Millennial on a Mission: Rafael Balbi

Happy Friday!

I’ve always been inspired by my peers that find excitement in taking risks. Today’s ‘Millennial on a Mission” is no different and truly has found where his passion meets his purpose. While upon college graduation he was pretty content with the idea of starting his career in the world of finance, there was something very enticing about start-up culture that he felt would be just as challenging and rewarding. While every journey comes with it series of challenges, he believes that his experiences post-graduate have been the most thrilling of his peers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like for you to meet Rafael Balbi.


Hailing from New York City but with strong ties to the Dominican Republic, Rafael is a proud graduate of Syracuse University’s class of 2011, where he studied economics. To him, Syracuse University was in many aspects the perfect school: a high-caliber of academics, the thriving diverse student body, & an array of Division 1 sports gave him nothing short of an extremely well-rounded experience. “My time at SU was spent roaming about as I defined and constructed my ‘professional sandbox’,” he says. “Nothing short of a transformative experience.” After about two weeks of searching for a job, he realized that right out of college would be the best time to take a risk and inevitably jump head first into entrepreneurship.

On pursuing a career in entrepreneurship: 

I didn’t see myself working for a startup upon graduation, but I always did see myself as someone who continually sought opportunities to create and mold elements as I saw fit. Entrepreneurship is an amazing avenue to do this. I’ve always seen my life progression as something that would exponentialize upward…as well known the older you get the narrower the window of opportunity is. My gut told me that I could always go back into finance if my heart desired to, I was smart and hardworking enough to dictate my course. Having been continually aware of my forward trajectory to properly allocate my present, I never wanted to look back at my 20s and regret not having done something that I sincerely wanted to do. [Thus far, no regrets :)]  While I’ve faced the pain of being an entrepreneur, I’ve also had the opportunity to travel around the world post-graduate, learn the management techniques of a senior director,  picked up new language and had a few acting stints. It’s been a lot in three  years, but there’s so much more to come.

Me posing

In his travels abroad, Rafael would find that his lack of Internet connectivity for hours on end very frustrating and detrimental to his work. Additionally, he believes a huge component of travel and productivity is wearing comfortable clothing that can be suited for many situations. Having always been fashion-forward and a huge advocate of technology, he thought of a ‘smart trench’ that would not only be fashionable, but enable you to produce.  [Receive $35 off on your own ‘M’ trench by using the code ‘onamission’ –]

On starting Motiif, and the lessons he’s learned along the way: 

The process of launching Motiif has been very extensive, but with anything I think creation in all fields comes down to reconstructing logic and working from a core concept that is comprised of ideas, and feelings. We tend to think that being logical & technical are very far from creativity when in fact the two are intertwined. As a fashion designer, I took the logic of color matching, silhouettes, and fabrics to create this new thing.

Biggest lesson I’ve learned in starting a new company is to save plenty of money. No matter how big or grand the idea, you should be able to generate revenue while working on something part time. If you plan to quit your job have enough cash to live 8 months and invest into your own idea. Also do not quit your job until your company is actually generating revenue to support you. This is critical, for it takes a lot of time to understand your industry & how to do the core activity of actually generating money.

Finally, It’s all about how you allocate your time and utilize your weekends. Begin marketing as soon as possible, and always be open to feedback. Also, I would suggest learning HTML-CSS. This is a huge reason why the first thing I did with Motiif was create a landing page With those two skills, you can start to generate revenue. It’s never been easier to start a business.

Rafael believes to be a ‘Millennial on a Mission’ means to actively participate in the evolving fabric as global aware local citizens that are intellectually honest, and to strive for continuous improvement of self and your community. “Millennials think critically and are informed of important issues,” he says. “We’re always on the constant pursuit of fulfillment, leaving no stone unturned.”  A piece of advice he would impart is to be informed and be thinking 5+ years down the road. “Our world is changing at a drastic rate with technology and it’s not just Facebook and Twitter. There are deeper changes going on with how we consume media.” Rafael would also advise for millennials to be patient, for it takes long months and years to build something remarkable. “Your patience will whither thin at times. Surround yourself with remarkable smart people who are doing things that are noteworthy! Don’t be afraid of hard work and remember put in your 10,000 hours!”

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