In our third Game Changers profile, I interview Chris Lindland, founder and CEO of Betabrand, an online apparel retailer and crowdfunding platform. (Here’s profile one, Meaghan Rose, Rocksbox, and profile two, Luke Sherwin, Casper.)
TR: How did you develop the resources and guts to start your own company?
CL: As far back as high school, I was always inventing things with friends — short movies, parties, performances. When I graduated, I kept up the same behavior with businesses. In time, you learn that the key ingredient that turns ideas into real things is time. Followed by perseverance. Then distantly by capital.
TR: What has been Betabrand’s strategy for getting financing?
CL: Venture capital. But Betabrand didn’t start with a PowerPoint presentation. It was operating as a credit card-funded clothing company prior to investors getting involved. We earned each round through a marriage of sales revenue and steady progress toward the big idea, which is building Facebook for fashion.
TR: What was the pivotal marketing campaign or channel that really catapulted the business in its early days?
CL: Back then it was PR. We became relevant through gobs of news stories. That earned us the ability to attract the likes of Aaron Magness, whose marketing mind has sent us on a steady upwards trajectory ever since.
TR: How are you planning to scale the business?
CL: Our strategy is to turn design — from the very spark of an idea — into a social experience for designers and their fans. This will either usher in tectonic change to the fashion industry or simply be a fun way to shop on our site. Hopefully both.
TR: Can you talk about your hiring strategy?
CL: The nice thing about being a consumer brand is you connect with people all over the world — some of whom come to work for you! We love hiring from our fan base because these folks come pre-qualified. Pre-propagandized! We’ve also used stunts like terribly designed homepages and videos featuring engineers in awful outfits to attract fun people to work here.
TR: What advice would you give to those people who are thinking about launching their own retail business?
CL: Throw parties. They create high points as you slog through the swamps of irrelevance, delays and grass-is-always-greener-if-I-worked-at-Google thinking that gnaws at you along the way.
TR: What can traditional retailers learn from your company?
CL: Internet. Internet. Internet. I just can’t see how brick-and-mortar retail can survive attention-devouring devices like iPhones and — soon — virtual reality headsets. Walk down any street and all you see is people tapping away on devices. The best a Main Street or mall retailer can hope for is monthly visits.