I’ve been a RealReal evangelist forever–well, since my younger daughter first clued me into all the fantastic fashion opportunities (hello new Chanel wallet!). Julie’s epiphany is a lesson to us all: when that lightbulb goes off, start running and don’t stop. She slowed down just long enough to answer my most pressing entrepreneurial questions.
Let’s talk a little bit about your reinvention. How did you get from pets.com to The RealReal?
The media didn’t hold back when it came to Pets.com failing; however, failing so publicly freed me from worrying about failing again – it pushed me to take greater risks and it forced me to think outside of myself. Part of that was realizing that if I wanted to have my dream job I would have to create it, and that’s what I did with The RealReal.
How did you take care of yourself in the time after pets.com? It must’ve been hard going through personal and professional valleys at the same time.
It was a hard time, but it catapulted me into figuring out what I want – personally and professionally: this is my life and how do I want to live it? I took the reigns, carving my own path and creating my own opportunities.
How did you get the idea for The RealReal?
The idea for The RealReal was born after I was out shopping with a girlfriend: my friend purchased items from a consignment rack in the back of an upscale boutique. I never knew her to shop consignment or buy from online resale websites. When I asked my friend “why” she said she trusted the shop owner, the shop was beautifully curated, and she was getting amazing deals on Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci. It changed my perception of consignment. The lightbulb went off and I did extensive research of the luxury and resale markets and even tested resale methods myself. There was a massive market opportunity to create a beautiful shopping experience, preserve the romance of luxury brands, ensure authenticity and remove barriers to consignment – not to mention the business model would be impervious to the likes of Amazon and Alibaba. In December of 2011 I had my ah-ha moment and by early March, I picked out a name, registered the business and raised capital. In June 2011 I opened the doors. I went from running the business out of my house to renting a warehouse and setting up a true office where all items would be processed and authenticated.
What was the hardest part about getting The RealReal off the ground?
Raising capital. Women VCs understood the concept. For men VCss, it was a head scratcher and an almost instant, no.
Do you ever see yourself expanding the brand beyond just resale? What is next for The RealReal?
Right now we are expanding the brand; however, the focus remains mostly on resale. We are expanding our brick and mortar footprint – we’ll be opening a store in San Francisco in the spring of 2020. We have added beauty products which are obviously new, so customers can have a total shopping experience.
What advice do you have for women who are looking to start their second (or even third!) but are intimidated, or don’t know where to start?
First and foremost, you are never “too old.” You also cannot be afraid of failure – that fear will fetter anyone from taking the risks required to move forward.
What do you know now that you wish you knew fifteen years ago?
I didn’t look too fat in my jeans…and of course, I was so young. I’m not joking about the last point. Silicon Valley worships youth. Bill Gurley, a very successful VC at Benchmark, has publicly said that..”Youth is a Competitive Weapon.”. I am sure he is right. But youth also equals major organizational and operational mistakes — think Theranos, Uber. Those who are older and can think creatively, who have developed a flexible mind, who have a great deal of energy and drive will out succeed youth every day.
The world looks at aging, and women in particular, in a way that doesn’t necessarily reflect the way we might see ourselves. How do we change the conversation around aging? How do we own it?
In order to change the conversation, we need to remove it from the conversation – let’s take age out of the narrative. More often than not women are described (and judged) based on appearances – age being one of them. At speaking events and in interviews my age seems to always be addressed. If I were a 60-something male founder of The RealReal – my age would likely never come up. We should be judging women for what they’ve done – not what they look like or how old they are.
What was an experience that taught you the most about yourself?
I learn every day. Pets.com showcased my grit, but I developed that as a child. The RealReal is the gift that keeps giving for growth.
Do you have a go-to outfit that you always feel good in?
I always feel good in a pair of 4″ heels!
What’s your favorite item you’ve personally bought on The RealReal?
I shop for clothing every week on TRR and then reconsign when I am done. So I keep my fashion circulating and many beautiful things come and go. My favorite purchases have been my art purchases. I have a Calder weaving which is amazing, a Warhol print and two Robert Longo’s from his Men in the Cities series, circa 1980.
JUST FOR FUN
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Circe by Madeline Miller. LOVE IT. The retelling of the lower Goddess Circe. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. It’s the story of Theranos. That is a cautionary tale and a page-turner.
Favorite travel destination? Always Greece.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? To stop wars forever.
If you had a warning label, what would it say? Warning. BS Detector in Overdrive.
Craziest thing you learned this year? That I can still do the splits.
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