For bringing us an at-home Covid test
For taking on one of female founders' biggest hurdles: access to capital
For bringing transparency -- literally and figuratively -- to vitamins and supplements
For training and mentoring a new generation of makers
For building a wholesale marketplace with a billion-dollar valuation
How do you convince San Francisco’s top designers to join your company when you have little money, a primitive website, and an ecommerce strategy that’s mostly focused on fidget spinners? This was the challenge facing Katie Witkop when she joined Faire as its founding designer. The company aimed to become a major online wholesaler of boutique gifts across the United States, and needed an elegant merchandising, marketing, and web strategy to match. But it was still early days, and her co-founders’ early version of the online store was still limited to selling faddish, mass-produced items. This had become a recruiting challenge, and Witkop needed to figure out how to help prospective hires feel her vision for the brand in small ways before they went big.
Witkop wanted shopping on Faire to feel warm, bespoke, almost antique — reminiscent of handpainted signs of shops on cobblestone streets. Her initial recruitng tactic: printed dinner invitations. Witkop invited designers she admired to join her for intimate dinners in private rooms of restaurants like Octavia, a Michelin-rated farm-to-table restaurant which is owned and operated by a female chef. With no expectations, she let the food and wine flow and let her guests enjoy one another. “All of a sudden, I didn’t feel like I was pitching anyone,” she says. “it was a really great way to lower everybody’s guard and just have good conversation, to find where peoples’ hearts are.”
She clicked with several of them, soon wooing them to join her little company. At the end of 2019, Faire was valued at $1 billion, but Witkop still takes the same care in recruiting talent —meeting for coffee around one of the office’s Parisian-style bistro tables, then mailing handwritten thank-you notes along with bags of local candy to candidates after job interviews. “All these little things draw you away from the [mainstream] current and help you steer toward your own vision of a brand,” she says. “Think through all these little steps and hurdles, attract the right people with the biggest brains and hearts, and then the brand replicates itself with every new hire.” Today that thoughtfulness is behind even the choices around the company swag — canvas tote bags with custom illustrations themed around the cities where Faire has offices, and simple, black high-cut crewneck sweatshirts that say Faire. Tech-bro hoodies are strictly verboten. – Burt Helm