Still, it wasn’t easy. Having previously worked as a associate for Leader Ventures before B-school, Lake knew firsthand that investors could be skittish about women’s clothing. “There just aren’t that many venture investors who are excited about writing a half-million-dollar check to go buy a bunch of clothes, which is quite literally what we had to do to get the business off the ground,” she points out. Plus, most investors are men and few want to sit on the board of a female-fashion startup. Lake recalls one investor who loved the idea, the team, and the company’s prospects but ultimately turned them down because he simply couldn’t get excited about styling for women.
COMPANY ALREADY BOASTS AT LEAST $16.75 MILLION IN INVESTMENT BUT PROBABLY MUCH MORE
Luckily, dealing in pumps, cardigans, and the latest denim trends doesn’t deter investors anymore. In February 2013, the company closed $4.75 million in a Series A led by Baseline Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners. In October 2013, the startup secured another $12 million in a Series B led by Benchmark. Re/code reports a Series C of $30 million, but Lake says the number is unconfirmed. Either way, the company boasts at least $16.75 million in investment.
As for advice to MBAs with the entrepreneurial itch, Lake recommends creating a wishlist of people you want to meet. Even when an investor turned her down, she’d ask for feedback and introductions. Big Data guru Eric Colson was on her wishlist and eventually joined Stitch Fix as chief algorithms and analytics officer. She met him when the company was still in its infancy with only five employees. “He had no place working for us at that time, but if you can talk to the right people early, and they can see you’re growing at 1,000%, and oh wow, you’ve done this, and they can experience it … that was something that paid off,” she says.
As for leaving the Bay for Harvard and taking out loans, Lake has no regrets. “I felt like it was a great place to start a business because there was definitely an energy and an enthusiasm for people starting businesses … it was a really nice balance of having support and excitement but at the same time not being over pushed into being an entrepreneur,” she says.
For Lake, the experience has been “Truthfully, maybe I didn’t dream big enough, but this has definitely surpassed any expectations I could have had of what we could have done,” she says.