About this episode

A few weeks ago, we held a live stream event for our Startup Story Inner Circle members where they could ask our guest founder, Julie Bornstein, any entrepreneurial questions they had. It was an amazing opportunity to get their questions answered directly from someone who has experienced great success in business. In this episode, we’re sharing a segment of that conversation with Julie. Her retail e-commerce experience is second to none, so she provides entrepreneurial insights beyond comparison.

Julie is the co-founder of The Yes, a shopping app that’s personally tailored to you and your style preferences. She also brought the Nordstrom brand online and elevated the entire online experience for brands like Urban Outfitters and Sephora. After 15 years of experience in retail commerce, she shifted her career to help grow Stitch Fix from a $2 million a year startup to a publicly-traded brand with close to $1 billion in revenue. Julie knows how to execute. If you have a startup and want the opportunity to receive mentorship from a powerhouse founder like her, tune in.

In this episode, you'll hear.

  • Julie’s childhood and what sparked her interest in entrepreneurship.
  • How she began to get her passion for e-commerce.
  • The catalyst that drove her to leave Nordstrom.
  • Email marketing in the early 21st century and how people were thinking about email and e-commerce together.
  • How she used loyalty programs and knowledge of the consumer experience to sell support catalogs to consumers.
  • What her experience with StitchFix was like.
  • How The YES works and what challenges she is trying to solve with it.
  • What she sees for the future of retail.
  • Why you’re never too old to start a company.

Resources from this episode

ExpressVPN: Get 3 Months Free → https://www.expressvpn.com/startupstory
The Startup Story Inner Circle: https://www.thestartupstory.co/vip

The YES app download: https://apps.apple.com/us/developer/the-yes-platform-inc/id1449564425

The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory
The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory

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EPISODE CREDITS

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Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Julie Bornstein

Julie Bornstein: Hi, this is Julie Bornstein, cofounder of The YES, and this is MY startup story.

Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

[00:28]
James McKinney: Welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. About three weeks ago we held a private livestream event for Startup Story Inner Circle members. Our guest founder for this event was Julie Bornstein, cofounder of The YES. The entire goal of this event was to give all those in attendance the opportunity to ask Julie their entrepreneurial questions direct, and it was a tremendous success. We had attendees from the UK and Canada and German, and of course in the US. It was remarkable experience for all those in attendance. Well, I thought it would be of value to the larger Startup Story audience to release a segment of our time together with Julie.

But before we jump into it, I want to tee up just how unique her story is and why it was such a powerful experience for all of those watching us record live. Julie's retail ecommerce experience is second to nobody. She brought the Nordstrom's brand online and elevated the entire online experience for brands like Urban Outfitters and Sephora. After 15 years of experience in retail commerce, she shifted her career to help grow Stitch Fix from a $2 million a year startup to a publicly traded brand with close to $1 billion revenue. Julie knows how to execute and everyone in attendance at our livestream event was able to pose their questions directly to her. If you have a startup and want the opportunity to receive mentorship from a powerhouse founder like Julie Bornstein of The YES, or like Ben Chestnut of Mailchimp, then visit thestartupstory.co/VIP to join The Startup Story Inner Circle today. There truly is no opportunity like it. With that said, I hope you enjoy this episode of The Startup Story featuring Julie Bornstein, cofounder of The YES, as it was originally recorded for The Startup Story Inner Circle private event.

[02:12]
Julie Bornstein: I was the middle of three girls. My dad was a doctor and my mom was a social worker, and it was a very intellectual household, and I had a lot of nonintellectual interests as well as some intellectual. But I always loved fashion. I also was not a rule follower so as seconds often are in contrast to the first, so I was good at figuring out kind of watching what was going on around me, and figuring out how to get things done and make everyone's needs met. I would say my older sister had kind of a lot of pressure on her and I had less of it, and it gave me a little bit of freedom to do whatever I was interested in.

So I was always interested in fashion from probably the age of two my mom said I was picking out my own clothes and wanted her to have nothing to do with it. Then I spent a lot of weekends, I grew up in a boring snowy town in Syracuse, New York, spent a lot of weekends in the mall. I think I just always was thinking about how things could be better, things that I was looking for that I couldn't yet find in stores. I at an early age made, in the seventies there were braided barrettes that were very popular and I made those and sold those. I just always kind of found things that interested me and pursued them. I started a smoking cessation group in high school because I was really moved by seeing some things that happened as a result of people getting lung cancer. I would say while I didn't start a full-fledged business, I was always interested in figuring out ways to make stuff happen and wasn't so worried about structure that already existed.

[03:50]
James McKinney: Oh, I absolutely love that. When you finished your high school years, what did you think you wanted to be?

[03:57]
Julie Bornstein: Well, when I was growing up I thought I wanted to be Gloria Vanderbilt. I wanted to be a fashion designer and run my own company.

[04:05]
James McKinney: Did you have sketches and stuff? To be a fashion designer, did you have a sketch book and everything?

[04:08]
Julie Bornstein: I did, I did sketch, yes. I had a sketchbook. I wasn't so good which is why I probably ended up going to school for liberal arts as opposed to design. By the time I was in high school I knew I wasn't going to be a designer but I always loved the business. When I graduated from college, I had friends who were going to… it was 1992. I had friends who were going into law and they were going to go to law school, to medicine they were going to med school, and to finance they were going to Wall Street. I really thought I want to try working in fashion, it's always been an interest of mine. I had no connections whatsoever but I literally wrote letters to whom it may concern at Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein which were the three fashion houses at the time. I think what I thought was I want to go work in this business.

If somebody had asked me what do you want long-term, originally earlier on I might have said to be a senator, but I realized after getting a chance to work in the senate one summer while I was in college that was not my speed. So when I looked at working in sort of the business world I thought I'd love to combine it with my interest in fashion, and so that's why I pursued those jobs. I think if you would have asked me I would have said someday I'd love to run a company.

It wasn't until I started actually working for Donna Karan right after college and I would say there were a lot of things about working in the company that I just felt didn't make a lot of sense. I had this idea about starting a denim bar and I sort of dreamed about the idea, but it was 1992 and there were no capital markets for young founders. So there literally was no way to think about even approaching raising money, and I felt like there's no way I have enough experience. In the early nineties no young person thought they could just go start a company. There weren't many models for it.

So I went back to business school and got my MBA. Because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, I decided I should get some hard skills. I worked in investment banking for my summer and briefly after business school to really learn things that I felt like I might need, whatever I wanted to do. But I knew that I loved running organizations. In undergrad I started a student organization and I knew that leadership was my thing, and getting people organized around an idea and making stuff happen, and making it happen fast. I think my dismay with government was just how hard it was to actually get anything to happen, even as I was watching a senator try and do things.

So I worked in banking for two years and then I was done, and I said okay I want to go work in the retail industry. I didn't love the sort of wholesale fashion design side, but these are actually real companies. I had worked with a lot of retailers on the investment banking side. My husband had joined Amazon in the early days. We had met in business school and so he was in Seattle, and I was-

[06:58]
James McKinney: Like how early? When you say early days, how early are we talking?

[07:01]
Julie Bornstein: Very early. Amazon-

[07:02]
James McKinney: Amazon was '96 right?

[07:04]
Julie Bornstein: Right, so he joined in '97, yeah. So what happened-

[07:06]
James McKinney: Very early.

[07:07]
Julie Bornstein: … was actually a very fun story which is that Jeff Bezos came to we were at Harvard Business School to do the first case that was ever done on Amazon, and it was Amazon versus Barnes & Noble, and it was does Barnes & Noble stand a chance and half the class said, I mean it was Amazon, does Amazon stand a chance against Barnes & Noble. Half the class said no, and the other class was more open to the idea, and then Bezos was there in the class as the protagonist and gave his passionate case for why he was going to dominate. Then the professor knew my husband was interested in working in consumer tech and Brian, my husband, was in the class. So the professor said, "Hey, Bezos doesn't want to pay for a taxi to the airport. Will you drive him?" And so my husband Brian drove Jeff to the airport and ended up getting a job with Amazon as a result of that car ride.

[07:54]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[07:55]
Julie Bornstein: And so he went with a couple of other people, Andy Jassy who now runs AWS, is still there, and a couple of other people from that class went to the company right before they went public, and they had an incredible experience obviously. You'll have to interview him another time. And so he was in Seattle and I was in San Francisco. He loved his job. I knew I didn't want to do banking. I read Howard Schulz's book and I was super inspired by him and his story around Starbucks and how he created it. He was such an entrepreneur when he started that business, and that story is such a great entrepreneurial story.

So I got really inspired. He was speaking at this young business person's event in Seattle so I flew up the night before to hear him speak early in the morning before flying back down to San Francisco and I waited in line to take a turn to talk to him, and we spoke and I ended up asking him if I could come work for him. I was very inspired by him. It's not the kind of question I had really asked anyone ever before, and he kind of laughed and he said, "What would you like to do?" Naively I said, "Assistant to the CEO would be amazing," and he said, "That would be a boring job but send me a resume and we'll take a look."

[09:05]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[09:06]
Julie Bornstein: And so they ended up hiring me. I really credit Howard Schulz with just being someone who early on taught me you can find talent from many places and you're never above sort of looking for talent or meeting with people and talking with people who seem interested and ambitious. A week later after I'd sent my resume I called back. His assistant said, "He'll take a meeting with you." I flew back to Seattle and he spent two hours with me.

[09:28]
James McKinney: Wow.

[09:29]
Julie Bornstein: And I joined Starbucks, so it was amazing. I didn't see him much after that, but you know it was really exciting to join the company. And we were working on in sort of the entrepreneurial group of Starbuck at the time. It was called New Ventures, it was a new group, and we were looking at new businesses to invest in or buy in order to create more value for Starbucks as an organization. So music was one of the categories we were looking at and I did a survey of the industry.

We found this startup called Hear Music which had five stores. It was before digital music but they were jury rigged CD players with note cards describing the artist and introducing their music, and you would go to these listening stations, the CD players, in the store. It was really the founder, another amazing entrepreneur named Don McKinnon, had created this business out of just pure passion and sort of a view of what was going to happen with music around discovery. It was a perfect marriage between Starbucks and Hear Music. When I called him, I cold called him and I said, "This is Julie Bornstein calling from Starbucks," and he said, "I've been waiting years for you to call." He had this whole vision of how he could have the footprint of Starbucks to introduce consumers to new music, it would be so amazing, and what's better than a coffee shop to do that in. That was really fun to sort of bring this entrepreneurs dream to life.

[10:51]
James McKinney: That is awesome.

[10:52]
Julie Bornstein: And that became the start of really music being a big part of discovery in Starbucks, and Starbucks was actually one of the last retailers to sell physical CDs.

[11:01]
James McKinney: Oh wow. That's a fun fact. I didn't know that.

[11:04]
Julie Bornstein: Yeah by their register, they have these great mix CDs and would also bring in artists that were new.

[11:10]
James McKinney: So from Starbucks, obviously there's working inside of Starbucks is probably we could have an entire discussion on some of the leadership and executive level tactics that you learned inside that organization, but I can slowly start seeing how we get into your passion for ecommerce, because that really is not just the next chapter but the remaining chapters of your life is in ecommerce. Especially inside of Starbucks, and organization that is just so driven around the guest experience and if I'm not mistaken you were at Starbucks what early 2000s?

[11:46]
Julie Bornstein: I was at Starbucks from '98 to '99.

[11:50]
James McKinney: '98 to '99 okay so internet really new. Other than Amazon ecommerce fairly un-thought of.

[11:58]
Julie Bornstein: Etoys was one of the early players and then Nordstrom announced that they were launching ecommerce. When Nordstrom announced they were launching ecommerce and even really from the day I remember where I was the first time I saw Amazon.com that they were selling books online and my brain really started to explode at that moment. That was in the summer of '96, and then a few years later I was in Seattle. We were staying there. I loved my time at Starbucks but Nordstrom announced they were launching ecommerce and I had to go join them, because I had a million ideas. It took me six months to convince Dan Nordstrom to hire me, so I was very persistent. Used every possible path in. Almost gave up and then went back to him. And really joined at the end of '99 to help them build ecommerce. It was super new.

At the time that I joined it was an outsourced ecommerce platform and they were selling through drop ship, they were selling shoes. That's where the company started. And then when I came in we really built… he didn't really have a job for me so I described the job he should hire me for which was really modern day product management, and I borrowed a lot from Amazon's structure to give them ideas of what to do with me because most people had been working on the floor of Nordstrom since they were 12. It's a very family run business. I started in a little cube in the middle of a floor of people who were like what are you here to do and why are you here, and had to slowly work my way around the organization to get to know what was happening and meet people.

Over the next year and a half, there had been like three different executives, someone running merchandizing, someone running marketing, someone running ecommerce, and those people had all transitioned out. I was running the ecommerce organization and we were kind of learning by doing, so it was an incredibly fun five years where it was very entrepreneurial. We were spun out of Nordstrom's so we were actually in a separate physical space and we were structurally a separate company, and we had venture investors.

[14:00]
James McKinney: When you joined Nordstrom's to grow the ecommerce business, when I think of Nordstrom's I really do think of this concierge level shopping experience. When I think of ecommerce though, especially then, especially late nineties, year 2000, what was the thought process around ecommerce when it came to Nordstrom's? Because it's a completely different guest experience.

[14:23]
Julie Bornstein: Yeah, it's a great question and there was actually a lot of animosity towards the concept of ecommerce. So interestingly the story there is Nordstrom at the time was run by six Nordstrom boys, two families, three brothers each and they were both presidents, and there was a non-family CEO. That's how it was structured when I started. Pretty amazing. And Dan Nordstrom was the Nordstrom boy who ran the catalog division. They had been approached by IBM around this idea of TV shopping and then internet shopping.

Dan was definitely a little bit of the cowboy of the family and he said, "We're going to do this out of the catalog division. We have a direct to consumer warehouse and setup, we're going to build ecommerce but we need to get venture funding." So they actually spun out of Nordstrom. They got Benchmark and Madrona who both were, still are, great venture investors. They basically separated and they said, and it was a time where they thought we're going to do our own thing, we'll have a separate IPO. This is the late nineties, early 2000s.

[15:31]
James McKinney: Oh wow.

[15:32]
Julie Bornstein: So that was kind of the original thinking which meant that Nordstrom Inc., kind of the mothership, kind of felt a little uninspired to help. They felt competitive. They felt like it was stealing customers and they wouldn't actually help us. So when we wanted to go and get the brands to sell to us online the stores wouldn't help us, so we would go to the brands showrooms, set up appointments, say we're calling from Nordstrom.com after the store buyers would go, and we would have the sales person at the showroom show us what Nordstrom had bought. They were buying at that time division, sort of by regional, so we would look at the whole country what they were buying and we would kind of see ourselves as the super set, because we had consumers from everywhere.

We would basically follow the buyers of Nordstrom and we would occasionally see things we knew would sell online and we would buy that too. But we were trying very hard to sync up with Nordstrom because we knew that was the huge value. They were kind of not so interested. And then of course the world evolved. Nordstrom Inc. bought back their ownership fully, folded dotcom back in. and it's interesting, Dan Nordstrom left the company, I left the company, and then Blake Nordstrom who was the CEO at the time really pulled it back in, and they did a lot of interesting things on the back end to support a single view of inventory and enable this seamless buying experience that they've developed since.

[16:54]
James McKinney: That's incredible. Absolutely incredible. I have so many technical questions on the idea of the taxonomy of the early 2000s versus what we see today because I know-

[17:05]
Julie Bornstein: There's so many, all painful, yes.

[17:09]
James McKinney: I know, I have so many questions around that and I want to save those for when we get to The YES because it's just so different, so I want to do like a compare and contrast then. But your time at Nordstrom is not permanent. Even though it seems like your dream job at the time, fashion and such an icon in retail, and your love of the malls and shopping, and now ecommerce. It seemed like it was the perfect job but you weren't there forever. So what was the catalyst for change and then let's continue to walk through the journey.

[17:34]
Julie Bornstein: It really was a dream job. I absolutely loved it. It felt like me and my team, it was our baby. It was something we had built from such an early stage and I loved the team and the whole thing was a great experience for me as a young manager also, because I was put into a fairly senior job at a fairly young age. I stepped on a lot of people's toes and I learned how to chill out a little bit, how to give people space, and how to be helpful to others as opposed to going after my own agenda. So there were many, many lessons both on the leadership side and also on the business side that happened during that time, and I feel so grateful to have had each of the experiences I had before actually starting The YES have been so informative and helpful.

But what happened was Nordstrom ultimately is a family run company. So they decided as they were merging with the vision back in that they wanted another Nordstrom over the division instead of giving me that top job, and I just felt like I've done so much to build this business, we grew it from nothing to $350 million in revenue. It was time for me to go on. So I feel so grateful for that experience and I started to think about what I wanted to do next. And I actually was three months pregnant at the time. They didn't know it, but at the time they made that decision and I made my decision to leave. I actually fell like I've got to figure out what I'm going to do next pretty quickly because I've got this ticking time bomb in me, and I'm not sure… It was 2005 and I just didn't feel like I could show up pregnant to an interview and have it be smooth.

So I quickly started to reach out around my network and figure out what was kind of the next interesting move I wanted to make. There were a number of really interesting things. Ecommerce was still really new and I had about as much experience as anyone could have at that point, so there were lots of interesting opportunities. But the one that actually excited me the most was actually Urban Outfitters. And so what happened was so Dick Hayn is the founder. It's a founder led business still today so Dick Hayn is the founder of Urban outfitters. He created it in his twenties when he lived in Philadelphia, and it as a store was my favorite place on earth when I was college. So I'd always really loved it. They over time had developed two additional brands, Free People and Anthropologie. So by the time it was 2005 they had these three really interesting, very creative specialty retail businesses. They reached out to me and then Dick and the head of Urban Outfitters Ted Marlowe and the head of Anthropologie at the time Glen Senk all really pushed hard to sell me and my husband on the opportunity, and get us to move to Philadelphia.

I was excited. My husband really didn't want to move to Philadelphia, he loves the West Coast, but they were smart to try and get us, to the point where it made it hard for him to turn it down. My feeling about it was it was a very different kind of business than Nordstrom. It was specialty as opposed to a department store. It was very creative driven and I would learn a whole new set of things. They had just begun an ecommerce business and it was fledgling, and they were looking for someone to run that, and then eventually become Ted, the president of Urban's, successor.

So it was an interesting career opportunity for me at a company I really loved and connected with. So we sold our happy house on the hill in Seattle with a view of Mount Rainier and found ourselves in downtown Philly where we had no friends, no doctor to deliver me in three months. No nanny for my first child who was two and a half at that point, and no job for my husband, and many other things. It was a real life lesson in how much harder it is to pick up and move once you have a family, and once you're established. So that was definitely on a personal level really challenging experience.

[21:25]
James McKinney: One of the things that's interesting though, and this is really just because so much technical history is taking place in the span of 20 years. We just had Ben Chestnut on for one of these private livestreams a few weeks ago and we were talking about the era of email marketing, and where it was when he started Mailchimp. In fact 2001 when he started, it was to have to send email out you had to download software into your local computer in order to do it. So in 2007 Constant Contact goes public and so when I think of you coming to Urban Outfitters in 2005 and the ideas you had, can you remember that era when it came to email marketing? And how were people thinking about email and ecommerce together?

[22:07]
Julie Bornstein: We had a catalog. We had email as a contact source with our customers and then mobile was just beginning actually in 2005. So there was MySpace and it was like the first time that people were actually using text. Because Urban had younger generation, email was fairly well established by then and we were using one of the primary email clients. It was absolutely core to driving the ecommerce business. It was like you don't have an ecomm business without an email program. It was driving probably about 25% of our business. Then we were doing affiliates that was the other big marketing channel. Then we were starting to play a little bit with mobile marketing. That was actually really interesting because-

[22:51]
James McKinney: And mobile being just text, right?

[22:53]
Julie Bornstein: Just text.

[22:54]
James McKinney: Yeah, because iPhone isn't until like summer of '07.

[22:56]
Julie Bornstein: 2007, right. We were sort of seeing every young person has their flip phone and can we send them offers, and can we pull them into the store, and can we pull them onto the web? We weren't actually trying to get them to shop on their phones, we were just using it as a marketing channel. And so we started playing around with it really early. It wasn't until many years later until it really took hold, and it wasn't really in the form of SMS as it turns. What was fun about having sort of a younger demo was that we could experiment with a bunch of things. Because Urban itself was such a creative organization we were talking about music, we were talking about culture while we were also talking about fashion and selling product. So it was really fun.

I would say that more than that though the key was actually building out the organization and then building out the technology, and marrying those two things so that we could figure out who were the right people. We needed what function should we have supporting web versus stores and just how to look at the whole organization so that the two channels can be setup to maximize efficiency and work smoothly. Urban was a great example. At Nordstrom we had like a total separate entity. At Urban we were much closer, it was a much smaller company, and so we really organized by brand and not by channel. It was I would say a very smooth experience where we would leverage the web to test new styles. We would leverage the web to sell more of things like shoes and swim which were only small categories in the store. And it was fun to do it as a single brand with a single focus, and I learned a lot from the creative team and from the product development team through those years.

[24:32]
James McKinney: That's incredible. I'm excited to keep moving this story along because I'm super-

[24:37]
Julie Bornstein: Yeah, sorry.

[24:38]
James McKinney: … no, no I'm super interested in your Sephora chapter because I mean when I think of some of the thought process, because one of my exercises that I go through when I prepare for these is I try to assume what the journey looked like and what were some of the decision points. There gets to a point in the Sephora chapter we're going to unpack that I can't connect dots anymore because it gets super disruptive in the really industry and shopping experience. And so you join Sephora as what CMO or CDO? What was your shift?

[25:12]
Julie Bornstein: Well it wasn't called CDO back then. So it was SVP of Sephora direct.

[25:15]
James McKinney: Okay. So you joined specifically for ecommerce?

[25:19]
Julie Bornstein: To run ecommerce and they wanted to launch a loyalty program, so they wanted that to be in my division. Yeah, they recruited me and my husband was not long on Philly so we decided to take the jump and move to the west coast. Sephora is based in San Francisco. It was an exciting opportunity and because I knew we weren't long for Philly it made sense to where we were going to stay. Sephora's interesting because it came to the US in '97 and in '98 it actually created a separate division, similar to Nordstrom, around ecommerce and so it had a separate ecommerce floor, business, team, evidently culture when I hear the stories.

By the time I had come, that folded. It was brought back in and there wasn't really an ecomm division. Merchandizing reported to the store merchants and marketing reported to the store marketing. The business was kind of fledgling. It was sort of flat lining as a business and so they wanted to basically re stoke ecommerce. It was 2007 and it was clearly the direction of the future, and so they were looking for someone to both run ecommerce and help build a loyalty program. They thought ahead of time that the loyalty program is going to be very data driven and it probably makes sense to combine it with whoever is running the ecomm division, which is also super dated.

[26:36]
James McKinney: In the year 2007, the iPhone comes. Now we look back and say it just changes the game for how brands can reach consumers. To be honest, I can't remember exactly what the thought processes were from a consumer perspective on the use of the phone other than when it first came out games, and I think the second version we had maps. So I mean it was a little while before it started taking shape. But from your perspective, in digital marketing, in ecommerce, what did you see when you got word of the iPhone?

[27:10]
Julie Bornstein: It was such a massive change to the way human kind exists that we didn't even understand the impact it would have at the time. I actually remember we were focusing on re platforming our ecommerce business. There were two things happening at that time. Social media was becoming a thing.

[27:31]
James McKinney: Which was what, MySpace?

[27:32]
Julie Bornstein: Well, it was just Facebook was really becoming more mainstream. 2007 and 2008 it was becoming the winner of the two, MySpace versus Facebook. People were starting to put up brand pages and talk about. Then mobile was also starting. So they both happened around the same time and I remember an early adopter tech friend of mine got an iPhone and I was mildly, we were all using Blackberry and it just felt like a much less efficient device to do mobile work. So it wasn't right away that we were all like oh my gosh, this thing is going to change commerce, this is going to change marketing, this is going to change everything.

It took a little while and it was actually 2008 that we started to look at building now that the iPhone actually had a browser that you could use, building a mobile site and a mobile app. So I remember first educating myself on the technology and then really educating the organization, my CEO, about what mobile was. We had I remember a presentation at the end of '08 and then '09 was basically when I got LVMH to give us money mid-year, because Sephora is owned by LVMH, to build out a mobile site and mobile web.

Our realization was, it was actually a woman named Candace Paine who was my assistant to start and then became a marketing manager, and who has gone on to do great things, but she and I were talking and we were saying, "God, wouldn't it be so great if when you walk into Sephora and you can't remember the shade of lipstick that you bought you could just be able to see your list, and see whatever it was you bought, and see all of that on your phone." So we were starting to think of there was obviously web on phone which we were starting to think about, but it seemed really impractical with such a small screen. Then there was what can you do with the information from your past purchases, some very practical things, how could you use that in a store and how would that help.

And so it was really 2009 that we first launched mobile web and mobile app, and we couldn't find anyone to help us build it so we actually had heard about one app that was pretty good, and I hunted those people down. It was a couple of guys who had graduated from Carnegie Mellon. They were about a year out of school. They had built, they were playing around, they were early app developers. We hired them and we said, "Will you guys come build this for us?" And they did it really quickly. At the time, my partner on the tech side, a guy named Salvio Tatlio who is amazing, said, "We can't do this, let's find someone else who can do it and we'll figure out the simplest way to link up with them." which was great, because a lot of CTOs are very we want to build it, we want to own it.

And so these guys built a great app. We designed it. We knew what we wanted the functionality to be and they built it, and then they went on to have one of the most successful businesses building apps for others because Sephora was an early player in this, and it worked really well, so then that helped them build their business too.

At that moment, I think we were early in realizing that you could both use the phone for kind of this cross channel interaction with a brand, and you could also create commerce opportunities. Commerce started small but obviously grew very steadily over the next series of years.

[30:41]
James McKinney: And as that period develops, when do you start connecting the dots for the customization opportunities? Between you're talking about email and the data you can gather, and the loyalty program that you talk about. There's a ton of information that come from loyalty programs and I know a lot of people think of loyalty programs specifically for the data that you can capture as you start personalizing things. Then we have ecommerce transactions, and now we have mobile data. Again, I can't remember what mobile data was being released in the early years versus what we can get now. As you started looking at the entire consumer experience and really lifestyle, how were you looking at that from the idea of selling the Sephora catalog to consumers?

[31:21]
Julie Bornstein: Well it's interesting. You're exactly right with the loyalty program. For many companies, it's really a way to start tracking consumer behavior and collecting data that's useful and can help you continue to upsell to the consumer, and add value. And we had the benefit of starting a loyalty program in 2007 and email was the primary capture information. So if you had started a program earlier, you probably didn't have email and you were probably trying to collect it and use it as a data source. We started the program in 2007 and our CEO At the time, David Suliteanu who is and was brilliant, had the foresight to say, "Let's just make sure that every single transaction in the store asks for email address and we start to capture it." Three years later we had a 15 million person data base-

[32:08]
James McKinney: Wow.

[32:09]
Julie Bornstein: … because Sephora had stores all over the country. It was just part of every transaction. At first it was actually we bonused them on how many emails they were collecting, and eventually it just became this is how you check someone out, and this is how it goes. But you have to mandate those behaviors, and you have to incent those behaviors because people were so hesitant to ask for information like that. So having that one data point allowed us to then use email marketing and use that identifier in the store so we could see everything about you and we could really send you the right email, and so targeting became sort of a big focus for us. We used the loyalty program as the basis for the app that we created, so it was like a mobile version of your card.

I would say if we started five years later we would have built an app based program probably with your phone number, your mobile phone number, because that's actually the easiest number. No one changes that. Email changes, it's messy, and hard to type up and all of those things. But it did give us the starting point for an amazing database, which then gave us access to amazing consumer information and a lot of value that we could add to the business and create for the consumer by understanding what they were buying and helping them replenish, and help them understand when there's a new hot product from brands they like. And so the program, the loyalty program called Beauty Insider and our email program, became one and the same really, and email became the primary way to kind of message.

[33:30]
James McKinney: There's so much about your story that just amazes me because you've seen so many different chapters of retail commerce. I'm going to go super high level and call it retail commerce. You've seen so many different chapters of it when it comes to the marketing side of things, and then somehow when you're at Sephora, Stitch Fix comes onto your radar somehow. How did you become aware of Stitch Fix and then what was that transition out of Sephora to Stitch Fix? What was it about that transition?

Because when I think of Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, and then Stitch Fix I think Stitch Fix from the subscription concierge box if you will is completely disruptive to retail commerce, and here you were in an industry that you grew some major brands inside of for 15 years prior to Stitch Fix, and then you leave to Stitch Fix. Tell me about how they became part of your radar, what was interesting about it, why did you leave, and what was that experience like?

[34:30]
Julie Bornstein: An investor who I had joined the board of a tech company called The Find which was a product search engine, which eventually sold to Facebook. On that board, there was an investor who I met. He was an investor in Stitch Fix so when he joined the board, or he was an investor in Stitch Fix, he had told Katrina the founder about me, and she was just looking for some expertise and she like all good founders is always asking questions and soaking up information from people everywhere. So she reached out to me. Actually, he first sent me the email and it sounded like a "me too" of all these things that were going on. I remember I didn't reply to it right away and then he pinged me again, and he said, "I really want you to meet her." If you send someone an email a second time, you can't not respond. So I said happy to meet her.

She came to my office. She had just started the company and she shared the idea with me, and instantly it resonated with me primarily because I had spent the last two years trying to aggregate all the data around our products into a massive database manually basically. I had people tagging products so that we could make it much more findable and searchable and relevant. And she had this idea around really applying data to style, and the business model was something totally different than what I had done, but I thought a lot about the idea of matching people and product through data.

So I loved the idea. She was super impressive and we got to talking, and then she asked me if we could talk again and we spoke again a few weeks later, and then she asked me to join the board so I joined the board. I also invested. And so I just loved her, loved the idea, loved everything about it and became really a very passionate board member. About two years in, I had sort of been promoted to CMO just as the CEO of Sephora was leaving, and they brought in a new CEO and about a year later I was kind of like I can't sit around for another few years to wait my turn to be CEO. I decided to join fulltime as COO and help the business scale.

[36:34]
James McKinney: Where was the business at when you joined? Headcount wise, if you can remember revenue great, but head count.

[36:38]
Julie Bornstein: There were probably when I first met Kat they were probably doing a couple million in revenue and they were probably 20 people. Then we grew over the next two and a half years to about $200 million and probably 50 people in the corporate office. And then over the next two and a half years, so I joined as COO and did a variety of things during the two and a half years I was there and we grew from about $200 million to about a $1 billion so it was insane growth in those next two years, and we grew to probably 700 people in the corporate office, and then we had warehouses with thousands of people, so it was an incredible growth story.

You know part of the reason I joined was when I looked at what she was doing, I was so inspired and I loved talking with her and thinking about the business. I felt like either this is a business that if she decides she doesn't want to run someday I would love to run, and if not it's going to give me that pure startup experience that will help me decide do I want to go do my own thing, do I want to go run Neiman Marcus or some other big retailer. So I knew it would be really that exploration for me around what was next, and it was just that.

It was such an incredible experience. I learned so much. I learned a lot about what I like and in what situations I'm a good leader, and when it doesn't go as well for me. It really led me to feel like I wanted to do this, I wanted to do this on my own terms, and I had a very specific idea that we weren't doing. It was different from what we were really focused on at Stitch Fix.

[38:07]
James McKinney: So again back to someone who has been a lifelong mall aficionado, big box retail, that model is so different. One to start off with, in order to start the engagement you're telling Stitch Fix all the data about yourself versus what you just came from with Sephora where you're hoping that the cashiers will collect information and maybe someone will download the app and give you information there. But here you start off a relationship with a consumer where they're giving you all the information about it. From the time you met with Katrina and you're at Sephora, did you think that this was going to take off the way it did? Because it's such a shift in the way consumers, especially the 15 years of your career that people have been engaging with consumers at a shopping level.

[39:02]
Julie Bornstein: When I was at Sephora in particular a ton of founders would come through and say, "I want to tell you about our idea." A lot in beauty obviously, but even outside of beauty and fashion. Maybe there was one idea that I actually believed in, but most of them I just didn't see it. I totally saw it with Stitch fix. I would say I saw it from the very beginning, but then once I joined the board and I was in it… When I left Sephora to go do that people were like, "What? What are you doing?" and I'm like, "You just wait." I absolutely knew it was coming.

I think it was a combination of things. I'm a professional shopper, I'm really good at it, but I also end up doing it for my friends and sisters because I know that it's hard, and it takes a lot of work, and you have to have a lot of knowledge. The more the web has proliferated, the more options there are, the more brands there are, the more overwhelming it becomes for the average person. One of the things I loved was I saw myself more as a stylist than as a consumer of Stitch Fix, and I spent a lot of time with the data science team and the stylist team, one of the teams I oversaw was the styling organization, and spent a lot of time on tools for stylists. Because what I love doing is building great shopping experiences to help other people find what they love.

So to me, that was sort of what Stitch Fix was doing and it was really consistent with the things that I had done in building shopping experiences at Nordstrom and at Urban and at Sephora. This was a new model which I thought was interesting and I was so excited about the data play, and about learning about consumers and really helping solve their problem. That's what we saw at Stitch Fix is for the right kind of consumer, and it wasn't everybody, she loved and we went into men's over time, loved the experience of someone asking them questions.

I used to say to the stylists like people just want to feel heard, and the notes you write and the fixes that you include in the box of five products that you select, make sure that people feel understood and heard. And then when they get a box of clothes that they may not have thought to pick out for themselves and they try it on and it looks great, the level of sort of delight and enthusiasm was really high and really interesting, and really fun to work on.

I did however miss, I have to say, working on the actual consumer online shopping experience because I had become so good at building sort of the interface piece of it that it was the thing that I probably missed most when I was at Stitch Fix, and also I think working with the brands. I had done a lot of working with brands at Sephora and at Nordstrom, and that was less of both my focus and also our business at Stitch Fix. As I thought about where I wanted to focus and what I thought was a big opportunity, it was really working with brands, with a different consumer base who is more brand focused which is not really the Stitch Fix customer. They're less worried about brand, they just want clothes that fit them well and look great. And really building an experience that still allows consumers to be in control and shop but would help guide them, which was really where the genesis of The YES came from.

[41:57]
James McKinney: Absolutely, and I think that is a great transition. There are probably people watching this livestream that don't have The YES installed on their iPhone, because you're iPhone only correct?

[42:05]
Julie Bornstein: Right, we are.

[42:06]
James McKinney: And for those listening to the podcast if you have an iPhone, download The YES. But there are probably many and most that don't have The YES installed.

[42:13]
Julie Bornstein: It's also women's only, I have to say, in case there are guys. They can still download it and check it out, but we don't have men's.

[42:21]
James McKinney: So can you unpack what The YES is and what challenge or opportunity are you trying to solve with The YES?

[42:29]
Julie Bornstein: Yeah.

[42:30]
James McKinney: And then we'll link the two very clearly on why you left Stitch Fix to build this out.

[42:34]
Julie Bornstein: yes. The YES is I would say the culmination of a vision I've had since I was a girl to make shopping smarter, and more efficient, and as a result kind of more gratifying. Of course, mobile phones didn't exist, the internet didn't exist when I was a kid, but as the world has evolved all of these technologies have really evolved to a place where we can now do things we could never do before, even five years ago.

[42:55]
James McKinney: Yes.

[42:56]
Julie Bornstein: I always felt when we were building the commerce businesses at Nordstrom, at Urban, there were some real inefficiencies. So reshooting every product on a model to put on the website, incredibly slow, costly, inefficient. You have to wait to get the sample, sometimes it doesn't show up, it has to fit the model. And also owning inventory is rough. It limits what you can buy. The whole art of merchandising is truly sort of this mystical art meets science, and trying to forecast what consumers are going to want, and then creating demands for those things. But the brands are creating beautiful product.

My feeling was if you could build a platform in this day and age where you could have the entire assortment from a brand, you don't need to go pick a subset off their line, where you could leverage their photography so back in '99 most brands didn't have web ready photography but they sure do now. Everyone has their own website. And you could actually have an interactive experience where I could share what I like and while I'm shopping, the experience is adapting to me and getting smarter. That requires obviously building an ecomm platform that by its very nature is built off a one to one model, understands and is built on AI and is learning from you and adapting.

So it's a new technology, a new tech stack for ecommerce, and it is built around asking you some important questions that if you were to walk into a boutique with a great sales person or talk to a stylist you would be telling them, they would ask you these prompts, give me some basics about you and let me understand where you're starting from, and then let's go shopping together and as you see things you like and don't like let me know.

So on the app you yes and no, the home feed updates daily so it's always fun and there's always new things to see, and if you're just looking for inspiration that's what the feed is about. Each person's feed is different. It has brands and products and themes and trends that are different based on you. Then there is an explore tab that is really very hard working. So you can search on anything you want, you can shop by brand, you can shop by category. Everything is ranked to you so based on what we knew we re-rank the same set of products differently for each user. We show you what's available in your size. We've already mapped your size so if a brand runs big, we're going to recommend, and if you're in between sizes, we're going to recommend you go down so we've done that hard work for you. It's a very sort of living, breathing experience because as fashion changes, as your style changes, as seasons change, the product is constantly changing and we are constantly learning and adapting to you.

And then buying couldn't be easier. Everything is one click, Apple Pay. We take care of keeping you posted on where the product is and it ships directly from the brands warehouse so we're not taking that extra step of shipping it from a brands warehouse, to our warehouse, to you. We've cut out that step. Returning is super easy if it doesn't fit or you don't like it. We're at the very early days of building what is quickly going to become the best way to shop for fashion.

[46:01]
James McKinney: That's incredible. What I think of, my head is reeling with questions about the model itself, when I think of the experience of I'm assuming your female users are saying yes I like this, no I don't like this, and the AI is working in the background through the various tags of what an item is, and figuring out what you do or don't like. I'm assuming that data stays with you. You're just feeding up, again I'm just going to use Nordstrom since we've been talking, you're just feeding up Nordstrom's clothing that they may or may not be interested in, and if they choose to transact you're submitting the order to Nordstrom, but Nordstrom doesn't really interact with your customer?

[46:41]
Julie Bornstein: We don't work with any retailers like Nordstrom. We only work directly with the brand.

[46:45]
James McKinney: Got it, my bad.

[46:46]
Julie Bornstein: And so, yeah. What we're doing is we're working with many brands that are at Nordstrom, many brands that are in other places. We knew we needed to have an amazing assortment of high to low brands, so we're working with Prada, Balenciaga is joining the platform this week, and we have an amazing set of really high end brands. We also have great contemporary brands, Vince and Frame and Theory, and then we're working with these great every day fashion brands like Madewell and Everlane and Levi's. We even have Zara on the platform, which is on no other platform. The idea is we are only working with the brand. They are the only source of their product.

We are actually price matching to what everyone else is selling it for. So if Nordstrom is selling a pair of Levi's or a Frame sweater for a lower price than the website is, we will actually automatically match the price. We built the ability to match price so you always get the best price, but the source of that product is only the brand. So you transact on our platform and yes, the data we do capture all the data but we actually also share it with the brands. We're very brand friendly. My goal is to make the brand stronger and to help them thrive, especially now during COVID, when people are not doing their normal shopping. And so we see all of the data as helping make the brands more knowledgeable and smarter about what is selling, what people like, what they don't like, so we share all that data in a protect way for the consumer with the brand.

[48:08]
James McKinney: One, I love that you partner with the brands as far as the data because one of the points of friction for me with Amazon is just that, it's like I love what Amazon can do from a sales channel but the owner of the consumer is Amazon, and it's not the brand. When it comes to the way you view The YES in the space of retail, again retail is massive so maybe I'm naive. I just can't ever get to a point where we're not going to have brick and mortar stores. In my mind, I just I feel like that's just always going to be the case. What it looks like is probably going to be different, I don't know exactly how, maybe they just become smaller footprints and you come into a small footprint store and do shopping online from that small footprint store, I don't know. But how do you view retail because of the different things taking place? COVID has thinned out some big box retailers. Lord & Taylor went bankrupt and it's really done a number on a lot of retailers that were probably going to close at some point anyways, but what do you see for the future of retail and how does The YES fit into that?

[49:13]
Julie Bornstein: I absolutely love to shop and going to stores is my favorite pastime. I was invited to join a Patagonia board meeting about two years ago as they were rethinking the future of retail and everyone went around and said what their sport was, and I said, "Well I guess my sport is shopping." You know I don't think stores are ever going away but I think stores are drastically changing, and I think the truth is that COVID and I'm certainly not the first one to say this, everyone is saying this, is just speeding up the inevitable. And so if you look at any big retailer they've just been losing productivity in their stores very slowly, year over year, because traffic is going down. Because if you need something specific it just makes no sense to try and guess if you're going to find it in a store. You can just find it online.

Shopping is more for the experience, for the fun, if you're not sure what you need, if you need something like that moment, that night, you go to the store. But the need use cases for stores has definitely shrunk. So what does that mean? It means that it has to be more fun, the service has to be great, the product selection has to be great, and that will happen and the good stores will stay and they'll run tight businesses, and they'll continue to strengthen their online presence, and it will be the combination of those two channels that make them productive. I think we're seeing a lot of DTC brands that started online now opening stores, and they think about the economics of those stores almost as marketing vehicles, like catalogs to promote awareness and get people to try it, but they're not looking at it as the profit engine of their business.

So I do think that will shift. I think stores will become probably smaller, a little more focused. The inventory will be more reflective of the neighborhood it's in. one of my favorite things to do, and I only have time to do it a few times a year, is go to there's a great boutique in Burlingame near where I live and I just love going and trying on and looking, and touching and feeling. But I buy the majority of my things online and I think that will continue to be the trend, especially as the younger generation ages into the majority of the buying groups. So I think shopping will be there and it will be a fun past time and the stakes will be higher to make it fun and engaging, and people will feel more and more comfortable getting their needs met by buying online.

[51:26]
James McKinney: You know as our time comes to an end there's a couple things I want to ask you about The YES specifically. I read recently you closed a round of funding which congrats. I know with funding comes growth but let's talk about the user acquisition, because one of the things that I remember having a conversation with an investor probably two… let me think, I'm dating myself now. Probably four years ago when I was building a mobile app, an investor said, "I'm not going to touch apps. Apps are too hard to get people to install. That ship has sailed. It's too noisy in the app marketplace." Now the apps that matter are the ones that help existing businesses, they lay on top of something. They add value to Facebook or add value to your dining experience, not on the front end. The YES fits in that spot that he was nay- saying if you will on mine. So how are you looking at one, obviously we must disagree with what that investor said, but how are you looking at user acquisition when it comes to apps?

[52:25]
Julie Bornstein: First of all, I'm a big believer that if you build something great people will come. Word gets out. The product experience has to be superior enough and delightful enough, and cause reengagement. But if you do that, if you create a superior experience, to me I agree maybe a few years ago an app business solo would be a hard thing to get, but I think now it's sort of like people are buying on their phone more than they're buying on their computer. So the app for us, we're actually channel agnostic, it's just where we started because it's where most of the activity is happening. If you build a native app it's just a better experience and the truth is that we will go to web when we need to, we'll build the web hooks when we need to in order to drive growth, but we really felt like the challenge of actually building something from a shopping experience that felt native to an app experience was going to be a superior experience to all the other websites out there that really feel like websites lap into a small browser.

So our first sort of challenge to ourselves was we have so much we want to do, how do we do it in an app format so it's simplifies the experience for the user? So that was really our own challenge to ourselves. But we are going to stay app only for a little while, and so here's my deal on user acquisition. I think number one, we are 90% focused as an organization on the product. We are working every single day to make the usability better, to make the personalization better, to learn from our users and continue to make the actual in app experience great. We are also doing a small amount of paid testing just to understand what resonates and what our longer term CPA is going to be. So we're using sort of Facebook and Instagram as a primary platform for just testing creative, and also audience targeting.

We are really focused on how we build viral loops into the product itself. It's a very shareable app for a couple of reasons. One is it's just a cool experience, so when you see it and you download it we've seen people say, "Oh I want to send this. This friend will like it or this friend will like it." You think about your friends who are into shopping things and you send it to them because it's cool and interesting and new. And the other thing is you actually can shop along friends, so you can actually see your friends what they're "Yes-ing" and "No-ing" and we're about to build out some more features within that. So we think a lot about how do we make this thing organically shareable and how do we do it in a way that's very pure and true to the product.

So if you think about shopping in the real world, you want to send your friends a picture and say, "Do you like this? Will this look good on me?" How do we enable those things in app, so we're focused on building out some features there that make it more sharable. Other than that, we're mostly just talking about the product and spreading the world through podcasts and through articles in the press, and that's driven a lot of organic growth as people read about it, they're intrigued. What we did was we actually gave gift cards to a lot of editors of women's magazines and so they've all tried it, and then when they have a good experience they write about it. They're writing about it from exactly the vantage point you want, which is here is how it worked for me and I actually loved it. So I would much rather get high quality articles from people who have actually used the app than kind of theoretical stories about things from a consumer standpoint. So that's how I think about it. Then over time, as the product gets better and the viral aspects get better, you can afford to spend more on marketing because the cost per download gets lower and you get people engaged, and you can do it. So it's kind of you have to grow the product and the viral elements alongside testing paid in order to do it efficiently.

[55:59]
James McKinney: Excellent. Absolutely love it. I'm glad that we were able to get you on the show when we did, because I know in a couple years now it's going to be like an Airbnb type story where it's going to be so hard to get the founder on the show, so I'm glad we got you when we did. But on that note, if we were to have a "where are they now" episode in let's say three, four, let's even go five years. In five years, where do you see The YES at that point?

[56:27]
Julie Bornstein: I see us in multiple countries, in multiple categories, as I would say the best place to shop for kind of a more opinion based category. So if you think about where you want to, we're always going to stay shopping and we're always going to be focused on the user. So it's going to a user centric shopping model that can work across multiple categories. We're going to stay focused on fashion for the near term for sure, because every category you go into you need to study deeply, you need to build a taxonomy that's very specific to that category, and you need to understand the user attributes of how they shop that category.

So it's not like we're going to be doing everything. We're not going to be selling everything under the sun, but I think we'll probably be five to six years from now selling certainly men's and possibly some other categories. And I think we will be the place to go. We'll replace the department store in the way you think about whether I need something for a special occasion or I need a new t-shirt. All of your needs can be met because we'll have a huge number of brands and the experience will just be so smart and seamless. Whether we're an independent public company or owned by some other parent company, we're not going to go away. We're going to stay The YES and we're going to, however we need to grow we will grow in a way that is true to the mission, which is to make shopping more fun and easier, and smarter.

[57:55]
James McKinney: One of the three questions I ask every founder guest, and it's really about the perspective because as you reflect on your journey, but the first one is about entrepreneurship in general. Do you believe anybody can be an entrepreneur or is there a genetic makeup to it?

[58:10]
Julie Bornstein: I believe anyone who wants to be can. I don't think everybody wants to be. My husband is someone who he doesn't have the desire. I don't know which comes first, but I think if you have the desire anyone can do it. I think you have to want it so badly that you can't imagine doing anything else because you have to learn really quickly, you're going to fail a ton, and it takes a level of conviction that few things in life take to make it happen. But I don't think there's a special skillset that's required to do it.

[58:39]
James McKinney: Awesome, I love it. The next question has to do with gratitude and I think for someone who has done this, they understand that they are where they are today because of other people's support in their life. We aren't where we are because of our own doing, but because of the shoulders of others. So when you look back across your entire entrepreneurial journey, your life journey, your retail journey, who are the people that you point to and that you look to with such immense gratitude for their contribution to where you are today?

[59:06]
Julie Bornstein: Two people come to mind. The first is my husband who has been incredibly patient. He has his own ambitions and he's a really dynamic, amazing person but he's always supported me. And for my generation, not all the guys I know are like that and he's just been a huge cheerleader and a great thought partner. I had two little kids and was working like a maniac. I've never cooked him a meal in his life. He's amazing and supportive. And really a great friend as well as confidant and supportive.

And I would say the second person is Kiersten Green who was my first investor in The YES. She was someone I always admired and sort of watched from a distance. I reached out to her when I was starting The YES a couple years ago and I said, "I have an idea. Would you be willing to talk to me?" And she responded right away and said, "Absolutely." Since the day I walked into her office for our first meeting, she has been so steadfast supportive, savvy, helpful. She really has felt like a true partner. Her firm is called Forerunner and she is really the best of the best in terms of venture investors. I feel lucky to have her on my team every day.

[60:13]
James McKinney: Oh, I love that. Absolutely love it. Again, if I had to trim the show down to 20 minutes I would never get rid of that question because I want entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs to understand that this is not a solo journey. There are people that are part of what we're doing and so I love when successful entrepreneurs share that element to it. I think it helps the other newer, younger entrepreneurs understand don't isolate yourself, stay connected with people, find ways to seek mentorship and guidance, and don't be afraid to reach out to just an investor to bounce an idea off. So I love that question.

So our final question as we come to the end of your Startup Story episode, and this is really my gift to my audience as a mentoring minute. We've been talking to 65,000 listeners at a high level, just your entrepreneurial journey. But if we were to have a coffee chat with just you and one of my listeners, whether it be the entrepreneur who has a business but is frustrated by maybe the current climate we're in or the lack of traction they've had and they've been at this a few years. Or maybe the wantrepreneur who has a book full of dreams and ideas but some narrative as to why they can't pursue that. Maybe it's they're married with kids and a mortgage, or they're 60 years old and they think they might be too old to start their own business. Or the defeated entrepreneur who has been punched in the gut or maybe lost their business because of the current climate we're in. whatever the persona is, if we were able to have just a coffee talk with you and one of my listeners, what would you say to them?

[61:38]
Julie Bornstein: You are truly never too old to start a company. The tech companies that have gotten all the attention for being these sort of brilliant startups that have turned into these massive companies have been founded by so many young people that it has become lore that you have to be young to start a company. I was even told by an investor that I was too old to start a company. And I also question am I going to be hungry enough, am I going to be nimble enough, am I going to be quick enough to adapt to the current climate. And the truth is that whatever you give up in your unrelenting optimism for being young, you make up in wisdom and experience.

I feel so grateful for having to… being able to skip so many steps I know I would have had to figure out if I started this company when I was young. The experience and the wisdom and the confidence that I have as a result of seeing so many things makes me an excellent entrepreneur. And also when I get nervous, I think really who else could do this. I have as much experience and as much knowledge and contacts and imagination, and those things combined are rare to have so that's my advice. You're never too old.

[62:58]
James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value Julie brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. And lastly, if you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. And The YES is as much a startup as anything you or I are working on, and the fact that it's a mobile app means that our ability to help is even much more appreciated. So with that in mind, if you are an iPhone user please download The YES app today and sign up.

And if you're an Android user, please tell an iPhone user about it. In fact everybody, iPhone or Android user, please post a status update on your Facebook or LinkedIn page encouraging your personal audience to download The YES app. Let them know you heard the founder's story and it was amazing so you want to help spread the world. I say it all the time because I truly believe it, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs so let's show up for Julie and the entire team at The YES in a huge way. All right, and now for my personal ask.

The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

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September 15 2020
Julie Bornstein, co-founder of The YES

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