ll archives: Stitch Fix's Katrina Lake
Katrina Lake knows the answer to probably one of the most common questions asked by anybody anywhere, "what am I going to wear today?" Her answer is simply Stitch Fix. Inspired by the idea of helping women have everyday confidence, the Stitch Fix CEO drummed up a service combining expert styling, technology and good-old fashion retail to deliver quite the clever personal shopping experience. Are you loving this business model like we do? Say hello to Katrina Lake!
Current location: San Francisco, CA
Where are you from? I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA.
Education: I earned a B.S. in Economics from Stanford University, and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
Business & Formal Title: Founder & CEO of Stitch Fix
What is Stitch Fix and how did it come to be? Stitch Fix is the first fashion retailer to blend expert styling, technology and unique product to deliver a shopping experience that is truly personalized. Simply fill out the Stitch Fix Style Profile and our personal stylists will handpick a "Fix" of five clothing items and accessories unique to your taste, budget and lifestyle. Simply buy what you like and return the rest.
I was inspired by the idea of helping women have that everyday confidence, by helping them look and feel great whether they’re walking the dog on a Sunday afternoon, or finishing up a late night in the office. It’s not necessarily about wearing all of the latest trends and high-end brands, but instead having the right pieces that fit and flatter to help women look and feel their best.
From a business perspective, I was interested in the opportunity to provide a better, more customer-centric retail experience. I saw people were spending more and more money online, but the more personalized parts that make the brick and mortar experience special were missing. For example, how can you ask a store associate which cardigan would work well with that dress when you’re buying it online? How will you know what jeans are going to fit your body? I saw an opportunity to create a retail experience that married the best of both worlds, and applied to Harvard Business School with the intention to start a company during my time there. I developed and tested the concept for Stitch Fix, and secured our first seed funding in 2011 while I was in school. We shipped the first Fixes right out of my apartment in Cambridge.
What did you do before? I was working for a consulting firm, working with retailers and restaurant chains. I briefly went into venture capital, with the hope to find a company I could join that was doing innovative things with data and personalization in the retail space. When I saw there wasn’t a company doing exactly what I was looking for, I decided to start a company myself. It was then that I decided to apply to Harvard Business School.
When you were 10 years old, what did you want to grow up to be? I really looked up to my parents (still do!) and I think I wanted to be a doctor like my father. I loved math (still do!) and am lucky to have managed to find a combination of helping people and math through Stitch Fix.
Is Stitch Fix your dream job? If not, what else is in the works? Stitch Fix is absolutely my dream job! Right now we’ve got our hands full growing our business to meet the incredible demand of our clients.
Are you involved in any side hustles, ladypreneur collabs or baby projects? Tell us about them. My main side hustle (I love that!) is planning our wedding for later this year-- very fun and exciting but time-consuming too!
What does your daily routine consist of? Every morning as I’m getting ready for my day I watch Good Morning America (guilty pleasure!) and I read WWD to get up to date on the latest retail news. I also try to squeeze in a run a few mornings a week, especially in the summer when it’s light outside.
A day in the Stitch Fix office is like? The daily routine at Stitch Fix can vary widely depending on what’s going on. Often I’m meeting with different teams, getting updates on their progress on various projects. Sometimes I have interviews with candidates, or am out of the office speaking at a conference or meeting with investors or peers. Being CEO means that I am involved in every aspect of the business, so each day is different depending on where I’m most needed.
How do you balance work and life and is that actually even possible? It’s definitely possible! I block out my calendar and carve out time to work from home, take a vacation, exercise, and read books that are not about business. Coming back to work with fresh eyes and a clear head has led to my most creative moments.
You have to do it and you hate it – what is your least favorite task to do at Stitch Fix? I have to say, I’ve done nearly every job here at Stitch Fix in some capacity, but I’ve loved every minute of it. When Stitch Fix was first starting out, my friends used to call me CEO/janitor. Now that I’ve been able to build an amazing team, there are fewer and fewer moments where I experience the extreme part of that high / low dynamic. There’s nothing more rewarding than building a business where you directly interact with and see the value you create for your clients, and continue to see your team and business grow.
What are your favorite business lady apps? I love DryBar! If I’ve got a photo shoot or a big meeting, I’m able to easily schedule a last minute blowout. I also love Pinterest, Map My Run, and Karl Lagerfeld emoticons from EmotiKarl.
Top 5 favorite cities? 1. San Francisco – I’ve lived here almost my whole life, and I’m so proud to have built a business here and hired many native San Franciscans to work at Stitch Fix. 2. Sao Paulo, Brazil – I had friend who spent a couple of years in Sao Paulo and was lucky enough to visit a few years ago, it felt like a home away from home—incredibly diverse, amazing culture, and fantastic people. 3. Kyoto, Japan – My mother’s side of the family is from Japan and I’ve been lucky to spend quite a bit of time there. Kyoto might just be the most beautiful city in the world, and amazing food as well! 4. New York City – My sister lives in New York and I’m so lucky to get to visit so often. Every time I’m in New York I’m inspired and energized-- my favorite city to visit! 5. Minneapolis – I think Minneapolis is one of the most underrated cities! My parents live there now and it’s a lot of fun to visit – great music, growing food culture, great running (albeit for summer months!). There are a lot of great companies in Minneapolis and really wonderful people and I think it’s often overlooked for young professionals. Check out Minneapolis!
Red, White or Sparkling? Usually red, but I don’t discriminate too much!
Tell us the best place to eat in your city. If it’s your kitchen, share your favorite/best recipe. Such an impossible question to answer for a place like San Francisco! Pizzetta in the Richmond, Spruce in Presidio Heights, Kokkari for Greek food, Kiss for very authentic Japanese food… But one of my favorite culinary tricks is avoiding the long wait at Burma Superstar by getting take out!
Words to live by: There are no dress rehearsals in life.
In 5 years you’ll be: Happy and healthy. I love running Stitch Fix, and am excited about what the company is becoming. At the end of the day, however, what’s most important is that I am happy, healthy, and spending time with the people I love.