How Stitch Fix CEO Katrina Lake turned a business school project into a $3 billion company


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She's 35 -- and runs a $3 billion company

Sew Repair founder Katrina Lake is without doubt one of the wealthiest feminine entrepreneurs within the nation, however it wasn’t too way back that she might have by no means imagined herself as a CEO.

“There have not been numerous founder CEOs that seem like me,” Lake tells CNN’s Poppy Harlow in an episode of Boss Recordsdata. “I confirmed up as a woman who spent numerous her life in California who mentioned ‘like’ rather a lot, and form of appeared like what you’ll count on for that.”

Lake, who’s now 35, says beginning an organization was by no means on her radar and her time finding out at Stanford deterred her even additional.

“I checked out folks like [Google founders] Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin], who had been coders, who had been sitting in a storage, and constructing an organization, and I checked out that and did not see myself in that,” she says. “I simply assume it took me some time to assume that this was a path that was obtainable to me.”

But, that did not cease her from turning into the youngest lady ever to take an organization public. Final 12 months, Lake was named by Forbes as one of many wealthiest self-made girls in America.

Lake was enrolled in a pre-med program when she was at Stanford. She supposed to comply with in her father’s footsteps and develop into a physician, however she was drawn extra in the direction of the world of economics than the lab. She labored for a retail marketing consultant group and at a enterprise capital agency earlier than enrolling at Harvard Enterprise College to pursue a grasp’s diploma in entrepreneurship.

It was at Harvard that she got here up with the thought for Sew Repair. As a part of a category undertaking, Lake sought to deliver a greater buying expertise into the properties of ladies who haven’t got easy accessibility to a variety of style choices or the time to buy round. What she got here up with was a personalised buying service that makes use of algorithms and suggestions from stylists to curate bins of clothes and accessories that match a buyer’s model, measurement and match preferences.

Sew Repair was launched in 2011. The corporate has seen vital development since, with 2.7 million prospects and greater than $1 billion in income. “All of our development was natural. It was simply folks telling different folks,” Lake says.

However the street to success has not been straightforward.

Associated: Nasdaq CEO: We’d like extra feminine leaders within the monetary trade

Lake struggled to boost cash in an trade dominated by male traders. She says she needed to persuade the boys within the room that Sew Repair was a service girls truly wished.

“It was only a lady’s product. I undoubtedly assume that it did not assist,” Lake says. “You possibly can’t blame the form of particular person for having that desire, however then you definately step again and notice 94% of enterprise traders are male and have comparable preferences. And so, I believe that it unquestionably made it tougher.”

Taking the corporate public was one other hurdle.

Simply days earlier than Sew Repair’s debut on the inventory trade final November, the corporate was compelled to cut back the dimensions of its $18 to $20 a share providing. The inventory opened at $16.90, however fell to $15.15 by the tip of its first buying and selling day.

Stitch Fix CEO: I never thought I would be a CEO

“There have been some headwinds there, however I believe we got here out actually motivated by the problem of it,” she says. “We have been underestimated earlier than. We’re glad to be at a spot the place we’ll show ourselves.”

One thing else occurred throughout that IPO. A photograph of Lake holding her then 14-month-old son as her firm went viral on social media and Lake grew to become a task mannequin for ladies — and particularly moms — making an attempt to make it within the startup world.

“The response was superb. I by no means anticipated it,” she says.

Stitch Fix IPO
Sew Repair founder and CEO Katrina Lake holding her 14-month-old-son on the firm’s IPO.

Sew Repair has additionally impressed Wall Road since that Nasdaq debut. The corporate’s inventory has greater than doubled to just about $30 a share because it continues to develop its buyer base, gross sales and earnings. It is present market cap is sort of $three billion.

Associated: Lease the Runway CEO on giving all staff equal advantages

The corporate has expanded its line to incorporate males’s and plus-size clothes. It just lately launched Sew Repair Children — a pure extension for Lake, who has one other baby on the best way.

Lake says one factor she has realized is that her function as CEO goes far past boosting the underside line.

“I believe it actually forces you to assume extra about what’s the tradition that I am creating, what’s the influence that I am having,” she says.

CNNMoney (New York) First printed July 31, 2018: 7:45 AM ET

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