Authentic leadership is the heart of entrepreneurial investing, and there are few entrepreneurs more authentic than Stitch Fix (SFIX) CEO and founder Katrina Lake.
Under her direction, Stitch Fix became not just a genre-disrupting personal fashion service, but a model of how companies can both support their employees and realize exponential growth at the same time.
“Authentic leadership is especially accessible to women because there’s no point in putting on a pantsuit and pretending to be a guy. We can all chart our own paths of what leadership looks like,” said Lake in a recent interview with Fortune.
Though Lake recently handed off the reins to President Elizabeth Spaulding, her entrepreneurial vision for Stitch Fix endures.
The Youngest Woman CEO to Take a Company Public
Founder and CEO Katrina Lake founded Stitch Fix in 2011, while getting her M.B.A. from Harvard. She shipped Stitch Fix’s first order from her apartment in Cambridge, according to the Stitch Fix website.
Just six years later, Lake took Stitch Fix public in 2017 at the age of 34. At the time, she was the youngest woman to ever have done so.
As CEO, she pushed for parental leave policies, as well as work equity,
In the midst of the Covid crisis in 2020, Stitch Fix shifted to four weeks of flexible PTO for employees in its distribution centers. The company also launched an employee COVID relief fund.
Many fashion companies struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdown dampened clothing demand. But Stitch Fix’s purchasing model, backed by data-driven algorithms of customer behavior, allowed the company to remain flexible and quickly pivot away from blazers and slacks and toward more casual stylings. As a result, Stitch Fix’s stock price soared from $12 in March 2020 to $48 a year later, a 282% increase according to Fortune.
For a time, Lake was even one of a handful of self-made female billionaires worldwide.
“There just aren’t enough great examples of different types of people that are at the top,” Lake told Forbes. “I feel a lot of responsibility in making sure that others can see themselves there, and not just a lot of men in suits.”
That’s one of the reasons why Stitch Fix in 2020 launched the Elevate grant and mentorship program, designed to support BIPOC fashion entrepreneurs. Lake is also an active early-stage investor, working with dozens of start-ups and entrepreneurs through Leader Ventures, which provides loans to entrepreneurs who have had a difficult time securing traditional funding and mentorship.
In order to pursue her interest in Stitch Fix’s social impact and sustainability, Lake will be stepping down as CEO in August, and will become the the company’s executive chairperson of the board.
Current Stitch Fix President Elizabeth Spaulding will take her place as CEO, in one of only a handful of female CEO to female CEO hand-offs.
In her new role, Lake will continue to drive the vision of Stitch Fix in a way that encourages growth, both within the company and throughout the broader industry.
The entrepreneurial leadership and the exponential growth that have flourished under her guidance exemplify the Entrepreneur Factor ®, the heart of the ERShares investment approach.
Their entrepreneura SMA strategy seeks to capitalize on the unique perspectives and experiences that women leaders bring to their industries.
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