For over 15 years, Rebecca Minkoff has made luxury fashion accessible with her edgy and feminine designs, and more recently, she co-founded Female Founder Collective, a community dedicated to empowering female-owned and led companies.
In this recording from Yelp’s Women in Business Summit (March 24-25, 2021), Yelp Trend Expert Tara Lewis and Rebecca talk all things career and entrepreneurship.
You can expect to learn more about:
- How to build, grow, and scale a company from the ground up with smart hires
- The importance of target marketing and finding your niche
- How women can support other women in business
- How to turn failure into opportunity
California native turned New York fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff broke into the fashion industry with her iconic Morning After Bag in 2005. In four short years, she was named one of the 2009 New York Moves Power Women for her success and entrepreneurial spirit. Motivated to inspire other women in business, Rebecca established the Female Founder Collective, a network to empower female-owned businesses and affect positive socio-economic change.
Yelp Trend Expert Tara Lewis has her finger on the pulse of what’s new and trending across the U.S. Her mission is to empower local businesses to make informed decisions with consumer-driven insights and valuable industry knowledge. From home to food, beauty to wellness, Tara is excited to share what our communities are demanding and when.
Tara: Good morning to everyone. I’m so happy to be here with you today, and I’m looking forward to an inspiring day ahead. As Ali mentioned, I’m Tara Lewis and I’m Yelp’s trend expert. If you follow Yelp on IG, you might recognize me from past Instagram lives or from morning shows like Good Morning America where I share the data-driven stories behind our community to uncover the latest trends in food, home, travel and more.
Tara: Joining me today is a woman that really needs no introduction, but certainly deserves one, Rebecca Minkoff. For over 15 years, Rebecca has made luxury fashion accessible with her edgy and feminine designs. More recently she co-founded the Female Founder Collective, a community dedicated to empowering female-owned and lead companies. Rebecca, thanks so much for joining us today.
Rebecca: Thanks for having me, Tara. It’s so nice to be with all of you on such an incredible month.
Tara: Fantastic. Well, so many people in attendance submitted questions for Rebecca in advance. These questions will be coming from your minds through my lips as they’re being asked. Let’s get started. Rebecca, this past year has been so challenging for everyone. How has this pandemic affected your life and your business?
Rebecca: Well, I would say life is a lot different than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. I think a year ago this week, we were looking at the loss of 70% of our business, orders being canceled by every single department and wholesale partner we had. Really at the end of the day, all we had was our website.
Rebecca: While we did have a nice direct-to-consumer business, it was simply not enough to keep the lights on, so a re-engineering, a refocusing, pivoting had to occur in order for us to stay alive. My brother and I … he’s, my co-founder at Rebecca Minkoff, had some really deep conversations of do we fight and give it our all and see if we can stick this out, or do we just throw our hands up and give up?
Rebecca: We just made the commitment to our team, to each other, the last 15 years of being in business, that we were not going to go down without a fight. It’s proven that it’s been an incredible year in terms of being up over last year 10%, and really taking our own power back as a company.
Rebecca: I think for so long we were at the beck and call of our partners who called the shots and now we say, “No, if you want to order, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s also fine, because we know we can feed ourselves on our own site.” Business has been incredibly hard and the first half of the pandemic was a homeschool teacher as well, and then said, “You know what? If this is going to continue, I got to go somewhere else where I have more support.”
Rebecca: We temporarily are residing in Florida, living with my mom, but it allows the kids to go to school and for me to actually keep working without the struggle that so many of us experience and still experience of, how do you do this all in a day?
Tara: Yeah. Even when you’re thinking about how you had to pivot and connect with consumers in a different way, how did you adapt your language and communication style in the midst of the pandemic with everything going on to make sure that you’re still connecting in an authentic way?
Rebecca: Yeah. Again, we had no outside … There wasn’t the ability, as we all know, to continue to act and do as we did. I became chief content maker, chief email writer, chief … Any imagery you saw from us was me because we simply didn’t have anyone else to do it. Right away that kicked off an even deeper relationship with our consumer. She appreciated that I was in it as much as she was.
Rebecca: It level-set the playing field for everybody. Then I tried to figure out, how are we going to get new organic traffic or emails? What we did is we started partnering with a ton of female-founded brands, and I still highly recommend this as a strategy, but I would promote them, they would promote me on different platforms.
Rebecca: Sometimes it was just a simple postcard in a box like we did with Madison Reed, or it was me talking about this brand on social or interviewing them on IG live. What it did is it drove over … just from that, right? Doesn’t cost us anything, over a hundred thousand dollars in sales and about 150,000 email addresses that we got. Just new people.
Rebecca: Our traffic when we were doing this consistently grew by over 70%. Between the cross-promotions, the sweepstakes, the giveaways, all these things that we had never leaned into as a brand, it didn’t matter what anyone thought, we just did it and it really worked in our favor. Those were just two tips that I’m telling everybody is free. You’re giving away a couple of products, but it has incredible results.
Tara: Wow. Your resilience is so impressive and inspiring. It’s clear to us that you juggle a lot, both between your personal life and your professional life. How do you prioritize what’s most important and when, and then how do you create some structure in your life and time management to make sure that you’re taking care of those priorities?
Rebecca: It’s changed a bit now that my kids, since September they’ve been in school full time. 9:00 to 5:00 I am a free woman, so to speak. Free to work, I guess I should say, and not cook and clean and homeschool like I was doing the first six months of this experience. I really try and batch my time. If I’m doing podcasts, I do a couple in a row.
Rebecca: If I have dedicated time for content or dedicated time for emails, for me that’s how I can work best. I can just focus on one thing and sort of knock it out of the park and then move on to the next. I’m a big list writer. I love crossing things off my list and so I sort of have segmented all the things I’m working on.
Rebecca: If it’s the book, the podcast, Rebecca Minkoff, personal, everything’s on a list. Then that way, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I can just go, “Okay. What do I need to focus on? Let me take out that list and work on those actions.”
Tara: Well, you and me have something in common right here, because I’m old school with it also, so I can relate. I appreciate it. I see you. We’re going to take it back a little bit into sort of the start of your career. We’ve got a lot of questions about that. I read that you developed an affinity to fashion as a costume designer. Is that correct? In your high school costume department.
Tara: How were you able to identify at that age that this was such a deep-rooted passion that you actually wanted to move to New York and pursue a career in it?
Rebecca: I actually went to this performing arts high school for dance. I was 5’9″ at the age of 15, which most people would be like, “That’s great.” But when you’re a dancer and all the other boys haven’t hit puberty yet, you’re a little limited. You’re 6’1″ on pointe shoes, so I couldn’t be a solo and I couldn’t be in the back because my teacher said I messed up the symmetry of the performance, and so I had nowhere to go.
Rebecca: I literally went into the costume department four hours a day, every day because we didn’t have electives and I became obsessed. Whether it was designing all the costumes for the dance performances or for the theater performances or my prom dresses, I just was so empowered by the fact that I could make something for myself and I could make something for others that would be liked and sought after, and so I couldn’t think about anything else.
Rebecca: I was like, “I have to get to New York and I have to work in the fashion industry at all costs.” My brother came home from a party one night with a phone number, like on a scrappy piece of paper and said, “This guy’s a designer. He’s from New York, call him.” It sounds easy, but I called him and he was like, “You want an internship? When can you be here?” That was the interview.
Rebecca: I showed up with two suitcases, nowhere to live about a month later and started working for him full time. It was a lot of hard work. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I think when the CEO saw that I was willing to do anything that they asked and did it as passionately as I could, they hired me and the rest is definitely not history, but that’s the beginning.
Tara: Wow. My mentor would always say, he said, “Being successful, part of it is just showing up and returning phone calls.” I think that your follow-up at that age, and then of course that connection that you felt to the work that you were doing is definitely, I think, telling to a lot of people and a big part of your success. When you first started out … I know we get a lot of questions about branding and how does a brand evolve and how do you identify what a brand is?
Tara: In the early stages of your career, how did you start off branding yourself and what would you consider to be your big break?
Rebecca: I don’t think there was a conscious moment of branding ourselves, especially when we started out. It was literally like, is there going to be an order? Or when let’s say the bag hit four years later, like let’s just go with this momentum. There was not even time to think about brand. There was no time to make a deck. It was like all hands in. We’re going to make sure that we follow this rocket ride of this bag taking off.
Rebecca: I think when we had the time to catch our breath, we said, “Okay. What do we want this brand to stand for?” I think you have to really do a deep dive into, what is that aesthetic? Right? Who are you targeting? We’re always going to be targeting the free-spirited, Bohemian with a little bit of rock and roll. That’s what our clothing, our bags, our shoes look like. That’s the woman who wants to look like that.
Rebecca: Then as far as her mindset we want a woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s a little bit cheeky, she’s optimistic, she’s somewhat fearless. That’s sort of the mindset that we want you to feel when you put on our clothing. Girls will stop me, not now, but pre-pandemic, “You know I first got your bag when I …” Fill in the blank. It’s always, my first job, when I got a raise, when I quit my job, like all these pivotal moments for women.
Rebecca: We like to be that brand that’s there for your milestone. That took 10 years for us to put it down in words, even though it was already happening. I highly recommend doing it because then once you can get focused and granular, then you have some guardrails and you’re never all over the place. I think companies and brands can get into trouble when they’re trying to be everything to everybody.
Tara: Perfect sense. What would you consider to be the most difficult aspect of starting a company in those initial phases? If you look back at that, what did you wish that you knew before you had started?
Rebecca: I think the big thing is you … at least we were, it wasn’t the trend then to raise a bunch of capital and then have all this money and go launch a company. We had to really bootstrap the company for the first seven years. We lived off of a credit line that was not being used by my parents. Don’t worry. They got handsomely paid back for it. My brother mortgaged his house. He maxed out his personal credit cards.
Rebecca: I didn’t have anything so there was nothing for me to max out. That’s scary and risky, but I think you have got to be creative when you don’t have money. Even when you have money, it’s more important that you’re creative, but not having any money forces you to be incredibly thoughtful and creative in what you do. How do you market when you don’t have funds?
Rebecca: We put a little card in every bag at the beginning with a phone number that still exists to this day that says, “Call me.” Right? Because it was the morning-after bag and it was a cute picture of a man and a little handwritten … I got in a lot of trouble in some cases because some angry husband’s rage couldn’t see through that it was a card with my logo on it, but … Or we would do scavenger hunts around the city and would do these fun activations and have people into our showroom before that was a thing.
Rebecca: I think we leaned in hard to our customer. That’s normal now. It was definitely not normal 15 years ago. It always works out when you are so connected to your consumer. If I could give advice to anybody, it would be create a community, even if you don’t have a product first. If you listen and follow the brand, Lively, the CEO, Michelle Cordeiro Grant, she created a community before she ever launched.
Rebecca: By the time she did launch, she had 10,000 women waiting for her bras and underwear. Create a community, create an ambassador program. You can get the most popular women in these small towns and communities talking about you in exchange for free merchandise or perks. Then I think once you have a product, make sure it has product market fit. Learn when something doesn’t work.
Rebecca: Don’t just spend a bunch of money on it and then be like, “Uh-oh, now what do I do?” Really test it and iterate on it so that you can make sure that you have the perfect thing that actually has an appetite for it.
Tara: Yeah. In the beginning it sounds like scrappiness and being really innovative and being really in tune was really important. As the brand grows, how do you then build a team? Especially when you start talking about financial advisors and legal advisors and bookkeepers and all these elements that maybe were not part of the initial vision for you, but that comes with growth.
Tara: How do you find people that you feel like is a great fit for your team and that can really understand the brand and also has really unique skill sets that can help you grow?
Rebecca: A couple of things. I think sometimes now when people are starting companies, I just listened to one on Clubhouse and she was doing a fundraise, like a crowdfund. She’s like, “With these funds, I’m going to hire a bookkeeper and a customer service person and a this and a this and a this.” I was like, “No, honey, that is the wrong thing to do.” We hired in the beginning with what was I terrible at and who was better at it than me? That was our first set of hires.
Rebecca: I was not good at the bookkeeping. I was not good at the production. I was not good at the logistics and the operations. That was the order of like, where is the biggest hole in this boat? That’s who we’re hiring first. We also only could hire people when we had the funds to.
Rebecca: It was really important that that next person be multifaceted and said, “Okay. I don’t like doing logistics and productions, but I know enough of both that I can handle it for a while until we get to the next level.” I always tell people, hire for the biggest holes and find people, especially if you’re just starting out, that are almost mini entrepreneurs, even if it’s not their business, because you need someone who’s nimble, who can multitask, who can wear many hats.
Rebecca: When you get those people, hold onto them. I just have recently reconnected with my first employee ever. She has a journal company, it’s called Anecdote. We talk about those times. It was like she was my other arm. If I couldn’t do something, she could do it and so that allows you as a founder to expand your business. The other thing I would add is if you have anyone negative or needy or weepy or hold me and cuddle me, get them out.
Rebecca: You are paying someone every day. You are giving them your money and if they don’t take a load off your back, if they don’t help grow your business, they are the wrong people. I think we need to reframe … For so long, I’d be like, “Oh, what’s wrong? I know you’re trying your hardest. I know.” No, if you don’t get that job done, if they don’t show up and help you, they get to go.
Tara: I think that’s real talk right there. I think it’s advice that people can use now so that they don’t get into situations down the road where they realize that they’ve wasted a lot of time or they’ve spent an extended amount of time coddling people that maybe were not worth the time and investment for the company.
Tara: Well, yeah, I think that another question that came up was, what advice would you have for a brand that’s facing challenges in gaining traction? They’re trying different things. It’s just not quite working. They maybe have been working at it for a few years, maybe it’s even 10 years, and it just hasn’t quite picked up. What would your advice be for those types of entrepreneurs?
Rebecca: The first thing I would say is, have you surveyed your customer? Are you sure that you’re talking to the right customer? I think for many years we thought that to be considered editorially acceptable, we had to make clothing for our runway shows that really was unwearable, like who was wearing that? Here you have a woman spending $195 on a bag and I’m making some gown that she’s never going to wear. We couldn’t find traction.
Rebecca: We said, “Okay. Who is our customer? Oh, she is like me, she’s casual. She wants a little bit of novelty. Great.” The minute we did that pivot and we just looked at the data, it maybe wasn’t what I dreamt … Did I dream of making sweatshirts? No. As a young girl, I wanted to make ball gowns, but I want to have a business and I want to serve my customer with what she is and where am I wearing that ball gown to?
Rebecca: The minute I was honest with myself, it was a lot easier. Then we served our customer. Survey her and then serve her.
Tara: Got it. This is actually more of a question that I think is very much in line with the next two days that we’re going to be spending together. What do you think is the best way that women can support each other in business?
Rebecca: I think for so long women, at least within the fashion industry, have been sort of just there’s only one seat at the table. There isn’t enough for any of us. Believe me there is enough pie for all of us and so how do you look to collaborate? I’ll go back to the example, in the beginning of the pandemic when I needed as many eyeballs on this brand as possible, I was supporting a different female-founded company every day and they were supporting me.
Rebecca: I think when you look at how they grew, how I grew, I think there just needs to be more of that support, and especially with like-minded brands who have similar audiences.
Rebecca: I think the power of that, of all the attendees today and tomorrow, reaching out, staying in touch with each other, doing giveaways together, helping support each other, attending different events, liking their Instagram photos, all the different ways you could support each other, I think you’ll see that all ships do rise with the tide and the more that you can support another women-owned business, it’ll come back to you in spades.
Tara: I totally agree with that. This question’s a little bit more of a personal question, but not too personal, but what does your morning routine look like for a productive day? How do you set the tone for that?
Rebecca: All right. We open our office now, since the pandemic started, we used to say everyone had to be in the office at 9:00. That was a joke. No one ever showed up till 9:30. But since the pandemic, we start our mornings at 10:00. I wake up at about 8:15, which people think that’s crazy, but I have two out of my children sleep that late, thank God. I definitely waddle out and I say waddle because I run in the mornings and usually I’m sore.
Rebecca: I’ll have coffee and I will get the kids dressed, ready. My husband usually makes them breakfast and then take them to school, come back and I get in a quick run or exercise and then at 10:00 start the day. I pretty much try and keep it to that every day. I do not check email anymore before 10:00. I’m spending 10:00 to 6:00 every day on it or working so I try and use that one hour as just like my time for me and my mental and physical health.
Tara: Yeah. Then what about self-care? I know that that’s something that can sometimes go to the wayside when you’re constantly giving to different entities all the time. As a source that is often supporting many people, sometimes that individual can be neglected or neglect themselves. How do you make sure that you prioritize self-care and what does that look like for you?
Rebecca: I don’t know that I prioritize it. I mean, I definitely take a handful of vitamins every night and I make sure I get enough sleep. I think for me, that’s my self-care. Could I be better at it? Yes. I have not found any additional time within the day to sneak out and do anything. My mom yesterday was like, “Go have some fun. Just leave the house and go do something for yourself.”
Rebecca: I didn’t even know what to do. There you go. I just worked, but I think that’ll change. I feel a pressure right now to make sure that my company continues to succeed and so I do stop the clock, let’s just say, at 6:00 PM every night and I’m with the kids and then I’m back online when they’re in bed.
Rebecca: I know that that’s short term and I know that we’re in a moment where I have to be that invested and then summer’s going to come and I can sort of … not relax a bit, but be a little bit less crazy.
Tara: Right. All right. Well, tell us about your book. I can’t wait to hear more about it, but what inspired you to write it? Ooh, I love it. Looks fab.
Rebecca: This is just the galley, it’s not the final. The final will be hardcover. It’s going to be gorgeous. What inspired me? I actually wrote this book … We started it in January of 2020, believe it or not, and so wrote this book during the pandemic. What I really wanted to share was my story the last 15 years, but I had to break so many rules to succeed.
Rebecca: When I started, your way to succeed as a fashion designer was Anna Wintour would like you, Barneys would pick you up. Barneys I stalked them. They saw the line three times and they never wanted it and Anna ignores me to this day. I wasn’t going to get my normal start like so many designers did and so I really had to … Whether it was talking to my customer, whether it was going on different forums, whether it was using bloggers.
Rebecca: All these things that sound so normal today were not normal. We literally would have like the head of Saks Fifth Avenue say, “If you’re going to talk to your customer, I’m sorry, I don’t think we can carry your brand.” That’s what those conversations were 15 years ago. I wanted to give a how-to guide for entrepreneurs on all the rules that I had to break, but that will work for you too, so whether it’s trusting your gut, not asking for permission.
Rebecca: If something isn’t working, do you just keep banging your head against the wall and keep doing it? I called it Fearless because it’s not like I experience no fear. I have fear all the time, but I’m not letting it stop me. My goal and the hope is that you get an entertaining story, but at the end of it, you read it and you have 21 different rules that you can apply so that when you are in those moments of, “Shoot, I don’t know if I should do this.”
Rebecca: All that that goes on in our heads, you go, “You know what? I’m going to do it anyways.” It goes back to a conversation we had with an incredible friend and consultant for the brand. He said, “Every time you guys have taken your own path, you’ve succeeded.” He pointed out enough times that when he was done, I was like, “That parachute’s coming off. I’m going to free-fall.”
Rebecca: Now those decisions are so much easier to make. Because if I fail, who cares? Right? It’s not like my risks are so big that if I fail the company goes out of business, but it’s like doing a see now buy now show, inviting our customers to our shows, having bloggers in the front row. Risk that seemed so big at the time, let’s just try it and see what happens.
Tara: Right. Then most people don’t know about the writing process. I don’t at all. How does that work? When did it start? How do you decide what you want to include and what you maybe want to keep for yourself? I’m sure it’s a long process, but also one that’s so personal. How does that work for you? Tell us a little bit about that.
Rebecca: Yeah. Again, when I say hire for what you’re good at, I knew that I was not necessarily well-versed in, how do you structure a book? How do you know what to leave in and leave out? I worked with a woman who actually wrote the first article on me ever, DailyCandy. It was called The Catwalk of Shame. It was the birth of the morning-after bag, and we remained incredibly close. It started with me and her sitting down for three days and I dictated my life story to her.
Rebecca: Then she was able to take that life story and segment it into these chapters so that we knew we had like a through-line to follow. Then she and I were just writing back and forth. I would do a chapter. She would do a chapter. I would go back in and because it was my life, make sure that everything she had listened to me dictate was correct, and it took a year.
Rebecca: I, before writing the book, was like, “These people are overreacting. It’s not that hard. Come on. They’re just being dramatic.” It’s a lot of work. By the end I joke like I hated reading this because I’ve read it like 600 times, but it came out great. The reviews internally so far have been awesome and it comes out on June 15th. You have to pre-order it though.
Rebecca: I’m going to say that because with the pandemic, most bookstores are not taking risks on inventory. If you don’t pre-order it, you might not get it.
Tara: Oh, well, thank you. Thank you for giving us some insight into the process because it’s always intriguing and I think inspiring to a lot of people that might want to be an author in the future as well. I know we have a little more time for some Q&A. I did see one come in already, but I think this will probably be a good time if other people had questions to submit those now.
Tara: I did see one that someone’s asking, do you have any plans on adapting to cruelty-free environmentally-friendly products?
Rebecca: Yes. We actually have a number of those products already. We now offer a selection of garments and bags that are vegan leather. They already are cruelty-free. If you go on our site and you look for it, we have an incredible short and top that are vegan and we offer a number of bags that are vegan. Then we have nylon bags and all the trimming there for the most part is vegan. As far as eco-friendly, we have a partnership with a company called Resonance.
Rebecca: That’s what our little kids line when we launched it like a few weeks before the pandemic, so everything that we do with Resonance is actually sustainable and environmentally-friendly. There is almost zero waste because it’s no inventory and all the patterns are cut to order. The way that they do this technology is they optimize the pattern so hardly any fabric is wasted. It’s all natural and sustainable fibers.
Rebecca: That’s what all of our masks are made of. We have a couple of sweatshirts, our Zodiac sweatshirts and our letter sweatshirts are also from them as well as our kids. It’s something we’re looking to expand on as well as we know it’s important and I’m the biggest sustainability and recycling advocate. I’m trying to make sure that throughout my company, we keep getting better.
Rebecca: Our boxes are FSC certified. Anything that’s paper can be, instead of plastic. I have two more areas that I’m trying to tackle, which is the plastic bags that cover your blouses and stuff when you get them, have not found an alternative for that, but I’m working on it.
Tara: Thank you, Rebecca. Everlyn, I hope that answers your question. Another question. A lot of questions coming in. This is fantastic. Women in business often face challenges in their career. If you could have a dashboard for executive leadership, what skills or characteristics would you include?
Rebecca: Resilience. I want people to reframe this idea of failure. I interviewed a woman for my podcast, Noura from Mejuri, it’s an incredible jewelry brand. She came from a tech background. She said to me very clearly, and if you listen to her in the podcast it’s there, that when you work at a tech company, you’re trying stuff all the time. You see your iPhone updates, they are working on fixing bugs all the time.
Rebecca: When something fails, there’s no emotional anything connected to it. It goes into what they call a failure funnel. I think as entrepreneurs, when you’re trying these things, which you have to try, don’t take that failure as this time now that you get to berate yourself and punish yourself for having failed. You learned something. Congratulations.
Rebecca: If you can take it as we learned something, it didn’t work, here’s how we pivot, here’s how we change, that’s the best thing you can do because you get up a lot faster. I think the other thing is we have to stick our neck outs, whether we’re working in a company or we’re the head of a company. I think you’ve seen great change happens when people stick their neck outs. The right to vote, right? Marching and fighting for equality, right?
Rebecca: I think, was that comfortable for anyone? No. Not at all. Not in the least. If we have to stick our neck out to say, “You’re treating me unfairly, or he’s being paid more than me, or you favored this person and not this person.” Go for it because you’re going to not only help yourself, but you’re are going to open the door for a lot more women. Yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable but how we got here was through discomfort.
Tara: Right. Growth is on the other side of that, right?
Tara: Thank you for your question. One more. When did you decide to go international with your brand?
Rebecca: We went international very quickly and it was because the women who owned my showroom … not my showroom, where I sold my bags, they did an article in a Japanese magazine called Spur and all of a sudden … And I was like, “Why are all these Japanese companies ordering from me? What happened?” It was this one magazine. Again, pre-social media. So we did go international very quickly.
Rebecca: If you don’t have that inbound, I recommend get your sea legs all sorted out here. International is a whole other nightmare of shipping and duties and all that stuff. Really get truly smooth and stable in the U.S. before you open it up.
Tara: Fantastic. Okay. Another question. I am an author and a coach, and just started The Possibility Shop for inspirational apparel. What is the best way to grow and scale a newly-started shop?
Rebecca: Well, I think the beauty of it is whether you’re on Shopify, I think social media can really help you do a lot of that work now. I think there’s huge growth in platforms for clothing brands, with TikTok. I think Clubhouse is an interesting emerging platform for sales actually.
Rebecca: I’m going to be doing a lot of Clubhouse chats around my book to sell the book, but I think there’s so much how-to and learning that people want and are seeking that if you can become a thought leader on some of these newer platforms, that’s also a great way to also convert eventually. The biggest thing I would say is probably look for ambassadors. These ambassadors don’t have to be the most famous people you’ve ever heard of.
Rebecca: I think there’s so much power in nano influencers. Again, the most popular woman in a small town, she might not even have a strong Instagram following, but she knows 20 women who listen to everything she says, and she’s the trendsetter for that city. If you can find those women, whether it’s on Facebook or through people you know, offer them incentives.
Rebecca: Here’s a free shirt if you get 10 people to buy my product, or again, I’ll go back to this brand, Lively. She got, I think a hundred thousand emails in her first few weeks because she said, “Everyone I know, send me 10 emails.” And it just kept magnifying. I think you can do a lot in the beginning to be creative like that.
Tara: All right. Well, you did talk a little bit earlier about engaging with the customer and getting to know them better. With regards to asking and talking to customers, how do you determine what type of to ask when you’re doing a survey?
Rebecca: We just launched … Well, we’re launching Home I’d say probably in August is when we’re shooting for. I said, “Do you like linen? Do you like cotton? What price point? Where else do you shop?” I’m really trying to get into the mind of what she’s buying, what she likes, what she doesn’t like, what’s too expensive.
Rebecca: Same with the perfume. I surveyed from the beginning, what type of scent do you like? Do you like clean? Do you like floral? Do you like more of a heady fragrance? Muskier? What do you want to pay for the fragrance? When we were working with the fragrance company, they wanted the fragrance to go out at like 150/175 and I surveyed it and guess what? She wanted it to be under a hundred.
Rebecca: I was like, “If you guys want to see success, this thing has to be under a hundred bucks.” I think we’ve surveyed down to colors of denim when we had denim, lengths of straps on bags. I mean, your customer loves answering questions, especially if you want their opinion, so ask them as many things as you can.
Tara: All right. You mentioned using wholesalers, where would one start in their research to finding a wholesaler?
Rebecca: It’s different for different industries. Within the fashion industry, there are showrooms that actually have all those contacts. A wholesaler can walk in, and this is how I started, and sort of shop 20 different brands all at once and it makes it easier for them. I think there’s also trade shows. Again, lots of these things have changed because of COVID, but there are trade shows that exist where you go, you set up a booth and wholesalers walk through that.
Rebecca: The thing I would say is … And we didn’t do it this way, but you can make so much more money direct to consumer. Do that and have a very strong base and then go out to wholesale. If you look at Jennifer Fisher Jewelry, she built an incredible business direct to consumer and then she cherry-picked wonderful partners like Barneys and very fancy stores because her product is very high end, but she wasn’t dependent on them.
Rebecca: I think we all need to go, “Yes, it’s sexy to say you’re in Neiman, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, whatever. That comes with a lot of cost. Often you’re breaking even when you’re selling to these people. Invest in your direct-to-consumer business as much as you can and then go after, slowly, the stores you want because you want added visibility, you want the volume. Don’t do it because you think it’s romantic.
Rebecca: I know this is long-winded, but my showroom, when I first started said, “You need 500 specialty stores to be in them in order for your name to have enough recognition that when a woman walks into Saks Fifth Avenue and she sees Chloé, Prada, whatever, she’s going to turn to this little shelf and go like, ‘Oh Rebecca Minkoff? I’ve heard of her.'” I didn’t believe her.
Rebecca: Guess what? I took all those bags back because I had sat on a shelf and Mary went to Chloé instead or she went to Prada instead of going that little shelf. Don’t rush into that experience.
Tara: I think we have one time for one more from the audience. When contacting publications or blogs, what are the best techniques for getting them out to an event or to review a brand in COVID times?
Rebecca: I can’t tell you about getting them to come out to events because I will tell you, we invited every editor known to man to our last fashion show and like 10 of them came. They all did their reviews remotely.
Rebecca: I will say that I’m finding that again … I know I talk about Clubhouse a lot on this platform, but that there’s a lot of thought leadership and editors and people who maybe just never were great at taking a pretty picture of themself on Instagram that are on this platform that are very open to direct messages. I think it’s important to say, “Okay. Where does this person live? How could I reach them through a different sort of source?”
Rebecca: If you don’t know them. Then see what happens. I think with that platform emerging, you can have a lot more business conversations that you could ever have on Instagram, just because that’s not what Instagram is for.
Tara: Okay. Really quickly. What books or podcasts are you currently reading or listening to, TV shows, anything just sort of stimulating your mind in terms of media and other additional consumption?
Rebecca: I would be lying to you if I said that I get to read as much as I want. I don’t think I’ve read a book properly since I’ve had kids. I have read Shoe Dog. I managed to do that on a trip away. I’m reading The E-Myth which is a business book right now. As far as podcasts, I have not been listening to podcasts either.
Rebecca: It’s like, if I’m going to have that me time, I’m watching something like Bridgerton or Outlander or something to just totally check out and not even think about work. Actually, that’s not true. I went on a run the other day and I was listening to a podcast on how to sell books. That’s the nerd that I was doing.
Tara: I was going to say Bridgerton could be considered self-care, right?
Tara: Well, I think we’re just about at time. Rebecca, I wanted to just thank you so much for your time, advice and your candid conversation. Just as a reminder to everyone, Rebecca’s book, Fearless: The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage, and Success is available for pre-order now on Amazon or on rebeccaminkoff.com. Thanks for your time. I’m just now going to kick things back over to our host before the next session.
Rebecca: Thank you. Bye everybody.