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! (click here to read our interview with female founder collective co-founder, elisabeth leonard)
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