A SILVER LINING
This 60-year-old, First-time Entrepreneur Took her E-commerce Fashion Biz from ZERO to $500 Million in Just 6 Short Years!
If the year on your birth certificate is stopping you from chasing a new dream, revisiting an old idea, making a career change – or a career comeback - take a page out of this inspirational GoGirl’s playbook and make it happen! It’s never too late to live the life you deserve, even if you’re starting from scratch.
In November 2000, successful CEO of Pets.com, Julie Wainwright, was forced to pull the plug with the pet e-commerce superstore she helped catapult to IPO status just hours after her husband unceremoniously asked for a divorce. And, you thought you were having a bad day!
Following the untimely demise of both her professional and personal lives, Wainwright took solace in much-needed self-care, spending her days and nights focused on getting fit and painting to quell the pain.
During the next few years, Wainwright found herself dodging a slew of uninteresting and equally uninspiring CEO gigs, but eventually settled for a position in venture capital. Growing increasingly unfulfilled and bored by her new endeavor, she knew she had to take charge of her own fate. “I had to finally say nobody is going to give me my dream job, so I better figure it out myself.”
As Pets.com CEO, Wainwright was not a founder of the collapsed e-commerce enterprise, and never owned or operated her own business. She was always the whiz kid hired to get a company into financial high gear.
After some soul-searching and deep, personal introspection, the proverbial light bulb lit up.
She had recalled being intrigued by a close girlfriend who absolutely loved to shop for secondhand designer duds from a trusted boutique owner who specialized in high-end, luxury brands. With her long-held career as a CEO and e-commerce expert, Wainwright began rigorously researching the online fashion market and discovered the market for luxury items in the United States was bringing in a whopping $50 billion annually with speculative future growth AND an opportunity for disruption. BINGO!
So, Wainwright found herself rummaging through her closet, finding 80 luxury items she could easily re-sell. And, in 2011, the RealReal was born – an e-commerce-based marketplace for luxury, secondhand goods. The RealReal deals with legendary, luxury-based brands, such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Cartier, and more. Consignors can earn up to 70% off the items they sell, while the RealReal takes care of in-home authentication, pick-up, and shipping costs. With an impressive $10 million in revenue within its first year, the RealReal pulled more than $500 million in sales in 2017. The RealReal currently staffs over 950 people.
That was the easier part. The next? Not so much.
Already in her mid-fifties by this time, Wainwright bravely sought venture capitalists in male-dominated Silicon Valley, pitching to 20-30 -something men at the helm of the Pets.com meltdown, which just added fuel to an already-growing fire. “It was really, really hard. I didn’t have success until I reached a woman.” Imagine that.
Eventually, the mid-life fervent fashion entrepreneur was able to procure the capital she so ardently sought, and to the fashionable tune of $173 million! The capital came from a total of 22 investors during seven rounds of grueling fundraising. So, since that awful day way back in November 2000, it’s pretty safe to say Wainwright has since made a major career comeback. “Failure is ultimately liberating. Once you come out the other side, you might have faced one of your biggest fears and lived to tell it...That's an amazing gift"
For anyone at any age who is dreaming of beginning their dream business and who may need a motivational moment of sorts, consider the following statistics. According to a CNBC small business survey of more than 2000 small business owners, 30% of the entrepreneurs were between 55 and 64 years of age, while over 22% were 65 or older!
How’s that for a silver lining?