen Zs and millennials, and so I'm going, "Okay, well, then what are the offerings out there?" Well, it's antiaging and ailment prevention, so it's beauty and Botox and pharma and I'm like, "That sucks. Human progress has enabled humans to live healthier, wealthier, and longer than ever before." It makes no sense to me, especially as the consumer world has gotten so much more inclusive and niche in a positive way, right, providing products and services in the way that specific audio want them, that we don't have the same type of healthy, robust market for people that are "older or getting old," and so I started to really dig in at that point in time and I was focused on health and wellness. Didn't come up with anything at the time.

I joined a startup to get back to work, and I was just ready, but while alongside working for Juno, I ended up continuing to jam and brainstorm business ideas. It was in the spring, and I said, "I have to double-click on this intersection." That's when I started looking into fashion and I found that $73 billion is the total market for Gen X and baby boomer spending on fashion, accessories, footwear, whatnot. When I was talking on the vlog about, "Oh, well, is it millennials?," once I came up with the idea for VIENVIE, I started to share it with my peers, and so many women said, "Man, I would love something like that," because the reality is most retailers are targeting, really, Gen Zs, and maybe a little bit of the younger millennials, but it's really young. You look at a model on a site and she's 18 to 22 and she's a size zero or two and the fashion is young, the style is young, the fit is young.

As you just start to creep up into your 30s, and worse, into your 40s, and even worse, into your 50s and 60s, you're like, "Not only do I not want to wear that style, but I can't wear that style, and even if I wanted to and could, it's not fitting me right," and so VIENVIE was really born to solve the problem of fit, style, and discovery for the modern women. When we say "modern," we just mean women that have different style and body preferences than they used to.

Christopher Reichert: When VIENVIE launches, what will we see?

Rachel Stevens: VIENVIE is a marketplace for women's fashion. We bring together existing designers and consumers. We have two stages of this. What we say is that we are very much a top-of-funnel marketplace, and so unlike Amazon, which you think about, it's the most open of tents, right? They just want as many vendors to come online and let consumers let them win. From our perspective, there is a real role in our marketplace of ensuring that clothing offered on the site has the right style and the right fit, and so from a style perspective, it needs to be current, but it doesn't necessarily need to be trendy or fast fashion, or the crop tops that are popular.

It also needs to have key elements that women, as they get older, care about, which is comfort, ease of care. We don't want dry cleaning. Wrinkle-free. From a fit standpoint, actually being, to some degree, quantitative and qualitative about clothing that's on the site to ensure that it fits, having stretch at the midsection, having some amount of elasticity in a fabric composition, having a slightly larger armhole in the upper arm area for women who do lose tricep elasticity. It's actually doing work as a company so that women who come to our site don't have to. They know that the clothing on the site across many vendors, or what we call our "designer partners," has been hand-selected for them. But when they get to the site, then it's just a pure discover and fun and enjoyment because they just don't have to worry so much.

We do small things on the site, like we give every article of clothing a VIENVIE fit, and that is either a fitted fit, a classic fit, or a generous fit. A woman may come to our site and just love our generous fits. It doesn't mean that a whole brand is generous. There could be a few pieces from each brand that we say, "Oh, this fits generously because of a set of measurement and fabric composition criteria." We believe that there's a real opportunity for us to drive some automation in both the top of funnel and the self-assessment on-site experience, but out the gate, it's really just proving the MVP, which is that our hypothesis that women desire a site built for them that makes it easy to find stylish clothing that fits is true, and we have interviewed over 400 women, we did 30 direct interviews, and then followed it with a survey. What we're hoping is that the resounding two-thirds of women that said, "Yes, these are major pain points for us," actually translates into purchase.

Christopher Reichert: In your vlog, you reference Guy Raz and How I Built This. It's one of my favorite podcasts. One of the points that you raise is that in listening to it, it's always post-fact and possibly revisionist, glossing over the sausage-making. You say, "Well, that's interesting, but I'd love to see how the sausage is made and the vulnerability in that process, even if it might expose me to criticism," so let me ask you this question, even if by asking it, I might risk criticism myself, do you think that being a woman, it allowed you to be more vulnerable?

Rachel Stevens: Yeah, that's a hard question for me to answer, Christopher. It's a good one. For a little while now, for the last few years, I've actually said that I think vulnerability is one of my superpowers. On one hand, I think that women may have a bit more comfort being vulnerable with one another in part because of the relationships that we build and nature and nurture and all that. On the other hand, you could argue that women in business, actually, from my experience and what I've heard through women, peers of mine, particularly those post-Sloan, talking about what it means to be in your mid-30s in corporate America, there still is very much a sense of being the single woman, or one of a few, especially as you rise up the ranks, and so the whole point of...

Well, one of the points vlog is to open the curtain and to share behind the scenes and start to share, especially with high-achieving people that have had a lot of amazing opportunities in their life that the polish and the perfection doesn't have to be so polished and perfected. I've always sensed that women in certain positions at high-achieving companies, it's like you have to look the part and speak the part, almost edging on the border of perfectionism. You want to be feminine, but you can't be too feminine because you have to play with the guys.

I think that my understanding is that men feel the same way to some degree, and I would love your opinion on that, or your perception from past people that have been on your podcast, because I was really inspired by creator economy and by people that felt like they had less to lose and that they've sort of shared everything about their lives and I have had the perception that people that feel like they maybe have more to lose or more is on the line are very nervous or hesitant to share, and so I wanted to actually in this vlog, fill a white space between those two groups of people.

It's all about human connection, right? I mean, think about the rise of social. It's all about people feeling more connected. I felt the exact same way. When doing this vlog, I think I wrote in an email that I sent out to all my friends and family notifying them that I was starting this that this shows more of what I don't know than what I know. There are going to be in particular investors that do their due diligence that may say, "She's not the right CEO for us," and that I've exposed a lot of what I don't know, but there are going to be other investors, I believe, that say, "That is the type of CEO that we want at the helm," and I'm hopeful that there's enough.

Christopher Reichert: You talked about finding your internal voice and coach as a guide, particularly as you'd laid yourself bare and pitched your vision. Sometimes it landed like a thud in front of people, or you got back a silent response and you walked away initially deflated and somehow needed to look inside and gather up again and say to yourself, "Well, okay, so maybe I didn't pitch it right, or maybe that person just doesn't get it," but somehow, you had to find the right answer in-between there.

Rachel Stevens: Yeah. Well, when you were talking about my background, there was a tiny but very important piece that I will insert, which is I was actually fired from Tatte, and I took eight months off, let's say. At the point of being let go, talk about deflation. I felt so deflated. It was the first time in my life where I was fired. It was a very high-expectation company, a high-expectation role for me. I was working my ass off trying to support that company in a very extreme growth scenario. Under the 18 months that I was there, we doubled in size, both revenue and physical space count.

I felt so deflated, and I actually started to ask myself, "Why? Why do I feel so deflated now? Everyone gets fired at some point in their life. Why do I feel so deflated?" I realized that in the process of maybe being mainstream and having a lot of achievement, or achievement on paper in my life, the pens, the consulting, the MIT Sloan, the Apple. Slowly, over time, I had given away my self-worth or my own internal voice to somebody else to tell me that I was doing a good job, and I think that that is such a common, common practice for many people, male and female, and non-gender and alike, and really, that questioning of, "Why do I feel this way?" encouraged me to say, "Well, there's other ways of feeling." I can actually do a lot of internal work to retake and rehold the seat of my worth, which is hard because you have to claw through all of the ways in which you've really given it up to somebody else saying, "Here's your gold star. Here's your A."

That's when I started getting into Jim Loehr, for example, a high-performance coach who talks about out your inner voice. He works with some of the top tennis players in the entire world, the top speed skaters at the Olympics that you would know of, and he really tried to boil it down to what are the key mechanisms of success. He built a small program for some of them. One that really stuck with me was the inner coach. It's like instead of having a failure, or a stumble, or something where you say to yourself, "Man, Rachel, you really suck. You really screwed that up," or replaying the conversation in your head, "I should have said this," or, "Next time when I see them, I'm going to really give it to them," or whatever narrative that brings you down that hole, it's the inner coach of, it's the theory of, "Be your best coach."

What does that mean? It actually means to step outside of Rachel's brain, develop this inner coach personality that's like the cheerleader, the champion, the wise brain, the combination of the best coaches and teachers I've ever had in my life. That could be Thich Nhat Hanh, that could be my soccer coach from high school, right? It's all these people teaching me to be wise to myself. That's the inner coach that I talk about on Unfinished Product that has now been key for me because that's the coach that says, "All right, so somebody didn't get it. Well, what can we learn from it?"

It's like the top basketball players watching their tapes, as soon as the game's over, that's the mentality that I've tried to get into, and I think that that's the resiliency that actually serves a startup CEO incredibly well. It's a process of both unlearning and maturing, I think. I always think about the journey for me. It's coming back in some respects to who I always knew I was. This goes back to your question around leadership, charisma, et cetera. I've always known that about myself, and so now being in a place where I can really have that part of me shine just feels, it just feels like a flow state, but in part, it's about maturity and just going through life. We all have our highs and our lows. It doesn't have to come in the form of being let go. Everyone deals with challenges.

Christopher Reichert: Thinking about your time at Sloan, are there things that you take with you as you move through these various phases, from highway, to paved road, to dirt road, to jumping off that cliff?

Rachel Stevens: Yeah. Yeah. Sloan has been such a great part of my journey. As I was mentioning to you at the beginning of this podcast, I didn't have the exposure to business, even though I had been doing consulting, to the breadth of business and to startup entrepreneurship until I got here. It felt like a playground. I mean, that's the way I describe it. For me, some people are more focused and intentional than I probably was, and sometimes when I talk to students that are applying, I always talk to them about finding that right balance because I think I could have done a slightly better job, but it's like you're playing with all the toys. You're trying the monkey bars, you're trying the slide, you're picking up the jump rope that's tossed to the side of the sand and playing with that, too, and then going back to the structure.

It was so fun to be in an environment where it really did feel like the world was your oyster, and because of how it has the more traditional elements that you were talking about, the marketing track, the operations track, the finance track, and definitely feeds into some of the best institutions in the world, but also has this Martin Trust Entrepreneurship Center, I didn't even do a ton of stuff, but I lived at Martin Trust. I did all my homework there because I just liked the vibe of it.

A few things that I take away, we already talked about the leadership courses, which I've been following along Nelson Repenning's work at Sloan, and I am excited to see how the school continues to develop that coursework because I just think that the instructors are fabulous. I took a lot of communications. It's the soft stuff that all of the alumni tell you that you should focus on, and a lot of younger MBAs don't necessarily listen to it, but I've always been interested in that human side, hence Unfinished Product. I did, and those courses stick with me. I still use the framework from communications of, "You did this and this is how it made me feel," right?

But then there's also the people. Some of my best friends in the world are from Sloan, and actually, the vlog I published on Wednesday was all about one of my mentors who was a Sloan alumni. I did an office hours with him, probably was terribly unprepared, but he saw the passion that I had for Apple Watch, again, going back to fit technology, and scooped me up, spent two hours with me the next day, and really encouraged me and supported my application process to Apple. Fast forward again, he was our most substantial capital investor in our pre-seed round.

Christopher Reichert: Early on in this podcast, we talked about out how you thought you are not an entrepreneur, but as we've talked about it, it seems pretty clear that unbeknownst to you, you've had this in you all along, and it took this journey to bring it to the fore. Maybe the jolt of 2020 was perhaps a catalyst. Related to that, what role did your mother play in encouraging your individuality and personal growth?

Rachel Stevens: Yes. Yeah, that's right. Actually, it reminds me because I've always been a thinking-outside-the-box thinker. It comes from her. I swear, there is a bone in her body that somehow landed in my femur. It's like we share the same femur in some way, shape, or part. I mean, we do. Genetically, we do. She thinks outside the box all of the time. She's always thinking about... We were talking last night, we had dinner with my co-founder at my mom's house, we were talking about how my mom creates recipes, and she will look at a recipe, and then be like, "It needs something else," and she'll do all this research. She might look at a recipe that has dotted-line relation, but not the actual recipe, and pull that in, and so she's always pushed me to think bigger and outside the box.

One of the reasons she wanted me to go to MIT Sloan was because she felt like it would be a great opportunity for me to be surrounded by broader diversity of thinkers. I was looking at some other programs that probably were a little bit more EQ, leadership, softer skills, and she's like, "Rachel, you have that. You should be at a program that actually really encourages people from all educational and functional backgrounds," and MIT's LGO and that program combined with the fact that MIT cultivates opportunities for people across the institution to come and work together, she's like, "Think about that," and so she planted it.

At first, I was very resistant. I'm like, "No." I was really keen on working at Nike because it was more in the fit tech, fit, health, wellness, and she goes, "Rachel, think about what you're going to learn working at a place like Apple, with people that don't think like you." She was the first person I can remember when I was in high school where our high school soccer team, it was very seniority-based. It was like, if you were a junior or senior, you get playtime, and if you're a freshman or junior, you don't. She pushed me to advocate for meritocracy on the team, and so yes, you are right. The places that I've thrived the most have encouraged divergent thinking, which is why Sloan was great for me. It's why Apple was great for me. Then I've had some real cultural challenges in environments that don't.

Now that I know that about myself, it makes it easier, but it also feels fabulous to be in an entrepreneurial seat because now, there's no fitting into a culture and trying to make sure that my divergent thinking is really welcome, it's actually just a great asset to the function and the company stage.

Christopher Reichert: Well, I think that's a great example of where you can actually create the culture. I'm a huge advocate for volunteering and giving back to the community and to the school. I know you and I have both served on the MIT Sloan alumni board. I know you're a huge advocate and contributor to the Sloanies Helping Sloanies Facebook Group, which you've asked for help on and received help on and offered to give help, so talk about giving to the community, both at MIT and in general giving and creating community.

Rachel Stevens: Yeah. There are so many ways to help at Sloan. When I think about it, I don't necessarily think about Sloan is a part of paying it forward, of giving it back. I'll give you an example that's not about Sloan, and then I'll come back to Sloan. I moved down to Miami, as you know, and I reached out to Miami U, and I said, "I'm a startup. Free, smart support is great for me in early stages," and I said, "I would love to plug into your graduate programs, whether it be engineering, or business, or even legal, potentially, to explore ways in which students that are looking for startup experience could support what I'm working on." That's a little baby example that if I was in Boston, you better bet that I would be bang down Sloan's doors to say, "I've got a project that it's almost on my wish list, right? It's not stuff that necessarily needs to get done, but the projects that I sent them were things that I would love to have a little bit of extra support to get done." That's one.

Half of the battle is just actually taking two seconds and emailing the school and saying, "I would love to get involved," because there are so many ways. To your point, the board experience that we did for four years was incredibly enriching. I personally was able to do some, what I felt like, was really impactful and also self-educational work around diversity and inclusion over the two or four years that I was there. I've served on panels. The whole point of us doing this podcast was me reaching out and saying, "Hey, there's an interesting story around maybe me as a founder, but more than that, the company that I'm building," or whatever, and putting stuff out on LinkedIn and having MIT pick it up and say, "We'd love to have you serve on the panel," right, and so even just sending an email into OER, the Office of External Relations, or admissions, and saying, "I've got a tiny bit of time. Where is their interesting intersection?" and think about it more as a dialogue as compared to, "I need to look at a job board and figure out is the time right," and whatever.

Christopher Reichert: Can't hurt to ask.

Rachel Stevens: Can't hurt to ask. That is another Barbara Lender, my mother's sayings, it never hurts to ask. Yeah, that's how I always feel. It's like, if not now, there are other ways. I was a financial contributor pretty much up until I had the unemployment, then working for a startup, and now working for myself, but I love the fact that I'm able to contribute with time, even in small little doses. It's a pay-it-forward mentality. I think that our school does have a very much a pay-it-forward mentality, but the next best thing, if you can't do it with Sloan, is just finding it in your other communities because that even benefits Sloan, to some degree, of them being like, "Oh, great, look at what one of our alumni is doing in their broader community." That's, I think, the type of principled leaders that Sloan looks for. It's part of their mission statement and it's part of who we are at our core.

Christopher Reichert: How do Sloan alumni help other Sloan alumni in a pay-it-forward way help each other? Outside of the school helping us, how do we as Sloan alumni help each other?

Rachel Stevens: Yes. Okay, this is a great give it back. You asked me before, how can you give back to Sloan? One way that I think that we can all do a better job giving back to Sloan is when you see someone starting something, whether it's on Sloanies Helping Sloanies, or LinkedIn, or you listen to this podcast, or an article featuring a startup founder, if you have any possible connection, whether it's PR, whether it's, in my case, if you happen to have access, that you're in this demographic, or your wife is in this demographic, or partner is in this demographic, or you know a lot about retail, taking action to reach out to that person and saying, "Here's how I think I might be able to help you," that's such a low-hanging fruit and easy way of paying it forward to the Sloan community and engaging.

I guess, full disclosure in the spirit of me humbly asking audiences and whoever I talk to of, "Who do you know? I would love the introduction." I say that to anybody who listens to this podcast, but I would also just say beyond my self-interested ask would just be, yeah, if you read an article about a startup, and you're like, "Oh, I work in the same space. I bet I might be of help to them," drop them an email, reach out to Sloan, get their email address, find them on LinkedIn. There are so many easy ways to get in touch with that individual. As a startup founder, I can just say the ease of building over the last three months has been accelerated by so many people, not because I asked, but because they offered, reaching out to support and help in one way, shape, or form.

Christopher Reichert: Do you have any advice for any prospective Sloanies?

Rachel Stevens: It probably goes back to the vlog and the period that was so useful to me in my career between getting fired and now being on this journey, which is everybody talks about how fast-moving Sloan is, and how it's like drinking from a fire hose. One of the things I benefited from and having a little bit of quiet time was introspection and really thinking about my values and what I wanted and really not just thinking about what's the next experience I want next year, but what's the vision that I want in five years, in 10 years? I think I would've loved encouragement to just create a little more space to have that introspection during my time at Sloan. This goes for any business program and really anyone who turns around and is like, "I don't have time for anything," because it's that quiet time that gives you the ability to be much more intentional about your life and choose things that actually do fit alongside your values and who you are at your core.

That's really easier said than done, and maybe almost borderline impractical for people that are in a business school experience, but I think that that's one thing that I would say is carve out time for quietude and for you and to really vision because your life is not just about the next step. It's like all well and good to say, "I get this next experience and it's the checkbox and it's the whatever," but it's really important to make sure that those steps are actually leading to the longer-term path that you really want for yourself. That would be my takeaway.

Christopher Reichert: That's fantastic. I think that brings together a lot of the things that you've been going through, the meditation, the essentialism, the introspection, and finding your voice again, all of which has brought you to co-founding VIENVIE. Thanks very much for Rachel Stevens, 2015 MBA for spending time with us on Sloanies Talking with Sloanies

Rachel Stevens: Christopher, thank you so much. I knew that you were going to ask thought-provoking questions based off of our relationship of many years, but I feel really honored that you were the person who I got to speak to today on the podcast. Thank you for having me. It's such a pleasure to pay it forward in this small little way, and as always, just great to see you.

Christopher Reichert: The pleasure is all ours.

Rachel Stevens: Thanks.

Christopher Reichert: Sloanies Talking with Sloanies is produced by the Office of External Relations at MIT Sloan School of Management. You can subscribe to this podcast by visiting our website, mitsloan.mit.edu/alumni, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Support for this podcast comes in part from the Sloan Annual Fund, which provides essential, flexible funding to ensure that our community can pursue excellence. Make your gift today by visiting giving.mit.edu/sloan. To support this show, or if you have an idea for a topic or a guest you think we should feature, drop us a note at sloanalumni@mit.edu.