may: the fourth issue
female founder feature: rebecca minkoff
founder of rebecca minkoff + the female founder collective
it’s officially may, and that means a few things: first and foremost, the opportunity to post the ‘it’s gonna be may’ meme. don’t pretend you’re above it. secondly, it means thanking your mom for not putting you up for adoption during your angsty teenage years. but really, we often wonder how moms do it all. to our moms, our psuedo-moms, and all the new mamas and mamas-to-be in our lives, we love you.
speaking of moms who do it all…we’re excited to introduce this month’s female founder feature rebecca minkoff, founder of rebecca minkoff + the female founder collective….and mama of 3.
rebecca was 21 years old when she started her namesake brand + the rest, as they say, is herstory.
tell us the story of how you started your namesake brand. it’s one of our favorites!
i started the company in 2001 when i was 21 years old. i had just launched a five-piece collection with this “i love new york” t-shirt that i had kind of cut up and bedazzled, because that was on trend then, believe it or not! i had sent it to an actress [and friend], jenna elfman, on september 9. she wore it on jay leno [just after 9/11]. and [she] said my name. that impacted me in a big way. everything shut down when 9/11 happened. so the only thing that really kept it going was that i was donating all the proceeds to the red cross. that kept the orders coming in.
some years later, jenna called me again and asked if i wanted to do a bag for an upcoming film. i was happy to help, thinking, ‘why not? i’ll try a bag,’ and that was the moment that led to the ‘morning after bag’. i had made one for jenna and one for myself and even though it didn’t make it into the film, i planned to add it into the clothing line: as an accessory piece, nonetheless. i had no intention of designing handbags, but when daily candy wrote about it shortly thereafter, it took off. at that moment, ii transitioned to exclusively handbags, only offering the ‘morning after bag’ in different colorways. i kept the focus on the details (i.e. theme and story around each bag), using beautiful leathers and trims. at that time, the showroom i was with told me i had to offer more than one bag and that is where it all began.
the ‘i love ny’ shirt signified the beginning of me taking that step towards being a designer with my own line. i had always loved working with patterns, constructing and draping garments, but this was the first moment i could actually start working towards creating pieces under my name. once the daily candy wrote about [the mab] it was the perfect storm. more orders than i could have ever imagined started coming in and that’s when i decided to really put my full focus on bags.
who were your first 3 key hires? what impact did they have on your growth?
sales, finance and production; everything was around staffing up with things that would take me off design or pr so we hired strong people in those backgrounds with extensive experience. we doubled for 3 years in a row and kept having year over year growth.
as new founders, we talk a lot about “what keeps us up at night” relative to our brand. how has “what keeps you up at night” changed from when you first started to now? do the early challenges ever get better?!
challenges never get better. they actually get harder and the issues more challenging and complicated. you just get used to thinking about and approaching them. what keeps me up now is how we’re going to become a global brand without relying on traditional media the way that huge luxury brands do. they have money and buying power and can dominate a new market far quicker. how do we as david, beat goliath.
you started your business with your brother uri. what’s it like working with family and how do you divide the roles? more broadly, what advice do you have for new or soon to be founders when looking for a business partner?
he’s ceo, i am creative director. we have and respect our lanes but also try and support and help each other within our areas if we can. we fight. we make up. we see a career coach.
when you’re with someone more hours in the day than your spouse, you have to make sure you know it’s okay not to agree, how to get through it and do what’s best for the business.
the first few times we met you in person, we realized you’re your own best brand ambassador. you’re always in head to toe rm. talk to us about why that’s important.
it’s simple: why would my customer want my goods if i didn’t? i am the customer, so i live and breathe rm and show others how to as well.
who is the rebecca minkoff customer? how are you able to identify and interact with her?
she is a multi-faceted woman. she is complicated. she is busy. she wants rm to make her day easier but also more meaningful. she knows she belongs to a tribe where other women have her back.
what differs your brand from the others?
we have evolved our value proposition outside of a product. our customer comes to us because she knows we support and care about women, that we put our money where our mouth is and that beyond a product there is good being given back to our communities.
we were shocked to find out you have 3 kids (and 1 under a year!) first off, how do you do it?! do you follow any specific guidelines to balance the two roles?
yes. i’ve used the last 7 years of having kids to test my boundaries, so i know what is too much for me. i now structure my schedule around this as much as possible. each person should do that for their own values, not for instagram.
we heard you speak at theskimm live podcast event, where you mentioned that your #1 interview question for nannies is “how fast can you run off the playground carrying three kids” (lol). what tips do you have for new moms & working moms who may be hesitant to leave their children under the care of someone else?
make sure you hire someone who has the same values as you, who is there to help take a load off of you and help the household. that is responsible and more importantly, has the purpose of nurturing and raising children. sadly, this nanny is going to spend more time with your kids than you during a work week so you want to know they have the children’s interests at heart. trust your gut.
everyone who’s ever had more than a 5 minute conversation with us knows how much we love ffc. where do you see ffc in 5 years and how has it changed from today?
in 5 years, i hope to have conquered some of the bigger milestones such as the seal being used and known by consumers to change their shopping behaviors. i want a global community that is the go-to for female founded businesses for a directory. i want women who have joined to be vocal about how coming together made their companies soar and that we went from 80 cents on the dollar to 90 to 100….
as the founder of ffc, you see badass, successful women every day. what do you think are the top 3 things that make a brand successful?
telling a story on social
customer service is king.
using a network to shortcut the problems others have already experienced.
the question the people have been waiting for….talk to us about elisabeth! you both have done an incredible amount of work in such a short time as a 2-woman team of #workwives. how do you balance the responsibilities of executing the now vs. strategizing the future?
elisabeth is a godsend. she is an incredible leader. we’ve divided and conquered; her passion for the community and its growth has allowed me to be able to do larger partnerships and activations that make ffc more well known, which in turn helps more of our members as we highlight them and help their products become known and therefore sold. we really are a true team with no set lanes, so she really helps with it all! i couldn’t do this without her!
favorite piece in the rm collection: kate circle bag
female founder who inspires you: jessica alba
favorite me-time activity: sleep
favorite nyc restaurant: in the dez
go-to brands (other than rm): nike, rachel comey
personal mantra / favorite quote: no is just the beginning of yes (in all areas except dating)
introvert or extrovert: extrovert mostly
fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i’m scared of zombies
we always talk about the “transformative yes” moments that have and will change the trajectory of our business. becoming part of the female founder collective was and will continue to be one of those. rebecca, we cannot thank you enough for being the inspiring soul you are – we adore you!
*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of rebecca minkoff
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real
behind the scenes with the woman, the myth, the legend: elisabeth leonard
elisabeth is the special projects manager for rebecca minkoff [a role she balances with that of #workwife] and the other half of the female founder collective! there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes of ffc, so we’re taking you #bts with the one who makes it all happen. but first, in true team blankbox fashion, a story…
we first applied to the female founder collective when it was completely new…and so were we. we emailed elisabeth saying we weren’t sure if we qualified to join as we had just launched, but to let us know what we had to do to be part of it. this was word for word her response: “don’t sell yourself short! you are FOUNDERS and there is power in that. big or small, a founder is a founder; and that’s something you should be proud of. we’re all in this together, we need to support each other in order to make a change! that being said, we’d love to have you be a part of the collective!”
this is one of those moments we won’t ever forget. the first time someone included us at the table, and the last time we ever assumed we weren’t part of it. we love you, elisabeth! without further ado…
start from the beginning…from birth. only kidding. how did you meet rebecca and start working on the rebecca minkoff team?
i actually started as a temp receptionist at the company! it was only meant to be a three-month situation, but that changed quickly! rebecca and i had an immediate connection, and from the first day i met her, i knew she was someone i wanted to learn from and work with.
one of the very first things rebecca told me was that “no is just the beginning of yes”. since that day, it’s always stuck with me. after my first few months as the receptionist, i took on the role of being ea to the ceo, cfo, president and rm. being the receptionist taught me a lot of things that i’ve carried with me to where i am today.
i took all of my earlier roles as an opportunity to learn as much as i could. when you’re starting out, you can’t be afraid to ask questions. do all the jobs—no matter how “small” they might seem; that is where you will learn incredible lessons that will serve you well later in your career.
how would you describe her leadership style? from your perspective, what else do you think makes the brand so successful?
one of the greatest things about rebecca is she leads with compassion and empowerment. she isn’t possessive of accomplishments. when you’re on a team, everyone is in it together. rebecca always celebrates wins as a team, never as one person. rebecca is also a great listener. there’s a difference between leadership and being a boss. leaders show you what to do and bosses tell you what to do. and rebecca is always showing, teaching and helping others to learn more.
one of the most important lessons rebecca has ever taught me is “no is just the beginning of yes”. don’t give up. don’t be afraid to ask questions. keep striving for what you’re passionate about!
what’s your favorite personal mantra and how has it helped shape your life?
don’t stop until you’re proud!– if you knew today was your last day, would you be happy with what you’re doing? if the answer is no, then change it. do what makes you happy. and live each day without denying your happiness. so, dream big, go after your dreams, do the things you want to do and be the person you want to be.
get out there and show the world what you’re made of. there is no right or wrong way to exist. being human is messy. find glory in your own beautiful mess + be proud of who you are.
let’s talk female founder collective! how did the idea come about and what’s your role within the team?
the idea for the ffc came out of a meeting that rebecca was in where she was trying to work with only female founded companies and realized there was no way to find them easily. she then came across a study by berlin cameron that said the 82% of women are more likely to support female founded companies if they only knew how. that proved to rebecca that a symbol or a seal for consumers to recognize would be key for us to find ways to support and give our money to female founders.
i focus a lot on community + brand partnerships as well as the growth of the community, but i love to help with anything and everything i can! i’m so lucky that i get to work alongside one of the most badass female entrepreneurs i know who also doubles as my work wife, rebecca minkoff!
as the co-leader of ffc, you see badass, successful women every day. what do you think makes a brand successful and can you share some “best practices” you’ve seen from ffc brands?
success can be defined in so many ways. i think it’s important to remain humble and hardworking, be confident and believe in what you’re doing. if you don’t, who else will? you can never get comfortable in your own knowledge; it’s important to learn every day. and there is always more work to be done!
one of the greatest practices that i have watched our members display is the power of collaboration. the amount of support these women provide for one another is truly admirable.
rebecca shared where she sees ffc in 5 years – tell us where you see it going + how it’s changed from today?
i agree with rebecca. we really hope to have conquered bigger milestones, such as the seal being used and known by consumers to change consumer shopping behavior. the ffc seal lets everyone know that a woman is in charge! i hope that the collective will continue to grow, not only in the us, but globally, and that this community encourages not only women, but everyone, to buy and support women owned businesses.
i hope we see a big consumer adoption and acceptance of the ffc symbol that changes their buying decisions.
how do you balance having roles at rebecca minkoff and at ffc? how do these roles differ?
“the most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.” – dwight d. eisenhower
a few months ago, i read an article about eisenhower’s urgent/important matrix. the basic premise is pretty simple: some tasks are urgent, and others are not. when you organize those, you make better use of your time.
while it may not always feel like it, i’ve learned that there is a big difference between urgent and important. this way of thinking helped me learned how to separate the things that absolutely need to get done from the things that i really want to get done. this concept has played a huge role in how i balance my two roles.
my role at ffc is more of a managerial role while at rm, i am part of a larger team. i have the best of both worlds!
what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from a female founder you’ve met through ffc? any advice you’d give to women thinking to start their own business?
the women of ffc in general have shown me firsthand the power of collaboration over competition; advice: take every opportunity and make the best of it. you never know where it may lead!
favorite piece in the rm collection: bree belt bag
female founder who inspires you: jen gotch
favorite me-time activity: binge watching greys anatomy with a nice glass of wine and tons of candles!
favorite nyc restaurant: rubirosa (best damn pizza!)
go-to brands (other than rm): alala, terez, nike, lively, eberjey
introvert or extrovert: extrovert, most of the time!
fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i currently live and work remotely from santiago, chile!
may gift guide: the 'mother's day' gift box
as if we needed another mama to be grateful for….the founders of these products aren’t just raising kids. they’re also building the brands we know + love, and making our mother’s day gifting a little easier along the way. if your mom is anything like ours, she hasn’t sat down since 1999. these founded-by-mamas gifts will upgrade her on the go!
"marie kondo your entire shower and morning routine with time-saving, short-cutting, ass-kicking products" need we say more? this line is founded by a mom who really knows what she's doing when it comes to gifting for busy mamas + their sacred shower alone time.
we're all about elevated basics that stay comfortable while we run around the city getting sh*t done. if your mom is anything like ours, she hasn't sat down since 1999. might as well give her a stylish shoe that can be worn day to night, to work or to play. can we found in gabi's mom's closet... and hers, because #treatyourself.
they say diamonds are a girl's best friend but we think gold jewelry is pretty high up there too. we love SG because its a mix of timeless pieces + quality you know will last. also highly suggested as a push gift. shop her mother's day sale...your mom deserves it for dealing with you.
there are a lot of things to say about stasher bags, but we'll lead with this: they keep your avocado green. we repeat, keep your avocado green. also perfect for packing portions, whether it's a pack carrots + smoothie ingredients kind of day or a 'how many cookies can I stuff in one bag' kind of day.
all images are property of respective companies