In this episode of the Tony Robbins Podcast, we’re wrapping up our Business Mastery Panelists series with a woman who changed the way millions of people shop, and the way million of women get ready – Alexandra Wilkis Wilson.
Wilkis Wilson was one of the co-founders of Gilt Groupe - the members-only flash sale site for the most coveted fashion brands. She also served as CEO of Glamsquad, the NYC-based startup that offers on-demand hair and makeup services. And she even started a mobile makeover service called Fitz that helped customers give their wardrobe a fresh start. It’s fashion and beauty - revolutionized.
And at Business Mastery, Tony spoke to Alexandra about each of these companies and how she helped build them into businesses that thrive - even during economic winters. They dig into the secret behind Gilt’s growth, how critical it is to build trust, but still move quickly, and why women have unique advantages when it comes to customer acquisition strategy.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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hey guys Danny, are welcome
the total Robins podcast today were rapid
our business mastery analysed series with a woman who changed the way that millions of people shop
the way that millions of women get ready we're talking about.
Alexandra Wilkins Wilson.
Guess Wilson was one of the co founders of guilt group. The members,
They flash cell sight for the most coveted fashion brands
She also served as ceo of glam. The nearest
they based start up that offers on demand, Harry make up services
she even started. A mobile make over service called fits that help. Customers give their wardrobe a fresh start,
its fashion and beauty revolutionized at Missis
story Tony spoke to Alexander about each of these companies and how she helped build them into businesses that thrive. Even during economic winters, they,
about the secret behind guilds growth, how
article. It is to build trust but still move quickly and
by women have unique advantages when it comes to customer acquisition strategy.
Thank you for joining us see. We ve got a round here of a couple. Thousand people or to nine countries, were letting three languages and we ve got about three courses
people online here, two years story may, but a fan of use your guilt company, because a lot of friends of Ladys at shop there tell us
what about your journey? You are amazing. You keep starting companies that just explode. Tell us how
started and tell us what it's like to start in the middle of winter, because you know
was two thousand seven. I remember correctly in right around.
Time or hills breaking loose in the economy around the world. How was has played a role in your success? How that, for twelve cos
is to start your first through I'm so excited to be here so thing I've never been part of so much adrenaline and what this is really a treat
and, of course,
osity, doesn't it
has anyone ever Shopton guilt? Does anyone know a gilt amazing
when we? We started guilt. Two thousand seven November
thirty years old and quite naive, which I think
of tea. Soldiers is super helpful because I think if you actually know how hard it is to build a company- and you know all the challenges and other pitfalls that are going to come and kind of whack you in the face
in the journey you you might chicken out. So I think I have a little knife. Tat is actually a good thing, governor child and so really
came from a place of passion. We were five cofounders myself, one of my best friends, Lexus may bank, to amazing engineers and a man named Kevin Ryan, and we came together
We all had really different skills sets and views.
Clear rules that we're different some. My role was really to convince the fashion industry, the retail industry too.
Get on board with the idea of selling amazing brands at amazing prices. So steeply discounted
the online and today, if I told you that you might be like ok sure, like lots of companies, do that
years ago, that was that was in the crazy camp, so
laughter. He grants did not sell online and a discount it was they would it was. It was not done,
able to convince them. So so I
that was sacrosanct evils, brands sure they would never dream of. It was like I love, I love a challenge
I actually in a sick way kind of like being told no, because I really like turning now. I I feel like when you hear yes, yes, me
That's when you hear maybe I interpreted that interpret that has it's going to be yes, and when I hear no, I hear let me come back to them and I'm going to win them over I'm going to change their mind, I'm just I. I need to figure it out and have more time so
see I love languages. I speak five languages, which is mostly the romance, was so my mom's Cubans, spanish Portuguese, will introduce as well as portuguese, french, italian, meaningless and, and I think it's that ability to and I love learning new languages. I am happy and ok making mistakes, those on trying to navigate any language, and I think that's a skill. Bad can train
In in business, so what I was trying to do with guilt for their first many years was convinced brands to sell their inventory on mine, and I would literally speak a different language to weather. Was a ceo, CFO C M, o the design
designer dark in terms of their interests each of their individual, because you know each one has their own objective and and how they protect their brand. So the CFO might be caring about. Ok, get the inventory off the books doesn't care as much about the branding. The CMU might care less about margins and inventory, but there's a lot about the branding, the designer probably more, about the branding, and so I would listen and try to understand whether every brand we ultimately I convince so
a thousand brands all around the world to do this and that that was really my full time job, so a lot of it lavished ordered or wherever
we were just divide and conquer each one meeting their individual needs showing them. How doing business with you in this way would meet their needs, so you basically cover the executive team and got them on board and an being meticulous of keeping less simum Molest make our lovemaking lesson obsessed with keeping my calendar organised. I would keep lists of cut a pipeline in whose a yes, whose maybe, where are they located, what categories
they cover what trade shows. Do they participate in, and I would I would travel the world with buyers with me and I didn't
background in this you know I have started out of college, went into investment. Banking then went to business, school,
then was like I want to get into retail. So I was not groomed for this pass. I didn't
really know what I was doing, but you know did a lot of listening a little bit of common sense and in a really have a hustle within me,
besides getting those brands to convert, which is by itself gigantic. What do you think he's been the secret to guilt scrub? You had what tuna twenty five,
Twenty five million dollars sales first year and within five years was a six years ago, reform and fifty million than by the weather.
But it was all for tuna fifty million. If I remember correctly to sacks that must have been kind of cool thing for youth you give out, will you up the velvet? What what took you, what you think brought it that trajectory so quickly in two thousand, as in two thousand told me this crazy told me this crazy, sell one sell one data sacks, I would have been like my goodness. That's a dream come true, so amazing that
that that did happen. I didn't I forgot to answer your question about winter and I know that's an important theme, so I can come back to that. Road has all related when we were building guilt and putting the foundations together. I think we were a little bit oblivious to the fact that winter was coming. It was just sort of like we're building a start up. We have a big vision. We want to take the excitement of the New York City, sample sale
and bring it on mine to people all across the country, initially focus on women, but very quickly going into men's and other categories, and we didn't
no, it was coming. We knew things were winding down and weren't in in a in a great place, but we already started getting some momentum before. Let's say the Bear Stearns collapse in the d'lemons collab
tat are, and I think we were building a business that I think could have been, would have been successful in good times, but in bad times was either ways in which we can- and I hate to say this but sort of take advantage.
Some of the unfortunate things that is complete in these big grounds. Their sales drops did that create more reason why they, how to get rid of the problem one hundred percent of winter was your friend winter was
A friend there were brands that initially had said either no or maybe that come fall. Two thousand eight there were calling me one, one of them m sure. Some of you, ladies my covered that bran Christian, the Bhutan with the Red Red sold, bottoms,
They called me and they said you know how we weren't that interested six months ago. Well, we actually have some inventory if you can come in and get it off our books like within two days. It's yours, and so we got call like that and so
that was amazing? The challenge, though, was that we didn't necessarily have the capital to be buying all that inventory, because initially we thought it would be more of a consignment model so that we had to raise funding quickly plausible burger, warmer excursions.
When did you guys look at funding? What amounts did you do? How did you balance out how much one
they take in Norway just able to at that stage he S. So we.
We raised a lot of money over the course of of guilt, starting in venture and then kind of moving along into private equity funding, and
Probably more than when I am definitely more than we,
initially had anticipated and a lot of it was to fund inventory growth in and also really being able to lock in future kind of planning for future years ahead, making sure you can get them into
say that you wanted and they're pros. As all of you know, they're pros and cons to raising money. You know, I I think, if you can try to have the attitude that there is money out there and you want to take the smartest money you can from the smartest people out there who believe in your business and who can add strategic value on a board level through partnership
Sarah. That's that's ideal. Unfortunately, not everyone always has that choice in the moment, but we had we had very smart board members and we're lucky where's the future route
You seem to be at the edge of it, but I'm talking about
additional retail. Where do you see that going what your view of a yes traditional
retail, I think, is in a real change. Real state of change and flax and the next and say three to five years are gonna, be pretty telling their certain trends that I personally pay close attention to. That, I think, are really interest
So what does so? You see the abundance of businesses where sending a box and home, so you can look at stage vex. You can look at the tricks competitors. Companies like trunk club rockets of awesome, for those of you have kids personally think it's the greatest brand.
Being and that's basically, you get a box in the mail. You try things on. You send things back that you don't want, but doing it with clever marketing, and I think that's really targeting this time, starved consumer who doesn't want to go to stores the same way she used to she's buying on on online, but sometimes online. It's frustrating because you can always try things on their certain categories. You might want to try, and so the inbox there, the box and home, is in
you're saying I think, bringing services into the home in general, also whether its retail or it's so many other categories, I think, is excessive.
Says more about your brother entities because they relate to this directly squadrons. Yes, so so two thousand for
see. I I left guilt to two to go to glam squad where
Sorry. But will you told me that may indirect that's a big decision right? What made you
make the decision to leave. You build something so strong
very tough decisions. Bratwurst lot of entrepreneurs have made their decision. Quantum build even bigger companies after billing, huge companies, but what? What pushed over the edge to make
This is about.
So the one thing my Alexis Maybank, my guilt, CO founder had already left. So I think that made it a little bit easier and I was thinking what do I want to do next in a weird way, I felt like the stakes were higher, because you know more people might notice and might care if I actually laughed, and so I really wanted to get that decision right in my mind, I thought it was going to go into venture capital and and was talking to a number of early stage firms in New York and that could have been a great fit, and some of these friends and ventured came to me and they said you know you can do that in five years and ten years you can get a little more gray hair before you go into venture like
I can tell you have more more building to do, and you really love that, and so dont feel the pressure to russian to venture soon and so along along the way of my guilt experience. I got involved in so many start ups. So as an advisor,
mentor as an angel investor like literally over fifty companies. Many of them women, founded many of them in New York, could be
I support guys to, of course, but I think what would happen
I think what has happened is that a lot of female founders, maybe dont, have access to that many mentors and maybe you're looking at building companies that are targeting women, which the companies have been most involved in, have really been kind of fashion, beauty with the intersection of technology, and so I was involved in rent the runway and Birch box and carbon thirty eight and a lot of great companies like that, some that you will hear of but there still in their early days and one company that,
Just in the beginning, kind of coming together was called glam squad and I'd gone to college with two of the founders two guys actually and they we bumped into each other in an event they said, were building and in home beauty services company and with would love to show it to you, we'd love to get your feedback and learned about it and basically was music to my ears. I like this. This is simple. I completely relate, as as a user experience I have to be in a working industries, have to look presentable for work of too little kids. I have no free time to go to the salon. I feel badly about myself when I don't feel like I'm kind of dressed up and embarrassing
where everyone else amendment working with us is dressed up and Anna was at a great praise points I did think of it as a dry bar in the home, so got involved, was preserved. It was an app at that point, just testing in home blow out in New York City, and so they convinced me to join them full time. I put a little money in convinced
baby, ceo and and CO founder as well, and that felt like a great decision. Guilt was comfortable with that I wasn't doing anything kind of competitive. They couldn't they could work nicely side by side and- and that was a great experience so in that couple years that glam squad we expanded to other markets across the country with Spanish.
Their services- and I really saw this- excitement the on demand economy, certainly but oh desire for consumers to let brands and strangers into their home and to trust that another really has really hard to do.
Hard to build that kind of trust, and we're like we're talking about with the car sharing is welcome. So how did you have to get people over the others are just something that through time, people start to expect and adjust to so either.
Balance of supply and demand. So first you start on the on the beauty professional side, so making sure that we were very strict and stringent about who we accepted onto the glam squad team. The quality there is licensing for hairstyle S and for man and curious was a pretty rigorous interview process.
Making sure they also had kind of a bedside manner, you're going into someone's home you're, seeing all the things that could happen in someone's home, the good, the bad, the ugly you can see in a little kids running around you can see pets you can. You can be interacting with consumers when they're in their most fragile and vulnerable state. Could me for a wedding could be for high stakes moments in so doing a great job. Training and then getting consumers comfortable of. Why should they trust this brand wise? This brand good enough literally for celebrities, and so many celebrities and social aids and very wealthy people were using glam squat. Even though could they could afford things ten times more expensive, but they trusted grams
and yet we were trying to build a democratic business that you know. Anyone who who would pay more, like a fifty nine point, one to cover the passion you both share for letting people up your passion you both share for really hospitality of the process.
Both seem to also realise that technology is something you might
we stand, but you have someone else doing that you really do what you do best about your cases. You're that face that connection. Tell me
massively inform another company how'd you make the decision to leave,
company how'd, you.
Make the decision to leave this one and tell us about your third company
realizing that I I love, building and creating don't love politics, don't love being told, no, don't love having an idea on a Monday and then being told sure we
Implement that nine months later, eighteen months later, like I have an idea on a Monday if everyone around the room is like that's a great idea like let's tested on Thursday
Am I favour a word now, either by month?
the following Monday: maybe they didn't work, but that's ok, and what did we learn from man and what can we repeat and in applying to rebuild trust, jerked guilt? You know
View was be first and then iterate correct, because you know
a lot of things that work done on the website, where you just got yourself out there tell us, did that work. Was that important part of its growth and then come back to a third organization. I think look I love I.
Being nimble. I love moving quickly.
Yorker, I walk really fast. I talk really fast. I like move quickly and I know it's important to slow down. I know that
but I love speed and I think specially when you're you're in technology and you're in these competitive environment, speed is important. People might copier ideas, it might still your clients, they could take your partnerships. So in the case of guilt we we actually launched. So we did our first sale ever November. Thirteen two thousand seven, it was a brand name, Zack pose and I had become friendly with Zack, and I actually didn't know this. Our engineers didn't tell me you because they know I'm kind of like nervous, Nellie Type
about certain things. So so we launched the sale and the returns process hadn't been built yet onto the sale.
So literally with so you could buy your dress and size. It could get shipped to you and then
nearest figured ok, it'll, take two days to ship. Let's say New York City
area, interesting area, maybe a day for the client.
Open it. She might not tried on immediately. She might wait a day, so maybe it
four days and she's going to try it on and then she's going to want to return something with safe five days, so they like, we literally have five days to build a return
after ve watched after lunch, can't do that when you will be
company. That would be that we can have a front page something but anyway, so so. Moving on to the company I'm working on now, which is called fits ef, I tc it's really been almost like a Trojan horse for
another company that we will be, of course, yielding lighting in March, which I can't talk about consent, then stealth, but but the idea fits was really. Let's learn in a very manual bricks and mortar way as much data we can about how consumers shop, how they interact with their closets. What you find is the average person, whereas only about twenty percent,
what they own and their closet. So eighty percent is just sitting. There is brightens solving problems, it's just sitting there.
Number one reason I hate to say it, but it
weight gain that they're not using that eighty percent of others could be weather related and
so I'm gonna be rent in closer. You know it's not renting, but the idea in doing this service, which fits is all about we go into the home. We
you know what you have. We purge out, what you dont need, so we take care of donation, we care of take care of recycling
and then we focus on what you have give you suggestions on how to put outfits together and then make really smart shopping recommendations.
What are you interested in such a service? I'm curious,
fear and try state area. We can service you, but we haven't skilled beyond that. Yet, but the idea
That is really to learn more
you only this process and this behaviour and and the hypothesis was
if you know what people already on you will give them much smarter shopping recommendations for the future and which we have tested out. That hypothesis
and he's wonderful when question was asked on Facebook by several people is. Have you been
the new challenges being a woman either in this process of raising capital are helping to direct around the business. It doesn't seem to stop doing anyway, but I want to make sure we answer the question. You know I am not now,
not really? I would say that I get excited about businesses where I can relate to them as a consumer and I think, big, being a woman who has helped me in the companies that I've been involved in directly or even indirectly
are there. Things said behind my back. I have no idea most likely it's possible, but you know we raised glam squat areas. Twenty four million dollars guilt. We certainly raise money, fits we'd, just gone through fund raising related to this other business
we're launching, because you are so close to the ideal consumer. Is you? Are that part of everyday consumer? It's actually been an advantage, it seems, like you know, I I I can speak firm enough
and take place not like I've read study
is and based on what I read I think X Y see it's like. No, I understand these pain points directly. So do the customer bases open interacting with really for the past ten years, so you know what that said. I think things are improving
there- are more female founders than than ever before. There are more women in VC. Well what it boils down to a woman entrepreneur. Getting started who
that she might be out man so to speak in the marketplace, so that
He doesn't feel that she has a disadvantage. Look, I think so. I'm really close to both my parents,
we're together really close to my dad- and I think my my dad never Ray
me being like because you're a woman
data that are always like. You know you go, you shoot for the stars in the sun and the moon same thing. I told my brother and it was almost like he raised raised us, oblivious of any of that and I went to a girl, school or New York, which was very much like you all could be President one day. If you want to me- and so I think, I think it comes from year- your ambition, your drive, I think, whether its two female entrepreneurs, but also to the guy's a meat as many people as you can. I, when I think about fund raising, I always like to think about yes, who do you want to meet for it for your next round, so the round you're about to raise at around your currently raising super important, because if you can't raise that round, your business might go belly up, but be thinking about the following round and round beyond that, and if you can start getting people interested in what you are building and and if their rejection is like
here's your too early stage, that's great rejection, because then you can sort of say, like our enemies, hand, stay in touch and let me know them the milestones in the matrix. You want me to hit along the way. Wonderful attorney, rabbits podcast his directed and hosted by Tony Robins in New York is
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Transcript generated on 2020-04-04.