Written by Alisha Mughal
HOW TO HARNESS THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
A quick Google search of Rebecca Minkoff’s Morning After Bag will yield a dazzling array of colourful leather bags that look like they’re ready to perform. Sturdy, pragmatic, and stylish, it was this bag that launched Minkoff’s brand to new heights and solidified the designer as a go-to staple for fashionable, working women. It is a bag that is meant to work hard and last long.
This is Minkoff’s intention. The early 2000s saw the prevalence of luxury bags that would become something everyone needed to have in an instant; an emphasis on trends rather than style. “You’d see it three months later and be like, ‘oh that bag is so dated,’” Minkoff says. This led to an endless rotation of “it” bags. What Minkoff offered with her design was a timelessness that focused on quality and style.
Now, Minkoff leverages her business acumen to empower female entrepreneurs so that they can fulfill their potential; she has used her platform to cultivate a devoted community that keeps her brand relevant and important. But it wasn’t always so.
“We couldn’t get a bank loan, we couldn’t get a lease [in the beginning],” she says. “We lived on credit cards and our relationship with [them] was not a healthy one.” These are challenges surrounding building a business that few talk about after they’ve overcome them. But Minkoff is forthright. She does things her way.
Minkoff has always interacted with her customers in a way that caught retailers and wholesalers off guard. When she started her brand, she was told not to talk to her customer or work with influencers. This interaction in the early 2000s was perceived as “dirty,” but Minkoff persisted anyway — and now she has a vast community surrounding her.
What Minkoff is crucially doing is building a community of powerful women because she knows from experience how important it is. “I came into the fashion world through the outside, and I wasn’t deemed princess by Ms. Wintour,” she says.
“So to see that sort of nastiness [engendered by competition], that just wasn’t how I felt it should be. I got to where I was because of my customers.”
This is why she started Female Founder Collective (FFC), a company that highlights businesses run by women with a seal, and provides the entrepreneurial community with the resources and education to confidently lay the foundations to success. Minkoff was inspired when a company she was working with couldn’t identify any of its female-founded businesses. Now, FFC teaches women how to access non-traditional forms of capital, while also collating a network of founders to share resources, opportunities and information, in the hopes of creating measurable change in buying and shopping behaviours.
Fittingly, Minkoff believes that a good product sold at a reasonable price, and genuine care for customers and employees make for an exceptional brand. In her books, anyone can succeed.