As the Covid-19 pandemic started shutting down the economy, Rebecca Minkoff, co-founder of her eponymous fashion and accessories brand, watched as every single one of the more than 900 retail shops carrying her merchandise shut its doors. Those wholesale relationships made up 70 percent of the company's business.
"We didn't purposefully choose transition," Minkoff told the virtual audience during her session at the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference Tuesday. "We had to pivot fast and aggressively" to become an e-commerce-only company almost overnight.
Seven months later, Minkoff says rediscovering how to act like a scrappy startup again is what has made all the difference in allowing the 15-year-old company to not just survive but also thrive during one of the most difficult years on record for retail. Below are some of the biggest takeaways Minkoff has learned in the process.
1. Polish is overrated.
Prior to the pandemic, the company sent out about three marketing emails a week to customers. Now it sends seven emails a week, all of which are written by Minkoff herself. While that may sound like a lot of email to send to customers' inboxes, Minkoff said those messages are the main vehicle for getting people to the site to make purchases, so she's seeing in real time that shoppers aren't tired of hearing from the company. She also learned that informal, experimental videos were a big hit. "'Me messing around in my backyard' performed far better than any of the more polished videos we used to do with way lower costs," she said.
2. Constraints can be a very good thing.
While many leaders have worried that long-term remote work will sap their teams' creativity, Minkoff has learned to embrace the new working normal. "It's been a new source of creativity," she said, noting that employees have leaned into picking up new roles and helping management problem-solve.
There is one important caveat, though: "You simply cannot do product design [when you're] separated." Four members of the design team chose to continue working in the office since the beginning of the pandemic. The upside for them? The office became a place with zero distractions--and even a refuge from the hectic juggle at home. "And the product that we're beginning to see, it's better than it's ever been, and the team used to travel overseas every year for two weeks," Minkoff said. "There were all of these things that we thought we had to do. It just goes to show when you can focus, it's quiet, you can really do great things."
3. Wearing many hats again helps you remember why you started in the first place.
"Fifteen years in, sometimes you can lose the tactile sense of what it is to do everything at your company. Not to say that my feet were ever up, because they definitely weren't, but you lose some of the touchy-feely that goes with when you started," Minkoff said.
She now has her hands in many more day-to-day tasks, she said, including writing those marketing emails, functioning as the brand's biggest influencer, managing social media content, and attending photo shoots. "In the beginning, we didn't have any money, we didn't have a budget, and we just did it," she said. "That's an incredible feeling as an entrepreneur--you know and have confidence you can tap back into that entrepreneurial spirit that was year one, year two, year three, and still be great, still achieve products, still make your customer happy, and survive as a business."