Top Women in Retail 2017: Jennifer Hyman, CEO and Co-Founder, Rent the Runway
To see the full list of this year's Top Women in Retail honorees, click here.
What do you enjoy most about working in the retail industry?
I love that retail is an industry in close daily contact with its customers and has the ability to change its mood and live on a daily basis. Rent the Runway's mission has always been to empower women to feel like their most confident selves. By renting designer fashion, we’re enabling women to more easily use fashion for self-expression and to discover something new — a new designer, a new trend, maybe even a new persona. It’s so rewarding to hear feedback from our customers, see their hundreds of thousands of photo reviews on our website, read their stories and know that we’re a part of moments that matter in their lives.
If you weren't working in the retail industry, what do you think you'd be doing?
Ideally, I would be a backup singer in a Motown band or a Knicks City Dancer.
How would you describe your leadership style?
One of our core values is that everyone at the company is a founder of Rent the Runway. What that means to me is encouraging our team to think big and giving them room to be entrepreneurial in the organization — to try new things, advocate for their ideas and accept failure as a key pathway to innovation. More than anything, I try to encourage my entire team to DREAM BIG — nothing is impossible and “no” is often an unacceptable answer. There’s always a way to get something done or fulfill a dream. All it takes is passion and tenacity.
I’m incredibly proud of the number of entrepreneurs who have started their own companies after their experience on the Rent the Runway team. Their time at Rent the Runway was a training ground to go after their own dreams and develop confidence in themselves. Having an impact on this next generation of entrepreneurs within our own Rent the Runway team is very special to be a part of.
What's the best advice you ever received, and who gave you the advice?
My dad frequently says, "Man plans and God laughs." You miss out on all of the fun and serendipity of life if you constantly pressure yourself to have a plan. Trust your gut! Rent the Runway would have never come out of me having a plan. I was able to develop the business by having a deep passion for an idea and deciding to go after it because it was fun. The best things in my life have certainly come unexpectedly.
Do you have any mentors in the retail industry?
Yes! Basically everyone I know has been a mentor at some point in time, and hopefully I can also be a mentor to them. I have so much respect for the great minds in this industry, and given that Rent the Runway was my first entree into the retail world, I have made a point to meet as many retail execs as possible and learn about their businesses, challenges and goals. The industry is changing so quickly — we can only address these consumer shifts if we take feedback from each other and from our customers.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I really enjoy anything that involves big groups of people — socializing, cooking big meals for friends and family, and dance parties. I try to have a tribe of people that I love around me — friends and family. I've always preferred to exist in a state of constant motion (some may call it chaos) with people I love around me. I find it very energizing.