- Claire Kalikman
Rebecca Minkoff on the Trials and Triumphs of Running a Fashion Business
On March 18th, Rebecca Minkoff joined the Women Entrepreneurs at Yale to talk about running a major fashion brand. Rebecca is the founder of the eponymous label, host of the Super Women podcast, co-founder of the Female Founder Collective, and now author of the book Fearless, coming out in June.
ON BEING AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS
Rebecca Minkoff has been called an overnight success because of the attention she received after Jenna Elfman wore her I Heart NY Shirt on TV, but the truth is Rebecca had already been working for two years on her business. Even after this viral moment, success was not instant. Huge orders quickly outpaced capacity and Rebecca wasn’t prepared with some of the business basics like a tax number or separate bank account. It took many more years of scrappy hard work to build a sustainable business.
ON WORKING WITH FAMILY
After four years on her own, Rebecca’s business was booming, so her brother Uri closed his software company and joined her full-time. At first they divided responsibilities, but as each sibling learned more about the other’s work and responsibilities mixed, sparks flew. Rebecca is candid about hiring a business counselor because “you know it’s going to get hard, so you have to know how to treat each other.”
ON BUMPY PATHS
During the pandemic, Rebecca lost the majority of her wholesale business and the company’s DTC business became their only source of revenue. Rebecca called the period of layoffs and furloughs that followed the absolute hardest time in her business. But it also gave the company back more control than it had. She says the brand is going back to wholesale, but it’s a different dynamic of power. She’s prioritizing orders that are profitable, not just those that expand the business. “It’s the best thing that could have happened to the business.”
Back around 2006, Rebecca was already talking to her customers directly. This doesn’t sound so shocking now, but this was before the era of social media, and Rebecca received major pushback from luxury retailers who told her that if she continued, “they would drop my brand.” She continued, and since then has been an innovator in the fashion industry, embracing new platforms such as Snapchat and Only Fans before anyone else.
ON SUPER WOMEN AND THE FEMALE FOUNDER COLLECTIVE
Rebecca had been hosting a series of events at her stores and consistently maxed out the store capacity. She realized there was an audience for the kinds of talks she was hosting, and also found that women were more vulnerable and honest on podcasts. Now she shares their stories with other women “who may be encountering failure or imposter syndrome.” After a few months of the podcast, she realized women were telling stories of similar problems, so she created a group to bring together female founders to share expertise and business experiences. The FFC now has a label to show products are women-made that is found on 3 million products.
ON RAISING MONEY
She bootstrapped for 7 years before raising money. She advises: “Be careful raising money just because it’s sexy. Make sure you have product-market fit, heat, and desire, and then you can sell from a point of strength….there’s nothing wrong with having a steadily growing business. Not everyone has to go from zero to a billion dollars to be successful.” She finally raised money when she wanted to expand into more categories and open her own stores.
ON THE VALUE OF HARD WORK AND LOVING WHAT YOU DO
“It’s worth it. It’s not just about the money, it’s not about fame. It’s about ‘do you love what you do so much that nothing else matters?’”
You can watch a replay of the event here.
By Claire Kalikman.