Gilt co-founder Alexis Maybank joins Mogul PR President Ryan Hattaway to discuss entrepreneurship and her new book, “By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt.”
For the full interview listen to the M-Theory podcast interview below:
Ryan Hattaway: Gilt has been called the Amazon.com of luxury; from its early start with 5 founders, Gilt now has over 900 employees and a market value of one billion, making it the second most valuable e-commerce company in the world behind Amazon. Gilt has more than 500 members and ships more than 10,000 packages a day. Alexis, tell us in your words what exactly is Gilt Group and how would you best describe your business model?
Alexis Maybank: Gilt offers a very exciting way to shop for designer products and luxury services that might otherwise be out of range or not necessarily attainable. We start our sales every single day at noon, (EST) and provide these goods and services at prices up to 70% off. So the beauty of Gilt Group and what really makes us different is that every time you come to our website, we’re offering new items that aren’t necessarily there the next day—they last for just 36 hours—it’s competitive, thrilling, and yet a very satisfying way to shop.
Ryan Hattaway: Over the years, based on your initial concept for Gilt, how has it evolved and changed as you’ve grown?
Alexis Maybank: When we launched our business in November 2007, we were focused mostly on women’s apparel, accessories, jewelry, and we’ve spanned very quickly into men’s categories and over the years gone into other topics like luxury travel offering insider price stays at places like the Peninsula Hotel New York or global properties around the world. So while we started very much focused on fashion, we have morphed to span many, many lifestyle categories especially things where our customers have said, “Wow, we love to shop for this, we’d drop everything to be online especially at noon, every single day to shop for.”
Ryan Hattaway: How did you come up with the idea of Gilt? Was it a vision that came to you, an “A-ha!” moment or something that you gradually nurtured over time?
Alexis Maybank: It was nurtured over time and I will say that it has pivoted in many directions over the years. That’s the thing about pursuing any business idea that you’re launching from ground up, it’s going to change many times over the period of time you’re working on it, but initially it was a genesis of an idea between Kevin Ryan, my co-founder, myself, and my other co-founder, Alexandra. Kevin was initially our chairman and he provided a lot of funds to pursue this idea. We took this passion, this way we were shopping for clothing in the New York City area that was really just available to “Manhattan-ites” and thought “Well if we’re passionate about this, if we’d drop everything to show up at one of these sales, we know that there would be a lot more people outside of the New York area who would want to shop in this same way.” So that was the inspiration but as we scaled we watched our partners say, “you know, this is not just a great way for us to move excess inventory at the end of a season, this is a great way for us to connect with new customers in the U.S. and new customers outside of the U.S., to experience our brand maybe for the first time. So, about six months in, they really started partnering with us because they viewed us as a really unique marketing channel to reach younger, savvier customers online that were increasingly difficult for them to target and that’s an example of how our business model has kind of pivoted [over] the years as we get new information.
Ryan Hattaway: I admire you for taking something that you both are very passionate about and coming up with a way to implement that into a business model and take that to the masses. It’s like you said in your book, “It was the right idea at the right time.” In 2007, e-commerce was exploding with eBay and Amazon coming online. With most online shopping reflecting traditional brick and mortar stores, what opportunities for innovation did you see that Gilt could bring to the online shopping experience?
Alexis Maybank: There were a couple. Initially, when we looked around and were in the process of pursuing this idea and getting it off the ground, we looked at goods that were already being sold online. They were often sold on mannequins, laid flat on a white board in kind of mull like environments online, if you will. There was nothing that really brought forward what were the appealing elements of seeing an item, but [also] how you use it at the same time. So we took those elements of flipping through the glossy pages of a magazine and used it to inform how we developed our own site. So from the very beginning we shot product on models with movement and action so that you were really kind of swept up in how you might look that upcoming weekend at an event. We always shot home product in setting so that you could understand scale and how it fit together. That was a really big change and something that wasn’t being done at the time and I think we were certainly the leader in merging that editorial sense with the ability to just one click away purchase an item. Another thing that was really different was that in our model, we’re selling product that’s just available for 36 hours. There’s no promise that it’s going to be there next week, there’s no promise that there’s endless supply and up to then e-commerce was really centered around the thought that it’s everything for everyone and that you can always come back immediately and find the same deal. We’ve really got very selected items, we thought of it as curated items, we just wanted the best of the collection, the best from a certain brand, and we would build a sale around that, a sale we would do the best on behalf of customers to get the most compelling pricing for it. We put it up, we allow it to be featured for just those 36 hours or two days at longest and then we move onto something else. So, that freshness, that constant changing out is something that was really new and something that we spearheaded online so that every day coming to Gilt it’s fresh, it’s new and different. Every week we’re turning over our inventory 150 times a week and that you just can’t do in an offline environment.
Ryan Hattaway: You know we do a lot with clients on branding, design, creative consulting, and one of the things I’ve found interesting is that early on, you identified one of your differentiators as good design, original photography, instead of using mannequins you brought in professional models. I really think that that’s important in today’s start up environment where a lot of companies have access to great technology but how do you differentiate yourself? And what was also interesting is that by not overwhelming people with too many choices, you created more of a curated, boutique-like environment for them to shop, which ended up leading to greater sales. In addition, you’ve turned it into a competition of members because limited availability, limited timing; you literally have millions of people flocking to the site all fighting over different items. So, like you all mentioned in your book, it made the online shopping experience exciting.
Alexis Maybank: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And there’s so many things out there online today, so kind of cutting through the noise is always critical when thinking about getting your idea out there in ways where you can use such a visually brand in a different manner is really important for customers to remember you. If there’s any you can bring a level of excitement or reason for people to keep coming back on a regular basis, that’s important. And that customer engagement is certainly hard to get but with the Internet backbone for selling or featuring your products and services, it gives you some flexibility to really change out or iterate and test quickly in a way that you could never do in an offline environment.
Ryan Hattaway: At Harvard, you and Alexandria were never more than casual acquaintances. So, what was your relationship like in the early days and how did that evolve into a business partnership?
Alexis Maybank: Well we started as casual acquaintances in college, but it was for me five years later, for her, three years later when we went back to graduate school that we became inseparable. We really spent nearly every moment together, whether it was traveling; we’ve calculated we’ve been to more countries together than we’ve been with our own husbands. And back then is when we actually started thinking about ideas that we would perhaps want to take on one day. It was there in business school where we actually worked for Zac Posen to help explore a number of things we were thinking about strategically. Later on, Zac Posen became the first item we featured on the website. So, certainly not all friends should go into business together and you really have to think about it carefully before you do but for us, I think it was a basis for really helping us create this strong founding team that we had. We had a history together, we had seen each other in the highest highs, the lowest lows, we knew how the other conducted herself when faced with almost any situation. We both knew that the other only operated with the highest integrity. I watched other start up teams who are circling down the path together who don’t know each other quite as well or maybe haven’t taken as much time to think about how they’ll work together and run into a lot of problems, frankly. So, take the time to really think about who you’re partnering with, whose part of that initial team, it could be the thing that actually takes a really good idea and grinds it to a halt because it’s a team that can’t gel well together.
Ryan Hattaway: Regarding your first business venture at Spinback, you said that it was the failure of a partnership more than an idea. Describe what you mean by that and how that experience helped you when pursuing your next partnership?
Alexis Maybank: Yeah, well we had a great idea, and it is something that is now actually still germinating and a bunch of other teams pursue it with success, but my business partner and I had been introduced through mutual venture capital acquaintances that we had and were encouraged to pursue this idea and do it together, and at the time I was coming off of an experience at a much bigger corporation and I’d always had my root in entrepreneurship and start up environments so I was really eager to get back to it. And I think that that eagerness and excitement and I tend to be an incredibly optimistic person by nature. I really wanted to just queue this idea and take off and kind of swept up in that optimism was not doing the work I needed to completely understand were the goals that each of us had for the business and were they aligned? Did one want to build a business big and whether or not that person was in control or not didn’t matter? Did one want to just build a business that could tote along that could one day turn into a family business, I don’t know. We really never took the time to discuss what each of us wanted for the business to make sure that those goals were aligned and that was an issue. And, since we hadn’t taken as much time to speak to one another and get references and hadn’t seen each other operate in various scenarios, we did run into issues where we didn’t like decisions made and frankly because of these different goals we had for the business, we couldn’t come into agreement on a lot of different topics that were necessary amongst founders and unfortunately, we couldn’t rebound from that and the idea had to sit on the shelf for a while until it could be picked up by another team.
Ryan Hattaway: Well, finding the right partner is so important as you’ve learned in both ways and fortunately the partnership that you and Alexandra formed along with the rest of your core team, Kevin, Mike, and Phong has turned into what you said was the basis, the foundation of your success. So, it’s great to see you’ve gone against the odds and proven that it can be done and like you said at the end, the outcome being much more rewarding to share that experience together.
Alexis Maybank: And I think you spend way more time with your team at work than you even do with your own families so that’s why it’s got to be the right mix, not just the skill sets around the table but even more importantly, personalities. And I learned that people tend to really hire other individuals like themselves and that’s not just in a start up environment, it’s in any scenario and the more you recognize that, the more you sit and focus on, okay what is the current team like from a personality standpoint? What are the holes? Which was our case in the very beginning, if we’re all sort of optimistic or nervous about an idea we didn’t like, we tend to gravitate more to the visionary side of things that might not be as grounded in reality, then that can prove to be very, very challenging when you need to start focusing on processes or decide what you’re not going to do with the team. So the balance in personalities set around the table is critically important.
Ryan Hattaway: In your book it states, “Ideas are cheap and available, it’s the execution that counts.” And I absolutely agree. What are the first critical steps people need to focus on in order to take a concept like this from an idea to raising that first round of capital?
Alexis Maybank: Well, in raising a round of capital, there is four things that investors really care about at the end of the day. They first look at the people and I talked about the importance of team. But they really want to see, “Are they putting their money behind the right group?” They care about that way before they even care what the idea is. The second thing is, you know what’s the opportunity there for a big market for this idea. Is there any current reasons why this cannot take off? Is there competition already? Is there legislation that could hamper you’re ability to succeed? And then they look at part in parcel the context. You know, has someone tried this before? If not, why? Are you equipped to do it even better? And then every investor wants to know, how can they help? And, what are the terms of deal? What can we use the money for? How will you put it to use to be more competitive faster than maybe someone else pursuing a similar idea? And that’s really, really important. But the execution is also more achievable when you recognize the target group, the target audience that you want to reach and prove that you can do it pretty effectively and more importantly cost effectively and understanding where they are and how you can reach those groups, how ideally use more cost effective marketing to get the word out too, so that you don’t necessarily need millions and millions before you can even start proving that the concept worked.
Ryan Hattaway: Well in addition to that, you all put together a really solid, core team initially and I’ve noticed throughout your growth of the last several years, you all have done an incredible job of assembling a world-class team at Gilt. What advice would you have to entrepreneurs who are trying to attract that top talent? Obviously, you can’t do everything and one of the challenges with entrepreneurs is to identify what you’re good at, what you’re not good at and then to fill those roles that other people can step in to and compliment each others’ strengths. What other advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are trying to fill these roles and attract top talent?
Alexis Maybank: Yeah, so, it’s a really good question because not only is it tough to attract talent especially the younger you are as an entrepreneur but sometimes you’re not able to afford it, so a couple pieces of advice I have would be to not set your sights too low, but really put it out there at the top of your wish list who you would like to have or what types of backgrounds you think are critical to the success of your business and reach out to the person, even if it requires introduction from a friend or acquaintance or even if you’re just cool calling that person. Set your sights high enough, really go for it. And in terms of being able to figure out what are the right type of people you need, there’s probably two or three things that are going to be most critical for your businesses growth, whether it’s thinking about competitive challenges or it may even be finding the right people. Think about what the three greatest challenges are and who would be most equipped to help you overstep it or overcome it. Lastly, you don’t have to hire everyone so what I mean by that is, you can bring people in in various levels of involvement; a full time employee all the way to advisors; maybe board members, maybe even just consultants. So, depending on what you have in your capability from a cash standpoint might limit who you can actually bring in to work with you. So, think about different levels of involvement and even using equity instead of cash to get them involved.
Ryan Hattaway: That’s very good advice. One of the other challenges you faced initially was soliciting or selling this concept to these top luxury brands who are often times the most fickle, protective, hard to penetrate companies in the world because they’re so protective over their brands and how their brands are presented and marketed and they often don’t like to “play nice” with each other, so to speak, they don’t want their brand next to another luxury brand that may or may not be a competitor. So, how did you overcome those challenges of bringing on these world-class luxury brands to partner with you on a potentially new, unproven concept?
Alexis Maybank: I can’t under-emphasize how challenging it was, it was really, really hard work getting them signed up and we didn’t see momentum pick up [until] we got six or seven key partners. It’s an image driven industry so that was important for us to keep in mind. So first we had to really show that we understood their brand and that we could portray in this same, desirable fashion online that they were able to through their own materials and their own stores. They way in which [we] photographed, showcased and styled their product was critical to them [having] confidence in us. The second thing that was pretty challenging was most of these brands didn’t even sell online at the time. Now they do more so, but at the very beginning, the vast majority of people we spoke to, didn’t have a website, weren’t necessarily selling products online. So we had to convince them that e-commerce was a great thing and that doing it through Gilt, often at 70% off, was an even a better thing. So that was a tough, tough thing to get across but I think the other element of our business plan that made it work the fact that this was invitation only, members only, and that we were featuring product in this kind of exciting, elusive way where it popped up for 36 hours and then was gone without a trace. So, it was not searchable on Google, it wasn’t sitting around on the virtual shelves for months, you couldn’t tell if there was one or 1000 of that specific look available, so that level of excitement and exclusivity was very key to them getting over the hump to sell with us and then as I mentioned once we got to the dozen or half dozen under the fold then they had good experiences and really started referring others to us.
Ryan Hattaway: So that’s interesting, even though the members-only component was contrary to traditional thinking at the time—people thought it would be limiting in your ability to easily grow your membership base—ultimately that ended up being one of the primary drivers to engage the luxury brands because it offered a discreet environment for them to sell their merchandise without it being broadcasted publicly or in a searchable format.
Alexis Maybank: Without a doubt it helped us a lot with the brands but it helped us with customers too because there was something nice about being on the other side of the rope, a member of Gilt, in the know and it incentivized our members to go tell their friends about it too because they had the power and power only to say who else might be interested in shopping this way and to spread the news. So, it helped us a lot to actually get the word out was so counter intuitive at the time because many of our investors were just people who were in the e-commerce space at the time thought the sure fire way to stop this dead in the water is to force people to sign up before you show them anything but by doing that we actually were able to get people interested and to start sharing and spreading the word and over time, now that we’re nearing five years in, we know so much about every single one of our members because they’ve told us through mouse clicks, through searching, through items they’ve bought, items they’ve shared through friends, what they’re interested in and year in and year out, as we grow, and have more than 150 sales per week, we get really good at showing 6 to 10 sales that you’d be interested in as a customer because the key to our model is that sense that Gilt really knows me. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s fast and fun to shop on the site. I come in and just see the best as what I am likely to be interested in and I’m in and out in 10 minutes. So, we’ve got to keep that consistent and the signup process has allowed us the flexibility to do that better and better over time.
Ryan Hattaway: About a year after you launched Gilt.com, we entered the worst recession in 70 years, and I remember you all talking about the concerns and how that was going to impact your business model. At that time you were working on marketing the brand through the Internet and through media; you were working on some grassroots stuff, and it was also timely it seemed that this recession actually created an economy for Gilt where these luxury brands were even more interested in selling their products online.
Alexis Maybank: Yeah, it’s true. So, people really think that we launched in the midst of the recession and in fact we actually launched a year before Lehman brothers and September 2008 transpired and we were already at an upward swing. So what happened prior to September is we already had this tremendous customer demand that we were frankly having trouble keeping up with and then the economic situation changed, department stores were sending back tons of stuff, brands were cancelling orders and we were able to take current partners and really help them out with their rough time as well as many new people who because we were there for them, because we were growing, because we were able to help them target and reach new customers that hadn’t yet experienced their product, we built very long lasting relationships with our brand partners and then on the other side of the fence, we helped our shoppers , really, our members if you will, get so highly desirable products at really great prices at a time where they were thinking about saving and cutting back but sometimes were even out there looking for jobs and had to still present themselves well. So, it worked from both sides we had partners, we were there for them, members we were there for them too.
Ryan Hattaway: One of the other things I enjoyed reading about your grassroots marketing, being based in New York City, when you started expanding nationwide, in addition to your other marketing efforts, you also organized influencer events in major markets; LA, Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta, and I actually had the privilege of being invited the dinner in Atlanta and read in your book, you mentioned Brian Michael Cox who was there sitting right next to me at dinner, so I was actually looking for my name in there too and I didn’t see it! (laughs jokingly)
Alexis Maybank: We’ll write it in the second edition! We’ll get it in there. (laughs) – Yeah, it’s really important and even initially, and even still today, even the invite only, hence, the title of our book, “By Invitation Only” was really critical to our growth. So, the five million people who shop for Gilt today for over a half billion in product that we sell annually, more than half actually verging on almost 70% of them came in because a friend recommended them to the site. So that was critically important, but a lot of the early members actually started from Alexandra’s and my own network and we built up people that we knew and that we reached out to. So, the example of Atlanta that you brought up but we did this in a number of cities, we would take a concept, actually a political concept called “ground-game” and think okay now how can we take our service and message grassroots, if you will, and take it locally to areas that we know would really be passionate about our idea too and find a way to get the word out. So, we would, like the event we brought to Atlanta, find a way to bring a really compelling event to a city and it might be an early screening of a movie, it might be a fashion show, we’d test a lot of different things and build an event around it, partner with local taste makers, have them invite their friends. It would then become note worthy locally and local bloggers, local press, TV, radio, they would often want to cover it too and then they’d see this whole word of mouth thing where you’d begin over. So it would come out of the Atlanta area or the Dallas area or Austin area and we’d kind of start spreading from there on out and it was really exciting to watch. But that’s what was our ground game for fashion that was what was our way of getting word out and new geography. We knew people should know more about our concept.
Ryan Hattaway: Fast forward to modern day, Gilt has grown from a few people to approaching 1000 employees, over 5 million members, a market valuation of over a billion dollars. I’ve also read that you’re preparing for an IPO later on this year. One of the challenges you faced is keeping up with increasing demand of your member base and how to produce enough inventory without alienating the exclusive, highly curated, luxury foundation that you’re built upon. How will you continue to align yourself with the integrity of your brand while also supporting the needs of this machine that you have built?
Alexis Maybank: We feel like we’re a site that knows our individual customers who can anticipate what he or she wants to shop for and stay very true to those desires. I mentioned that for the majority of our members, they’re nearing five years working with us or shopping with us, so we know where they want to travel, what type of wines they like and the more we can take that information and provide them with even better and better and better service, that keeps that sense of personal connection with our shopper to our brand. It also allows us to get the site really feeling more quaint and small and just for that shopper because we’re making it simpler to get to the products they like, but beyond that through the site aesthetics and how we create and put on each of our sales, we’re still investing as much to make it feel special and have that same level of editorial elements you might find in a magazine. Last but not least, we have gotten really big so we can’t necessarily just build our own predictable business on inventory that might be coming out of brands of the season and from Bergdorf or Saks, we have actually have to go in an partner with our brands now, so we’re actually alongside the Saks of the world and placing specific orders of sizes using colors and silhouettes and products and services that we know our customers will want to shop for so that we’re shaping exactly what’s going to come two or three months down the road to our site and that allows us to bridge the volume that we have to move but still the exact services and the exact products that are in line with our brand and in line with our curation and in line with the taste of our buyers that intimately are familiar with our customer taste.
Ryan Hattaway: And keeping with that experience that you’ve created for your customers, how do you maintain your company culture internally as you go from five employees to close to a thousand?
Alexis Maybank: This is one of the biggest challenges that are out there, period. And in any kind of fast growth situation, in my experience and challenge first and foremost was at eBay which prior to current day with business like Gilt or Groupon, Facebook, Zynga, was one of the fastest growing companies in corporate history. And each quarter I’d watch more new employees joining that were already existing within the company and I’ve said this at Gilt many times over through our past five years as well, and keeping it consistent at scale I think is very, very hard. We talked about several elements in our book about how to think about that and manage it, but just one or two thoughts: You’ve got to take time to just document what your corporate value are, what your brand stands for, what are the voices, how you’ll treat one another, etc. You’ve got to take time to document it and put it on paper. You can’t do it as just the leader of the business, you’ve got to get multiple levels of the organization involved or if you’re a small team and depending on where you fit and print it on a card, put it in front of people. The second is, there’s always people internally who are really, really good at meeting others and have an uncanny radar and can say, “This person is going to be a great fit with our values. This person is going to be a great fit for our culture. They really get Gilt.” And once you realize who those people are internally, they don’t have to be in the team where this person might be hired or replaced. Figure out who they are and become very involved in the hiring process because they will help select the best people who will be able to meet and carry forward the cultural vision you have and will be the best people who will join the company at the early stages and maybe stay and scale as you grow and get bigger. So, that’s important getting multiple people at many different levels involved in the hiring process and cross different teams as well and see how they can help just select those best for your company culture that will be the shapers and molders of how your company operates going into the future.
Ryan Hattaway: Where do you see the most significant gross segments occurring in the company over the next few years and what are the top markets you have your eyes on next?
Alexis Maybank: Well we are expanding internationally, we have a big business in Japan we have a lot of inbound purchasing coming from us increasingly overseas for markets like Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, and that will continue and we’ll figure out and invest in ways to better service customers wherever they might be and help provide product that’s highly coveted from different markets outside the U.S. so those shoppers in the US and abroad too. Beyond that though, we’re seeing a big shift in our business as we move sales that are typically grounded and offered and experienced on a Mac or PC to sales that are quickly moving to mobile devices and smart phones. And this was really surprising, we didn’t expect it, and then about a year ago, we watched on a typical week day where we are today about 30% of our revenue was coming over smart phones and iPhones, iPads. We never would have expected that and in fact it reaches 40% on the weekends. So that is a huge area of growth for us and is tremendously important but we’re also having to pivot around the business. So that growth happened in the past 12 months.
Ryan Hattaway: I was going to say, you said in your book that it was 17% weekdays and 30% weekends, so even since just publishing your book those numbers have shot up over 10%!
Alexis Maybank: Yeah since December when we finalized that information, it’s already morphed and changed dramatically but it means that we’ve got to pivot around this new reality that people are really morphing towards wanting a store in their pocket and wanting to shop that way. Where they want, when they want, on their terms and it might not even involve a PC in the future so making that switch from bricks and mortars to the Internet, now we’re watching that change dramatically in even shorter time periods.
Ryan Hattaway: Well you just answered my last question which was what does the future of online shopping look like and I think we all agree that the next big move from the web 2.0 to mobile.
Alexis Maybank: That’s it, like I said we never would have expected it to switch this quickly. It’s the fastest platform shift, not to get too technical but it’s the fasted new medium that we’ve seen as a culture take hold and change the way people look at products and services and capture or share information with one another. It’s big and it’s here to stay.
Ryan Hattaway: Well Alexis, I’d like to close with a few personal questions that I know many people would like to know. One of which, as a successful businesswoman and Alexandra and your other partner, you know you’ve all climbed the ladder in a male dominated environment, so to speak, what advice can you give to other females in the workplace or other female entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own company?
Alexis Maybank: Well I think some of this applies to females but also young entrepreneurs, male entrepreneurs. I remember spending a lot of time right out of college thinking I had to act a certain way, dress a certain way communicate, present myself a certain way and I think it really made me a lot less effective. So in that first investment banking culture, I just presented in as one of four females in a banking class of about 65. I decided then that I would never be one of the boys and just act more like them and adding the doubts of femininity that I have and that is part of me, just being really comfortable and initially protecting myself and acting true to myself from the very start. If you’re not following your own form of leadership, you’re not carving that out and understanding what really makes you different that can actually set you back and make you less comfortable in your own shoes and less effective at what you do day in and day out. So, I think climbing the corporate ladders starting out young at a career track, don’t be afraid to just be yourself, don’t think you have to act like those around you and ultimately take comfort in the fact that it’s going to make you a lot more successful if you’re just comfortable and confident in your own shoes with your own quirks, your own personality and go with it.
Ryan Hattaway: That’s certainly great advice and I heard you just recently ha your second child, Congratulations! How do you balance being a mother, a wife, entrepreneur, and running a billion dollar company—how do you manage to find that balance?
Alexis Maybank: And now we have a book! (laughs) And on top of it, we have a book, we might have done one too much there, but I can’t produce any secret and I haven’t figured anything out yet, I always ask others advice but I have learned that every single day it’s about making compromises. What are you not going to get to, what are you going to cut corners on, where do you have to focus that day because it’s all about balance it’s all about compromising what is a broad spectrum of responsibilities to get to the best outcome for what you need to accomplish and it gets increasingly hard. I have two children under two, so sometimes frankly, I feel like I’m a better entrepreneur or businesswomen and other days I feel like I am a better parent. So actually, if anyone has any great advice there, I’d love to get it. Send it my way.
Ryan Hattaway: I also remember reading in your book that you guys are big customers of Red Bull there at the office.
Alexis Maybank: Well that was actually our engineer and it was very funny culturally because you had the biggest petri dish of people and cultures and backgrounds coming together with Gilt and we didn’t know if it would combust or work out well. It ended up working out well. We had Red Bull sipping engineers and we had the skim milk coffee-sipping buyers from Saks mixed in with the fashion mavens coming out of the print world like Vogue, mixed in with the e-commerce folks like myself and it was just a big mix, and it was always funny to see what came out of it. My favorite was the engineers—these incredibly brilliant MIT engineers discover that our creative team always casts models at 11AM on Wednesdays. Whenever they had to hire their team, they started scheduling all of their interviews at 11 AM on Wednesday morning so that these other MIT engineers, or wherever they might have been educated, just came in and saw these six foot, gorgeous women and they were like, “Gosh, this is the place for me! I want to work at Gilt Groupe.” And that was a representation of a lot of funny outcroppings along the way having so many different cultures mixed together.
Ryan Hattaway: That was a great story, and one of many stories in your book that I really enjoyed reading as a fellow entrepreneur working in the fashion, technology, luxury space. It was inspiring to read how Gilt came together, how you built a great team, how you guys truly innovated a space within the world of e-commerce and how you transformed the shopping experience online for millions of people. Thank you for the opportunity to review the book and I have to recommend it to anyone else out there who’s on this entrepreneurial journey for a guidebook and also inspiration for your roadmap to success. Tell our audience where they can go to buy your book.
Alexis Maybank: You can buy, “By Invitation Only” the title of the book on Amazon, on Barnes and Noble and bookstores locally. So please check it out and take a look and share it with a friend it you like it.
Ryan Hattaway: You heard it, “By Invitation Only” Alexis, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today and sharing your insight with us and our audience. We want to wish you continued success with Gilt Groupe moving forward. Please definitely keep in touch with us a long the way and let us know what you’re up to and hopefully with circle back again soon.
Alexis Maybank: Thanks for taking the time.