2011 October 13
(NEW YORK) What happens when an investment banker making beaucoup bucks takes a pay cut to become the CEO of a foodie startup? Naturally, she bids adieu to luxury shopping (and her less-than-thrilling excursions at T.J. Maxx) to conjure up a pocket-friendly e-comm boutique called Send the Trend, where covetable accessories are cheap, cheap, cheap! Your Daily held a sit-down with Send the Trend founder and CEO, Divya Gugnani, and president Mariah Chase. MARIA DENARDO
How did Send the Trend begin?
DG: It started last spring. I worked in finance, and then became an entrepreneur to run a culinary media brand called Behind the Burner. When I was in finance, I could walk into Saks, receive amazing personalized service, pay a fortune for a dress, walk out, and feel great. When I became an entrepreneur, no more shopping at Saks. It was all about T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. What was really missing was personalized service at that price point. That’s when I got the idea of starting an affordable accessories site online because accessories are a great way to update your look on a budget. Mariah was the first person I called. She has tons of accessories experience as the former president of Kara Ross.
How did you two meet?
MC: We were both bridesmaids in Alexandra Wilkis Wilson’s wedding—she’s the founder of Gilt Groupe. When Divya called about the website, we met up on a cold April morning at The Regency Hotel. Divya downed about three pots of tea; I downed about three bowls of peanut M&Ms. We brainstormed the concept and decided this was what we wanted to pursue.
Who are your competitors?
DG: There are companies with similar business models, but they’re at a different price point. While you would think about JustFab.com or ShoeDazzle.com, their demographic is different in every way: age, region, you name it. Our customer is a woman, mid-20s to mid-40s, who shops at department stores and dresses high-low.
What’s your greatest challenge?
DG: Our challenges change so quickly. We launched last October. Then, we were featured on The Nate Berkus Show and The Today Show. It was the most amazing and painful day of our career. We received over 3,000 inbound inquires per second into our site. We crashed over and over and over again.
MC: We didn’t have the infrastructure up yet. We were testing the idea to see if people liked it. Since then, we’ve invested a lot of time and money on technology to build a site we feel proud of. Now, we’re focused on customer acquisition. Our subscriber base has doubled and tripled in a matter of weeks.
What are your startup dos and don’ts?
MC: Don’t expect you’ll have time for anything else!
DG: Do test everything. We’re maniacal about testing and gathering data. Sometimes we don’t even know what to do with the data, but we have it in case we need it.
How do you plan on growing the site?
DG: We've found all things social and viral drive our business tremendously. We want to build community around our brand and leverage existing customers, so they can be our biggest marketing vehicles. We also have something called My Style so you can create a personal page on our site, pick all the items you'd love to buy, and put them on one personalized page. Then, you can take that page and share it on Facebook and Twitter. When someone buys from your page, you get a credit for the site. This way, the customer is the curator.
MC: Plus, we're expanding our products to include more beauty and clutches.
What trend is flying off the shelves?
MC: Bling! We can’t kill bling!
Any trends you’d like to kill?
MC: Women wearing man slippers and that whole harem pant thing isn’t doing anyone any favors.
DG: Our customers love things like heavy statement necklaces that look like $90, but it’s half the price.
OK, we’re turning your trends on you! How do you like to “Rock it Out?”
DG: Definitely with a cuff.
MC: And Michael Jackson.
Where was the last place you “Took Flight?”
DG: We went to Rio together. The beaches are gorgeous.
MC: We recommend the boat tours…
DG: And caipirinhas are a must.
What are you most obsessed with “In the News” right now?
MC: It’s embarrassing! We don’t have a lot of time these days to keep up.
DG: We're obsessed with Daily Front Row.
What’s the most awkward “Sweet Nothing” someone has whispered to you?
MC: Divya’s husband’s initials are M.C.—the same as mine. So, sometimes an accidental Blackberry Messenger comes my way.
DG: I had to change her from M.C. to Mariah. Otherwise, I would have kept sending her texts meant for my husband. He always tells me I want to spend more time with “the other M.C.”
MC: I compete with her husband, clearly.
If you entered the world of “Rhyme and Reason,” what would your rapper name be?
MC: OMG. I have a rapper name from college. What is it? Oh, MC MC.
DG: I really love rap music. I know every song from the 80s and 90s. It’s absurd. LL Cool J. Biggie. You name it. Doin’ it and doin’ it. Doin' it well!
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