Stacey Bendet from Alice+Olivia Shared Her Secrets to the Baker Center's Alumni Breakfast in New York
I have been lucky in my life and the results of hard work brought me to Wharton School for my MBA studies. There, I took courses on luxury retail and I was involved with the Wharton Baker Retailing Center, the first research center focused on studying the retail industry, providing insights and networking opportunities for its alums. The Baker Center has affiliations with other schools as well, like FIT, and organizes various events every year in order to connect the students with the retail industry and provide to the alums working in retail with cutting-edge knowledge and business cases.
On Tuesday, we had our annual summer breakfast, co-organized with FIT and hosted at the Magic Room of LVMH in New York, where the key note speaker was Stacey Bendet, the Founder and Designer of Alice + Olivia. Professor Barbara Kahn, the Director of the Baker Center, interviewed Stacey, a former UPenn alum who gave us inspirational advice on following our career passion and combining motherhood by prioritizing and managing our time effectively.
The conversation started with a simple question on how she decided to embark into her entrepreneurial journey ten years ago. Stacey Bendet firmly supported that one has to be an optimist and extremely courageous in order to be an entrepreneur, as this journey is not for the fainted hearts. She admitted receiving a lot of satisfaction and happiness from creating something from scratch. Her determination to take baby steps in order to stand firmly on her feet and preserve the brand image by expanding into one item at a time (first the trousers, then the dresses, then the shoes, then...) while sending a consistent message about the brand, have managed to grow the business in a healthy way and build strong foundations for future success.
Alice + Olivia is ready to open its first store in China after the successful penetration through other retail channels. When asked about making mistakes in the past that she regreted, Stacey Bendet replied that there were a lot of things that went wrong in building a business but her attitude had always been to treat them as experiences and lessons rather than regrets. She said "the world will never be exactly as you want it, so simply adjust". She shared the best advice that was given to her by a business partner when the company was growing quickly and they were facing out-of-stock situations due to increasing demand; she was told that she managed the company the way it was at that day (as a small company) instead of the way they wanted them to become (a bigger company), and that they had to adjust their production levels in order to satisfy future demand before that demand occurs. By listening to that advice, the company adjusted their production and supply channels and Stacey has since been forward-looking on managing the company instead of present-looking. Now, the company's focus is on retail expansion while the next challenge that they have in front of them is the global distribution.
Stacey is very proud for updating the A+O instagram account by herself and incorporating her travelling and other experiences into the company's journey and #thisgirlslife. She likes to have a personal touch with her customers and she gains pleasure on seeing her outfits on girls on the street and at events, not just on celebrities.
When the tough question "how can a businesswoman be a mother of two and also have time for herself and her husband?" was asked, Stacey said that she deals with everything with a lot of humor and a strict timetable. She prioritizes family time from 6pm-8pm and she stays loyal to it, knowing that no work can take place during that time frame. Before coming to our event, Stacey's baby, Scarlet, decided to stick her finger in her mom's make-up and throw it at the floor; when that happened, instead of feeling frustrated, Stacey saw it as an opportunity to laugh.
At this well organized event with a great speaker, old classmates met again and made new connections with more alums who are involved in the retail industry in New York. Stacey managed to inspire us all with her achievements and I personally cannot wait for the new collection and video of Alice+Olivia.