As spring quarter in 2022 came to an end, engineering student Charlotte Oxnam felt deflated.
The sole founder of her startup, Cue the Curves, Oxnam had gone through a grueling application process — including six interviews — for Techstars Chicago Accelerator, a highly competitive entrepreneurial mentorship program. But she hadn’t heard back about a final decision.
Oxnam started Cue the Curves as a fashion blog to improve the shopping experience and create a supportive environment for plus-size people. Her mission resonated with many — and got a boost in March 2022, when Oxnam appeared in an international ad campaign for Microsoft Windows 11.
As readers shared stories about how the blog had positively impacted them, “it became clear that this needed to be ... a platform.” She hoped Techstars could help her take the company to the next level.
But in May 2022, “I was exhausted,” says Oxnam, who regularly worked 65-hour weeks, running her company while juggling schoolwork. “And I had reneged on an offer to work for a venture capital firm for the summer, and I thought, ‘Ugh, I messed up.’”
Then, during one of her late-night work sessions at The Garage, she got a call from Neal Sáles-Griffin ’09, managing director of Techstars Chicago and an adjunct faculty at the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“He was like, ‘Hey, we just have one last question for you. ... Do you want to be in the cohort?’ And I lost it,” Oxnam says, brimming with excitement as she thinks back to the moment.
She was in.
Oxnam, now a senior, became the first full-time student to be accepted into Techstars Chicago Accelerator, a three-month program that provides entrepreneurs with resources and a robust support network. She was one of 12 selected for the 2022 summer cohort out of more than 300 applicants.
It was just the boost she — and her company — needed, says Oxnam, who launched Cue the Curves in 2019 with support from the Farley Center, The Garage, and the Propel program.
Through the Techstars program, Oxnam rebranded Cue the Curves and launched a mobile app that allows users to search easily for size-inclusive clothing from brands such as Target, Good American and Selkirk and find clothing style inspiration.
Northwestern’s Propel program, which provides entrepreneurial mentorship and resources to women who are full-time students, was critical to her success. Now, she’s passing on that experience and wisdom to other students. “It’s full circle because Propel is how I started Cue the Curves, and now I’m the program manager of Propel,” she says. “You can’t really tell Cue the Curves’ story without telling The Garage’s story.”
All her hard work has paid off. Oxnam will graduate early this winter and walk with her class at Commencement in June 2023. In the meantime, she’ll be working full-time at Cue the Curves, preparing to launch new features on the app in the coming year.