[quote style=”boxed”]Work hard! No matter who you are or what you do, always be the hardest worker and put your soul into it.[/quote]
Olga Vidisheva is the founder and CEO of Shoptiques.com, the online destination that provides savvy fashionistas with access to fashion forward designs and one-of-a-kind pieces from over 160 of the nation’s chicest boutiques.
While studying at Wellesly College, Vidsheva juggled student life with a high-fashion modeling career, managing to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude in 2007. She began her post-graduate career as an investment banker at Goldman, Sachs & Co in New York, working in the Technology, Media and Telecom division. After nearly three years on Wall Street, Vidisheva traded in Manhattan for Boston to attend Harvard Business School where she served as the co-President of the Retail & Luxury Goods Club. In her final year of graduate school, she wrote the business plan for Shoptiques.com.
In March 2012 Olga combined her business prowess with her love of fashion to launch Shoptiques.com. At just seven months old, the site has already attracted thousands of customers nationwide and with the global launch taking place in Paris this October, it’s sure to become the go-to site for trendsetters around the world.
Vidisheva currently resides in New York City.
What are you working on right now?
Shoptiques.com just made its international debut, allowing consumers to virtually shop at 20 of Paris’s top boutiques. This is an incredible event for us, not only because these boutiques were previously inaccessible without a passport and plane ticket, but also because the idea for Shoptiques.com was inspired by Paris. So right now, we are heads down figuring out shipping options, selecting the ‘best of the best’ stores in Paris and making sure the products are shot on time, so our amazing customers can discover these boutiques from the comfort of their homes.
Where did the idea for Shoptiques come from?
It all started with a shoe in Paris – Walking down the streets of Paris, you can’t help but be fascinated by the fashion, architecture, style and… boutiques! That was really my first exposure to a tiny boutique with the friendliest, most stylish owner. It was years ago, but I remember stumbling upon it as if it was yesterday—and once the owner pointed out a pair of shoes by Phoebe Cham Pour Schu, I knew I couldn’t leave empty-handed! Sitting in their beautiful box with a handcrafted bow, they became the perfect memory to take from Paris.… And take I did!
Upon my return, all of my friends wanted these shoes. The perfect combination of comfort and high fashion – they were in high demand. Unfortunately, the boutique owner wasn’t receptive to commerce over the phone insisting on my friends flying to Paris to get the shoes. I was shocked! In the 21st century, my friends weren’t able to get a pair of shoes from Paris! I knew I needed to change that.
While attending Harvard Business School, my girlfriends and I would drive to New York almost every weekend to go boutique shopping in SOHO or the Lower East Side. I again was shocked that we had to drive 4 hours to find these unique items and couldn’t just purchase them online. These stores didn’t have an online presence.
This is how the idea for Shoptiques.com came about: how could we grant women immediate access to the most stylish boutiques and bring them the same intimate shopping experience. If you live far away, are time-starved, or simply want to discover new boutiques, Shoptiques.com is your one-stop destination for the best boutiques online.
What does your typical day look like?
There really isn’t a typical day. Around 9:30 am, my team tries to spend at least 15 minutes a day catching-up and helping each other. Other than that, I can be in meetings back to back speaking with investors, discussing editorial calendar for the month ahead, or meeting with boutiques that we are interested in. I also travel quite a bit. For example, in September I spent two weeks starting our business in Paris: hiring photographers, models, stylists, and finding/signing boutiques.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With the help of my amazing team and my co-founder, Peter Delahunty. Generally, I would break it down into 4 steps:
1. Research. Why is this idea good? Who are you targeting? Why would users care about this?
2. Analysis. What are the costs involved in executing this idea? What other resources will be required? What numbers do we need to hit to consider this idea successful and how realistic are they?
3. Execution. This is the most important part. There are plenty of great ideas out there. The hardest part is executing them successfully.
4. Impact Evaluation. How successful were you? Did you meet your original expectations? This part is very important to ensure your whole team learns from the experience and incorporates that learning into all future projects.
Since we are a start-up, it is very important for us to execute all of our ideas quickly. Any members of the team can propose ideas and once an idea has been agreed upon (after steps 1 and 2), we divide and conquer!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Fashion wise, I am really into peplum dresses and tops. These pieces add flirtiness and fun to any outfit. Some of my favorites right now are this Black Peplum Dress, this Polka-Dot Top and this Red Dress with lace details
Business wise, I absolutely love the conversion between online and offline. The world is becoming much smaller with the possibilities provided by the Internet, and companies that can merge online with offline will ride this wave. Because of our amazing boutiques, Shoptiques enjoys all of the advantages of a retail space without actually having one and merges the exclusivity of boutique shopping with the accessibility of ecommerce.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I always enjoy everything I am doing no matter what it is, but I would say the hardest to enjoy was waitressing. I learned English by waitressing in a Japanese restaurant when I first moved to the United States. It was very challenging to deal with customers when I barely spoke English (and I’m sure it was hard for the customers too ☺). However, I learned so much from that job: patience, the ability to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one, the importance of human interaction (whether you speak the same language or not), and English!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start all over again, I would have made my technical co-founder join Shoptiques earlier. I cannot even begin to emphasize how important technology is to Shoptiques. We think of ourselves as Open Table for boutiques, so tech is essential.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Work hard! No matter who you are or what you do, always be the hardest worker and put your soul into it. People will remember your work ethic and, whether you stay with or leave that company, those people will always believe in you and help you in unpredictable ways. I used to work for Goldman Sachs and my old co-workers there were some of my first investors when I started Shoptiques; they believed in my execution because they knew my work ethic. You want people to be your advocates even if you have left their company.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I would rather call it a huge learning experience than a failure but I didn’t truly understand the importance of hiring the right people until I had to learn from experience. I started off my career as an investment banker so I assumed that everyone would want to work as hard as we all did in investment banking. I assumed that everyone would be willing to stay up all night until everything was perfect. I quickly learned through some failures, that not everyone is like that, and finding the right people is the hardest task of all.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Something like 5 out of every 10 people are lactose-intolerant. There hasn’t been an ice cream product that targeta that population. Think Pinkberry but made out of lactose-free milk. Lactose is bad for anyone, so this can be another health trend. This is one is for people who enjoy ice cream/gelato and know how to make it.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would want there to be more support for the elderly. So many elderly people lost their life savings during the financial crises in Russia, Asia, and Argentina. What are you supposed to do when you wake up at 60 or 80 and your life-savings is gone? Many elderly, who were formerly doctors or teachers, have been forced to clean bathrooms just to earn enough money to put bread on the table. That bothers me more than anything in the world. It is cruel and unfair. I would love to start a non-profit focused on only supporting elderly who went through financial crises. Ideally, we would change government policies in regards to supporting the elderly.
Tell us a secret.
I love French fries. I often have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If that were the only food left in the world, I would be very happy.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I love HelloFax, which allows you to sign documents, fill out paperwork and fax without ever having to print anything. Another resource we all use at Shoptiques.com is Dropbox, which allows for easy company-wide sharing of documents and photos. We also use HIreart.com for all of our hiring needs. They help us find and track our candidates.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop by Gilt’s founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson is a must-read for entrepreneurs. It gives honest insight into their experience building Gilt and great advice on fundraising, customer acquisition, relationship building, and facing challenges.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
@alexisohanian – Alexis is a friend, investor and the founder of Reddit. She tweets everything you need to know about start-ups.
@DianeSawyer – Diane graduated from Wellesley College, just like I did. Her tweets are great for getting breaking news, inspirational quotes and seeing the point of view of a brilliant and strong woman.
@Shoptiques – Our goal is to be every woman’s best friend. Our motto is ‘Be yourself. Be different.’ so we are there to help with any questions, style advice, or support that you need.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
August 1, 2012 when we launched THE EDIT, the editorial layer of our site. We were all at the office until 6-7am and it was non-stop laughing because of all the jokes and sugar consumed that night.
Who is your hero?
My grandmother has always been my biggest hero. She went through World War II, supported her whole family since she was 13 years old, was running all the finances and accounting for the huge USSR bus company, and now, at 70, she just moved to the US and is learning English. She is one of the strongest people I know and, despite all of her hardships, she is still the most positive and supportive woman.
Why launch THE EDIT? What distinguishes it from other shopping/fashion editorial content online already?
THE EDIT, the editorial layer of our site, is your trendsetting girlfriend who always knows where to shop, what to get, how to dress it up or down, what works for your figure, and how to look your best. Shoptiques is all about unique boutique clothing, and THE EDIT is an extension of that. It is filled with inspirational content on style and fashion to make sure you are always in the know! We help you to get through the clutter of the fashion world to find styles that really work for you. It is all integrated in our e-commerce part though. If you look at this Leather Jacket, you can see the item, and right there you can see related content on how to wear this jacket 3 different ways. The content is very integrated into everything we do – it is there to support consumer in their purchasing decisions and make their life easier.
Were you a big online shopper before founding Shoptiques?
Definitely! After graduating college, I worked at Goldman Sachs in New York. I pretty much worked 24/7, so it was then that I learned the ease and beauty of online shopping. I was buying everything online: suits for work, bath essentials and even food. I was a huge online shopper and I was constantly frustrated that I wasn’t able to shop for unique boutique clothing online as well. Hence, created Shoptiques.com!
Shoptiques’s Website: www.shoptiques.com
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.