Chris Gerbig is Co-Founder, President and COO of Pink Lily, one of the fastest-growing online retailers of women's clothing in America. Pink Lily ships more than 1,000 orders each day and has delivered more than 1.5 million products to customers since the shop opened to customers in 2014. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com where he discusses entrepreneurship and the retail industry.
How did you get into the industry?
I never expected to be the co-founder of one of the fastest growing online fashion retailers, but I have always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Prior to co-founding Pink Lily, I worked in finance and as an analyst. In retrospect, those years, and my ability to analyze business and financial data and then make sound decisions based on findings, has been instrumental in how I operate on a daily basis. As an entrepreneur you’re constantly making and taking responsibility for decisions.
Any emerging industry trends?
The U.S. retail marketplace is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, thanks to a number of change-making factors. From the business operations side, understanding your numbers and monitoring the financial and analytical impact of different business decisions has become more important than ever. At Pink Lily, we are constantly monitoring things like cost-per-clicks, ROI, conversion rates, gross margins and sales forecasts. Solid analytical skills are critical to accurate forecasting of things like investment payback, and they help you make educated business decisions.
From a customer-facing stand point, we all know the value of customer service, but the smartest and fastest-growing retailers are also giving customers an actual say in the products they create and offer. Pink Lily does this by offering product voting opportunities so that customers can upvote the products and deals they like best. This two-way engagement has been instrumental in building customer loyalty.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
To operate successfully in e-commerce, your business must be continuously offering new and diverse products -- preferably on a daily basis. This is something I believe many more established retailers have had a hard time adapting to and of course from a logistics stand point it can be a lot to manage the continual influx of new merchandise. Yet I firmly believe that in a constantly updating marketplace, freshness and newness of product offerings and imagery is critical to success.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
Pink Lily started as more of a side hustle than a true revenue stream. My wife and co-founder Tori first began selling styles on the side through a Facebook group and eBay. When we launched Pink Lily’s first website in 2014 we realized this was something that could be a full-fledged business. I never dreamed it would have grown into a multi-million retailer in such a short period.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
My hopes for the future are that we continue to increase Pink Lily’s footprint and name recognition, while bringing our customers the best styles, value and experience around when it comes to retail.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Offering fresh merchandise and giving your customers a say is critical to the success of any retail business. It’s also important to keep asking what’s next - step aside to think about what’s coming up, brainstorm new initiatives and conduct in-depth planning. This is how you find new opportunity and avoid running in circles with no clear vision or strategy in play. If you’re not evolving, you’re dying.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
I've hired over 100 employees in 4 years, and what I've learned is that having a degree in that field is rarely a good indicator of future success. Yes, it's used to separate my candidates into 'yes' and 'no' stacks, but on-the-job success is really a factor of 2 things: attitude and work ethic. I've hired people with specialized degrees in that field of study and then have been horrible employees, and on the flip side I've hired people with no degree or experience and they are phenomenal. What separates them is the attitude you bring to work everyday. This has been true regardless of the role. It's literally been the case with each department we have here. Don't get me wrong, we have some employees who have degrees in that field of study and they are great employees, but in my opinion their performance isn't because of that degree. They show up with an open mind and a positive attitude and they always do what's best for the business. You don't learn that in college.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
My goal is for every one of our customers to feel that Pink Lily brings them great styles and true value. I also hope they feel engaged with our brand and personally cared for and about. In retail, your customers are everything.
How do you motivate others?
I try to motivate by example and through incentivizing employees to feel that Pink Lily’s success is all of our success. It’s about sharing our wins, while recognizing each person’s part in setting Pink Lily apart from competitors.
Career advice to those in your industry?
There are two qualifications that are universally desirable in all new hires: attitude and work ethic.