Women are making incredible strides in the field of entrepreneurship. We`re seeing more women-owned businesses, more female investors, more female-led startups. Case in point: Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, a serial entrepreneur, investor and our latest Akris Woman With Purpose.
After leaving a successful job in investment banking to attend business school, in 2007 Wilkis Wilson co-founded Gilt Groupe, a flash-sale e-commerce site that changed the way luxury goods are sold online. With a billion-dollar valuation under her belt, Wilkis Wilson exited the company and went on to co- found GlamSquad, which offers on-demand beauty services through an integrated app.
But Wilkis Wilson isn't one to rest on her laurels. Now, the serial entrepreneur is bringing that same entrepreneurial spirit and drive to her newest venture, a growth equity fund, that helps other founders to pursue their entrepreneurial passion and build their own business against all odds.
Alexandra is the perfect example of an Akris woman who thinks differently, takes action in new ways, and lives a life with purpose.
You spend your career creating innovative products. What project are you currently working on?
I have built my career building and operating businesses at the intersection of consumer and technology. Now I am focusing my time investing in these types of companies. I have been working on launching Clerisy, a new growth equity fund together with my business partner Lisa Myers. We are investing in consumer and “techsumer” companies that have found product/market fit, are in growth mode and need capital to rapidly scale.
What's the biggest lesson you learned through your work and how did you learn it?
There is value in listening to naysayers. One of the reasons Gilt grew so quickly was that it was a big, bold risk and nothing like it existed in the U.S at its time. My Gilt Co-Founder Alexis Maybank and I appreciated what we learned from the many naysayers we met in the early stages of creating Gilt. When you’re starting a business, it’s inevitable that you’ll face naysayers who will offer up reasons why your business won’t work. In getting to the best decision, plan, or proposition, the doubt cast by contrarians is actually critical to vetting all potential angles and counterpoints before moving forward. Hard feedback inevitably helps you arrive at the best possible plan. In the case of Gilt, negative reactions to our idea prepared us for meetings with some of our future brand partners and potential investors; it made us better saleswomen.
As an investor and/or advisor to over 50 startups, what is a key component to piquing your interest in a business and deciding to invest?
First of all, I need to really understand the business including having a solid understanding of the problem that the business is trying to solve. Secondly, I need to be able to add value to the company and to the team. If I can’t personally help the business and if the founders aren’t receptive to to my guidance, then my time would be better spent elsewhere. Finally, I need to believe in the potential of the founding team and leadership.
You have served on the boards of numerous non-profits. Can you share with us why their cause means something to you?
I believe that education is the key to a person’s success. I have been very involved in the schools and universities I attended, as well as the schools of my children.
What is one piece of advice you would give other female entrepreneurs?
Keep building and maintaining your network. Your success depends on those around you and those who are rooting for you. Don’t be shy, fight for what you want and for what you need. I always say, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”