The best entrepreneurs see a gap in the market and fill it. Today, the start of Fashion Week in New York, is a good time to share lessons from Mona Bijoor, who spotted inefficiency in the fashion industry and created a company to fix it. With $2.25 million from Battery Ventures and angel investors, Bijoor, 34, is building an online marketplace for boutiques and brands to buy and sell contemporary women's clothes. Longterm, she wants JOOR to be an eBay (EBAY) of wholesale goods. Here's her story.
When I was a child, my mother would get out the telephone book and I would hide my face in the couch cushions.
"Mona, asking for help is not an embarrassment," she would say to me, unfazed.
She would dive into the Yellow Pages, pick up the phone, and dial the number of some random Indian family. Switching from English to Gujarati, she would ask, "What is the best Indian restaurant in the vicinity?"
With no Zagat or Yelp on the scene back then, my mom resorted to cold calling.
My parents immigrated together from India to the United States, where they became small business owners. Growing up with them exposed me to clever ways to tap unlikely resources, find answers, and solve problems really fast. My parents told me that you get what you want fastest when you find the shortest distance from A to B.
I'm not sure I took the shortest route to entrepreneurship, but I learned a lot along the way.
1. Find your true calling. "Why don't you become a dermatologist?" my mom used to say to me. "They have better hours than business owners!" Like a lot of first-generation Americans, my parents wanted me to become a doctor. When I arrived at the University of Pennsylvania, I chose business. After college, I went into fashion because I just knew it was what I wanted to do. The contemporary fashion industry is a large and diverse market: $80 billion, with thousands of brands. I studied it voraciously--the players, how they distribute, how supply chains work. Armed with a passion and a Wharton MBA, I consulted for brands like Elie Tahari, Chanel and Ann Taylor (ANN). My diverse experience, along with my passion, would lead me to a big entrepreneurial goal.
2. Do it, especially if you don't know how. In the early 1990's, in the suburbs of Buffalo, my parents had an investment property that wouldn't sell. The economy was bad; the real-estate market was treacherous. To test me (and the market), my dad asked me to pitch the property to two or three prospective buyers. "What have you got to lose?" he said, daring me. So I just…did it. I sold the property without my parents' help. I learned that with enough confidence and encouragement, you can do almost anything--even at age 12.
3. Work smarter. Like everyone associated with fashion, I used to daydream about having my own brand. But my inspiration came when I realized that I could do something to make a difference for every brand in this industry. For all brands, no matter whether the economy is good or bad, the difference between being in the red and being in the black is the cost of distributing your product. Especially in tough times, the costs of trade shows, outsourced sales reps, and third-party showrooms can put a brand out of business. I thought, What if I created a sales channel that brought the wholesale market together online, allowing brands to scale cost-effectively and boutiques to source the best product efficiently? That's when I put pen to paper to create JOOR.
We launched JOOR in March 2010, with 40 brands and 18 boutiques. These brands took a chance with us before we even had a functioning website. Now we have more than 300 brands and 7,500 independent retailers.
I now realize that my dad gave me the best advice: "It isn't how hard you work," he told me. "It's how smart you work."
And my mom--that lady with the Yellow Pages in her lap, dialing a random Patel or Gupta family—taught me to be fearless. By the way, she was right: An entrepreneur's hours are terrible. It's a good thing I love what I do.
Meg Whitman is the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Not interim chief. This is Whitman's for-real next big gig.
And it is big indeed, given that the storied Silicon Valley company has lurched from chief to chief to chief ever since the board, in 1999, eased out Lew Platt and recruited Carly Fiorina from Lucent (ALU).
Fiorina was the first No. 1 on the Fortune Most Powerful Women list, at the top MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 22, 2011 5:05 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Women face a narrower band of acceptable behavior than men do. Women can be powerful. Women can be likeable. Being both is difficult to do.
Last week, I was in California, the ultimate proving ground for that theory. California is the place, after all, where three well-known women -- former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina, former eBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi -- have learned that MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 31, 2011 1:25 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
For a lot of people, their job is their life and their life is their job.
John and Eileen Donahoe decided early on that they didn't want to live that way. One night when he was 23 and already an up-and-comer at consulting giant Bain in Boston, he wrote this message to his fiancé on a Shawmut Bank slip over dinner: "I will not live the life of a MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 26, 2011 11:42 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Sometimes Los Angeles behaves like a small town.
This past Sunday, I ran into Maria Shriver at Room at the Beach, a Malibu store owned by my friend Elizabeth Lamont.
The next morning, coincidentally, I had breakfast with a close friend/colleague of Shriver. And no sooner did I sit down at Le Pain Quotidien than the Governator walked in. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was on his way to Sacramento, presumably to MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 25, 2010 12:54 PM ET
When former eBay (EBAY) executive Stephanie Tilenius emailed me yesterday to tell me that she's the new VP of Commerce at Google (GOOG), I was, I admit, surprised and a bit puzzled.
Tilenius is a former Internet hotshot who did it all. She led eBay's Korea and Asia-Pacific operations, ran eBay Motors, built PayPal to $1 billion in revenue, and after that headed global product and eBay North America. When she MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 17, 2010 12:44 PM ET
Ever since we launched the Fortune Most Powerful Women 12 years ago, we've noticed that behind most every remarkable leader on our list stands another powerful woman. Call her mom.
When I interviewed Carly Fiorina in 1998 for the first MPWomen issue (she was at Lucent (ALU) then and hardly known outside of telecom), she talked passionately about the influence of her mother, who died soon after we put Fiorina on MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 22, 2010 1:59 PM ET
Carly Fiorina declared her candidacy for the U.S. Senate--in a bid to replace another well-known woman, incumbent California Democrat Barbara Boxer.
Fiorina, who was No. 1 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list for six years when she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), will be pounding the campaign trail simultaneously with another ex-No. 1 on our list: Meg Whitman. The former eBay (EBAY) CEO, who topped Fortune's power list in 2004 and MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 5, 2009 12:21 PM ET
Last week's Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit was teeming with experts. They offered points and opinions on so many topics, with data to back it all up. Here, some of our favorite stats:
1. The No. 1 quality that successful business leaders have in common is that they started a business at a young age. --Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) (Click for video of Summit interview with Buffett.)
2. MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Sep 25, 2009 1:01 PM ET
Today, former eBay (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman will formally announce her bid for the GOP nomination for the 2010 California gubernatorial race. Whitman wants to cut state spending by another $15 billion and create 2 million private-sector jobs by 2015, according to a speech prepared for today's announcement in Fullerton, Calif.
But Whitman's candidacy has been in the works for a while. In March, Pattie wrote a Fortune cover story called MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Sep 22, 2009 12:19 PM ET
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