Interview with Dripkit Coffee Co-Founders Ilana Kruger and Kara Cohen

Modern life means facing decisions again and again. From what to wear to how to address a problem at work, the need to check yes or no is never-ending. Most choices are of the humdrum variety, but some forever change everything that comes after. In an ongoing series titled “All the Difference,” we ask women to think back on a pivotal moment that affected everything.

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The majority of modern co-founder stories have their starts in b-school or a single fruitful year of undergrad before pursuing the dream. Kara Cohen and Ilana Kruger, co-founders of Dripkit, a single-use drip coffee system funded on Kickstarter, tell a more colorful tale.

Both women had quit their real jobs and were looking to put down roots in New York City. Cohen was living in San Francisco, saw Kruger’s Craigslist post looking for a roommate, and sent off a note.

“I wanted to ask a seemingly silly question that would give me really good insight into someone’s personality,” Kruger remembered. “I wanted to live with someone bold, creative, and kind, so I thought about Disney characters. Everyone knows them, and they are each strong and different.” So, she asked every potential roomies to name the character they most resembled. Cohen was more than game. “I loved the question because it was a welcome break from the common requests: hobbies, dishwashing habits, etc. It gave me a chance to think and get creative,” she said. Her best and final answer? Aladdin‘s Genie (“Because you’ll never have a friend like me”—ba-dum-tiss).

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‘Kruger, left, with Cohen in their apartment in 2011.

“We ended up having a three-hour Skype chat that left me with no reservations about showing up on her doorstep with my bags at 6 A.M. after a red-eye. That connection made me feel confident enough to take a risk to move across the country, alone, with no job,” Cohen said. From there, a real friendship started blossoming into the kind of simpatico situation that translates well to a business partnership too. “We were an instant team. We started making things together all the time: videos, piñatas, paintings, songs. We’d throw imaginatively themed dinner parties,” Kruger said.

“Our friendship grew out of not just thinking of crazy ideas, but actually making them,” Cohen added. Living situations shifted and the two stopped being roommates, but that didn’t kill the synergy. “Even after we weren’t living together we’d collaborate on each other’s projects. I would help Ilana with branding and social media, and she would help me with building websites and developing sales strategies. Eventually, we ended up working at the same company, and coworkers saw that when they paired us up on a project, we both performed at our best.”

Our friendship grew out of not just thinking of crazy ideas, but actually making them.

In the winter of 2016, a Facetime gripe about how hard it can be to find a decent cup of coffee led to Dripkit. “I started strategizing ways to solve the problem and when Ilana got back [from traveling] a month later, she immediately jumped in,” Cohen explained. “No discussion. Within a week or two it was clear that we were business partners. In a way, we’ve always been.”

“It seemed like everyone we spoke to would say, ‘I need that,’ including customers we’d never thought of, like nurses and flight attendants,” Kruger added. Those unofficial focus groups were all the encouragement they needed. The two started immediately, diving in to research and prototype development.

Dripkit, Cohen and Kruger’s way-more-stylish alternative to instant coffee.

Courtesy of Dripkit

Now, in November of this year, Dripkit will start shipping. You can pre-order your “pocket-sized pour over” here at a special rate: two boxes of 10 for $25 (the regular price for one = $25).

Interview with Golfer Annika Sorenstam

On quietly falling in love with golf:

“At the age of 16 I realized that my backhand wasn’t good enough, and after playing and losing 6‑0, 6‑1, it gets a little discouraging. But I was getting better in golf.

“My parents had a big basement—I’m talking a big, big basement; I can literally hit it 25 yards—and [one winter] I bought a net and a mat. I would play tennis, and then I’d roll down the net and hit golf balls. I spent hours in the basement after school [practicing] tennis and then golf, but it became more and more golf.

“I would just work on my technique, and I didn’t mind grinding for some reason. I thought it was fun. So when the snow started to thaw and winter was over, I wasn’t so rusty because I had been hitting balls all winter. And then I got invited to the national team as a trial. Then I got to go to Spain and play real golf, on a real golf course, and that’s how at the age of 18 I became a full member of the national team.”

On harboring extreme shyness:

“Early on, my fear of being seen and heard was very strong. In school, I wouldn’t raise my hand to answer a question because if I said the wrong thing I thought everybody would laugh at me. I thought, It’s better to be quiet.

“On the golf course, the fear of giving a winning speech and everybody looking at you—it was not something I was comfortable with. But then driving home in the car, thinking, Why do I practice so hard and then I throw it away here?, I knew I had to work on it.”

On overcoming fear and self-consciousness:

“My parents came up with a plan. They called the tournament director for my next tournament and they decided every player had to say something, so you can imagine… I was like, ‘Well, I didn’t win.’ They said, ‘We know, but we would love for you to say something.’ I was terrified. My heart was like a cartoon; you can just feel it popping out of your chest.

“My dad said, ‘Just bring a golf club up on the stage, you feel comfortable with that.’ So I did. You know, it probably wasn’t the most elegant speech ever, but I managed. That’s when I realized there are some things in life that you might not like and don’t feel comfortable with, but if you’re going to move on, you have to deal with it and make the best out of it. But you can imagine when I won my first big tournament in ’95, the U.S. Open—there’s no quietness about that, you know?”

Interview with Ade Hassan, Founder and Creator of Nubian Skin

Modern life means facing decisions again and again. From what to wear to how to address a problem at work, the need to check yes or no is never-ending. Most choices are of the humdrum variety, but some forever change everything that comes after. In an ongoing series titled “All the Difference,” we ask women to think back on a pivotal moment that affected everything.

Hassan working with a model behind the scenes at a shoot.

Martha Ojo

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Everyone needs a bit of encouragement here and there. Sometimes it comes from a conventional channel (like a boss pulling you into the corner office for a closed-door check-in) and other times from seemingly inconsequential moments that reveal their importance only later. The latter was the case for Ade Hassan, the US-, UK-, and Nigerian-raised creator of Nubian Skin, a lingerie brand that set out to redefine what “nude” means, offering essentials in four different colors; current pieces include bras, underwear, hosiery, and shoes. Approaching its third anniversary this fall, its fair to say the label and its founder are killing the game: Nordstrom carries Nubian Skin in the U.S., and last month, Hassan was placed on the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to fashion.

For Hassan, reaching this stage in her career was a journey paved by friends, family, and mentors. In celebration of her latest recognition, asked Hassan to reflect on one small moment that made a big difference. Here, the story of the world’s best birthday card:

I loved the idea of Nubian Skin, but I hadn’t quite figured out how to make it happen. I needed to save more money, and I was working in a demanding, client-focused job, full-time in finance at a boutique private equity placement agency. Essentially, I was distracted. I was making a nice amount of money and enjoying the benefits of that, while also working on average ten to eleven hours a day, so I wasn’t quite focused on turning my dream into a reality. It was my 29th birthday [when things changed]. A really good friend, and at that point, the only non-family member with whom I’d shared my dream of Nubian Skin, sent me a birthday card with a message saying she loved the idea and hoped to see me on the cover of Forbes one day. The next day, I registered the company and started the trademark process. It was as if a switch had flipped, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was pretty much non-stop from there, waking up very early and going to bed very late because I was still working full-time, but driven by adrenaline. I slept with a notebook beside my bed because I’d have ideas come to me in the middle of the night, and I had to write them down. It possessed me.

Hassan, left, with British musician Beverley Knight.

Reyhaan Day

Nubian Skin bras and underwear start at $55 and $16, respectively; shop here.