How could buying a pair of shoes in Paris lead to launching a global fashion technology business? Olga Vidisheva, founder of Shoptiques, a YC graduate and former Goldman Sachs analyst, did this very thing. Vidisheva, an immigrant from the Soviet Union, did not set out to be an entrepreneur but got the bit in her mouth after discovering a big gap in the retail marketplace while traveling abroad. Vidisheva sat down with BroadMic host, Erica Duignan Minnihan, to share her unique and compelling founder’s story.
Guest bios & transcripts are available on www.broadmic.com.
Olga Vidisheva is the Founder & CEO of Shoptiques.com. Born in Kyrgyzstan and raised in Russia, Olga moved to the United States at 17. She did not speak a word of English and carried only $100 in her pocket. After growing up in the former Soviet Union where uniformity is encouraged, Olga quickly fell in love with the American way of life where uniqueness and individuality are celebrated. Olga taught herself English while waitressing before applying to college. She paid for tuition by modeling and received her degree from Wellesley College in 2007. After graduating, she started her career at Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York and spent a significant amount of time traveling for work. While on business trips, she would use any free time to explore neighborhoods and shop small local stores. She discovered scores of incredible boutiques everywhere she went, but was often puzzled that none of them had websites so that she could shop their unique merchandise once she returned home.
Later while attending Harvard Business School, Olga decided to devote herself to understanding why small clothing stores didn’t have a digital presence. She spent her second year of school interviewing over 800 boutiques about the pain points of selling online. Consistently, she heard the same thing: Boutiques either didn’t have the time or the resources to do e-commerce well, if at all. She decided to draft a business plan to bring the world’s best boutiques online — and the idea for Shoptiques was born.
Shortly after getting her MBA, Olga became the first solo, non-technical founder to be accepted into Silicon Valley's prestigious accelerator program, Y Combinator. It was there that she further developed the Shoptiques platform and technology before officially launching with 25 boutiques in New York in the Spring of 2012. Shoptiques recently passed the 5,000 boutique benchmark with stores in 12 countries.
Speaker 1: Mathematics is black and white. If your user acquisition cost don't make sense it will never make sense.
Speaker 2: I am an entrepreneur.
Speaker 1: Be inspired.
Speaker 3: We are incredibly powerful.
Speaker 4: Color outside the mind.
Speaker 5: Open your mind.
Speaker 6: Dream big.
Speaker 7: Be bold.
Speaker 8: Take action.
Speaker 9: The narrative needs to change.
Speaker 10: We can fix this. We can change this.
Speaker 11: I know we can.
Speaker 12: Think broad.
Speaker 13: Think like a broad. Think broad.
Erica: Hi. I'm Erica Duignan, your host of BroadMic, Season 3. Today I'm in the studio with Olga Vidisheva, founder of Shoptiques, a fast growing e-commerce platform that gives small fashion boutiques around the world a sophisticated online platform to sell their unique wares. Born in Kyrgyzstan, Olga emigrated to the U.S. at 17 years of age. Fast forward a decade and Olga had graduated from Wellesley College, cut her teeth at Goldman Sachs as an analyst and graduated from Harvard with an MBA. Welcome, Olga. Pretty impressive background. Congratulations.
Olga: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Erica: Great. So we'd love to talk a little bit about your experience. So you know, really driven to solve a problem that came from your own experience you became the first solo female founder to be accepted into Y Combinator's exclusive accelerator. After graduating from Y Combinator, Olga launched Shoptiques with seed funding from some of the top VC firms in Silicon Valley. This is pretty amazing. So welcome to the show. We're so excited to hear all about these interesting things that you've done.
Olga: Thank you. I'm so excited to be here and really excited to share my story.
Erica: Yeah, fantastic. I'd love to start off with the origin story. So you came here to the U.S. at age 17. Tell us about that experience.
Olga: Coming to the U.S. has been like seeing color for the first time after always watching black and white television. It's just life was full of opportunity that I wouldn't really have had if I stayed in either Russia or Kyrgyzstan. So I was born in Kyrgyzstan, then moved to Moscow couple of years after Soviet Union broke apart. So I really wouldn't have had the opportunities I have had in this country and so I'm incredibly grateful. I landed here, my mom is a musician in Santa Fe, New Mexico and so I came to join her, spoke no English.
Erica: Wow. That's a challenge.
Olga: It was challenges but it was also really cool because you are essentially...you have to interact with yourself and you have to learn who you are because you're essentially quiet the whole time because you can't speak to anybody and so it was a really humbling experience because you can probably tell I love to talk so for that year, year and a half it was very much like thinking about who I am and what I wanted to do and what I really wanted to achieve.
Erica: Right. So it's kind of like almost like being forced to go on with one of those silent meditations of Vipassana retreats.
Olga: Exactly. I started working at a Japanese restaurant. That's actually how I learned English. I was a waitress at a sushi restaurant in Los Alamos, New Mexico which was kind of my first job arriving here and it was really fun because you know in Los Alamos there's a lot of scientists that work in the Los Alamos National Lab. So I essentially learned English from the best Ph.D. people in the world, so I was really lucky.
Erica: That's amazing. So tell us a little bit about your next step. You went to Wellesley. How did you decide to go there? What do you think that that experience contributed to where you are now?
Olga: Wellesley is an incredible school. When I have children and if I have a daughter definitely will encourage her to go. The Wellesley mission is women who will make a difference in the world. As you know obviously Hillary Clinton is an alum. And Wellesley gave me a foundation of believing in myself and believing that I, Olga Vidisheva can be anything I wanted and I have the skills and I have the confidence to be able and go and execute because you know growing up in Soviet Union a lot of things were, it was not really bad individuality, it was very much a community and everybody had to be the same rather than thinking that you individually can achieve something. And so Wellesley really gave me the power and the confidence to think about I can actually do something and achieve something and I shouldn't be afraid to go and try.
Erica: How do you think sort of having an all-female college experience informed your path in breaking into the business world?
Olga: Well, great question because being in all women's college, you really never thought about guys in a way that I think when you're in a co-ed school is where you know, in classes I always spoke my mind because I wasn't afraid that that guy that I like would think something bad about me. I really never cared about kind of making fool of myself if the answer was wrong or like it was all about speaking up in class and there was a lot of competition, really healthy positive competition where if you had, you know, if there was a requirement to get an A it was to read five books. Everybody read five books so you had to read 10 to even differentiate yourself. But I think the point of speaking up helped me in my life so much when I got to Goldman 99% were men and I was the most outspoken woman out there because I'd never really thought about men versus women. I just thought "Oh there is this people around me," so I learned how almost not to care about gender in a weird way even though I was at Wellesley.
Erica: Yeah, that's really interesting. So absolutely as also a former investment banker I was actually at Salomon Smith Barney, know a lot about being in sort of that very male-dominated environment of banking. Tell us a little bit about your experience as an analyst and how you think it prepared you for the future.
Olga: I loved it. Goldman was probably the best thing that happened to me because coming out of Wellesley I really didn't know what Goldman even is to be honest because I was an immigrant. My mom really didn't know that much about business. She is obviously a small business owner. She has a studio now. She's a musician but kind of finding a job was really through Wellesley and Goldman at the time was recruiting at Wellesley and so I learned about finance. I'd never had a background in it. I did math and economics undergrad. So I came for a summer internship and it blew my mind. As an intern, even I got to talk to senior leadership, be in those meetings, really have impact, what I thought was impact and obviously, I came back for full-time opportunity and I spent two years there and really got thrown into middle of projects. This is crazy time. I was there 2009 when the world was kind of crushing down.
So as a junior person you had a lot of opportunity to step up and just really take on a lot of really cool projects and work on a lot of stuff so it really prepared me. I mean I worked 22 hours a day. No kidding. I slept on the floor of my cubicle a lot of nights but I do think that those two years are essentially like 20 years condensed in the two years and that's how I loved to live my life. It also really showed me I can do anything. I mean I physically can do anything in a sense that yes I can sleep for only two hours a night and go on the next day and be presentable and break through that kind of physical pain and that's important because as humans I don't think we use our full capacity in physically in what we do mentally in how far we push ourselves. So it really allowed me to see that world and I love that I was around really, really smart people and I brought that to Shoptiques now where I only hire really smart people no matter for what role it is because I kind of selfishly want to be around smart people who push me to be better every day.
Erica: Yeah, I think that's great. Well, that's definitely the sign of a good founder and CEO that you're looking to hire people that are as smart or smarter than you so it's great to hear that. I'd love to hear a little bit about your experience at Goldman that actually gave you the idea for Shoptiques.
Olga: Oh my God, they are so funny. So I was traveling a lot. I worked on a lot of media deals. I was in L.A., in Paris, Tokyo a lot and one time was in Paris and I was walking down the street and there was this little boutique and I bought this amazing pair of shoes and mind you this is again as I said is like '07 so really flats, the concept of flats was like flip flops in the U.S. and it's hard to imagine now but it really was. So I found this really high-end, high-fashion beautiful pair of flats and they were like 70 Euros so they wasn't even that expensive and I bought a pair, came back to New York, I was wearing them one weekend to the office and all my banker friends were like, "Oh my God. This is so cool. Where can we get that?" I was like, "Okay. Well, here's the name of the store. Call them," and they were aggressive obviously so they were like calling the store and they were like, "Ship it to us. We want this size."
The store was like, "What are you talking about? We don't ship to America and not only do we don't ship to America, like I don't even know what pair you mean. Go to my Facebook page." So there was no concept of global commerce or even online commerce and so I think for me it was sort of that red flag to say, "Hey, I have a lot of clients who are spending millions of dollars in their digital budgets to go and grow their digital footprint and here are these boutiques that have amazing product that I just went and physically bought. But then I'm home and I can't go back and find the boutique, can't go back and see what new arrivals they have. Why is that?" And because of crazy hours I didn't really got to answer that question until I got into business school.
Erica: That's really interesting. Yeah. I think that's actually an interesting story because you know a lot of people kind of come up with an idea but might not manifest it into the world for a few years. So really exciting to hear the back story of what inspired you to found Shoptiques. So you come up with the idea I'm guessing during your second year as an analyst. Tell us about the path to Harvard and was it always with the intention of becoming a founder or was that something that materialized along the way?
Olga: It's really interesting because I actually never saw that I would ever start a business. Growing up my whole family is like anti-debt if you will. So you put your money under your pillow and you save everything in Soviet Union. So Russians are very kind of anti-debt and very focused on savings and I think they have mistrust around banks and all that stuff really kind of impacted me because the Soviet Union broke apart at the time and my grandma was one of the people that got affected by the financial crisis. So I saw it all firsthand. So I never thought about myself as an entrepreneur. I started a lot of things when I was in school, you know organized performances for my whole neighborhood but they weren't vision kind of intent to start a business. So I think going to business school and seeing this idea I was first very interested in going and joining another company. At the time Google started boutiques.com.
So I was convinced I'm just going to go work for Google because I was so passionate about the space and I was really passionate about solving this problem of, "Here's a lot of little stores that are really cool and have unique product that I want to wear. I don't want to wear the same stuff everybody else is wearing because that's very Soviet Union. I want to be in America, have individual point of view, individual clothing. I want to stand for something. I want to stand for small businesses because America was built on small businesses." So I had this passion but I didn't really care how I did it. I didn't care whether I would go work for somebody else. So when boutiques.com launched I was super-excited and then Google shut it down because they instead of going to boutiques which is really hard because they're small businesses and they're so spread out and you have to go after them. They went after like Net-a-Porter and Shopbop and called them boutiques and I don't think that they executed in the boutiquey way rather than you know just really big brands. Technology was beautiful but they shut it down before I graduated. So I was like, "Okay. If nobody else is doing I have to start it because I'm going to regret it for the rest of my life."
Luckily my second year of business school I was able to write a business plan and do research and it was my kind of year to convince myself not to do it because I didn't want to do it. I wanted to convince myself that there's no point. The reason this has never been done is that there's just small opportunity or not possible or whatever and so basically spent the year with this amazing professor, Noam Wasserman who was at HBS, convincing myself not to do this business and then realize at the end of it that it would be really not smart not to do it because the space was huge, the real need was there. I tested a bunch of things during that year and so started executing and kind of testing a little bit by little bit and learned that huge space.
Erica: Yeah. I mean I love that you actually went out and sort of did the research before making the decisions to start the company. Can you tell us a little bit about how you researched the market opportunity and any specific data points that you came across that made the opportunity particularly compelling?
Olga: Absolutely. So I feel incredibly lucky that I had that year because I think a lot of the times when some other people start a business it's just go, go, go, go, go that you never really get that time to really reflect back and study the space and figure it out so I feel incredibly lucky. I talked to 800 retailers during my second year of business school answering the same question, "Why are you not online?" I call it a Butt rule. You have to put your hands under your butt because you want to tell them the answers and you are super-excited but all you have to do is listen and write out literally everything every single word that they say and then go through it and figure out are there common themes across every single person you talk to that now things come up and that's the solution you can build for them rather than trying to tell them what you think that they need.
Since I started there are a couple of people that launched competitors and have since shut down because I think that they never really did that study of what do people really want, right? The Y Combinator key point is build what people want or make what people want. Like that piece of, "Don't try to build a solution for maybe a potential person. Listen to them. They will tell you what they want and then you can go in and build around it." So that type of research was amazing. So talking to so many people, small businesses you just got consistent answer and it was something that I could really easily see myself executing and I was really good at and I think that if the answer was something that I was not good at I don't think I would have taken the risk to go and actually do it and learn it. I think you have to have some sort of expertise to be able to deliver on the product you're launching.
Erica: Yeah. I think that that's great. That's absolutely the right approach to take and I think that for everyone who's listening such an important business lesson which is really go out and get to know your customer and learn what your customer wants before you start building your product or service certainly can help save you a lot of pain and time and money. I love that you're sharing your technique for making sort of a smart market entry. I'd love to know what you discovered. So you talked to these 800 boutique owners over the course of the year. What specifically was the common problem that they wanted you to solve and that you implemented into your business strategy?
Olga: Totally. So the number one thing that was really important to me is that there was a consistent thing that they were good at. So they were really good at merchandising. I'm terrible at merchandising. I'm not a buyer. I'm not a merchant. I don't have that background. They were really good at something I was really bad at. So that was perfect and they were consistently good at it and most importantly they were putting their own money on the table. They were literally betting their livelihood on purchasing the merchandise that will work for their customers. That was a big check-plus for me. Number two was they already had a physical presence so they were turning on the lights and they had consistent customers coming in the door every single day. So those two pieces kind of a really important what they were good at and then asking them, "Why are you not online?" what came up is, "Hey. I'm a merchant. I'm a buyer. I'm a salesperson. I am an accountant. I am a recruiter and so the online thing is just down all these urgent things at the top."
So they already wanted to be online, they just don't know how and so if I can build something that's really easy, that fits into their business already and just an extension of what they're already doing that would be amazing. So one thing came up is we don't want to have a separate inventory between store and online, Omnichannel. We invented Omnichannel five years ago before it was sexy. So that's because of the necessity of the business. They might only have six in that product. They can't really have separate inventory for their online. Number two is photography. One woman asked me if she should hire Gisele for her photos. I said, "If you can but I can't afford her," but the concept of how do you actually take this physical product and put it on the site, write a description, photograph an item was really, really difficult. So I knew that I had to address that and then sort of on was fulfillment given them packaging materials, giving them shipping label and making it kind of super, super easy. So identifying what they're good at and then closing the loop on what they were bad at and we've...that's exactly what we built.
Erica: That's great. Can you tell us a little bit about getting into Y Combinator and how that helped you to turn your plan into a reality?
Olga: For sure. So I graduated in June and I was a maid of honor for my best friend's wedding in Indonesia. So I was flying in down there and I was kind of convinced at the time that I'm going to start Shoptiques and so the first thing that I needed was a website and I literally had $10,000 in my bank account and I just graduated with $200,000 in debt from HBS so it was kind of not an ideal opportunity to be starting a business but I think it was a blessing because it helped me kind of prioritize the right things and I also knew that I didn't really want to go raise money yet before I knew that the idea is big because I knew that every relationship will be my personal relationship from everything I've built and those are important to me and so got to Indonesia in between my maid of honor duties literally asking everybody, "Oh my God, do you know any agency that can build me a website for cheap, whatever, whatever?"
So found these engineers down there that could build me a website for $10,000 and I could launch a private beta and so October 2nd we launched private beta and then my deadline...so on October 2nd I'll launch the website and I found out about the Y Combinator these guys that sat behind me at a co-working space were like, "Hey, do you know about YC? They're cool and you're cool. You should apply." I was like, "Okay." Deadline was that night, so I looked already haven't sat for two weeks and I was like, "Okay. I'm just going to put it together." I applied and the second day, Women's Wear Daily picked up the story about Shoptiques launching and we had 10,000 people on the wait list and so I essentially applied to YC, got an interview.
Once we already kind of launched a private beta which was amazing and it changed a trajectory of Shoptiques in so many ways. I mean the first one was I was sleeping on the floor of my friend's house because I really couldn't afford to live, to get an apartment or anything and so the first one that changed that I had a space. I was moving to San Francisco and they gave you I think like 15-20 K for a little bit of equity in your business and that meant I could have an apartment which was awesome and I was really excited about that and then just being exposed to real entrepreneurs and real technical people because my background to date was banking, I modeled in college so that helped a lot of this photography bit but it was never really in technology and so understanding how to build organizations that are focused on technology, how you can execute on that, that was insanely helpful and having mentors like people who are partners there is just like Paul Graham is amazing. Jessica Livingston. Those are real entrepreneurs who build incredible companies.
Erica: Yeah. So you were not the typical YC founder. Can you tell us a little bit about how you were different?
Olga: Luckily my friends who told me to apply told me literally like the day of the application because I didn't have time to do any research on the kind of probabilities. If I did it would have been zero because literally, I was the first single non-technical founder they've ever taken and so luckily I didn't do the research. So sometimes being naive is actually great. So I applied and the idea was disrupt this $50 billion market and we were the only ones doing it and I think they were excited about it. Paul Graham started a company called Viaweb that he sold to Yahoo, I don't know 10-15 years ago. So he kind of understood the small business angle.
So applying there was amazing, getting an interview was already such a privilege and when we got in it was just insanely exciting. The experience was cool. You come in and for seven minutes you just tell them about your business. Everything you can. I honestly blacked out. I did not remember my interview. It was just super intense but it's cool like even if you don't get it, I think it's so amazing to go through that experience because you have the smartest people in the world asking you questions about your business, poking holes in your business. What else can you ask for? If they can help you figure out the worst in your business, that's amazing because that will push you forward in so many ways.
Erica: What were some of the challenges of building a two-sided marketplace? So you had to onboard the boutiques probably before you had customers. I mean it sounds awesome that you got in Women's Wear Daily and that helped you bring on board some customers but how did you balance that?
Olga: It was so fun. Thinking back to those days, literally sitting down having nothing was like, "Okay. I needed customers, I needed boutiques and I needed technology. I have none of that." So all of that had to happen in the same time. I'm building tack. Literally having on all night calls with the guys in Indonesia then I'm going to boutiques door to door trying to sell them something that's not have been like they can't go on the site and see and trying to convince them about my vision I think really helped that I went to Harvard, that name was really kind of gives you credibility immediately but it was door to door to door sales and then convincing those boutiques to join the mission and to promote it to their existing customers and telling kind of having them the ambassadors of our brand right because they have physical stores where people coming in every day.
If they can be the extension of your brand and tell them, "Hey, we are now online," especially New York, there's so many tourists and they leave and they want to go and shop the boutique they discovered on their last trip but they can't. We are able to give that type of logistics to those boutiques that typically wouldn't be able to will now ship to all the countries. So somebody coming into your boutique that may have never heard of you before and will never shop you again, now can shop you again if you tell them about it and so empowering the boutiques to really help promote and then press helped a lot in the beginning because you know Women's Wear Daily picked it up and then couple of other people and telling the story of the boutiques and really the amazing entrepreneurs that they are. It's like an unlimited amount of storytelling.
Erica: Amazing. So you raise your seed round, you're getting through YC, you have to rebuild the site, reconfigure your engineering team. You know once you are at the program and kind of on your own how did you sort of set a new plan for growth for the company?
Olga: You know it's really interesting. The program is cool because it's just a dinner once a week so you feel like you're consistently on your own anyway. So I didn't feel like I was just randomly thrown into the world but the YC network is amazing because they consistently visit you, so I can still pick up the phone and call any of the partners and schedule a meeting with them. So I do feel like still I have their support, even now many years later but the plan it was really strategic for me it was more stores. So owning the boutique side because we sign exclusive partnership with boutiques and I knew that the faster I can scale the acquisition of the stores the more inventory we can have, the more customers can buy and the better the partnerships are so that was one end and then just growth, growth, growth.
As you know, YC probably known really well very much for their growth expectations. You just had to grow in any way shape or form and kind of consistently iterating on the product and testing how you can get to that growth and then tech was really hard because again I had such a crazy learning curve. You know I've never done it. I think on the marketing end it was easier and on the sales end it was easier but really understanding technology and making sure that you're able to be helpful to your team. I think I see myself as a support system for everybody and I'm there to help grow them and grow the business but not being able to be that support system for somebody technical, it was difficult and so I learned a lot you know over the last whatever five years.
So now I can and really offer some thoughtful advice even though I still don't code obviously but I think that that was really, really helpful. Mathematics is black and white. If user acquisition cost don't make sense it will never make sense. So to me that's never advertised and they became to blend in our GMB business this year or last year and the really good businesses have to have product that they can scale without just dumping a lot of money into user acquisition and I think as you know user acquisition cost went up. That's why those businesses didn't make sense but there was no person that told them, "Stop. What are you doing?" If you're buying users at $50 but they're bringing you $12, you're losing money on every single transaction. So to me from day one economics had to be profitable and had to make sense and I did sacrifice a lot on growth there because I had to make sure that every transaction is profitable because that's why those businesses went out of business or sold for very little is because they were essentially funding their own growth through investor money.
And so staying disciplined to understanding that mathematics was really important to me and it's not easy because you read about all those people who raise $800 million, $200 million and their people are working nine to five and you know then that becomes the expectation of what working at a startup is but that's not really true. Startups are you know, it's like building something out of nothing and it's hard and it's not intended like Craigslist never raised any money and it's a huge business. If you look at eBay how much money they raised those really create marketplaces that you still know today did not raise that much money and they had to figure out their businesses much earlier on because otherwise they would go out of business. There was never that promise of you can raise any time. So you can fund, you're essentially funding your own business with investor money all the time and it just keeps going. It is important to know your business too. Like as a marketplace business, those numbers would never make sense. I know a lot of friends who have incredible businesses and the user acquisition cost of $100 makes sense.
Like you have to be so in sync with your business and understand it so deeply in the numbers way and that's why I think Goldman helped me so much to look back and say "Okay, in the marketplace business where I take a commission over the transaction and then I have to cover certain costs out of the transaction." I just can't advertise. Then I have to find other mechanisms to acquire users but I think people don't really take a hard look and say like, "What business am I in?" And there are some businesses that have to raise a lot of money. If you're in manufacturing or anything else I think it became kind of cool to raise money and we stopped thinking about why we're doing it and what is there and what kind of business we're in. So for a marketplace like ours, great marketplaces was built with minimal funding and I think the biggest round that [inaudible 00:29:23] did was like $70 million, it was right before they went public. Fueling the growth and getting ready. But before that, I think they raised like 15 million bucks. So kind of thinking about who are your mentors in the business space and how did they get there and does it really make sense for you to be able to do that.
Erica: I'd love to bring up Amazon and you know how you guys are kind of the anti-Amazon. You know if we look at the big picture of what you're doing, how do you think it's transformative in terms of changing the way that people shop and changing the way that people relate with their purchases versus kind of noticing some of the negative things that have been built through the Amazon behemoth.
Olga: Amazon is an amazing business. I mean personally, I love it. I inspire to it. I think that Shoptiques can be the anti-Amazon because we are cataloging all the unique products around the world. Right now 40% of transactions offline happen at small businesses, at small boutiques that's because people still want to be different. They might not want to be different in their vacuum cleaner or in the toilet paper they use. Amazon is great at that but they want to be different and what they put on themselves because at the end of the day that's what we project every single day coming in and meeting some other person and person. That's who you are is what you wear and the signals that you send and people want to express themselves. It's important to them and clothes is a way of expressing yourself and really there are other articles that are the same like furniture. I want to have something different in my house.
I don't want the same thing that everybody else has in their house and so the ability to be anti-Amazon and really catalog all of the stuff that they...unique products are locked in all over the world and products have six of each. It just never makes sense. It would never make sense for a retailer like Amazon to go after. So really finding a space that we would never really be competing with them, we are in a completely different space but then learning from them. I think they're incredible at logistics. Incredible. But I think boutique owners could never get logistics like that. Like they have a staff of thousands of people to be able to deliver within two days, to deliver a fast, on time. We're able to deliver to you a product from Milan or the product from Paris in two days. Right but boutique owners themselves wouldn't be able to do it. And so learning from the experience of logistics and things that we can learn from them, applying that to this unique product I think is a really winning formula because you still want to have something that's unique that differentiates who you are but then you still want the convenience of Amazon. If we can deliver on that, that would be you know amazing.
Erica: Well Olga I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I learned a ton from you and I think your experience is really inspiring to me and I'm sure all of our listeners. So before I let you go I want to get into our pay it forward section which is where we're going to devote about 60 seconds to making our listeners smarter. So this is a little bit of a speed rounds we want you know quick answers. You don't have to go into a long answer. Just the first thing that comes to mind. So first question, what are your primary sources of information? It could be blogs, shows, podcasts.
Olga: I subscribe to Sachs Goldman every single day, I get his kind of inspirational smart pieces of information. New York Times breaking alert, that's a must because you just have to know and then Business of Fashion every single day kind of a summary of the best stories out there.
Erica: Okay, very cool. What book are you reading right now?
Olga: The best book I just discovered called Full Circle. It's actually a self-published by the old CFO of Lehman Brothers.
Erica: What's it about?
Olga: It's about her story starting out as a kid and growing to becoming the CFO and I think the full name of the book is a journey to being the CFO and the journey back. I think she lost herself kind of along the way and she analyzes when she did that and how she found her way back and then she had a baby at 45 and really kind of an amazing woman and had an incredible career and her reflection on that career.
Erica: Okay, very cool. Do you have any rituals or habits that you swear by?
Olga: Every single morning when I walk to work...for me I must live next to the office. I optimize for my office experience because at the very least you're in the office five days a week, for me it's about seven so I want to be next to it so I have about 15-minute walk every single morning and I listen to a new TED talk to your point of making your listeners a little smarter, I want to make myself a little smarter every single day and push my thinking and then every single morning I wake up I make myself smile even if I didn't get much sleep kind of signaling to my brain I'm happy and I'm ready to start the day. Really, really important to me.
Erica: That's a great one. Who are three female entrepreneurs that you follow or admire?
Olga: Heidi Messer who was actually I heard the first person you guys interviewed which is amazing. She is incredible. Pauline Brown who's a really amazing mentor. She's now a professor at HBS and she was North American Chairman of LVMH before and I started Shoptiques in her backyard. I literally was sitting in her backyard. I had an offer to join a private equity firm in London and I was like I really want to start this business and she really gave me the confidence to go and do it and then last one that I really admire is Arianna Huffington. I think she's done an incredible job and really pushed the boundaries in a space that was already crowded and so really exciting.
Erica: That's great. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Olga: Do the best every single day and be the best. I have a poster of Steve Jobs above my bed. Funny enough but he always says you know live your life as if it's the last day and really believe to kind of be the best version of yourself every single day and that's what I do every single day. I push myself no matter how tired I am or whatever, be the person that I want to respect in the morning of the day that passed by.
Erica: That's great. Are there any particular myths that you'd like to dispel for your listeners particularly around being a woman founder or just being a founder in general?
Olga: That startups are easy or glamorous. I think that people just consume information about startups through interviews and magazine covers and magazines and it all feels like so easy. It's so hard. You're not working for yourself. You're working for your investors, you're working for your team. You're working all the time. I work way harder than I did at Goldman now and I thought that I worked the hardest at Goldman and I couldn't work any harder but you do because you care so much and everything feels very personal. So it's really hard but super cool, so you should still do it.
Erica: Yeah, but I love you know it's not glamorous. That’s I think a very important myth to dispel. What words of advice would you give to listeners about taking risks and perhaps in particular closing the confidence gap?
Olga: You have one life. What's there to lose? If you don't ask the answer is always no. If you don't do it you're definitely not going to achieve anything. So remember that. What's the worst that can happen? You fail. Okay. You get up on your feet and keep going but you have one life and if you don't do it today what are you waiting for? We don't know what can happen tomorrow and I don't know climate changes and all that stuff. Go and do it today because today is the time you should be doing it. Don't put it up to tomorrow. You have one single life.
Erica: I love that. And lastly, what does Think Broad mean to you?
Olga: Cool question. I think it means thinking outside the box but actually not even thinking outside the box forgetting that there is a box and just being unique and different and really forgetting that there are boundaries. Really thinking about the world and what can be changed and how to make it a better place. So forget that there's a box.
Erica: Great. Well, I love that answer and thank you so much, Olga. I really love the opportunity to learn about you, get to know you and to share your story with the Broad Mic listeners, so thank you.
Olga: Thank you so much for having me. It was so much fun.
Erica: Wonderful. Thank you so much for listening to today's show. If you like what you've heard, please go to broadmic.com or you can subscribe to our show so that you never miss an episode. You'll also find show notes for today's episode and more than 30 interviews with successful women full of their stories and tips to help you start and grow your business. These episodes are a must listen for women entrepreneurs everywhere. Think broad.