Becoming a successful entrepreneur like Steph Korey involves a compelling vision along with the resources and commitment to see it transformed into reality. Financial resources, technological capabilities, and human capital play key roles in the business’ development and expansion.
Yet, one important variable is often overlooked. The entrepreneur’s sense of curiosity helped them to hatch their great idea. Maybe they uncovered an unsolved problem or an unmet market need. By keeping an open mind, and realizing that they had some gaps in their knowledge, they developed a thorough understanding of the challenge.
Then, this better-informed entrepreneur confidently stepped in with a targeted solution. Their innate curiosity had spurred them to develop an innovative product or service that satisfied a market need.
Curiosity’s Multiple Roles in the Entrepreneurial Journey
Regardless of the business type or industry, an enduring sense of curiosity is at the heart of every innovation and enhancement. Following are four ways curiosity is often integrated into an entrepreneurial journey.
Curiosity Brings Creative Engagement and Innovation
An innate sense of curiosity helps an individual to completely engage with the larger world. As a child, a future entrepreneur likely besieged their parents with endless questions about seemingly mundane objects or actions.
Not content with a simple one-sentence answer, this determined girl or boy insistently pressed for more details. Once they had fully satisfied their curiosity, they shifted their attention to something else.
Unlike many adults who stifled that sense of childhood curiosity, the creative entrepreneur simply harnesses it for their benefit. Within their industry, they look for currently unmet needs and underserved market niches.
Next, the innovative entrepreneur performs exhaustive due diligence on potential solutions. When they find a product or service that satisfies their demanding criteria, they move confidently to bring it into the marketplace.
Childhood Curiosity in Action
For Pinky Daga, CEO of Thriive Art & Soul, the connection between childhood curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit is very clear. “Most entrepreneurs have been the kids who were always getting thrown out of class for exploring the unfamiliar. They are usually those who gain success or ‘thrive’ before others, by finding innovative methods to market an existing product or doing something as simple as changing price points or distribution channels.
“Entrepreneurs constantly feed their sense of curiosity by continuously questioning the ‘best’ way to solve the smallest problems, or looking at an old business model for a new market,” she remarks.
Equally importantly, Daga observes that curious, engaged entrepreneurs are always open to new ideas. Even if an interesting concept has no connection to their current product or service, they enjoy exploring its potential applications.
Curiosity Enhances Efficiency and Productivity
Efficiency and productivity are important components of many business operations. On a vehicle assembly line, efficiently attaching a component to the vehicle chassis enables workers to meet preset productivity goals. In a catering business, efficiently organizing an event’s food service means all guests receive their food in a timely manner.
To a highly curious entrepreneur, however, efficiency and productivity take on a different tone. Not satisfied with how a specific function has always been performed, the business owner may search for a way to improve the entire operation.
First, the innovative entrepreneur will review resource allocation and determine if another sequence of steps might accomplish the goal more quickly and efficiently. Finally, they implement the strategy that will best benefit the company’s bottom line and move the business forward.
Curiosity Enables Acceptance of Risk and Potential Failure
Every entrepreneur’s journey is full of risks and opportunities, reminds seasoned entrepreneur Steph Korey. Many entrepreneurs are skilled at weighing each strategy’s potential benefits and downsides. Where possible, they quantify potential outcomes and obtain expert advice about the potential implications of each action.
However, the entrepreneur still faces considerable uncertainty about a particular strategy’s outcome. The fear of failure is always looming in their subconscious mind. For an entrepreneur with a healthy sense of curiosity, this apprehension is tempered by the exciting possibility of achievement.
To illustrate, maybe a business opportunity unexpectedly falls through or a promising product fails miserably in market tests. Anyone might become a bit discouraged by this temporary setback.
However, curiosity-driven entrepreneurs can dust themselves off and regard it as part of the learning process. Although embracing failure is not exactly known as a business strategy, it can help the entrepreneur to adopt a positive perspective about what’s coming next.
Curiosity Drives Mutually Beneficial Collaborations
Many industries and marketplaces offer examples of exciting collaborations. To illustrate, combining two complementary products can result in an elevated customer purchase experience. A similar service enhancement can lead to greater user satisfaction.
In each case, the two companies saw the potential benefit of bringing the two offerings together. A curious, creative product development or marketing professional likely broached the idea during a team brainstorming session. Stated another way, they envisioned the successful outcome and helped to put the wheels in motion to execute it.
How Curiosity has Enhanced Steph Korey’s Career
Throughout Steph Korey’s multifaceted career, she has retained her natural curiosity about many features of the world around her. Growing up in a multicultural home, and during visits to her relatives overseas, she absorbed every aspect of Romanian and Middle Eastern cultures.
In each of her jobs, and in her successful business, Korey has sought new ways to solve problems and embrace emerging opportunities. Her desire for knowledge and exploration continues to play a key role in her business endeavors.
Cultural Appreciation Shaped her Worldview
Steph Korey explains why her parents provided regular exposure to her family’s two cultures throughout her childhood. “It was really important to them that we understood that there are all different types of cultures and people around the world that are exactly like our neighbors in suburban Ohio, where I grew up.
“I think that global perspective and that excitement and openness in understanding people different from me really shaped my worldview, my perspective, and my career,” she concludes.
Curiosity Plays a Role in Her Career Progression
Curiosity has infused every aspect of Steph Korey’s professional life. Her affinity for multiple cultures may have influenced her to graduate from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations. After working in the conflict resolution arena at Atlanta’s Carter Center, Korey turned her attention to the private sector.
Supply Chain and Merchandise Strategy Expertise
With past merchandising and buying positions at Bloomingdales and Kate Spade, Steph Korey was a natural fit for a supply chain management role. Fueled by her natural curiosity and desire for excellence, she joined Warby Parker as the Head of Supply Chain.
Leading a product development, production, and market distribution team, Korey provided this rapidly growing eCommerce eyeglasses retailer with a scratch-built supply chain structure. This challenging assignment also enabled her to develop valuable direct-to-consumer (or DTC) market expertise.
Inspired by her Warby Parker achievements, Steph Korey decided to pursue an MBA at Columbia Business School. During her time there, she worked as a merchandise strategy consultant for Casper, a DTC online mattress retailer. Korey utilized her proven supply chain and merchandise strategy skills to enable efficient product fulfillment for this up-and-coming company.
Effective Storytelling Completes the Puzzle
Next, Steph Korey brought effective storytelling into the picture. Done correctly, it commands the audience’s attention and plays to each viewer’s sense of curiosity. Over time, a growing connection to the brand often leads to sales.
“My experiences at Warby and Casper also proved that a brand’s success is determined by so much more than just a great product. People don’t get excited about eyeglasses or mattresses—they get excited about the story those brands are telling,” she declares.
Entrepreneurship Utilizes Korey’s Multiple Talents
In 2015, Steph Korey co-founded global lifestyle business Away. Under her direction, the company raised $156M, eventually realizing a $1.4B valuation. During the same timeframe, Fast Company twice named the firm one of its Most Innovative Companies.
Today, Steph Korey utilizes her multifaceted skill set to support other emerging business owners. As an angel/early-stage investor, she seeks out start-ups founded by women and other underrepresented entrepreneurs. By providing financial capital and ongoing mentorship, she assists these talented business owners in bringing their creative ideas into the marketplace.
Steph Korey’s Advice to Other Entrepreneurs
Steph Korey emphasizes the importance of remaining “teachable” throughout one’s career. Stated another way, she says it’s important to always remain open to learning something new.
“You start your career, and you’re really just getting started. I think when people are really early in their career, they realize that there’s so much they don’t know.
“I think a trap I sometimes see people fall into when they get 5, 10, 15 years into their career is they start to think that they know so much because they do know so much more than they used to.
“My Number 1 piece of career advice that I give myself and I give everyone around me is no matter where you are in your career, whether you’re 1 year in, 10 years in, or 50 years in, really embrace that you still don’t know 99% of what there is to know…
“Have that total curiosity, sponge, growth mindset to really have your perspective challenged and learn new skills and ideas all the time. If you can successfully avoid the trap of thinking that you already know a lot, I think that’s what unlocks the most potential in your career,” Korey emphasizes.