Morgan Hermand-Waiche is Founder & CEO of Adore Me, a disruptive e-commerce startup revolutionizing the lingerie industry, ranked #3 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies in NYC. WIth $11.5M raised from VCs and private investors, Morgan leads a team of 100 employees across the US and Europe. Since its launch in 2012, Adore Me has gained a massive online presence with 1,150,000 Facebook followers, and sold over 1,500 lingerie designs.
How did you get into the industry?
I was born in France and three generations into the fashion retail industry. Although I didn’t want to take over the family business, I always knew I wanted to start my own company in that industry.
Any emerging industry trends?
The bralette trend is a huge one. Victoria’s Secret and Aerie are currently fighting to get market shares.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
There are three big challenges specific to the lingerie industry:
1. High-quality product and fit are incredibly difficult to achieve
• In a Zara t-shirt there are 6 components, in an Adore Me bra there are 75 components, so sourcing is no easy task
• Adore Me has a team of fitting experts to ensure the perfect fit
• A Zara t-shirt is available in 5 or 6 sizes, an Adore Me bra comes in 46 sizes (from 30A to 44G) for each design
2. Production challenges pose barriers to entry with high working capital requirements and outrageously long lead times
• Massive minimum order quantity (10,000 units)
• Huge lead times
• Inventory maze
3. The right marketing to make customers trust a new brand can make or break you
• There is a strong dominant player casting a shadow over any competitor
• Lingerie is intimate, which means high brand loyalty and customers that stick to their brands
• Risky positioning and imagery
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
When I was a broke MBA student, I was trying to buy lingerie as a birthday gift for my girlfriend - on a budget. I quickly realized that all the high-fashion, high quality items were way out of my budget, and that anything I could afford was outdated, under-designed and of poor quality. I thought: I’m having such a hard time looking for such a small piece of fabric, are women experiencing the same thing too.
As a data geek, I did some research and found out that 40% of the US lingerie industry was dominated by a single player that was rolling over the costs of hundreds of prime retail locations to its customers, with even more costs online with high shipping and return fees. New collections were launched only 4 times a year, and the newest, sexiest, most fashionable items were available only to women at a very limited size range.
It was time to shake up the lingerie industry, lower its prices, speed up its fashion, and make it accessible to everybody. And so Adore Me was born.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We’re excited by the development of a new product category for which we aim to become a strong player in the industry: activewear and plus-size activewear.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
A very successful but initially risky move was to go from online advertising to offline advertising with national TV. As a startup, Adore Me’s DNA is online and advertising on Facebook and other platforms has been an integral part of the marketing strategy for a while. Last year, seeing the Facebook advertising costs skyrocketing, we took the plunge and began advertising on national TV. We started with in-house, low-budget TV creatives and we now advertise on all major TV channels, with ads featuring famous models.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
A big “gut-check” moment was when I only had 2 weeks of “business” left in the bank and was really counting on some VC funding for which I got an exclusivity agreement signed. Last minute, the VC stepped back and decided not to invest. I remember this was right before the holidays, so at a really challenging time for any big business decision. But I didn’t give up – and managed to raise even more money than I had signed on for with the other VC. My philosophy has always been “if it doesn’t work, make it work”.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
A big part of our customer experience relies on the Adore Me box. It changes color during the year (usually black, it became pink during Valentine’s Day 2016 and green during the summer) and really offers a luxe feel to the delivery of the product. Although our product’s price point is low, we really make sure we pamper the customer.
How do you motivate others?
Company culture is the most important of any founder/CEO’s job – it’s the best way to inspire and motivate people to work. At Adore Me, we’ve created an amazing company culture which revolves around a specific set of values that all employees refer to.
Career advice to those in your industry?
I really recommend getting a strong mentor to help you out. The right mentor will really save you a lot of time and offer extremely valuable insights. There’s no point in trying to do absolutely everything on your own, and you should always seek advice from seasoned entrepreneurs or mentors.