Katrina Lake founded Stitch Fix, the online personal shopping service, out of her apartment on the back of a failed startup idea.
Today, according to Forbes, Lake, now 34, has a 16.6% ownership in the company, which went public a month ago. And her net worth now approaching $500 million—making her one of the youngest, richest self-made women in America.
How did Lake get here?
She spent the first part of her life in San Francisco. But as Forbes reported, she got heavily into the Bay Area’s rave scene as a teen, and her parents made the decision to move the family to Minnesota.
She settled down and got into Stanford, intending to become a doctor, but became fascinated by economics.
She ended up joining a venture capital firm as an associate after graduating, hoping to join one of the startups that came through the company’s door, the L.A. Times reported. Instead it proved a clarifying experience.
“Ultimately, I didn’t quite find the company I wanted to join, but I met more than 100 entrepreneurs and realized that all these entrepreneurs were just as unqualified as I was,” she said. “If I wanted to be this retailer of the future, or if I wanted to join the retailer of the future, I could just start it.”
So she decided to attend Harvard Business School. She came up with Stitch Fix, a personalized fashion box subscription service, after another retail idea, Rack Habit, flamed out. It took several lucky breaks and idea iterations for the company to rise above the box subscription fray.
“One of the things that has been an adjustment being a new mom is that the morning is some of the most valuable time I have with my son,” she says. “It used to be that I would check email and Instagram first thing in bed, and now as soon as he’s up, I’m up. I’ve really appreciated the clarity and being able to start the day in a more organic way with my son.
“It’s really important for me to feel present when I’m at work, that I’m totally listening and paying attention and not worrying about what my son is doing. On the flip side, I try to bring that same level of being present at home. I want to feel totally present in everything I do.”
Lake is also an avid reader, and talked about three books that have made her more successful:
- Howard Behar, It’s Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. Lake: “I read it before I started Stitch Fix. It had a really big impact on me and how I approached company culture. In Howard’s book, he talks about how the company culture of Starbucks is one where he felt like he could be the same person at home and be the same person at work. And that the values were consistent in both worlds.”
- Joshua McFadden, Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. Lake: “I love cooking. It’s what clears my mind, since it’s pretty hard to multitask when you’re chopping vegetables.”
- Richard O. Prum, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – and Us . Lake: “It’s talking about natural selection. We know about survival of the fittest and how the strongest animals win. But the reality is there are all these traits that evolve that don’t really make sense from a natural selection standpoint. There’s all these traits that have evolved because species find them to be beautiful. It was part of Darwin’s original theory, but it was one that was kind of lost in history and so it kind of revisits that.”
Like most millennials, Lake is a heavy Instagram user, showing details of her life, from vacations (Stitch Fix has an “unlimited” vacation policy)…
To Halloween costumes.
When Lake took Stitch Fix public, she officially became the youngest female founder ever to do so, according to financial data firm FactSet.
Her next move is to create a version of Stitch Fix for men to compete with rivals like Trunk Club.