I was just into the first year of owning, running and writing editorial for my first startup, Stylediary, when designer Rebecca Minkoff's "Morning After Bag" hit the scene. Nearly five years later, I've sold the startup while Minkoff has gone on to see her own double in growth every year since. This past week, the two of us hopped on a call to chat about just that -- how does an upstart entrepreneur go from launch to being the number one fashion accessory designer in the country? Like any true-blooded Power Girl, I had to find out.
Minkoff's start as a fashion business founder was not unlike my own, or that of many companies today like Facebook and YouTube. It began in her New York apartment, where she had sewn t-shirts by hand. Facebook was started in a college dorm. YouTube, as the story goes, in a garage outside of San Francisco. And just like them, Minkoff's line caught the eye of mainstream media and consumers. Her now infamous "I Love New York" t-shirt, stitched together by Minkoff herself on her free time, landed in Us Weekly and Jay Leno. Not bad for a first crack at the business.
Today, the line is regularly in fashion and mainstream media, including all the top fashion glossies. Actresses Kiera Knightley and Reese Witherspoon are among celebrity fans. This past week, TV personality and author Lauren Conrad noted it as a favorite in Us Weekly. As she and I settled into conversation, I was dying to ask what everybody wants to know: What has been the secret behind her company's incredible success?
"My mom was very entrepreneurial," she starts, sharing how she found her way into the fashion industry. She once held an internship, and as mentioned hand-sewn her first collection herself. After her first two hits, she and her brother decided to collaborate. But it wasn't just entrepreneurship and ambition being in her blood, or the collection's media coverage. In fact, what Minkoff credits to the line's explosive growth is something rarely heard and seen in much of the business world today, where companies feel they need to be everything to everyone, and products are often created for ad dollars versus what customers might want or need.
"I've always tried to design things around our customers," Minkoff shares. "Even before the days of social networks, I was always in communication with them."
From listening to their needs and wants, to connecting directly with them, to excellent customer service, Minkoff put shoppers first. That's something rare in the midst of a time where executives and CEOs blog and Twitter endlessly about themselves, their lives, their doings, etc. versus what new and existing customers may really be looking for. Minkoff, like a lot of great founders in any market, found success in putting the attention on the opposite end.
It's a formula that has worked. In the past year, she's relaunched apparel to her collection, and is about to open her first retail store. Not bad for a company that's just five years old. She's a true Power Girl!
For more information on Minkoff, to see her line or to buy, visit www.rebeccaminkoff.com