Anyone who has used the cost-per-wear theory to justify a coveted fashion purchase just got something better — let’s call it a cost-per-rent theory — which allows you to have your Louboutins and rent them too. Julia Gudish Krieger is making it possible with her New York City-based startup, VillageLuxe. “Referred to as ‘the Airbnb of high-end fashion,’ VillageLuxe allows women to borrow designer clothing, shoes and accessories directly from other women,” says Krieger. Fashion insiders like Leandra Medine, Charlotte Ronson, and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson are Luxers and more than 12,000 women are on the waitlist for the invite-only site and app that’s letting women quite literally walk a mile in her shoes.
What inspired you to start VillageLuxe? What was your career path?
I started working in venture capital even before I could legally enjoy a glass of wine. My junior summer at Harvard, I landed an internship at Insight Venture Partners, one of the top tech-focused venture capital and private equity funds.
I was thrown into a world of innovation, technology, and brilliant minds and I was hooked. When I graduated the following summer, I joined Insight for what would become four years of investing in the internet and software space. I built relationships with the CEOs of companies that interested me and, in doing so, closely watched the sharing economies like Airbnb and Uber thrive before others took a close notice. I recognized rather quickly that the sharing economy, along with its efficiencies and social connectivity, is the business model of the future and it’s here to stay. What followed was the seed thought of VillageLuxe. If folks are sleeping in each other’s beds and driving around in each other’s cars, what’s the next personal asset that hasn’t yet been disrupted? My wardrobe.
VillageLuxe is a shared economy luxury marketplace that is fundamentally shifting how women invest in and monetize their wardrobes. Referred to as “the Airbnb of high-end fashion,” VillageLuxe allows women to borrow designer clothing, shoes and accessories directly from other women. This peer-to-peer rental experience extends the common friend dynamic of “Can I borrow that?” but across entire neighborhoods and cities in a socially integrated way.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting VillageLuxe?
To feel like you are creating something every day and to love what you do is a rare gift I wish upon everyone. At the same time, while the journey of taking an idea from conception to reality is an exhilarating and rewarding one, it comes with a significant weight on your shoulders. Being responsible for the livelihood of your employees and to your investors is a responsibility which I am humbled to carry. To truly believe in what you are building and seeing it create positive change is what helps me transform any challenges into energy that drives me forward.
What advice do you have for other women who hope to start their own businesses?
It goes without saying, but I am part of the girl boss culture. Women can do anything they put their minds to! Be bold. Feel empowered. Don’t be afraid, but also recognize that starting a business is a process that is both undeniably rewarding and arduous. Make sure you believe in what you are building, do your research and feel in your core that the idea is everything you know it can be and then some. Don’t live life with regrets of what could have been.
What is a workday as Julia like? Please walk me through a day!
7:00 AM: Depending on the evening prior, I’ll go to an early morning workout with my trainer. I need my mind, body, and spirit to be all sharp and in sync.
8:40 AM: Grab an Uber (of course!) and take those quiet minutes to scan culture, fashion, tech and world news.
9:00 AM: Arrive in Dumbo for morning banter with the team. We’ve been blessed to have made excellent hires and also ones with an incredible sense of humor. The wit is strong, to say the least.
9:30-12 PM: Sync up on top priorities: marketing, tech and business development standpoints. Emails, emails, emails. Comment and review the latest user experience wireframe improvements and explorations.
12:15 PM: Sneak down to my husband’s company, Bluestone Lane Coffee, for an avocado smash with my usual insane request for all the toppings (basically) on the menu. (That’s add feta, a poached egg, smoked salmon and cherry tomatoes. Thanks, Aussies!)
12:45 PM-6:30 PM: Wrestle with the technology team about a timeline for adding new features versus chipping away at technical debt and reference an episode of “Silicon Valley.” (The conjoined triangles of success!) Business development meetings are part of a typical afternoon or early evening whether with an incredible social club, a well-connected Luxer or a partnering retailer or etailer. Sometimes I am meeting a potential investor at an event.
7:00 PM-8:00 PM: Squeeze in a drinks meeting or amazing dinner with a friend or a Luxer. There’s no shortage of meetings and getting to know the incredible women who shop VillageLuxe.
8:00 PM-10 PM: If I don’t have dinner plans, I’m home around 8 PM to share war stories of the day with my husband who is a fellow entrepreneur except in the retail and real estate space with Bluestone Lane Coffee and RetailWorx. If luck would have it, I enjoy a homecooked meal from him. (He’s an amazing chef! I have other redeeming qualities!)
10:00 PM-12 AM: Sneak in an episode of “Shark Tank” or “Narcos.” Breathe, rest and get ready to start all over again. I pull my laptop into bed to check in on my tech world and the other tech worlds and find myself close to slumber knowing the World Wide Web continues to turn…
What are your responsibilities as CEO and founder of VillageLuxe?
As the CEO and founder, I drive the vision of the business, steering our priorities for tech, development, and marketing, all the while ensuring we are staying true to our values — bringing friendship and community to high-fashion, connecting an incredible community of like-minded women and spreading the sharing economy movement. Fundraising is at the core of my responsibilities to myself, my investors and the brand. Business development and meeting people who have interest to share in the expanding growth of the brand falls under my umbrella as well. It’s been a pleasure to get to know great movers and shakers within the industry. As a key pillar to the brand is service excellence, I try to stay as close to customer support as I can in order to intimately know the questions they have and what improvements or changes will address the pain points. If I catch a question between meetings, I may even reply personally.
As a CEO, you’re also creating the work dynamic and culture around you. I aim to create a collaborative, hard working, thriving environment. If I can make sure I am giving my team the energy, support, and infrastructure this early on, then we can uniquely collaborate and be in sync on the priorities and success of the brand, all the while leaving autonomy for each person to individually thrive and have true ownership of his or her work.
What are the most important characteristics someone needs to have to be successful in your role?
Vision, passion, resilience, persistence and the ability to draw talented individuals into joining your vision are, in my opinion, the most important traits for a successful founder and CEO.
What are three characteristics you look for when you’re hiring a new team member?
Someone who is hardworking, positive and has a collaborative confidence but no ego. Oh and definitely a sense of humor. (That’s three and a half?)
You previously worked at Insight Venture Partners. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs hoping to raise funding?
Take the time and prepare. My team can confirm that I essentially went into a dark cave and played with data so I could answer even the questions people didn’t think to ask. Having an intimate understanding of your business from a metrics standpoint is important, but so is being authentic, passionate and having a strong view of the world and how your business fits into it.
Be prepared for some investors to have different viewpoints or risk profiles, and don’t take it personally if every investor doesn’t want to move forward. Also understand that it’s not just about finding investors for your business, but finding the right ones. Ask questions to find out how they work with their portfolio, how they add value and how hands-on they are. Don’t be afraid to ask for references to speak to their existing portfolio CEOs. This will be a partner that’s part of your journey likely for years to come. Choose wisely!
What’s the biggest lesson you learned at work and how did you learn it?
Learning how to adapt to change has been my greatest lesson. There will always be curveballs, surprises and “fires to put out” as our advisor, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt Group and Glamsquad says. I truly believe the emotional resilience of a startup founder is much of what separates success and failure. 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. In real time, you’ll refocus immediately on finding solutions when faced with conflict. You’ll also live a more stress-free life.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Live life with no regrets. Recognize that you’re the only person standing in your way, and the faster you can stop listening to the little voice that says you can’t do it, the faster you’ll start really living! You’ll be surprised the doors that open when you trust yourself and put in the work to get there.
What is your business advice for other young professional women?
Choose your life partner well and you’ll never have to choose between a successful career and family life. Someone who is an equal partner in your life journey and respects your career ambitions just as he or she does their own will help yield the work-life balance so critical for a healthy life and mind.
Be your authentic self. Stick to your core principles and values even when it’s inconvenient and, in the end, your integrity and reputation will be the foundation of the work you do and the reason talented people are drawn to join you.
Image of Julia Gudish Krieger via The Lifestyle Edit.