Behind every success story, there is one of pain and distress and a journey of intense misery that beckons you to throw in the towel. Julie Wainwright, the founder and CEO of the RealReal is all too familiar with this scenario, but her resilient spirit and laser sharp vision wouldn’t allow her to give up. With her radiant smile and upbeat personality, you would have no idea about the trauma she has experienced. All too often we are shown the highlights of the lives of the successful, but their foundations are built on the low moments. She went from a divorced failure to a multimillionaire business mogul in six years, this is her story.
About the RealReal
The RealReal is an online and brick and mortar marketplace for luxury items. They deal in the likes of Cleef & Arpels, Rolex, Cartier, Luis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel. Whether you are looking for home décor, fine art, watches, jewellery or clothing, you will find it at the RealReal. People sell their used items to the store and earn as much as 70 percent from resale profits. To ensure the authenticity of products, they hire in-house experts to determine whether items are real. Julie Wainwright launched the RealReal in 2011, the company made $10 million in sales during the first year. Today, the RealReal is worth over $80 million!
When the Storm Hit
As the CEO of Pets.com, Wainwright was forced to make an executive decision and close down the company. On the same day, her husband decided he wanted a divorce! Life couldn’t get any worse for the then 50 something jobless divorcee. She experienced a roller coaster of emotions, depression, and anger. It took her several years to realize that things were never going to change unless she took action. For some, this level of tragedy would have knocked them down and kept them down, but Wainwright could see light at the end of the tunnel, and she chose to chase it. After the collapse of Pets.com, she worked as a venture capitalist but found no fulfilment in her career; after years of drudgery, she decided to make things happen.
The Light Switch Came on
Wainwright had a great network of friends that she will always be thankful for, and their shopping habits intrigued her. One friend in particular would buy second-hand clothes from a luxury store. After Wainwright enquired about why she shops in this way; she informed her that she would never buy second-hand goods from eBay in case she is sold fake items, neither would she go to a consignment store, but she had found a trusted store owner who sold luxury resale items and was happy to purchase from him.
At that moment, Wainwright knew she had stumbled upon a goldmine and started doing some research. She discovered that luxury items was a $50 billion a year industry; at the time Amazon was the biggest threat to any eCommerce start up; but due to her experience with Pets.com, she knew that Amazon wouldn’t be able to get their foot in the door because it would require them to remodel their entire system.
She then rummaged through her own closet and found that she had 60 luxury items to sell. Wainwright came to the conclusion that if she could pull this out of her closet, she wasn’t the only person who had a bunch of stuff they were no longer using. It was at this point that the RealReal was birthed.
The RealReal – The Launch
In March 2011, Wainwright launched a website for the sale of luxury goods, she was shipping out purchases by June. The company made $10 million in sales during its first year. To expand the organization, Wainwright went on to approach venture capitalists, but she had the door shut in a face more times than she could care to remember. As a female in her mid-50s approaching 20-30-year-old male venture capitalists who have no interest in shopping, coupled with the fact her face was associated with failure due to the collapse of Pets.com, she had an extremely difficult time.
However, Wainwright knew that there was someone out there who believed in her vision and refused to give up, she finally got a breakthrough after pitching her idea to a woman. She has now raised $173 million in venture capital from 22 investors. Many of her peers encouraged her not to go public, citing that her rejections were an indication that it was a bad idea. But her years of experience told her otherwise, and she had a gut feeling it was the right thing to do. The wonderful thing about failure is that it teaches you it’s not the end, Wainwright had nothing to lose, she knew how to recover if things didn’t work out because she had done it before.
Failure is one of the main ingredients for success, and if you are able to view it in the right way, it is often the platform that will propel you into greatness. In November 2000, Julie Wainwright felt nothing but sorrow and despair, with a collapsed marriage and business under her belt, it appeared as if there was no hope. But things didn’t stay that way for long, Wainwrights tenacity launched her into the most successful period of her life. The irony is that it was the things that led to her downfall that ended up carrying her to the top. It was Wainwrights knowledge of the eCommerce industry that gave her the insight she needed to start the RealReal. It was also the terrible time she spent in the venture capitalist industry that gave her the knowledge to expand her business! And to compound matters, Wainwright didn’t find success until she was in her 50’s!
Julie Wainwight testifies to the fact that destiny is found in despair; it might not look like it at the time, but if you can just hold on and keep pushing even when it feels like you can’t take another step….. victory awaits!