Women in Business Q&A: Julia Gudish Krieger, Founder and CEO, VillageLuxe.com

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Julia Gudish Krieger

Julia Gudish Krieger is the Founder & CEO of VillageLuxe.com, a community where women can rent high-end designer pieces directly from the closets of women in their neighborhood (think "Airbnb for high-end fashion"). This peer-to-peer rental marketplace currently has over 7K designer items listed from high-end brands like Chanel, Hermes, and Christian Louboutin. Early lenders at VillageLuxe include "luxers" with enviable wardrobes, such as Gilt cofounder and CEO of GlamSquad Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, renowned stylist Sofia Karvela, and designers like Yigal Azrouel.

Prior to VillageLuxe, Krieger spent four years at Insight Venture Partners, where she invested in fast-growing tech companies globally. In her time at Insight, she invested over $100M in internet and SaaS businesses across US, Russia, Canada, and Israel.

Krieger graduated Harvard College in 2010 with a BA in Economics and a minor in Psychology.

She currently lives in New York City with her husband Jonathan, who is a co-founder of Bluestone Lane Coffee and founder of RetailWorx.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
When I was three, my parents made a life-changing decision- they packed a few possessions and left Ukraine in hopes of providing me a life of boundless opportunity in the US. Both of my parents being mathematicians, dinnertime often included a comical back and forth where my mother would ask, "Why go into business? Don't you crave to discover a math theorem instead and contribute to human knowledge?". "No, that doesn't sound appealing at all", I would laugh and retort. But being raised by analytical thinkers did instill in me an early passion for taking apart complex problems and identifying simple, streamlined solutions. Some twenty years later, this frames my approach towards business and the large market problems which I aim to solve. Witnessing the fruits of my parents' hard work and achievement of the "American Dream" drives me to approach my work with determination, passion, and humility. My leadership style is devoid of ego and aims to create a collaborative, creative and respectful environment.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at VillageLuxe?
I spent four incredible years at Insight Venture Partners where I was given full autonomy to explore the internet/software space and build relationships with the CEOs of companies that I found interesting. Looking under the hoods of thousands of tech companies and learning of both their weaknesses and strengths was the best business school education I could have ever imagined. I left Insight a disciplined, long-term minded entrepreneur with a strong appreciation for unit economics, data analytics, and identifying solutions for global markets.

During my time at Insight, I had also invested in several marketplace businesses, both on the consumer and b2b side, and recognized the unique benefit of the model - marketplaces are difficult to build, but near impossible to disrupt once the market reaches a critical mass. Similarly, I explored fashion tech companies including the online consignment space and identified issues involving supply. I noted the importance of creating a marketplace business where inventory is sticky (you can buy an item only once, but you can rent it out, theoretically, in perpetuity). Most importantly, the community of entrepreneurs I got to know as an investor have become friends and advisors as I've transitioned to the entrepreneurial side of the table. Their support has truly been a gift.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at VillageLuxe?
The highlight of creating VillageLuxe has been hearing stories of the friendships that have developed between members of the community! On a personal note, I skied over MLK weekend with one of my favorite "luxers", Emily Kammeyer, with whom I only connected because she wears a size 41 shoe, lives 3 blocks from my NoHo apt, and has the most adventurous collection of Louboutins I've ever encountered! A few rentals later, we decided to grab drinks since we realized we had many mutual friends, and the rest is history.

I think any honest entrepreneur will share that the biggest challenges of running a startup are internal. Knowing that you are responsible for the livelihood of your employees and to your investors who have entrusted money to grow with you is a responsibility which I am humbled to carry. It's important to be let this pressure energize and not overwhelm you. Truly believing in what you are building and seeing it create positive change is what helps me transform these challenges into energy that drives me forward.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Women can do anything they put their mind to! Be bold. Be empowered. Know that you control you future and are the only person standing in your own way. Recognize that starting a business is a process that is both rewarding and arduous. Make sure you believe in what you are building (after doing your research, of course) and feel in your core that this is your calling.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Learning how to adapt to change has been my greatest lesson. I think the emotional resilience of a startup founder is much of what separates success and failure. Don't allow any 'one thing' to have the power to make or break your day. The more you are centered and not subject to emotional swings outside of your control, the more you will form a stable, level headed approach toward dealing with changing situations. You'll also live a more stress-free life.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have learned the importance of setting aside time and energy for taking care of myself, both body and mind. If you're not a balanced person, I believe it prevents you from being the best version of yourself and the best leader you can be. I try to surround myself with places, people, and activities that center me. The most impactful in finding that balance has been studying Kabbalah, meditation, and energy yoga. I also think it's important to pick your life partner well. My husband Jonathan has been the best source of support and balance throughout my entrepreneurial journey. Sometimes you need someone to understand why you can't make a family obligation; other times you need someone to close your laptop when you're working late at night and say, we're watching John Oliver.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The biggest issue I've observed for women in the workplace is, at a certain point, feeling like they have to choose between a fast-paced, successful career and being a "good wife or mother". We need more public examples of women who have created a system where the two aren't mutually exclusive. I love Ivanka Trump's #womenwhowork campaign. I'm newly married and we don't have any children yet, but the advice those superwomen have shared is all about automating as many errands as possible, creating a strong support network, and having your spouse put stereotypes aside and be a true partner in the home.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I'm learning the need to ask for guidance and advice, which doesn't come naturally for me, but when I do, I've found that a swarm of mentors have emerged in a heartbeat! Having a support system of both formal and informal advisors has helped me to learn from the mistakes of others and benefit immeasurably from the wisdom of those who come to bat for me.

VillageLuxe's formal advisory board currently consists of Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, who co-founded Glamsquad and Gilt Groupe, and Oscar Salazar, the founding CTO of Uber. Both Alexandra and Oscar have been great sounding boards for tough decisions around hiring, strategy and overall support. We hope to announce soon some additions in the tech and fashion space.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I am inspired by leaders like Sheryl Sandberg who put their heart into changing the world for the better. She's signed The Giving Pledge to donate majority of her wealth to charity and is relentless in her drive to inspire women to lead in the workplace. On a personal note, it was her public post at the end of her period of mourning for her late husband and the vulnerability she shared in hopes of helping others going through a similar struggle that made me admire her more than ever.

I aspire to follow in the footsteps of women who lead with strength without sacrificing kindness, who are able to thrive in both career and family life, and who genuinely strive to help others. Modern leaders like Angelina Jolie, Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg as well as iconic females like Rosa Parks make the ever-growing list.

What do you want VillageLuxe to accomplish in the next year?
This is the year we'll share VillageLuxe with the world and bring a sense of community back to high fashion. We'll launch new ways to discover inventory from women all around you. We'll be making it easier for stylists to discover pieces to borrow for editorial, TV, and commercials. We'll create events that connect our "luxers" socially and may launch in additional cities outside of New York City. We are excited for how far we've come but we're thrilled for what is ahead of us!