Susan Gregg was 17 and heading off to Carnegie Mellon University, and she had a problem: a closet overstuffed with one-of-a-kind vintage shoes and dresses. The solution? Open an online boutique.
ModCloth.com was headquartered in her dorm room and run with the help of her high school sweetheart, Eric Koger. The two drove from Pittsburgh to their South Florida hometown several times throughout college to haul up stock. By the end of their senior year in 2006, ModCloth was getting 60,000 visitors a month, and plenty of them were asking for more.
Gregg--a double major in German and business, and now married to Koger--knew what to do. First, she raised the capital: $50,000 in credit card debt, plus loans from Koger's uncles, student loans and a second mortgage. Then she hired designers to create an original, vintage-inspired collection. "I Googled, 'Where can I buy wholesale clothing?'" Gregg-Koger recalls. She found the Magic Trade Show in Las Vegas, wandered the booths, asked questions and found her designers.
These days, as co-founder and chief creative officer, Gregg-Koger, 25, still handpicks all the clothes, shoes and accessories featured on the site (most sell for less than $100) and seeks out designers who fit ModCloth's aesthetic. Koger, the CEO, oversees the technical side. The site gets around 2 million visitors every month and is on track to surpass $50 million in sales this year. They've raised $20 million in new funding to open up offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles this summer, and employee numbers are close to 150, and rising.
Gregg-Koger says ModCloth's biggest advantage is the fact that she is ModCloth's ideal customer: "Other companies might say, 'We need to get on this social networking stuff,' whereas it was intuitive for us. If I have a Facebook account, and my friends do, my business should."
ModCloth's future is "social commerce," she adds. That is, in developing a site that involves customers even if they're not actually buying. ModCloth recently introduced a "Be the Buyer" program, which lets customers choose which styles go into production, and a "Name It and Win It" contest. The idea is to leverage crowdsourcing and encourage customers to share and comment--and get excited about clothes that will be available in a few months.
"But that's like version 0.5," she says. "There's a lot more coming."
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