Last August, Chantel Waterbury walked into First Round's New York City office and told me all about jewelry, empowering women entrepreneurs in the fashion space, and what it means to design inspiring accessories. She expounded on the completely missed opportunity to combine offline and online direct selling into a singular complementary vision.
She had a powerpoint deck, 15 years of jewelry industry experience, and I couldn't have been more excited by the chloe + isabel story..
Yet, I wondered whether or not she had accidently met with the wrong VC. She saw the sneakers, right? I think I might have been wearing my Android robot walking the dog t-shirt. I'm quite possibly the least fashionable person in the entire venture capital industry. Lucky for me, she didn't seem fazed, and we hit it off.
Within a couple of months, First Round Capital and Floodgate led a round that included SV Angel, Kirstin Green/Forerunner, Mike Duda/Consigliere, Ashton Kutcher, and others to enable her to build a great team, create amazing product, and recruit an initial group of merchandisers. Six months later, they had accomplished all of these milestones and began to ramp up for a full public launch. I cannot tell you how hard they've been working this summer. Like good ducks, you might not have heard a lot of noise from them (until now--check out this awesome NextWeb article), but they've been paddling like the dickens underneath. (The duck analogy is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.)
This Wednesday night, the chloe + isabel team will be putting together a very special launch event. If you're an innovator in the fashion space, in the flow of fashion influencers, cover ecommerce/fashion tech/retail for the media, or just generally blanket your social media presence with your uber fashion-forwardness e-mail me and I'll see if I can get you an invite--we're pretty tight already.
I'm excited to finally be able to talk about working with the company more extensively now that they're public. Chantel has been amazing to work with, as has my fellow board member Ann Miura-Ko from Floodgate. It's pretty clear how Chantel was able to become the top selling CutCo rep on the west coast--paying her way through college with her earnings. She has an infectious personality and is a natural sales leader. Chantel has extraordinary intuition about people, knows her audience and what they want.
What's exciting about chloe + isabel is that they're working on a modern version of a proven direct model "for today's social web"--but they have both the jewelry and direct selling DNA to build it off of a solid base. I've been continuously impressed with Chantel and her team's understanding of how the social web can empower their merchandisers to create great businesses of their own, and we've only scratched the surface of building a platform that will enable them to do that. It is going to be a great ride that empowers thousands of up and coming female leaders in entrepreneurship and fashion.