I am always working for the next stage. In life and in work, I have a plan… and I’m working towards that plan. There is no reason not to think big.
Sarah Davis is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Fashionphile. She was named one of Forbes Magazine’s “Ten Female Entrepreneurs to Watch” and Entrepreneur Magazine called Fashionphile one of the 100 “Smartest, Most Innovative, Hands down Brilliant Companies on our Radar”. She likes to say that eBay was her incubatory as she started selling there in the glory days. Fashionphile is now the largest online platform for buying and selling ultra-luxury handbags and accessories in the country. The headquarters for their fashion technology company is in Carlsbad, California, but they have showrooms in Beverly Hills, San Francisco. Fashionphile will soon to open a new location on Madison Avenue in NYC.
At its core, Fashionphile is a technology company. They have developed sophisticated computer based learning systems to help aid in the pricing, identification and authentication of pre-owned luxury accessories. Using a database of hundreds of thousands of their own sold product listings and their associated photos, they have been able to build algorithms and computer learning models that make these processes more automated.
Sarah is known as an industry expert and has been used as a resource talking investment bags at the Oscars on the E! Live from the Red Carpet pre-show, on Good Morning America, Insider, Extra! and more. She was a graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Maryland School of Law. Sarah lives in North County San Diego with her husband and four kids.
Where did the idea for FASHIONPHILE come from?
I started selling my own stuff on eBay and couldn’t believe how much some of my own used things were selling for. I realized very quickly that luxury labels held their value more than anything else… and handbags were selling for very close to retail!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts with a good, sweaty workout before anyone in my house is awake. I come home, make a lunch for my youngest and say goodbye to my kids. Then I get ready for the day. I check my email and social media before heading off to work. I’m not a breakfast person and I don’t drink coffee. Perhaps my early morning high energy level can be attributed to good genetics and adrenaline.
The only thing consistent about my time at work is that what I am doing is constantly changing. We are a growing company. Growing faster than we can even keep up. This means that I and my whole team needs to be flexible and ready for the next thing every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am constantly thinking about ways to improve what we do. It’s a borderline obsession that gives me great joy. For years, we were the only players in the game. That’s not good. It makes you complacent. Competition keeps you hungry. It keeps me scared in ways that are motivating. I usually bounce these ideas off of other smart people that I trust in our team. If they’re good ones, then I find the right people to partner with to make those things happen. When I started, it was me doing all of this. Fashionphile is too big for that now, and so it’s of vital importance that we have the right people on the bus to take us where we need to go.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The fact that online recommence has taken such a hockey stick trajectory online in the last couple years is thrilling to me. We happen to be in this sector and it made us very nervous that so many were getting into the game. But used is the new new! People want a bargain. They want to be able to buy luxury goods that they can’t afford. Buying used luxury goods is not only an eco friendly way to shop but it’s eco-nomical! It allows you to afford those things you couldn’t otherwise afford.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
A habit I have is that I make sure that I set deadlines that stick for myself in projects that are important to me. I’m a natural procrastinator, but I also get things done. I realized long ago that I always meet the deadline. This is really important as an entrepreneur because we don’t have anyone following up with us on projects that we’re working on. We don’t have a boss that is asking for something to be done by x date. For me, I’ve found that I need to make myself accountable with someone or a group who will hold me to the task. This works for me.
What advice would you give your younger self?
All in due time. Enjoy the place that you are in while you are there. Relish each phase. Take in each stage.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am always working for the next stage. In life and in work, I have a plan… and I’m working towards that plan. There is no reason not to think big. Have delusions of grandeur about the potential of what you are building and then set smaller goals towards accomplishing that goal. Successful entrepreneurs are dreamers with a plan and a work ethic.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Think big. “What you believe, you can achieve” as the saying goes. So set your goals high and believe you can get there. We always handle ourselves and our business like we are at the next level… until we get there and then we stretch again. In the start-up community, if you aren’t hungry for growth and always improving, you won’t make it. For us, we’ve found that when we treat ourselves like the company we want to be, we make it to that place sooner.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I started a company called lawswap.com when I was in law school. It was basically eBay for expensive law books. I partnered up with my brother-in-law Ben Hemminger and we canvassed all the law schools on the east coast putting fliers in all of the student mail boxes. We were getting some good traffic and had thousands of users on the site buying and selling casebooks. And then one day, the site went down. I had changed my email address from the old AOL one that I’d registered the site. The company that I had registered with the domain name with had been emailing that account to warn me that it was expiring and that I needed to renew it. I never got the emails and someone else swooped in and took my domain. That was a devastating blow. I didn’t have the time or money to see if there was anything I could do to recover it. I learned a lot of lessons in that loss that made me more careful in the way that I handle my business in the future. Not only that, but the experience in running that little business taught me that I worked well with my brother-in-law, so when I needed someone smart, even keeled, honest and forward thinking to help me take Fashionphile to the next level, I knew where to go.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone really needs to do set up an automated platform that makes working with influencers easier and more transparent than what is on the market right now. There are lots of programs that hide information, encourage coupon code scam sites and involve hidden fees. We work with influencers all the time and get approached by bloggers and instagrammers who wan to “collaborate” almost every day. If someone made this all easy and less scammy, we’d be on board!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I travel quite a bit for work and live my life in odd hours. So I bought a quality blackout eye mask and a better neck pillow for the plane and it’s made such a difference! We are based in California and are opening a store in NYC in a few months. I’m not only an entrepreneur, I’m a mom, so I like to spend as few daylight hours in the air. This often means I’ll hop on a red-eye. I put those on when I take off and wake up when the wheels hit the tarmac.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I rely on Evernote to keep me organized and to basically download my brain into an app. I have so much information, links, recipes, lists, financial information, goals, checklists, quotes etc in that app that it just makes me happy to think about it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
When I first started my business, someone recommended that I read “The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It”, by Michael E. Gerber. It really did change my life. Within a couple months, I had moved the business out of my house and started hiring the right people to work “in” my business so that I would have more time to work “on” it. I had fallen into that trap where I was so deep into the nuts and bolts of buying product, packaging, shipping, customer service, photography etc that I had no time to work on the development of my big idea. That all changed after I read that book.
What is your favorite quote?
“A goal is a dream with a deadline”. Napoleon Hill
- Procrastinators, set yourself deadlines. You can chip away at a huge goal by setting deadlines for yourself that have teeth.
- Not all entrepreneurial ideas are instant successes. Many take years of handwork and development.
- What you believe, you can achieve. It’s important to set high but achievable goals for yourself, and then work towards them.
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.