How Olivela Is Bucking The Retail Trend: A Case Study
The so-called retail apocalypse is a myth. This is a position I’ve maintained for years and discussed at length in multiple articles on the retail renaissance. I do believe this also translates to b2b as b2b experiential marketing and b2b e-commerce gains ground.
While no one now questions that the stratospheric rise of e-commerce has changed the rules of the retail game, future-forward brands are continuing to revitalize retail with innovative, experiential, socially-conscious, omnichannel approaches. One of the leaders driving this renaissance of retail is Olivela, whose founder and CEO, Stacey Boyd, I sat down to talk with about how the brand is innovating luxury retail to empower change.
Q: Why did you decide to start a luxury retail e-store when the traditional retail environment is already so challenging and so rapidly changing?
A: Olivela is not your standard retail option. What we offer consumers is very differentiated. We give our customers the ability to nudge the world a little bit every time they shop. The idea for Olivela started on a dusty airstrip with Malala, the world’s youngest Nobel Laureate, in Dadaab, Kenya, the world’s largest refugee camp. I reached into my bag to get my phone to take a picture of this extraordinary group of girls, all of whom were receiving a distance education through Vodafone, and realized that a fraction of the cost of my luxury bag could have sent any one of those girls to school for a year.
Q: Why do you think Olivela is resonating so powerfully with consumers?
At our heart, Olivela is about empowering those that shop our platform to bring about the change they want to see in the world. Each of us has quite a lot of power to change the world simply by how and where we decide to shop. Perhaps you love Valentino. You can buy a Valentino bag at a lot of places. But if you buy the Valentino bag you love on Olivela, you might send a girl to school for a year. These seemingly small decisions, such as where to buy a bag, can tackle important societal issues and truly change lives. It is powerful to know that your choice of where to shop has empowered others.
Q: Many brands “add” philanthropy as an afterthought to their retail strategy. Olivela has it baked in. What advice do you have for brands looking to add a social good component?
A: My advice for brands is to, first and foremost, always be authentic. Customers are smart. If giving back is important to you, you should build a charitable component into your company’s very foundation. Customers want to connect with brands that stand for something. Pledge to make a difference for whatever matters most to you and do it from day one. By donating a considerable portion of each purchase, Olivela is not only doing good, it’s doing good business and building a loyal customer base who aligns with our mission and continues to shop with us.
Q: How does Olivela future-proof itself from competitors stealing its strategy?
A: Philanthropy and doing good is core to our business model. Shopping with a purpose was not an afterthought. It is baked into our DNA. It’s hard for others to have that authenticity given our first to market position.
Q: Not many e-commerce companies are able to successfully fundraise. What did you feel was the key to your success?
A: We were thrilled to close on a $35M Series A last year led by Morgan Stanley. Investors are smart. From the get-go, we have been focused on making sure that our fundamental unit economics are sound. That, combined with an electric growth rate, was a winning combination.
Q: On that note, not many women are able to acquire venture capital funding either. What advice do you have for women looking to secure funding?
A: Considering that investments in female founders outperform their male counterparts, the minuscule 2% of funding that went to female entrepreneurs last year is disturbing and a very real barrier to growth. That said, women seeking funding need to focus on two things: first, you need to have many more meetings than your male counterparts to get the funding you deserve. And second, you need to treat every meeting as if it is the one and only option and need to go in extremely prepared. Every time I would get a no, I would put another five targets down on my list and just keep going. Most importantly, don’t give up. If you keep putting one foot in front of another, you will eventually get where you want to go.
Q: Olivela has also embraced experiential and pop-up stores. Can you elaborate on what you’re seeing?
A: Our pop-up stores are all about storytelling and are central to our omnichannel experience. Our experience hub tells the story of how Olivela got started and invites you to write your own story of change with Olivela. It’s personal and engaging. This inspires exceptional customer engagement and loyalty and a commitment to empowering positive change in the world.