Jill Layfield is co-founder and CEO of Tamara Mellon which offers apparel and accessories for women. The company has raised close to $90 million from New Enterprise Associates, AAF Management Ltd., Quadrille Capital, and Centricus.
In this episode you will learn:
- Ways to communicate more powerfully
- Building a brilliant brand culture
- Why you are going to hate bankers
- Building and scaling a business that will survive and thrive
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Jill Layfield:
Jill Layfield is the co-founder and CEO of Tamara Mellon.
In 2016, Layfield joined former Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon to create and launch the first-ever digitally-led, direct-to-consumer luxury footwear brand.
Headquartered in LA, with 60 employees and $90M in venture capital funding, the brand is redefining what it means to be a luxury brand.
Jill Layfield was previously president and CEO of BackCountry.com, where she grew the company from $30M to $500M in revenue and successfully sold the business to TSG Consumer Partners for $350M.
Prior to Backcountry, Jill Layfield held marketing positions at several Silicon Valley companies including Shutterfly, Cisco Systems, Infogear (a start-up focused on the marketing for internet appliances), and 8×8 (a manufacturer of videoconferencing products and a VOIP service provider).
Jill Layfield currently sits on the board of LivePerson and previously at Camber Outdoors, SmartPak Equine and the Alpha Club.
Connect with Jill Layfield:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a really interesting founder. I think that her story is really remarkable. She’s been through every single position, every single story, every single phase that you could think of. We’re going to be learning a lot about apparel, accessories for women, and also all the fashion segments. So without further ado, let me welcome to the show, Jill Layfield. Welcome, today.
Jill Layfield: Hi. Thank you for having me.
Alejandro: So originally born in San José, California. How was life there?
Jill Layfield: I think, in hindsight, it was the perfect place to be born and come back to eventually because it was the launchpad of an amazing career. I never would have thought I was going to work in technology companies, but I think being immersed in that environment in San José made it possible.
Alejandro: And you moved quite a bit while growing up. Right?
Jill Layfield: That’s right. I was born in San José, but my family and I spent seven years in Austin, Texas, from fourth grade to a sophomore in high school. Austin is this amazing place to grow up, as well as the Bay Area, so I count myself pretty lucky. But we moved back in the Bay Area. I went to High School in Cupertino at Monta Vista. Then, eventually, went on to Santa Clara University.
Alejandro: Very cool, and you studied there, communications and journalism. I want to ask you here, how important would you say that what you’ve learned about storytelling has helped you develop yourself as a professional, and now as an entrepreneur?
Jill Layfield: I still, and I’m 45 years old, have these nightmares that I didn’t finish college because I was very focused when I was in college on getting through it as fast as possible and getting to be self-sufficient in earning money. So, I sped through it. I think I did okay, but I didn’t do my best work. As I think about what I got from school, it hasn’t been nearly as important as the on-the-ground learnings that I’ve had at every company I’ve been at. I actually wish I could go back to college because I think storytelling, your point, is so important. I like to say that often, when people ask me for advice, I say, “One of the lost arts is being a great writer. Everybody’s so fast with their communication, and it’s all about the tweet or the quick Instagram comment. But, actually, whether it’s storytelling to your customers, or storytelling to your board, or storytelling to your employees, being able to communicate your ideas is the most important thing. I think if you can write that out in a narrative format, it’s more powerful than PowerPoint because it requires you to flush out your ideas more deeply. So I wish I could go back to college and really focus on that journalism degree and improve my writing skills because it’s something that only now I feel like I’m getting much better at. It’s that writing that leads to the compelling storytelling.
Alejandro: Got it, and you were taking a learning or a tool while you were in college because you actually were on the side to make some money. You were a waitress at a restaurant there, and you came across this group of individuals from this company, 8×8, and you really put those communication skills to work because a good result came out of that. So tell us about that.
Jill Layfield: Yeah. I believe the restaurant is still in Santa Clara. It’s called Birk’s. It’s well-known for having power lunches and after-work cocktails with people in the tech community in the Santa Clara area. It’s close to Santa Clara University, so yeah, to pay for college, I was working there in the evenings, and a team from 8×8 would come in, and I would tell them what I was doing in school. I was, thankfully, outgoing, and they said, “Look. We like you. Why don’t you come do an internship at 8×8?” The company has evolved since then. This was many, many years ago, but they were doing voiceover IP technology then. It’s a tech-heavy company. I really had no idea what they were doing at the time, but I was like, “Somebody’s offering me an internship in Silicon Valley, and I should say yes.” So I went to work for them as an intern, and then I guess I did an okay job, and they offered me a fulltime position out of college. Going back to your question about the advantages of growing up in the Bay Area, that was one of those big moments in my life. I think if had I been anywhere else in the world, I may not have had the opportunity to start a career in technology like I was able to working at Birk’s and meeting the team from 8×8.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. After this, one of your bosses went to InfoGear. Then InfoGear got acquired by Cisco. At this point, there’s a pivotal moment for you, which is when you meet Jim Clark. So what happened there?
Jill Layfield: Yeah. It was very random that I met Jim through various social circles and became a friend of his. In many ways, he became a mentor of mine. I still keep in touch with Jim. Jim said, “You’re a smart, young, high-potential woman, and I think you should come to this new company that I’m a part of called Shutterfly. Of course, now, digital photofinishing is ubiquitous. I know what it is now, but back then, I was like, “Okay. Digital photofinishing. I don’t know what the is.” But similar to the 8×8 experience, I was like, “Of course, I’ll go to work there.” It was too good of an opportunity when Jim said, “You should do this,” and you do it. I met the team there, and thankfully, they gave me an opportunity. I joined the marketing organization. It was pretty small when I joined the company, like maybe 50 people. I started in online marketing there. This was where I learned what consumer internet was all about and the world of online marketing. I did online marketing in business development for them for about five years.
Alejandro: That’s pretty cool. For the folks that are listening if they don’t know who Jim Clark is: Netscape, Silicon Graphics, you name it; one of the big, big movers and shakers. Jill, you were at Shutterfly for a bit — an incredible experience. You get married. Getting married and figuring out the family picture, you decided to go to Park City, Utah. What a different route. So, Jill, tell us about this transition.
Jill Layfield: My husband was a big rock climber, and I fell in love with climbing when we met. After being at Shutterfly for five years, I had the itch to do something different. I found on Craigslist, like the best listing I found on Craigslist, a listing for an online marketing manager. It was a job description for a small e-commerce company headquartered in Park City, Utah. I’m thinking to myself, “Man! There are not that many e-commerce companies headquartered in ski resorts. So I fired off an email. It was ridiculous. In hindsight, it was like, “Hi. I can do this job, and I like to climb. Would love to talk.” One thing led to another. I met the two founders of Backcountry, Jim Holland and John Bresee. Dustin Robertson, at the time, was the CEO. They said, “You’re exactly what we’re looking for. You should move to Park City.” So I picked up, moved with my husband to Park City, Utah, and started there — responsible for driving all the traffic to the website and all of the customer marketing around repeat customer marketing.
Alejandro: And here, you get to see the dynamics, inside and out of the different roles because you go from customer marketing to product management to COO, and then all the way to President and CEO. What a ride during these 11 years there.
Jill Layfield: Yeah. The product role was — look, a piece of advice that I give another one is, you have to be fearless, and you have to go for things. At Backcountry, a moment for me that I think embodies that was when I had gone to the founders and said, “Look. We’re driving all this traffic to the website. We’re growing fast, but it’s not converting the way we expect. We need to build a product management function.” It was something I had seen at Shutterfly done very well. I said, “We need to focus on the user experience, and we need to convert more of that traffic.” We tried to find someone to hire, and we couldn’t. Then the founders were like, “Why don’t you do it?” And I’m like, “Because I have no idea how to do it.” But I got a mentor, Marty Cagan, from Silicon Valley Product Group, and I said, “Can you help me figure this out?” That was a big moment because, to your point, I understood how to drive traffic, acquire customers, and retain them, but then I learned the ins and outs of using data and technology to build a highly-differentiated high-converting user experience. That set me up, then, for Jim and John to promote me to Chief Operating Officer. I was in the role of CEO for six months when they went to Liberty Media, who had acquired us and said, “We’d like to step down and have Jill become CEO. I was 36 years old, and it was quite the jump in a few short years, but, again, one of those moments in my career where I was like, “Okay. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I’m going to have to figure it out because this is not an opportunity you turn down.”
Alejandro: Yeah. And this is one of those pivotal moments because during challenging initiatives or whatever we have in front of us is what shapes us. It could be professionals, entrepreneurs, or even human beings. I know that for you, this particular transition was a bit tough because there were some restructuring and changes that you needed to apply. So tell us about this.
Jill Layfield: Yes. The first year was incredibly good. And it was actually quite funny because when they told me I was going to be made CEO, I had just found out I was pregnant with my second child. I was like, “That’s amazing. By the way, I’m going to have a baby.” The good news is, that year, the business did great. I had my daughter. Everything was clicking, but that year was quickly followed by the toughest period that we had at Backcountry. There were a couple of things at play. One was, we had the warmest and driest record at the time — the warmest and driest winter on record in the U.S. That’s tough for a business that is very winter-weather dependent. But, I think, more importantly, was at the same time of that happening, Backcountry had benefited from bringing an industry online. So bringing highly technical outdoor gear in soft goods and hard goods and bringing that business online. By 2012, REI has figured out online, Amazon was pushing into outdoor, and all the brands themselves had started being more aggressive with their direct businesses. So they built e-commerce expertise. We were not just bringing an industry online and writing that way, but we were competing with the brands we sold, with Amazon, with REI. We had competition from everywhere. I think, as a retailer, the one thing you often don’t have is differentiation through selection because you’re selling something that the customer can likely get in other places. I had dark days in 2012 and 2013. I’ll never forget reading Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. He talks about like night sweats, and I don’t know — something. I wept when I read his book because I was a young, inexperienced CEO, and I was like, “Why are we not growing like we should anymore? Why is our margin being compressed?” I had to take a big step back and say, “Okay. How are we going to build real value for the customer in a product category where she or he can get this product in many different places?” I revamped the management team. I completely changed our business strategy. There were times. I remember going out to Liberty and meeting with the team there and just thinking, “I’m flying out there to get — I’m going to get fired,” because business was not good. Then I’m saying, “We hear what you want to do. We believe in it, and now, go do it.” Then flying back to Park City and crying on the plane thinking, “I don’t think I can really do this.” But, you know, we got it done. I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to try and get through it.
Alejandro: How big was the company, Jill, at this time where you need to take a deep look from top to bottom and start to make some really tough calls?
Jill Layfield: It was about 250 million. When I joined in 2004, it was 20 million, so at this point, it was about 250 million. This is like 2012.
Alejandro: How many employees?
Jill Layfield: At that phase, probably 500-600.
Alejandro: Wow. At 36. What an incredible challenge, Jill. When you’re from that position from the 30,000-view perspective, how do you go from top to bottom to understand where the holes are and how you go about covering them?
Jill Layfield: For me, it came down to differentiation and team. The first question was, how are we going to differentiate? What really matters to the customer, and what can we uniquely own? For us, that was returning to the roots of what we called expert gearhead connection. In a world where Amazon was winning through convenience and price and selection, and not so much focused on — they were focused on service, but from a selection and delivery perspective. We, instead, focused on service from a personal, one-to-one perspective. So we elevated the face of our gearheads, which were the individuals that were on chat, phone, and email, and built a one-to-one relationship between our customers and our gearheads. And really emphasized handholding and elevated level of service that was backed by humans and highly personalized. That was one part of the strategy. Then that drove: what sort of team do you have to build to deliver that? The second was, as much as we couldn’t really differentiate through selection and our core categories, there were lots of niche outdoor brands — going back to your point on storytelling, earlier — wanted to have their stories told and were more unique in what they offered. So we started incubating and launching new brands. Then, finally, thinking through what the next level of the customer experience was, and how do you bring those new product stories to life and this one-to-one expert service to life in a digital experience. Because at the end of the day, when you’re a retailer, the product you sell, if it’s not the product you’re making, isn’t differentiated. But the service and the experience are. That’s what your product becomes. So, that meant a complete overhaul of our technology team, our digital product team, marketing, and merchandising. I went through a big shift strategically, but also the entire management team, who then ended up staying with me the entire time I was CEO and ultimately being with me when we sold the business.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. That was a five-year phase for you. Especially, the last piece of that, the last year or so was around the packaging and the positioning for the M&A process. How was that process, and at what point the decision is taken of “Let’s go out and seek an acquisition here”?
Jill Layfield: At the end of 2014, Liberty Media, who had acquired Backcountry in 2007, 2008, said, “We’re ready to think about what’s next for Backcountry. I also had said, “We’re ready as a management team to have an exit here.” The timing worked for Liberty and the management team to think about selling the business. We kicked off a process with a bank. Guggenheim represented us. It’s kind of a funny story, here. Somebody on my team had come to me and said, “You are going to hate bankers looking at this business because they are going to take everything that you feel is very strategic, thoughtful, and important. They’re going to reduce it down to this pitch that lacks some of the emotion” that I felt so strongly about with the brand, and everything’s going to be ones and zeros. They’re like, “You’re going to hate the bank, all the bankers we’re going to meet with.” And they were right. As I met with bankers, they were all trying to make our business be like other businesses. I was like, “No, no, no. You’re missing all the specialness.” We ended up having the most amazing relationship with the team at Guggenheim, and they took us through a very competitive process with a great outcome. I think I was lucky from that perspective.
Alejandro: And, obviously, a great experience because now you got to see the last piece of the full cycle of doing a business. And, now, you’re looking, or you’ve learned at the initial piece of really doing it. So let’s talk about the next phase. In 2015, you finally make the decision to leave once the transaction has been closed, and then you start seeing what is next and evaluating companies. What was this process?
Jill Layfield: It was very hard to leave Backcountry, but right. I had been there 11 years. I’d seen 20 million to 500 million and had a very successful process conclude with TSG with buying the company. But I think I am not somebody that necessarily would be ideal to take the company to the next phase or be involved in the next phase of the business. It was a painful decision, but I left Backcountry and had an amazing person who had worked for me take the business over, who’s still there. Then I was like, “What am I going to do with my life?” It’s funny because I think of a CEO — some of us feel like — I don’t know. We have these moments like, what is a CEO? If you’ve been an operator, and you’ve been in the weeds, and you’ve had a very specific role, and you’re execution-oriented like I am, you have this moment where you’re like, “What do I do?” You just feel like you’re not as useful as a CMO or a CTO or CFO. It feels like this nebulous role. You forget, briefly, that the CEO role is so important. It just feels less specific, and I had that moment. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I wish I was not now looking for another CEO job.” But inevitably, that was what was coming at me. I looked at 40 to 44 different companies in five months. I should have just chilled out and relaxed when I left Backcountry, but I was panicked about who am I? What am I going to do next? I knew the team at NEA, and NEA said, “Look. We’d love for you to come and be at one of our companies. We think you have the right disposition and energy for an early-stage company. So they introduced me to Mark at Jet and Gwyneth at Goop, and Tamara Mellon, who had previously founded Jimmy Choo and had left Jimmy Choo about 2011, 20 years of building that into one of the most iconic luxury footwear brands in the world. They said, “Tamara wants to disrupt the luxury footwear industry and the way she wants to disrupt it is going to require for her to have a co-founder that understands technology, data, and e-commerce. So we think you should meet her.” I was in Park City at the time, and I was like, “This is not going to be a good fit. She’s going to be so fancy and so fashion. I work in the outdoor industry.” I flew to LA, met Tamara, and was struck by how amazing she was. She had, obviously, a ton of experience in a category where I had none. Here she was describing a vision for disrupting a category that she had helped create 20+ years ago. I think to myself, “That’s really cool.” I also was aware that she’d made a lot of money with Jimmy Choo, and she could have just ridden off into the sunset. But she didn’t want to do that. She wanted to continue to design shoes and build the next big luxury footwear brand. A lot of it was logic and me seeing the whitespace in direct to consumer and in the luxury category going direct to consumer and being digitally native, but it was also an emotional decision because I was like, “I really like her. I think we could do this together.” So I picked up and moved my family to LA. We launched Tamara Mellon in October of 2016.
Alejandro: Wow! What a journey. So then, what happened? You moved there with the family. You guys decide to launch this thing. What were the early days like?
Jill Layfield: A combination of just so much fun and so scary. Backcountry didn’t raise money, and so we grew more slowly, and we were always thinking about increasing the margin alongside pursuing growth. At Tamara Mellon, the goal was, without being irresponsible from an uneconomic perspective or cash perspective, grow fast. I think I really struggled at first on this idea of invest, invest, invest for growth, having been a CEO of Backcountry, picking up 20 basis points, or 15 basis points of margin for EBITDA. I was like, “I’m just supposed to spend money and not worry about profitability?” So that was hard for me. You know, it’s not easy to create a market and find customers when you don’t have wholesale distribution. So it was a direct to consumer business. You disintermediated retail, so you don’t have those eyeballs as a way to drive traffic and awareness. So figuring out the uneconomic around customer acquisition for a brand that nobody had heard of and figuring out the channels to drive that growth. It was hard. But I will say much, much, much more fun than running a 500-million-dollar business like I was doing at Backcountry. It was just so fun to return to the weeds if you will and be doing all those jobs that I miss doing.
Alejandro: What ended up being the business model?
Jill Layfield: The way we think about the disruption or unseeding what we call the dusting encumbrance of the luxury category and accessories is we look at disruption across four categories. One is because we don’t build in wholesale margin, we’re offering the same quality of shoes. We make our shoes in the same Italian factories that Manolo, Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, or any of the big luxury brands manufactured in Italy, but we’re delivering that product to the customer at about half of the retail price because there isn’t the 6x markup you typically get in this category because we don’t build in a retailer margin. It’s the best quality at a better price. The second thing that we’ve done differently is innovate around experience and service. With every shoe that you buy from Tamara Mellon, we offer something called Cobbler Concierge, which means you can send your shoes back to us, and we repair them for two years, which is very anti-luxury, but we believe great consumer brands take care of their customers beyond the transaction. We’ve done some interesting things offline. Then, finally, we deliver new product weekly online as opposed to working on the fashion calendar, which is season-based and with two updates a year. Those are the business innovations around price and newness from a product perspective, and then experience.
Alejandro: What were the biggest challenges? You have the logistics, the technology, the fashion component, so what were some of the biggest challenges to build this up?
Jill Layfield: I think the biggest surprise for me has been, we had this great idea of dropping product weekly instead of — typically, what happens in fashion is, the designers design the product 12 months before the customers see it because the business, the brand, has to sell that product into retail. They showed at fashion shows, so there’s this long calendar. We didn’t want to operate that way. What we wanted to do was design as close as possible to the customer, when the customer receives the product, and for there to be no fatigue in demand that, I think, is created in fashion companies. When products are shown on a runway six months before the customer sees it, but by the time they see it, they’re like, “Okay. I’m tired of this.” So we wanted to shorten the supply chain essentially from content to customer, and then replenish very quickly into what actually worked. Well, probably not surprisingly, Italian manufacturing is not set up for fast replenishment and speed. It’s beautiful, the manufacturing process, and it produces the best quality shoes in the world, but they’re used to receiving big orders a few times a year from their brand partners. So, here, we were launching product frequently, and we were having all of this demand that we tried to chase. We call this seven to nine-week replenishment. We realized we had launched a new customer-facing model on an antiquated supply chain. That has been challenging, but it’s also represented a big opportunity from an innovation perspective on the backend of the business. We’re early days, and it’s not all done, but in the end, I think we’ll create a much more valuable business as customer innovation paired with supply chain innovation.
Alejandro: In terms of capitalizing the business, how did you guys finance the business?
Jill Layfield: We’re a Series C company. We’ve raised just under 90 million. We completed our Series C round in June of this year, 2019. We were down to, I think, $50,000 when we closed the round, which is crazy. Right?
Jill Layfield: Tony Florence, who sits on the board of Tamara Mellon, and he’s one of the best direct to consumer investors, and he said to me as I was like, “Are we going to be able to close this round?” He said, “Every great company almost runs out of money at least once.” I was like, “Okay, that sort of makes me feel better and doesn’t make me feel better.” It was tough. My lesson was it always takes longer to raise money than you think. No matter how great your business is, you are going to have many, many, many noes. You are going to have moments where you think your life is ending, and you’re looking at all your employees thinking, “Am I going to be able to do it for this team?” But if you do have a good business and you have a great strategy, then you just have to keep taking those meetings and pitching the business. I can’t say it will happen for you, but it happened for us. The process was very hard and incredibly painful, but thank goodness we closed the round. We set out to raise 35 million, and we closed 50.
Alejandro: Nice. Looking back at this specific round of the Series C, what do you think you would do differently if you had to start the round over again?
Jill Layfield: A couple of things. One, I think I would have spent a lot more time on the story from the perspective of I would have written it out in a narrative and then built the deck. What I think we do too often is, we start building slides, and then we’re trying to cull together the story. What I realized at the end of the process was that — I’d say the first five meetings that we had, I was figuring the story out as I was pitching. I had the slides, and I had the high-level idea, but it didn’t flow naturally. Going back to what I said earlier, I almost broke one of my own rules, which was I should have written it out. You can hide too easily behind bullet points, and then the flow gets awkward. So I would have written a narrative and then built the slide set narrative. The second thing that I realized was — look. This is just, I think, clearly out of our category. Most investors are not looking to invest in just a new fashion company or a new consumer brand. The investors that you are likely going to want to raise capital from, want a data or a technology story even if you’re a consumer-facing brand or a fashion brand. What you don’t want to do is make one up and make it be authentic to what you’re really doing. That’s not good. But if you have the possibility of integrating that into your value creation story, then you should focus on that and figure that out. Early days, our pitch was very much focused on the customer, the brand, and the product. That’s all important, but it was only until I gave equal weight to how we were using data and supply chain innovation married with the brand and customer innovation and the customer experience innovation did people start perking up. I think that’s because a lot of the investors are just used to hearing about those types of companies, so it makes more sense to them how value can be created. That was the turning point for us, and I probably could have had much better meetings early on if I had that balance at the get-go.
Alejandro: Wow. Those are powerful lessons there, and I’m sure that the people listening are going to get a lot from it. How many employees do you have, just out of curiosity, Jill?
Jill Layfield: We’re at 65 people.
Alejandro: And this is because of the question I wanted to ask you is, with your last company, Backcountry, when you came in, you had to rebuild the team, and you saw what didn’t work before, and then you were able to see what worked and how to put more muscle behind what worked, especially when it comes to people. So when it came around to building this company, and more from the ground up, what were you clear about on the culture that you wanted to create and then also on the team you wanted to surround yourself by?
Jill Layfield: Team and culture, there’s one thing that’s awesome about being the CEO is that you should, and you must think about those important parts of building a brand and a business. It’s something that I feel like is sometimes a black box and hard to get better at, but so critical. I’ve been passionate about what to do at Tamara Mellon. At Backcountry, when I left, we were a little over 1,000 employees. We had actually even thought and integrated in that rough period — I forgot about this, three different companies — one in Portland, one in Little Rock, Arkansas, and one in Germany. So, I’d been through even three acquisitions and integrations that required — that puts pressure on culture. But one of the things about Backcountry that was amazing was that there was this deep, deep alignment between what the brand stood for and what the culture stood for. As I said a minute ago, I feel like sometimes culture is like this black box, and there’s no — I’m a very linear, structured thinker, and I always want like, “Tell me the framework.” Maybe eight years ago, I met someone named Edgar Papke, who had a book called True Alignment. He showed me the first-ever culture framework, and I’ve used it since then. It essentially said that there should be alignment between what your brand stands for and what your culture is. If your strategy is, “Here’s where we’re headed,” your culture is how we behave as we’re headed there. It’s the behaviors that are celebrated and encouraged and the behaviors that aren’t. So Edgar says, “If your brand stands for something, then your culture needs to stand for essentially the same thing. At Backcountry, we were all about creating community. As I explained earlier, this expert gear had connections was about connections and community. The culture had to reflect that, and the behaviors in the company, therefore, that reinforced connection and community and also, to a lesser degree, expertise. Then when the customer would interact with the brand, they would experience the culture. When people were living the culture at Backcountry, they were living the brand. So I brought that to Tamara Mellon, not thinking. We are a brand that is building pride of association with our customers through shared values, which is very different than traditional luxury brands that build pride of association through shared status. Those values are anchored in women owning their voice, women knowing their worth, and owning their health. So pay equity women’s health and overarching feminism and women’s empowerment. The culture at Tamara Mellon lives those brand values. I think you would hear this from the 65 people that are here: we have built a culture that is about everyone owning their voice, is about everyone knowing their worth and understanding how the business works from a financial perspective, understanding how to create an amazing career and reach their highest earning potential. There’s a big focus on health, mental wellness, and physical wellness. We feel like if we live those values, then the customer experiences and when she interacts with our employees is like another reflection of the brand. I often hear from our younger employees here like, “Wow. It’s weird how there’s no hierarchy. Anyone can speak up and say anything and voice their opinion or disagree with anybody on the team.” And I said, “Well, yeah.” We can’t ask our customers to love the brand because we’re fighting for women to own their voice, and then not let our employees own their voice. At the end of the day, it creates a better business because everybody here is contributing their intellectual thoughts and capacity to the conversation.
Alejandro: That’s amazing, Jill. One of the questions that I always ask the guests that come on the show is, knowing what you know now — here you are. You’ve been at it on every single position and every single role as CEO of 1,000 employees, and now a CEO of a company that is right now in the hypergrowth, 65. So if you had the opportunity to go back in time and have a chat with your younger self, with that younger Jill, even though that younger Jill may not have listened. Let’s say you actually listened when you were speaking to your younger self, and you had the opportunity to give yourself one piece of business advice before launching a business, what would that be and why knowing what you know now?
Jill Layfield: It would be one of two things. It would either be some sort of advice — this is going to sound ridiculous, but to prioritize exercise, essentially, because I think that I am my best when I am getting outside and clearing my mind and coming into work. Even though I already have a lot of energy, I come in with even more energy and more clarity of thinking when I make time for myself. In my darkest moments, I retreat, and I work even harder, and I think, actually, it’s less effective. So I would almost say to myself, there’s one thing you can do. Every day, block out 30 to 60 minutes and sweat. That would be one. The second would be — I have to go back to the writing thing. I’d say, “Start writing down what you think before you present your ideas because it will make your presentation of information more thoughtful. I use that word a lot here at Tamara Mellon. I think people get tired of it, but I always look for thoughtfulness. Like, how deeply have you thought about this? The one thing that works against me is, I’m very impatient. So sometimes, the thing to do is slow down and think more. So I’d tell myself to slow down, think, write it out after that workout.
Alejandro: That’s very profound, Jill. Right after this, I’m going to go and hit the gym. So, you definitely inspired me.
Jill Layfield: Excellent.
Alejandro: Good stuff. So, Jill, for the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Jill Layfield: I’m [email protected]
Alejandro: And any social media handle? Any Twitter or LinkedIn activity.
Jill Layfield: No, not really. I’m there on Instagram, but no. Just email me or call me.
Alejandro: All right. Fantastic. Well, Jill, thank you so, so much for being on the DealMakers show. It has been an honor to have you, really.
Jill Layfield: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I really, really appreciate being here and sharing my story.
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