Alexandra Wilkis Wilson brought the extraordinary story of how she and best friend Alexis Maybank founded Gilt Groupe and built a billion dollar business based on their passion for fashion to a breakfast meeting of the Chicago Chapter of 85 Broads.
Her New York Times best-selling book, “By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop,” which she co-authored with best friend and co-founder of Gilt Groupe, Alexis Maybank is a how-to for would-be entrepreneurs.
She offered the sound advice of someone who seems to have found balance in what was a dizzying tale of bringing exclusivity and excitement of sample sales to a young, internet-savvy luxury fashion clientele, growing Gilt to a 5 million member online shopping destination.
Janet Hanson, the founder and CEO of 85 Broads, praised the young women’s ability to “cultivate relationships, take calculated risks and execute their game-changing, visionary ideas. The key takeaway is that one needs to have an entrepreneurial spirit and indomitable will to succeed no matter what path you’re on.”
In the morning discussion she provided insight to the advice in the book. She believes the best leaders are confident with humility. “You can have a great idea, but be ready to pivot depending on what the market is telling you.”
Naysayers are important, Wilson says. Listen to negative feedback, but put it into context. “We cross-checked the negative feedback with the reasons we thought the idea would be a smashing success. And usually the feedback helped us to refine our pitch. In getting the best decision, plan or proposition, the friction and doubt cast by contrarians are usually critical to vetting all potential angles and counterpoints before moving forward.” Negative reactions to their idea prepared them for meetings with future brand partners and investors.