Fashion and style are two very different things and while many people can afford to keep up with fashion, not everyone is lucky enough to master style (or at least one that suits them, anyway). This is the reason why some people dedicate their lives to learning how to master the art of styling.
Personal stylists spend years learning how to style themselves and other people. If you ever need to look good for a special event, you can count on a personal stylist to make that happen for you. Sounds good, right? Especially if you’re the type who’s too busy to figure out what looks good on you and what doesn’t or if you’re NOT the type who enjoys spending long hours shopping for outfits.
Still, personal styling wasn’t something that everybody could afford. At least not until Stitch Fix happened.
The Stitch Fix business model was simple but it wasn’t something that other brands were offering at the time. It relied heavily on the lack of easy, convenient, and affordable options for women to shop online and have the same experience as they would have in stores: pick out a few items, try them on, and purchase only what you like.
Springboarding from her experience with her sister who used to send her style suggestions all the time, Lake dove in and started the brand from her Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment where she was staying while she attended Harvard Business School.
She sent out survey forms to her first customers, used the information they gave her to act like a sort of personal-shopper-slash-stylist, and then delivered the items she handpicked for each and every client to their homes, charging a $20 styling fee on top of what the items cost. Before the year ended, Lake had set up a website for her business, opened up a warehouse in the SOMA district of San Francisco, and shipped over 100 orders.
The years that followed were fruitful, with each one being more amazing and more inspiring than the last. Stitch Fix was making headline after headline and Katrina was getting attention and recognition as one of the most successful female business leaders in the otherwise male-dominated business industry in Silicon Valley.
In November of 2017, Katrina Lake took Stitch Fix (SFIX) public. At the time, Lake was recognized as the youngest-ever female founder/CEO to take a company public and she made sure to make the moment even more inspiring for all the aspiring female entrepreneurs out there by bringing her son up with her to the NASDAQ podium: a bold power move that showed everyone that women can do it all, have it all.
When Stitch Fix was starting, Lake didn’t feel comfortable with the spotlight being on her all the time. She didn’t like being labeled as a top female leader in business. She didn’t consider herself a “feminist” and she never joined any of the women in business clubs. However, after taking her company public with her son on her hip, the photos went viral and she began to realize how important it is for women in business to be represented and for the young girls who dream of being entrepreneurs have someone relatable to look up to.
She knew there weren’t that many people who represented young female entrepreneurs, especially in tech, who were both trying to start a business and a family successfully so she caved. In 2018, Lake was pregnant with her second child and in 2019, she made the decision to take a full maternity leave to set an example to those who aspire to be like her.
With this move, she hoped to be an example to those inside and outside of the Stitch Fix family. Lake values and recognizes how important the child-bearing years are and she encourages her people to make the most out of these years as she has. She knows there isn’t a lot of great precedent for career women, especially women in power, of how to handle and balance life and work at this age. All the more reason for Lake to want to set a precedent for other mothers.
Just a couple of years before, Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, was slammed by critics for taking a minimal two-week long maternity leave as opposed to the full sixteen weeks. While some saw this to be the ultimate picture of what it’s like to be a career woman in America, others reacted negatively and said that it shouldn’t be. This is the exact opposite of what Lake hoped to achieve.
Taking a tour of the Stitch Fix headquarters in San Francisco, it’s apparent how important it is to Lake to encourage working moms to be their best personally and professionally. They’ve set up dedicated lactation rooms where breastfeeding moms can pump in comfort without fear of another co-worker walking in on them.Their maternity package is one of the best out there and they also have a paternity leave policy that allows dads to spend just as much time with their newborn babies as moms.
Today, despite the pandemic’s devastating blow on the economy, Stitch Fix sales continue to soar high. They have since expanded its market to cater to men and kids which further boosted sales. They’ve also extended their reach and have started catering to clients outside of the United States, starting with those from the UK.
Katrina continues to strive to make Stitch Fix a women-centric and women-friendly workplace without compromising equality, especially in terms of maternity and paternity leaves and benefits, for their employees.
Learn more about Stitch Fix here.