Learn to delegate. Women, in particular, can feel like they need to ‘do it all’ but that will quickly cap their business’ potential. As Luxe.It.Fwd grows, I’ve been able to progressively hire more team members which have allowed me to free up time to better focus on building the business.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miranda Gillespie.
Miranda Gillespie is the founder and CEO of the luxury online resale platform, Luxe.It.Fwd. As one of the most trusted online destinations for buying and selling authentic pre-owned luxury, Luxe.It.Fwd champions sustainable shopping choices and provides a more affordable pathway to designer goods.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Prior to launching Luxe.It.Fwd I was a commercial lawyer and had worked my way up to becoming a partner at my law firm by my late 20s. Despite achieving career success in law, I had realized that how dissatisfied I was working in law and wanted to carve out a new career path in something that I felt passionate in.
The idea for starting Luxe.It.Fwd actually came when I myself was looking to buy a second-hand luxury bag online but discovered that there were limited options for platforms that had a great selection and accessible prices together with the most important factor of guaranteed authenticity. That for me sparked the idea to create Luxe.It.Fwd which could tick all of those boxes for customers like myself. I then spent over two years growing Luxe.It.Fwd on the side while continuing to work full-time in law before the business took off to a level that I could leave law to focus exclusively on Luxe.It.Fwd.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Coming from a previous career in law, the most interesting thing that I’ve found since starting Luxe.It.Fwd is how genuinely happy our products can make our customers feel. While fashion can sometimes be viewed as a little frivolous, in current times we do all need some simple joys in our lives! In my previous career in law, most clients are not exactly happy about having to spend thousands of dollars engaging a lawyer whereas at Luxe.It.Fwd, our customers are often overjoyed at having found their dream luxury item at a much cheaper price than when new and they’re excited to be spending a couple of thousand dollars on the purchase. So that’s a really nice thing to be bringing some small joys to customers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Like all online store owners when they first launch their business, I had been waiting with bated breath for our first order to come through once we launched. I was delighted though when our first order for a 3,000 dollars handbag was placed. The only problem was that I didn’t receive notification of the order! Apparently, our email notification system wasn’t set up properly to email me when an order was received, meaning the order sat unfulfilled for a few days before the customer email to ask when it was being dispatched!
I was mortified by the mistake and not being able to execute the perfect experience for our first order, and dropped everything to get the order packed up and dispatched in minutes along with profuse apologies to the customer. In hindsight the situation was quite amusing although I was kicking myself at the time for everything not being perfect.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband has always been incredibly supportive of me starting Luxe.It.Fwd, despite having no prior experience or knowledge in e-commerce. At the start of Luxe.It.Fwd’s journey I spent every spare moment working on building the business while continuing to work in law as well as being pregnant at the time, so it was a lot to handle as a solo founder! It was a physically exhausting and emotionally challenging time to say the least, and my husband was there with me helping with packing up orders from our kitchen table and all sorts of other random jobs that are needed to operate the business. As a solo business owner having that kind of practical and emotional support is what keeps you motivated to continue on through the harder times, which those times starting up certainly were.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I absolutely believe that it’s all around mindset in that women tend to be less confident in their abilities than men and as a result are more hesitant to take the risk of starting their own business. For me, I had discovered through my career in law that a lot of my skills and strengths would be transferrable in becoming a successful business owner, and the main barrier was having the confidence to go for it. I had plenty of self-doubt in the early days about whether I could make this idea a success and had to keep reminding myself to push through it. Sure, male founders will have those same doubts but generally speaking not nearly to the same degree that women do.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
At an individual level, what is tremendously helpful is to find the right support system with other women founders to dispel the unhelpful self doubt. Starting a business can feel very isolating and often a constant uphill battle, coupled with the heightened self-doubt that many women face on top of that. Meeting with other female business owners, both at the startup level and at those who are more progressed to have an established business, to share their experiences can spread the wealth of knowledge to new female founders and provide a tremendous emotional support network with other women who completely understand their journey.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
We all know the statistics around the imbalance of career progression and pay gap for women in most professions at an employee level. The greatest thing that being a woman founder brings is complete autonomy to make your own career path without any glass ceilings or limitations from others, as opposed to being an employee where in some industries/workplaces there is gender bias with risk of being overlooked in career progression to male counterparts. As a woman founder, not even the sky is the limit as to what you can do in your own company!
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth is that success happens overnight! It’s rare that this is the case. We read about these companies that seem to be hugely successful straight out of the gate, and that can happen, but for the majority of businesses it can take a long time, often 3–5 years, to start seeing the fruits of your labor.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Anyone could become a successful founder if that is what they truly desire. I believe that it’s a mindset and confidence mentality that is often what holds people, especially women, back from being a founder. Having drive and determination are absolutely key to starting a business and being able to make it grow, especially on those days when you just don’t feel like going on with the business. Resilience is also something that can be learned over time and being able to take each setback on the chin and move forward is invaluable.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. First and foremost, have confidence in yourself. Women tend to doubt their own abilities but with the right mindset it’s amazing what can be achieved. If I had listened to my own self doubt, I would never have left a stable career in order to pursue entrepreneurship.
2. Enjoy what you do! Making money is important but starting a business is all about passion. Taking the time at the early research stages to ensure you love your idea (which is what I did before starting Luxe.It.Fwd) and all it will encompass is key to being a successful business owner.
3. Don’t be afraid of the juggle. Be prepared that growing a startup is hectic beyond belief, and even more so for women who have family responsibilities as well. In the early days, it was just me growing Luxe.It.Fwd while juggling my day job in law, all while also being pregnant and suffering all-day sickness.
4. Be brave and take risks. Starting a business is high risk but it doesn’t stop there — taking calculated chances at each subsequent step is critical for success. I often have to keep pushing myself to always be looking for the next opportunity or additional avenue to growth at Luxe.It.Fwd, and not just coast once the business is established.
5. Learn to delegate. Women, in particular, can feel like they need to ‘do it all’ but that will quickly cap their business’ potential. As Luxe.It.Fwd grows, I’ve been able to progressively hire more team members which has allowed me to free up time to better focus on building the business.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I hope that there are other women who can see my journey to running a successful business and will be inspired to take the plunge and pursue their ideas. In particular, that they never feel that they are eternally stuck in a career that doesn’t inspire them and that it’s never too late to start a new career journey.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My focus is to keep promoting sustainable shopping choices, with Luxe.It.Fwd being a platform for buyers and sellers to be part of a more ethical fashion cycle. There is so much waste in the fashion industry and I want to continue to contribute to the practice of re-using quality items to extend their lifecycle to the fullest extent, rather than buying and throwing away fast fashion.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
As a fashion e-commerce founder and avid online shopper, I would love to meet and greatly admire Dame Natalie Massenet for her achievements in founding Net-A-Porter 20 years ago as one of the first online luxury retailers and growing it into the worldwide juggernaut it now is.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.