Today, San Francisco-based fashion start-up Everlane announced a new hiring promotion: "Go West."
The ploy--arguably a gimmick--is meant to draw fashionable New Yorkers out from their shoebox apartments across the country to San Francisco, where Michael Preysman, Everlane's founder and CEO, will give these potential job candidates a personal tour of the office. It's like the start-up version of Manifest Destiny. If the candidate is selected, Preysman will pay for the recruit's relocation expenses as well as a first-class ticket to San Francisco. He may even pay their first month's rent.
So why exactly is he going after New Yorkers in particular?
"We found, in this odd way, that this company has a New York state of mind," Preysman tells me. "We said, 'Hey, where are a lot of our employees from?' And we realized five of the 25 current employees came from New York directly to work here, and 70 percent lived in New York at one time. A lot of New Yorkers are itching to leave."
There's also a more obvious answer. San Francisco, well, isn't really known for its fashion sense--and Everlane needs more employees who are fashion-savvy.
Preysman laughs when I ask him about the city's sense of syle. "Or you mean lack thereof," he says. "Our current head of design is in New York. It's hard. Designers don't generally want to leave New York."
Everlane, which launched in 2010, is an upscale fashion brand for hipsters (the company has been described as an online-only American Apparel) with downmarket prices. By adopting an online-only, direct-to-consumer business model, the company can keep the retail prices of its products low and still take a healthy margin. (Sweaters cost about $60, for instance.) Everlane has found a loyal base in New York--Preysman says 25 to 30 percent of their sales go directly to New York.
In April 2011, the company raised a $1.1 million seed round from a coterie of well-known VCs (Kleiner Perkins, Lerer Ventures, SV Angel) but Preysman says Everlane operates with a steady cash flow. He says the company plans to hire 10 more employees in the short term, and by next year expand the office to a headcount of 60.
The "Go West" campaign is banking on the idea that it can appeal directly to New Yorkers who are tired of the pace of that city. Preysman, who lived in New York after college, says he loved the city, but it's not always the best life.
"It's an awesome place," he says. "But it's a hard place to live. We found that there are a lot of people in New York who are creative, who are into fashion, but who want to change their lifestyle."
Eventually, Preysman says he plans to work with a recruiter, but for now, the company promotes its job openings pretty much exclusively through social media.
"If you have a great service, you attract people and they want to be part of it," he says. "Your biggest brand evangelists also should be your employees. Because it's almost like they're no longer working for a company and doing a job, they're almost working for something they believe and a part of every day."