Sample Sale. For true fashionistas, the words conjure up uncontrollable excitement. Usually taking place in unmarked warehouses, sample sales offer attendees stellar deals on limited edition designer duds. To attend a sample sale is like a rite of passage – initiation into the sisterhood.
For the fashion obsessed living outside of NY and LA, the idea of attending these sample sales seemed out of reach. Enter Gilt Groupe Inc., which in 2007 brought the world of sample sales to the World Wide Web. Their invitation-only, online sample sales are open to its three million members on a daily basis, causing a designer-inspired feeding frenzy. The company is the brainchild of two Harvard Business School classmates – Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson. And although they have been in business for less than 3 years, revenues for 2009 were $170M, the company is currently valued at $400M, and they currently employ 450 people!!
Read the recent WSJ article that outlines how the duo launched the online boutique, secured funding from all-male venture capital firms, and convinced major fashion labels to work with them.
Here are some tips you can use while launching your dream business.
- Exploit word of mouth marketing: 75% of Gilt Groupe’s members came from the suggestions friends.
- Many industries are relationship driven: Be sure to cultivate and nurture relationships you have with friends, co-workers, and ex-colleagues. You never know when someone may be able to lend a helping hand. Alexandra had previously worked at Bulgari and Louis Vuitton. The relationships she established at these companies helped to usher in brands willing to give Gilt Groupe a try.
- Be sure that you can explain your business idea to ANYONE. While pitching their concept to male-dominated VC firms, they convinced the guys to see if their wives would think it was a good idea (and they did)!