Fuse interviewed Washington University sophomores Drake Shafer and Justin Reiling, founders of the upscale retail store Gallery 314, to learn more about their entrepreneurial journey and how their time at WashU has helped them with their success as student entrepreneurs.
Justin: Gallery 314 promotes the entrepreneurial experience by providing a space for makers, artists, and creators to showcase their work in a real retail environment. Our inventory is a diverse collection of gifts, apparel, art, and more, furnished by WashU students and local small businesses.
In coming up with the idea for Gallery 314, what was the problem to be solved and how did you recognize it?
Drake: Both WashU and St. Louis have communities rich with creativity and ingenuity. However, we noticed that it was hard for these makers and creators to show off their work in an actual storefront space. This is how we came up with the idea of Gallery 314. Justin and I wanted to create a space for St. Louis-area partners to show their creations and begin forming their own entrepreneurial ventures through Gallery 314. As of right now, we have over eighteen St. Louis-area makers with their work showcased at our store. Taking into consideration that we have only been open for two months, I would say this is great progress!
Justin: WashU provides an excellent foundation for student entrepreneurs. The Skandalaris Center provides resources for every type of venture: like online, brick-and-mortar, or service-based. In our case, the Skandalaris Center provided us the opportunity to rent a storefront and offered us a competitive loan. Additionally, we have reached out to our professors, who have been eager to help. Our marketing professor [Olin Business School] aided us in finding avenues for publicity and connected us to others who can share more insight. Regardless of who you turn to, WashU’s exceptional professors and staff are there for you along the journey.
“Regardless of who you turn to, WashU’s exceptional professors and staff are there for you along the journey.”
Drake: One of Gallery 314’s main purposes is to incubate and grow the entrepreneurial ventures of our partners. To do this, we want to create a network within our consignors where they can share their ideas and experiences with one another. Once it is safe to do so and COVID-19 is under control, we hope to have networking and bonding events for our consignors, as well as large showcases where consignors can show their products to customers and explain the stories behind them!
Justin: 1) Reach out for help and 2) don’t dismiss ideas before you explore them fully. There are so many resources at WashU, whether it’s advice, funding, or partnership, so use them! Gallery 314 evolved significantly from where it began based on the advice and direction of people we reached out to at WashU.