November 22, 2022

HI Hub Incubator Program Finalists Navid Zahraie, Steven Klavier, and Monica Stewart Tell Us about Their Startup, Cultura

Cultura is one of the finalists in the HI Hub Incubator Program. Co-founders Navid Zahraie, Steven Klavier, and Monica Stewart tell us more about the business.

What product or service does Cultura offer?

NAVID: Cultura is a home for electronic music, which has been steadily growing as a musical form and lifestyle for decades. It’s a place for people to gather in order to connect, engage, dance, grow, learn and give back.

MONICA: Cultura is a home for world class dance music in NYC, with art and educational programming. We really want to create a place that honors electronic music as an art form while still being fun and accessible for people.

STEVEN: It’s Community, Cutting Edge Dance Music, Forward Thinking Audio + Visual Experience, F+B.

How did you come up with the idea for this business?

NAVID: Lots of late nights…

In all seriousness, the three of us have been running our own businesses or helping others operate theirs for many years. I found myself either fixing someone else’s business or bringing teams together to operate others’ businesses and found great success in that; however, my ambition is to do more and work with smart and ambitious people. I see that we can do all that while having a greater impact on our community, changing lives and helping to grow the music we love internationally. I found myself to be impressed by the achievements of my co-founders, and so putting a business of our own together came as the next logical step.

MONICA: Steven and I were introduced by a mutual friend who saw that we were working towards very similar things, and when we met Navid it kind of clicked that we all had kind of the same vision. We’ve all been really successful advising/operating other businesses and we believe in each other as a team. We’ve all been in this scene for a while and I think this club is kind of a testament to what we love about dance music.

STEVEN: I’ve worked in nightlife since I was 16 years old.  My absolute dream has been to open my space.  I have spent many years providing valuable insight and direction to many different venues and clubs across the city but have been limited to reach what I believe to be my full potential because of the restrictions of working for someone else's business.

Why did you decide to participate in the HI Hub Incubator program?

NAVID: Just saw it as a good opportunity. Sort of like taking off from the ground up if one's desire was to fly. A quick meeting with Dr. K inspired us to dive in and the process so far has surpassed my expectations.

MONICA: We want all the help we can get! We are really excited about working with mentors who can give us input from diverse perspectives.

STEVEN: We really wanted to use this program to craft and perfect our business plan and pitch.

What advice would you give to someone contemplating founding a startup?

NAVID: Prepare to work your hardest!

MONICA: Be extremely honest with yourself about why you are doing this. It’s extremely hard work, very few people will support you at the beginning and most startups fail. If you’re ok with that, look at where you are providing unique value to the business and then assemble a team that supports your skill set.

STEVEN: Nothing is promised.

What is something you learned through this process that you wish you’d known before you created your startup?

MONICA: That none of your ideas are ever complete - you’ll keep reworking them, potentially forever! I’ve learned to not be too attached to any particular version of a thing.

STEVEN: Know your business in and out, partner with people you have true synergy with, and have a clear and passionate vision.

What does the future of your startup look like in an ideal world?

NAVID: A place of nightlife, art and music that can provide entertainment by night as well as community by day will be a very special place.

MONICA: A place that people are excited to come back to week after week would be a success for me. I’d also love to grow into a brand that can collaborate with other clubs and festivals around the world.

STEVEN: A community hub that is financially sound that provides space for people from all walks of life and focuses on being a safe haven for QPOC communities.  Eventually moving the business outside of the space and expanding to other properties and cities.

Have you worked with any alumni or mentors on this project? If so, who and what was that experience like?

NAVID: Yes, it’s been great getting thoughtful, individualized feedback from someone you trust.

MONICA: All the mentors we’ve worked with so far have been excellent! I honestly didn’t anticipate such personal and varied feedback - each conversation is immensely valuable.

STEVEN: Dermot Quigley I felt gave us some really valuable feedback from a different perspective and allow my brain to see our project from his point of view, therefore getting to a place where I could see new ways in which we could communicate our vision.

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