Picture this: you’re trailing the high street for an outfit, the outfit for that big occasion on the horizon. You start out enthusiastic, excited to find the perfect little number to show you off but, after the umpteenth fitting room disappointment, you start to give up hope. Nothing looks right… My guests today have the answer. You need to know your Fashion Fingerprint®, your unique style DNA. As super-busy women, Sarah and Donna got their heads together to create a free fashion advice and recommendation service for women who have little time to shop but want to look knock-out.. and Dressipi was born. Today they share the story of their success…
Hello! Please introduce yourself to The Glitterati Girls:
We’re Donna Kelly and Sarah McVittie, co-CEO’s of Dressipi
What has been the ‘defining moment’ that set you on the path you’re on today? How did you get to where you are now?
Donna: The realisation that technology was an enabler for creativity. I was a journalist/producer at the time and started to use technology to create non-linear story telling. From there I got frustrated by the limitations and so got involved with building the tools and software. ..it became a passion.
Sarah: Leaving my first graduate job at USB as a Corporate Finance analyst to start my first business. I have made many mistakes and learnt many lessons but have enjoyed it immensely and never looked back.
With Dressipi specifically, back in 2009 Donna and I had been talking about doing something together and this was something we both thought was interesting. Donna had been working on a project with a fashion media business which formed the crumbs of an idea around helping women shop better. I was out in New York at the time working for the company that bought my first business. I remember going into a really trendy boutique in the West Village. The sales assistant looked at me in horror and quickly banished me to the changing rooms. He then brought me five outfits, none of which I would have picked myself but all of which looked amazing. I promptly bought all five and loved wearing them! This guy didn’t even know me, yet could take one look at me and know what would look great. It made me realise that there might just be a science to sexy and that technology was now at a point that it was likely to be good enough to deliver a really good service for our customers. So I resigned and came back to work with Donna on Dressipi.
Sarah & Donna: Our vision for Dressipi is to build a service that gives every woman confidence in what they wear and how they look. That all females carry their own unique Fashion Fingerprint® everywhere with them, on their phone or at home, which offers them personal advice and guidance putting outfits together whether they are dressing or shopping.
What has been most effective for you in your achievements so far, in turning your goals/visions into reality? Where do you start?
Sarah & Donna: We have both built and sold businesses before so know the hard work and pressures that are involved but we also know the fulfilment and satisfaction that comes from building something that you are passionate about!
Although it is never easy, the most effective way to turn your vision into a reality is to have the discipline and focus to deliver on your plan and knowing each day where to put the effort of your team and yourself. Your plan obviously changes as your business and market develops so being flexible to evolution and change is important.
And one of the most critical things is to build the right team. Accept that you cannot do everything and are probably only really good at a couple of things, then make sure you have a great team of people who share your vision and bring the appropriate skills to ensure the success of your business. We are very lucky with our team at Dressipi.
How do you stay motivated and inspired?
Sarah & Donna: Every day is a huge and challenging day in a growing business. It’s inspiring to work alongside a team of people who share your vision. It’s exciting to see the product evolve from nothing to something that people want and love and businesses use. And nothing beats receiving emails from our members where we have truly transformed their low self-esteem into confidence.
Dressipi is an exciting business and we are starting to get really good traction and results. That coupled with the vision we are starting to see play out provides plenty of motivation and inspiration for the next few years.
[Tweet “”It’s exciting to see the product evolve from nothing to something that people want and love and businesses use” @Dressipi via @EmmaGwillim”]
What has been your biggest lesson learned?
Sarah & Donna:
Starting a business is hard work, there are so many obstacles, and we have made plenty of mistakes and therefore learned many lessons. There is no overriding lesson learned but the key point is that you tend to learn from those mistakes and in doing so get better at building your business. Raising money is hard work but when you believe in something enough you learn that tenacity and passion are two of your greatest assets. We are passionate about technology, data, solving real customer problems and, as women, we also want to look lovely so, for us, it really is the perfect job!
Understanding how to work best together as founders to achieve the perfect partnership is also something worth working hard at. We have different but complementary skills and we are both driven and passionate which means there have been the occasional fireworks! But it is always with the best interests of our business at heart.
What have been (or still are) your biggest fears and challenges, and how do you overcome them?
Sarah & Donna: We have no real fears but plenty of challenges. We are working in a fairly new space defining a new segment within fashion retail. Bricks and mortar retailers are relatively new to technology and data and are themselves working out how best to fit them in their business structures. So one of our challenges has definitely been how best to structure our partnerships so they quickly deliver results that are in a language that is meaningful to our retail partners right now.
A couple of our challenges include convincing the retailers to work with us and to try something new for their customer base and getting the customer to create a Fashion Fingerprint to get the benefits of the service. In both cases, these challenges are overcome by keeping the product as simple as possible and ensuring that results are visible quickly.
What do you believe is the secret of your success?
Sarah: Hard work, tenacity and building a strong network
Donna: On a personal level, a passion for looking at problems in a new way, the persistence and adaptability to see them through and a belief in the possible. And behind every success has been a team of great, talented people.
[Tweet “”Behind every success has been a team of great, talented people” @Dressipi via @EmmaGwillim”]
What 3 tips would you offer ambitious women reading this?
1. Do the thing that you are truly excited and passionate about – it will give you the best chance of success
2. Do your homework on the market, talk to people who will help inform your view then, regardless of what anyone says, if it feels right go ahead and do it
3. Be excellent, be adaptable and be authentic
[Tweet “”Be excellent, be adaptable and be authentic” @Dressipi via @EmmaGwillim”]
1. Make sure you are solving a real problem.
2. Make sure you believe in and are passionate about what you are doing.
3. Go for it!
What book has most inspired you?
Donna: So many, I am a reading fanatic…. Most recently The Team of Rivals, an absorbing study of how to form and manage a team of rivals for a greater good