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Molly Kang of Floravere: “As a working parent, I would love to start a movement to advocate for men in the US taking equal paternity leave”

As a working parent, I would love to start a movement to advocate for men in the US taking equal paternity leave, so that men and women are away from work for the same amount of time after having children. I think that could be the single game changer to ensure gender parity in the […]


As a working parent, I would love to start a movement to advocate for men in the US taking equal paternity leave, so that men and women are away from work for the same amount of time after having children. I think that could be the single game changer to ensure gender parity in the workplace and to also promote shouldering equal parenting responsibilities at home. You never hear male founders with children get asked about how they “do it all” because the expectation is that they don’t have to. My husband took a far longer leave than I was able to, and I think it was the single key to setting the tone for us at home because from day 1, he was far better at changing diapers or getting the baby to nap than I was! It shifted the entire dynamic in a way that still has an impact today on my ability to balance work and family, nearly three years later.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Molly Kang. Molly is the co-founder and CEO of Floravere, a direct-to-consumer bridal brand that offers a revolutionary shopping experience to make luxury bridal radically accessible. Floravere currently has showrooms in nine cities and recently opened their NYC flagship store. Prior to founding Floravere, she worked at Bain & Company (where she met her co-founder, Denise Jin), Guess, Reformation, and Journelle. She received her MBA from Stanford and her BA from Yale.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I would never have guessed that my career would lead me to making wedding dresses! My story really started with seeing a problem that no one was solving. Ten years ago, I went wedding dress shopping, for the first time, with my engaged childhood best friend and was shocked by how antiquated and frustrating the entire process was — designer gowns were out of budget, the dresses from Pinterest were impossible to find, and in an increasingly digital age, the entire wedding industry was still totally analog and offline. That night I went home and wrote down a rough business plan. Fast forward seven years of working in retail and fashion, and I couldn’t believe that no one in the startup world had noticed the opportunity that I was still seeing. So I wrote my business school admissions essay on my wild idea, and was lucky enough to attend Stanford where I incubated Floravere and met some key early investors and mentors. In the meantime, I, myself got engaged and made my own wedding dress. You could probably count that as the first Floravere prototype!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Well, what about discovering that I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant while fundraising my first round! That was a shocker. All I really remember that first year is being very pregnant while lugging huge fabric rolls around downtown LA’s garment district. I gave birth two months before we launched, so that was a pretty insane time. I was literally that person on a conference call, while in labor on the way to the hospital. I’m sure my co-founder, Denise, would tell you that all she remembers is the sound of my pump whirring next to her as I was breastfeeding all through our first year together.

I hid my pregnancy for a long time and downplayed it as I was really unsure of what the reaction would be from investors and colleagues but looking back, I wish I could have had the confidence to just embrace it. I’m really glad to see the startup world becoming a bit more open about this topic as we get more female founders — we have a long way to go, but it’s a start!

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?

The early days just felt like a string of funny (and not so funny) never-ending mistakes. For example, when I bought a bulk order of dress clamps and then discovered that the labels on them were impossible to peel off and had to recruit my husband, best friend, and parents to all sit around taking stickers off hundreds and hundreds of clamps with hair dryers. There was also the time I put a bulk order of champagne gummy bears that I bought (as a gift with every customer order), near a sunny window and came back to find hundreds of cases all completely melted. My favorite memory is driving two hours to a FedEx warehouse and begging them to let me in on a Saturday to hunt down a missing package of sample gowns on a truck.

In the early days, the single lesson I learned was to prepare for the worst case scenario. You have to become super paranoid, always have a plan B, C, and D, and just become a master at problem solving. In those early days it can really feel like the entire world is against you. Nothing is easy and everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We really pride ourselves on being rule breakers and coming at our industry with a totally fresh perspective. Not having a traditional bridal background actually helps in this regard because we can approach every part of the business asking ourselves, “What would we want as a bride and modern woman?” — We are our customer!

For example, when we were thinking about how to design our first flagship store, we thought long and hard about how we could design it with no assumptions on the table. I thought, what if we had a wedding dress store where you walk in and there are no wedding dresses? As a customer, I personally find it so stressful to walk into a wall of white gowns because the immediate emotion is to feel totally overwhelmed. The millennial woman has already browsed on Instagram or a brand’s website; in the retail landscape today, the store is less for discovery and more for validation. Therefore, we anchored the design of our entire store around this idea. Initially, everyone thought we were insane. Where are the mannequins? Where are the racks of gowns? How will anyone know you make wedding dresses? We got a lot of raised eyebrows but ultimately, our brides rave about the experience they get with us because it speaks to how she actually shops. We call it from IG to IRL.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re hard at work to open our second flagship store, which will be announced this summer. We are also working on expanding to many other categories that our customers are constantly asking us for. All top secret for now! As always, we’re working to make chic, fashion forward, high-quality gowns radically accessible and inclusive. Our mission from day one has always been to help brides feel less overwhelmed during an incredibly stressful time in her life.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I’ve worked in both male dominated and female dominated industries and companies, and am now in the rare and very cool position to lead an all-female team! My advice would be, male or female, that empathy is such a crucial yet overlooked quality in a leader. I’m constantly working on ways to hone this skill, but have found that people really respond to true empathy when in a difficult situation. It often helps to cut to the heart of an issue more quickly so that you can have a more productive conversation to resolve conflict. Making sure your team feels ‘heard’ would really be my advice!

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?

On a professional level, I was lucky to find an incredible mentor, Russ Siegelman, in one of my startup classes at the GSB. He is a professor and also an active angel in Silicon Valley; he became one of our earliest investors when I was still a student with just a Powerpoint deck. He encouraged me endlessly in the early days and gave me invaluable advice about ignoring growth and just “following the customer” and listening to feedback. I remember one particularly rough month, when I honestly wondered if I should give up and throw in the towel because things weren’t clicking — Russ was the one to assure me that he thought we were on to something and that if customers were happy, just keep going.

On a personal level, my husband Robby was such an invaluable person to help me get Floravere started. The mental stress of being an entrepreneur can’t be overstated and he single handedly has kept me sane, grounded, and balanced. In the early days, we joked that he was our official warehouse manager — he packed boxes, made endless FedEx runs, and assembled so much IKEA office furniture! After giving birth to our daughter, we were in a super critical stage of Floravere and so I didn’t really have the luxury to take a proper maternity leave. He took a two month paternity leave, which is unheard of in surgery and medicine. He made a case to his hospital about how paternity leave is the single thing men can do to support equality for women in the workplace. I’ve never been so proud!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I personally love that I work in an industry where we can be a part of such a special and memorable day for women. It’s such an honor every single time a customer decides to wear Floravere on her wedding day. I love that we can be part of such a monumental moment in her life and I’d like to think we made her day that much better.

On a separate note, in the VC startup world, where you see so few women, I’d also like to think that we’re bringing some goodness in the world by helping push progress in this arena; we’re female founded, female run, and are lucky to have our lead investor be a female VC partner. It’s pretty cool to think that we are living through an inflection point in history for gender equality — I’d love for my daughter to grow up in a world where she doesn’t have to think twice about being a woman in pursuing her passions.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Empathy matters. It’s a cliché for a reason, but people remember how you make them feel. Even in tough or uncomfortable conversations, I’ve found that people can connect in a totally different way if they feel respected and are treated with compassion.
  2. Integrity is everything. Lately, we’re seeing so many stories of startups that completely fall apart because the founders lose their moral compass. It’s scary to think that it can become a slippery slope before you even know it. It really starts with the small stuff. My mom always said this to me growing up, this one is hers! I remember in high school when my friends would sneak into a second movie, I would sheepishly go back out and pay for a new ticket because my mom’s voice was in my ear.
  3. Perspective is elusive — but so important. When I come home from a long day, where it feels like everything is going wrong, thirty seconds talking to my husband about his day immediately puts my work in perspective (he’s a cancer surgeon). I’m always surprised at how quickly I can lose perspective and need to be reminded daily about what really matters in life.
  4. Humility is underrated. In our age of social media and constant self promotion, I have such a newfound respect for leaders who are about something greater than their egos. It’s refreshing and I think the ultimate signal of confidence.
  5. Feedback is a gift. I borrowed this from Stanford business school, but raw and honest feedback is the only way to clearly see what needs to change: in yourself or in your business. When customers take the time to write us super honest feedback, I am so grateful because it helps us see our blind spots in a way that nothing else can.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As a working parent, I would love to start a movement to advocate for men in the US taking equal paternity leave, so that men and women are away from work for the same amount of time after having children. I think that could be the single game changer to ensure gender parity in the workplace and to also promote shouldering equal parenting responsibilities at home. You never hear male founders with children get asked about how they “do it all” because the expectation is that they don’t have to. My husband took a far longer leave than I was able to, and I think it was the single key to setting the tone for us at home because from day 1, he was far better at changing diapers or getting the baby to nap than I was! It shifted the entire dynamic in a way that still has an impact today on my ability to balance work and family, nearly three years later.

Some of the biggest 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 🙂

When I was a student in business school, we had a lunchtime series where some of the most famous and successful people would come speak and share their stories and lessons. We had CEOs and founders of some of the most successful companies and funds in human history. But no one, absolutely no one, could even compare to the dynamic and insightful presence of Oprah. She was incredible — she made everyone in the audience feel like she could stare into your soul. If I could have breakfast with Oprah that would be insanely amazing. Please tag her and help make this happen!

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