What if we told you you can now digitize your wardrobe and automatically upload every online purchase into your very own virtual wardrobe? What if said virtual wardrobe not only simplified your life and helped you get organized in the most glorious of ways but actually helped you cut down on purchases (do you really need another pair of black high-waisted jeans?). If you ever had dreams of having your very own closet a-la-Cher Horowitz, Finery makes that dream a reality. Brooklyn Decker, model, actress and mama has jumped head-first into her new venture as founder and tech entrepreneur and she wants make the old adage, “I have nothing to wear!” a thing of the past. Not only does Finery aggregate all of your online purchases, it offers styling tips and wardrobe recommendations to maximize the clothes you already own. Sign us up! Read on…
Brooklyn, we love a good career pivot. Tell us more about how you went from acting and modeling to working as the Co-founder of Finery.
I’ve always been an incredibly curious person, wanting to learn about other people and their industries. The genesis of Finery stemmed from a void that Whitney and I saw in our own lives. I love that there are clear-cut goals in business: failures and losses; versus just winning or losing based on subjectivity.
Walk us through the process – how exactly does Finery work?
First, Finery users link their Gmail accounts or individual store accounts, and purchases are automatically pulled through e-receipts. Our platform allows users to link their store accounts to sync their wardrobe from specific retailers. In-person purchases can be added easily via our Pinterest-like browser extension. Our technology will eventually help assist women in the full lifecycle of a clothing item – from the time a woman likes it, to when she buys it, styles it, wears it, and ultimately, resells it. We use machine learning to help women reduce shopping redundancies and wear what they already have.
You started the company with Whitney Casey who had a career as a news anchor at CNN. How did the two you decide to partner?
Whitney and I have been friends for years. We always wanted to work together but had terrible ideas at first… most of which included selling more stuff to people. Whitney came to me and was explaining how she uses Mint and Tripit for financial management. There wasn’t a comparable technology that exists to help manage and organize your clothing. Instead of having to partner with every retailer and brand, we created a tech solution.
Was there a moment you can point to where you took the leap and decided to turn this idea into action?
We read that women spend two years of their lives deciding what to wear and eight years shopping. We were gobsmacked, and frankly, I’d rather spend that time with my family. We started researching solutions in the fashion-tech space. As we were researching, we found nothing to help manage this wardrobe issue. We realized there was a big opportunity to create a platform geared towards women that would help them get their time back! Not to mention save money and mindshare currently spent on their wardrobes.
You must have had a huge learning curve with moving your career in a new direction. What did you do to prepare for your new role as co-founder?
I’ve prepared myself by knowing that I must adapt and learn an entirely new industry. Even the simple things like business acronyms: KPI, LTV, and don’t even get me started on data cohorts. I would be on phone calls and have an entire list of acronyms in front of me so I didn’t mess up. I also ask my team for direct feedback, and say things like “Is this growing pain normal at this phase?” Being vulnerable with your team can be tough, but I know it makes me a better entrepreneur and makes our team stronger. Film and television doesn’t teach you that.
What qualities should women look for when looking for a co-founder?
Women should look for a co-founder who can make up for your deficiencies, of which I have many! Extreme dedication, understanding, loyalty and passion will make it worthwhile to withstand all the highs and lows you are about to embark on together in your company.
Definitely a good strategy! We love that Finery is female founded and female led (yeah!). Have you faced any challenges entering the tech field simply because you are a woman?
The most difficult part of starting a female led tech company is finding women to be a part of our team. We searched for female developers and data scientists for months before finding one. Yes, just one! When you want to develop a product that is as personal as a woman’s real closet, where she gets dressed every day, you really want the people creating it to be women.
That’s crazy! You recently raised $5 Million in funding (no biggie!). What advice would you have for other women-led businesses looking to raise capital?
Someone gave us the advice, that at the time was very frustrating, but really helped us out: if you’re pitching a female-centric product to a male VC, connect your product to something in a man’s life. For men, generally speaking, they don’t have the same emotional attachment to their stuff, nor do they have to impulse to optimize it- so we compared the wardrobe to food. What guy (or woman, for that matter) isn’t thinking about what he should have for dinner that evening?!
We’re always thinking about food! Lol! What did you find the most surprising going through the fundraising process? Would you do anything differently the next time around?
The most surprising thing was having to explain to men why saving time getting ready and seeing our stuff is important to us. Women spend a ton of money on their clothing for a reason- it matters to them. Whitney and I love the idea of growing a company that is funded by people who love, need, and use the product. We are really proud of the fact that we have a team of powerhouse females (and guys!) who believe and invested in us.
One more thing: I won’t raise while pregnant. Talk about stress! I was 9 months pregnant and flying home from a pitch because my doctor told me I could no longer travel.
Rockstar! What do you feel has been your most successful marketing tool to date to spread the word about your new venture?
What makes us most excited and what feels most successful to us is when a woman organically posts about Finery and how much it’s helped her life. It means our product is doing what it set out to do! The whole team shares it on slack and we all go and post on the person’s feed. It makes us so happy; it’s the most authentic form of marketing out there!
You and your hubby Andy Roddick now have two little ones. How has becoming a mama changed how you approach your career?
I definitely struggle with prioritization. I try to do it all – and frankly, it’s a challenge. My team at Finery needs me, my set family needs me, and most importantly – my family needs me. But becoming a mom has made me incredibly focused. There is not a wasted minute in my approach to my work. It’s all about execution.
Given you are now immersed in the tech world, what rules or parameters do you have surrounding tech when it comes to your kids?
I’m a tech entrepreneur who doesn’t like tech. What I do like, however, is productivity. If there’s a tool out there, like Finery, that allows me to spend more time with my family- doing the things I want to do, I’m a devotee. That’s when tech is wonderful; when it helps you to live your best life.
You’ve obviously worked with some of the best stylists in the industry. What style hacks have you incorporated into your own wardrobe?
Proportions are everything. I generally try to have something fitted and something loose. Even if I’m wearing a baggy shirt, and a big baggy jean, it should be nipped at the waist. Unless you’re on your period, when a paper bag is a perfectly acceptable wardrobe choice. Also – never underestimate the power of a shirt tuck.
What 3 things are you coveting for your summer wardrobe?
We’re all going to f*ck up. Your child just needs to know they are loved.
When all else fails, go into the bathroom, pretend you’re pooping (so the kids don’t want to break in), and take a deep breath.
Photos by Catherine Clark.