Savoir Flair talks with My-Wardrobe.com founder Sarah Curran about her career path and having the perfect work/life balance as an entrepreneur.
"I remember at school we were once told, 'You can achieve anything that you set your mind to', which I have never forgotten."
Tell us about your career path from owning a brick-and-mortar retail store to launching a successful online boutique in a few short years. What was the impetus behind your decision? How did you carry it out?
I had moved to Saint-Émilion in France and I found myself turning to online websites to shop for the designer brands that I loved and retailed at my boutique, Powder. I soon realized that no one was doing what I was with Powder, which was offering diffusion, second, and sister lines, and more affordable international designers’ lines. I wanted to expand the retail business, but, for me, the opportunity was in online and being able to launch and build a global brand with the same market position as Powder. I knew that calling the website powderfashion.com would limit the brand both regionally and globally, so after months of research we chose the name my-wardrobe.com. We wanted to create a global online destination where shoppers could buy their seasonal wardrobe, whether it was for work, weekends, holidays, or for evenings. In April 2006, my-wardrobe.com was born and within three months the sales out-performed those of Powder, leading to the decision to sell the boutique and focus on the growth of my-wardrobe.com.
How did you come to be interested in fashion? Did you ever dream that you would run your own business one day?
I have always loved fashion. I would spend my pocket money on fashion magazines every month and would admire my grandmother’s beautiful jewelry every time I saw her on our summer holidays.
My father had his own business and I grew up watching him work 24/7 to make the business a success. I knew that if I wanted to create a certain lifestyle for my family I would have to contribute, and it drove me to launch my own business. I remember at school we were once told, “You can achieve anything that you set your mind to”, which I have never forgotten.
"Shoppers are more time-poor than ever and they have even greater expectations for exceptional service and value. "
How would you describe my-wardrobe.com and its role in the luxury retail market?
My-wardrobe has established itself as the premier online destination for everyday luxury, sitting in the middle of the online fashion market, between fast high-street fashion and the mainline designer collections. We present a new type of luxury that can be worn daily as part of your everyday lifestyle.
In your opinion, what has made my-wardrobe.com a more successful endeavor than the British high-street business model? Why is traditional retail suffering right now?
Shoppers are more time-poor than ever and they have even greater expectations for exceptional service and value. We lead with a concise edit of the designer collections, which ensures every piece can fit into your everyday wardrobe with that all-important wearability factor.
Who is your target patron?
Our shopper is aged 29 to 49 with a spike at 35. She is time-poor and shops in the seams of her life, looking for those fabulous pieces that fit into her wardrobe and with her modern lifestyle.
Who are your top five favorite designers right now?
Right now I love Acne, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Preen, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Michael Michael Kors.
Is there any collection you’ve seen in the past year that you would buy every piece of?
The Acne collection is just amazing; I would buy every piece.
"Mobile commerce is an ideal channel and creates an exciting opportunity when you couple a luxury experience with mobile accessibility."
The internet has radically reshaped the way consumers consume – meaning the fashion industry has had to adjust its sales methods accordingly. What adaptations or advancements have you made that put my-wardrobe.com ahead of the curve?
We were the first pure-play e-tailer to launch click-to-buy video with our weekly MY-TV, presenting how to wear the trends in a new engaging and innovative format. We were also the first to launch our online loyalty card giving shoppers the chance to earn fashionable rewards as they shop. Finally, social media has turned marketing on its head, giving the consumer control of how they consume digital media by choosing whom to follow and interact with. Our social media platforms have become an extremely important channel for us from a marketing perspective.
Are you the type to implement a dozen plans at the same time and carry them all through at once, or do you pick one thing to work on at a time?
I’m terribly impatient and am always looking ahead at the next thing. I’m incredibly passionate about innovation and developing new ways for our customer to browse and shop.
When the world was hit with the economic crisis of 2008, my-wardrobe.com continued to grow at a rate no one had expected. How did you deal with the economic climate at the time?
We focused on the customer and the experience. Despite the economic climate, the global consumer was still shopping, but their expectations were higher than ever and they expected value for money. We focused on buying the best products and offering a unique personal experience, which would bring the customer back.
My-wardrobe.com has witnessed an incredible rise in sales through smart-phones. How does that trend translate in the Middle East?
The Middle East customer is extremely mobile-savvy and was an early adopter of social media and BBM as a way of communicating among the peer group. Mobile commerce is an ideal channel and creates an exciting opportunity when you couple a luxury experience with mobile accessibility.
Where do you see the future of my-wardrobe.com in five years?
I have always believed that my-wardrobe.com could be a global brand and I want to see it become the number one online retailer for everyday luxury designer fashion. The future is about seamless integration, creating a 360-degree brand experience through online, print, social media, mobile, and customer-facing events.
How do you juggle being a full-time mother and CEO of a leading online retailer? Are there any tips you would share with entrepreneurial mothers?
It’s been very difficult and anyone who says you can have the perfect work/life balance as an entrepreneur and a mom is lying. I knew and accepted that I would have to make sacrifices both personally and financially, but I’m now able to find the time to get that back. I ensure I find time in the evenings and weekends to spend with my son. You can even find me rock climbing at weekends!
What advice would you give a female entrepreneur like yourself? What knowledge did you wish you had before you started on this venture?
When I launched my-wardrobe.com there weren’t many of these e-commerce seminars that you could attend. You can find out so much valuable information there. Also, be prepared for returns. That’s the one thing I wasn’t prepared for. I remember the first time a customer sent something back I took it really personally. If I went back, I would know that you have to factor this into the business model and prepare for it.
Photos: Courtesy of MY-WARDROBE.COM