A man could not have started Rent the Runway. At least that's what the company's co-founder thinks: Jenny Fleiss, who in March left the fashion service she helped create to launch a new startup, believes women have several advantages in business.
"I think there's so much potential for female entrepreneurs, because we are driving the bulk of e-commerce and influencing a huge amount of it as well," Fleiss tells Inc. "I think we have a unique perspective and lens on the world."
Fleiss, who is speaking at the Inc. Women's Summit in New York City on Monday, was the head of business development at Rent the Runway for eight years, helping guide the startup to $100 million in revenue in 2016. Now she's leading Code Eight, a company that aims to create personalized shopping experiences through machine learning and artificial intelligence. Her startup is part of Walmart's Store No. 8 technology incubator, which also launched in March.
While Fleiss says she's excited to get back to an early-stage company, she acknowledges she's facing far steeper expectations as an established entrepreneur.
"Once you've had a successful startup, the odds are a little bit stacked, so I think the pressure is on for me," Fleiss says. "I've got a good track record, and I'm trying to apply those learnings and hopefully make another big run at it."
Fleiss says she wants to help women in business build the same level of self-confidence that she has. She believes women often are more conservative than men and don't believe in themselves enough to push their ideas.
"I think it's really important to think bigger, and that can be important for the purpose of funding," Fleiss says. "We already have our funding, and yet I still [keep asking] myself, in every way, 'How can this be bigger?'"
Fleiss also offers advice on another issue women founders too often face. When investors don't take your business seriously, she says, you need to be persistent. She recalls people she pitched calling Rent the Runway "cute" and having to remind them that it was a real business.
Fleiss will share more wisdom on entrepreneurship at the Women's Summit, where she will be on a panel with Marla Malcolm Beck, the founder and CEO of Bluemercury, and Alexa von Tobel, the founder and CEO of LearnVest. Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Wanderu co-founder Polina Raygorodskaya, and a host of other female business leaders also will be appearing at the event.
"The two women I am on a panel with are women who have been both friends and confidants and advisers in my life," Fleiss says. "There are a lot of positives from being a woman."