"Two real good blind dates - one was when I met my husband and the second one was when I met my business partner” - Susan Feldman, Co-Founder of One Kings Lane. By Sandra Pan (Management Consultant, Self)
In the past three years, One Kings Lane has grown from a bootstrapped startup to $200M in revenue, registered five million users and hired 250 full time employees. That’s astounding success, and they’re continuing to dominate and lead the innovation in the home/lifestyle ecommerce industry.
It all started when Susan Feldman who left her nice apartment in Manhattan moved into a house for the first time since she moved out of her parent’s home to go to college, and couldn’t find time to decorate. Susan was running around busily with kids and ran a sales team at work - the only time she found to shop was at night online. Susan realized there was a need that was not fulfilled; an e-commerce site for quality products for the home. She always had ideas, always ran large divisions and had that entrepreneurial bug - so the progression was very natural, Susan had turned a passion into a business.
“All about timing, finding the right idea, and at the right time - and making it happen.”
Susan’s journey was probably different than a lot of entrepreneurs you talk to today. She ran a sales team for large apparel corporations like Warnaco, Jones, Liz Claiborne. Working for Liz Claiborne, Susan was introduced to this Flash Sale model. Flash Sales happen every day for a limited time with limited amount of quantity, it was a great way to move excess inventory. When they ran a Flash Sale for t-shirts, they sold 1600 t-shirts in a day. Susan realized there was definitely something to this model.
Susan felt like a student working for Liz Claiborne because she learned how things worked, and in November 2008, One Kings Lane was launched and the Flash Sale model was incorporated into the business.
Like any business, it didn’t come without its challenges. When One Kings Lane launched in 2008, the world was imploding. There were no credit markets, the VCs were all hiding under their desk, the team decided they were going to bootstrap it, outsource everything initially, if it didn’t work, they wanted to be able to walk away from it. It took 6 months until they hired an awesome CEO. Susan realized that her expertise was in merchandising, not writing checks. One Kings Lane spent the last 2 years building an infrastructure that will expand and grow.
“Being smart and strategic is key.”
In order to manage and scale a rapidly growing business, One Kings Lane offers their customer a different online shopping experience that offers unique and limited products so that it feels like a treasure hunt. The product you see on the site the first time you visit may not be the same if you come back 72 hours later. Every day you go to the site, you experience a different product. For the folks who are passionate about decorating their homes and using unique pieces, they feel an urgency to buy it before it goes or someone else buys it.
“It’s like putting on a Broadway show every day but we put on 8-10 new ones every single day”.
In tough economic times, One Kings Lane can still provide amazing quality in amazing prices. Building a customer base and fostering community and loyalty was the goal by providing value. Value comes in a lot of different forms, the curation, scouring the world to bring back great products to the customers, the presentation to make it easy to shop and people will shop at a discount.
One Kings Lane has built a great brand in the last 3 years - repeat customers generate 70% of the revenue. Now that is saying something…
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Sandra Pan is a consultant in management consulting. She holds a technical background in which she pursued and founded her own major in college. Sandra is passionate about making a difference, innovations, and great ideas. Most recently, she took a trip to Africa to volunteer, teach, and research the network infrastructure in Africa. Sandra is currently working on her entrepreneurial ideas and is an avid photographer. Follow her on Twitter at @sandrapan.