The Story Behind the D2C Brand with a 10,000-Person Waitlist
Believe it or not, in the pre-internet days, a good deal of swimsuit purchasing was done via direct mail, not in store. So why, even in today’s digital-first age, are big brands still focusing on in-store experiences when it comes to selling swimsuits? Lori Coulter saw an opportunity in this disconnect. Using data and a methodology she had already perfected in the made-to-order space, she co-founded St. Louis-based Summersalt, a direct-to-consumer women's lifestyle brand. And you could say Lori found the perfect wave to ride to success — in the very first summer of the company’s existence, the waitlist for its bathing suits surpassed 10,000 people. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Lori explains what trends she was looking at in the market that compelled her to take the leap to start Summersalt, and which ultimately led to its massive success. Lori also shares her tips for inventory management and marketing advice for D2C brands. Plus she goes into detail about the challenges female founders face when fundraising, and how to turn those challenges into wins and buy-in from skeptical investors. 3 Takeaways: Utilizing multiple channels: Reliance on a single channel or message will not sustain a business. Summersalt was able to build a waiting list of more than 10,000 people by meeting the customers where they were — regardless of channel — and adjusting the message for different audiences. Inventory management: Working with multiple inventory partners and having short-term plans is necessary for D2C brands. It is critical to know your sell-through rate and, especially when offering limited-time items, plan to meet the demand and have enough inventory of other products to offer if/when your special items sell out. Promotion vs. Prevention Questions: When fundraising, women founders typically get asked more prevention questions than their male counterparts (i.e. how they will avoid failure vs how they will find success.) Tune in to hear how to spin those questions into talking points centered around a promotion angle. For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length. --- Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce --- Transcript: Stephanie: Welcome to another episode of Up Next in Commerce, I'm your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder of mission.org, and today on the show we have Lori Coulter, the co-founder and the CEO of Summersalt. Lori, welcome. Lori: Thank you. I'm really thrilled to be here. Stephanie: Yeah. I'm so excited to have you. I'd love to hear a bit about your background before we get into Summersalt which seems like a crazy story, awesome things that I want to dive into, but I want to hear a little bit about you before Summersalt. What was your background, work experience, all of that? Lori: So, what's interesting I think I'm probably... I don't know if I want to say a born entrepreneur, if I believe that or not, but even in college I would tell my friends that I just had a good idea, I would do it. I went straight through from undergrad to a business school at Washington University here in St. Louis. Again, had that entrepreneurial mindset from the beginning, and when I went to business school I wrote several business plans. Had an entrepreneurial focus, although that wasn't as in vogue at that time as it is now, and I left business school, I went to work for an economic consulting firm primarily understanding at a macro level, economics. Lori: We did a lot of selling to major banks, investment banks, but I always had an interest in fashion and apparel, and had turned down several jobs coming out of business school in the industry that I loved. Lori: At that point in time, I was focused on a concept around fashion and technology, and digital body scanning, so working at the intersection of technology and fashion at an early date. Did a ton of research and eventually launched a start up in partnership with Macy's in store as their vendor, doing digital body scanning in made to order apparel, initially swimwear and eventually, we were supplying other mid size brands, early eCommerce brands like ModCloth and some large scale resorts. So, that was my story pre-Summersalt. We really parlayed that intellectual property that's a foundation. We still use it at Summersalt to this day in regards to our fit, quick turnaround manufacturing, and prototyping. Stephanie: Very cool. How did you get big brands like Macy's to partner with you and your company early on like that? Those are some good names to get in front of. Lori: So, what's interesting about being a founder is ... Half of it is just sticking to it. And so, raising your hand, asking the question, asking for the meeting and just telling your story, it truly is a sales process and I managed to get in front of the right person at Macy's and got the deal done. So, I didn't know anyone in particular, it was just, "Hey, can I tell you my story?" And we're off to the races. Stephanie: That's great. So, you were mentioning IP earlier, and you were saying that right now you use some of that IP with Summersalt. What was a process like where you had one company you were partnering with, the Macy's of the world, and then now you're moving over to Summersalt which I'd love for you to detail a bit about what Summersalt is and how you brought that IP over. Lori: Yeah. So, we launched at Macy's over 10 years ago, and in June of 2016 I met my now co-founder, Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, and she also is a serial entrepreneur and had owned an agency working with some of the larger direct-to-consumer brands on the east coast, particularly on the brand and digital marketing side. And I shared with her the intellectual property in regards to fit. We had scanned over 10,000 women and made a swimsuit for each of them so we really had optimized that process for the consumer and knew exactly what worked for a broad spectrum out of the US market. Lori: And then we had separately mastered quick turn around manufacturing and prototyping, which allows us to move at the speed of lightning that we're still moving at with Summersalt to this day. When I shared with her the IP I was sitting on, what I was seeing in the market with regards to consumer trends, and I didn't see a truth path to scale for brands that were pursuing that traditional wholesale model in apparel space, it has had headwinds for a long time and even more so now with COVID-19. Lori: But I shared my story with Reshma on what I was thinking she got really excited. We went away from that conversation. Ironically, that was a conversation at Chipotle. It wasn't intended to be any life defining moment, we were just two Midwestern founders sharing our ideas about eCommerce and the future of retail. But she really inspired me to look hard at that direct to consumer business model. So, I went away from that conversation we were at the initial business plan and strategy for what is now. I developed a collection, which I think separates the dreamers from the doers, the ability to actually manifest a concept and then go out and do it. Lori: And then, I went back to Reshma in December of 2016, a full six months later, to retain her agency. Ironically, she was in transition at that moment, wasn't taking on new clients. But serendipitously we ran into each other in New York, which is a bit ironic, because we're both based in St. Louis. Ran into each other in New York, at the Gramercy Park Hotel, Rose Bar. I'd been interviewing PR teams that week and had the deck and the line she left me and I literally cornered her on the spot, shared what I was working on, and her response was, I'm interested about what you consider a co-founder, and that's how we joined forces and the rest is really history. Stephanie: That's awesome. And how do you describe Summersalt today? Lori: Summersalt is a direct-to-consumer women's lifestyle brand, direct-to-consumer meaning we sell primarily on our own website and platforms and have an ongoing relationship with a consumer over time as opposed to working through a major retailer or another department store or something. Stephanie: Very cool. So, when my team was doing research on Summersalt, I saw some wild numbers that were a little bit hard to believe. I saw that, and you can be like, "Stephanie these aren't wrong numbers." But I saw that you had a waitlist for one of your bathing suits of over 10,000 people. Lori: That is absolutely a 100% true and what is really, really interesting about that is that was our first summer we had a waitlist that high. Stephanie: That's wild. Lori: Right. We had raised a very small Angel around to launch. We were everywhere that first summer from our Refinery29, to the Today Show, to Elle Magazine. I think Forbes covered us and it became clear. One, that we didn't have enough inventory that first summer, and two, when we saw that waitlist continue to build, we knew there was an incredible amount of pent up demand and I think it's twofold. Lori: One, the brand itself is resonating with the modern consumer and so much swimwear had been done and it's over sexualized, tired, outdated way and Summersalt's fresh and new and fun, and our whole mission is to inspire joy, the childlike joy we all felt at the beach as children and I think it's just so encouraging to see that message resonating with the consumer and then separately we translate that message in our products as well. Lori: And clearly the fits, the aesthetic, this idea that you can be fashionable and cheap but so comfortable, is important to the core of the brand. And then separately, I think that the macro dynamics in retail are in our favor. They have been from the start and even more now that we're facing COVID-19 as a nation. Stephanie: Yeah, I completely agree. So, what were some of the main drivers behind getting that consumer demand? I mean, I know you were mentioning PR and a couple well known outlets to probably spread the word but what would you say were the key drivers to getting in front of people and then also encouraging them to join a waitlist, because when I think about buying something, sometimes I'm very much like I want it right now. Like, if I need a bathing suit, it's because I need it probably for tomorrow. So, how did you get people to agree to get on the waitlist and wait until you have the inventory back and even get in front of them in the first place? Lori: So, when we were launching and even to this day ... Summersalt just celebrated our third anniversary on May 23. So, that gives you an idea of how far along we are in the cycle of business, and from the very beginning it was about a 360 degree approach. It wasn't about just one platform, as far as how we speak to our consumers, so that includes press, that includes email, that includes social media, working with influencers, working with other brand collaborations, it's about bubbling up to the top and speaking to our consumer in multiple ways at multiple times, but always when, where, and how she wants to be spoken to is how we talk it about it [inaudible 00:09:21]. Lori: And obviously, the scale is quite a bit different now. But at the same time, those principles hold true. And I always tell brands, if you're focused on one platform, only one message without that brand storytelling. It's such a risk to the business model over time, and what's wonderful about Summersalt we truly are a brand that is digital first. Stephanie: Yeah, I completely agree about relying too heavily on one outlet. What metrics do you look into? I mean, it sounds like you're doing a lot whereas a lot of PVC companies we've had on here so far, they only have enough bandwidth to maybe focus on one or two platforms, and they're going deep instead of going wide. So, how do you start thinking about metrics that holistically look at all of your marketing efforts? Are there any certain things that you rely on? Lori: Yeah, I think a couple of things are important when you're a digital first brand. First and foremost is sessions on the site, and any activation we do, we want to see the consumer coming to the website, and then of course, conversion rate is very important, but it's really that traffic that you have to have on your storefront, that is important. Lori: And then separately, we look at organic search metrics and anytime we have a brand activation, whether that is something on social media or we did an out of home campaign in New York, as well as even direct mail. You want to see search lifting, and then eventually traffic to the site. And then, as you continue to see conversion lift as well, you can understand, you can measure the difference and understand, "Hey, this consumer is highly likely to purchase. She has high intent." So, we measure that as well. Stephanie: Got it. So, selling swimwear online seems difficult, at least when I think about making sure the measurements are right, and it looks good. How do you showcase the fact that your swimsuits are comfortable, and I know that they protect you from the sun, and they'll also fit right. How do you display that messaging to the consumer to where they know that this will be a good fit and I'm not worried about getting something that would be weird on me? Lori: Yeah. So, what's interesting about that is from the very beginning, again, it was about inspiring that sense of childlike joy. We always show the consumer a diverse set of women both from age, race, background, size perspective, and that's really core to who we are at Summersalt. And so again, I think she trusts us as the best friend she brings in the dressing room because of how open we are ... Still showing, I think aspirational and joyful women, but still some reality there that's quite different than the approach that traditional retailers and really particularly swimwear brands have taken in the past. Stephanie: Yep. I definitely got that feel when I was looking through your website. I'm like, "Uh, these people actually feel like me." Where oftentimes, especially on Instagram, and you're looking at swimwear companies, it's always the skinny models and very tall and you're like, "Okay, well that's not exactly me, and I'm not in off the coast of Italy or whatever they're doing it feels so detached from reality." And I liked how when I was browsing your website it's like you could see people from all walks of life and all different body types and it made you instantly feel a little bit more secure with browsing through the swimsuits knowing that there will be a good fit for you there. Lori: And I think the other thing that's interesting swimwear, pre-internet was purchased in great quantities via direct mail. So, it really is a category that's conducive to try at home or buy at home, and we knew that before launching Summersalt, and so many other brands of yesterday and particularly post-COVID-19 are not in the space, so it gave us a ton of whitespace to go after and scale very quickly. Lori: And also, from the very beginning, it was never just about swimwear. It was always about building those concentric circles out from swim that fill her wardrobe and closet with all things Summersalt and starting with things that are comfortable, cozy, and then meeting her where she is right now. But what's interesting is, we had already launched loungewear, pajamas and cozy comfy sweaters in Q4 of 2019, which has been wonderful for us. Stephanie: Yeah, that's definitely very good to have that now. I'd love to talk a little bit about how you go about designing your product, because I think I saw that you guys have about one and a half million measurements from people, and I'm wondering how you use those data points to create a new product, what does that process look like? Lori: So, what's interesting about the body scans is that we had developed a modular approach to allowing the consumer to mix and match the perfect building blocks of the swimsuit. So, whether that's changing the neckline, or the leg height, or the seat coverage, or the bra, or the lining, or the straps, or the back, it was a mix and match approach, which in reality is an unlimited license to continue to create on an ongoing basis. Systems still hold that basic fit, and so that's the approach we took 10 years ago and we've benefited from that at Summersalt, every new style that we're bringing out. It allows us to not have to move at a snail's pace, we can roll out new products at an exceptional speed and then have confidence that they're going to fit the consumer when we bring them to market. Stephanie: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you guys have a full on data science team who's working behind the scenes to make sense of the numbers and give suggestions and things like that? Lori: We do. And it's phenomenal, and just the level of detail because we're 100% sold ... Almost 100%, maybe not quite 100% sold on our own platforms. We have all levels of data by style, by skew, by size, any comments from the consumer, or any return rates, or return reasons? We can go and view that data and then make those incremental improvements that make such a difference over time. It's quite different than how most major brands work and certainly major retailers. Stephanie: Yep. Yeah, I completely agree. So, how are you organizing the data in a way that you can make quick decisions? Because it seems like with all those data points coming in, you would need some nice dashboard to be able to just look at each week to then be able to make adjustments like you are talking about. What's best practices on that? Lori: So, what's interesting is we have the query database that pulls in data from multiple different platforms. And so at least eight right now, I believe, and then we are able to take that and cross reference across platforms. So that for instance, from a return or reason perspective, we want to see the sales data on one platform, but we need the return data from another as well as the reviews from a third and we can cross reference and make sense of it all in a way that's clear on a particular dashboard and certainly ... Again, it's a type of situation where we have set dashboards that we work from, but then we're trying to answer maybe a new question, and we continue to build there on an ongoing basis as well. Stephanie: Yep, any adjustments that you've made to your site where you've seen increases in conversion or less returns or any big strategic plays you've made there that have helped with the consumer experience or a buying behavior? Lori: So, my co-founder is an amazing UX designer by training, and so we are constantly measuring conversion. The UX user experience is super important to us in Summersalt and we're making incremental improvements all the time on an ongoing basis. So, if you see us make a change, and it stays long term, it's probably because we've seen a lift in conversion or along the way. Stephanie: Yeah, that's great. So, you guys founded the company in Missouri, right? Lori: We're based in Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri. Stephanie: I'd love to hear a little bit about your experience, because I haven't talked to many people who founded a company there. So, I want to hear what your experience has been around building there. What advantages do you have for not being in high cost of living area like the SF Bay Area, like a lot of people are in New York, what is that experience like for you? Lori: So, what's interesting about building a startup and particularly a consumer tech startup in the Midwest, is that we have a unique view of the entire country that I think is a bit of a challenge for brands that are truly coastal, maybe they're an asset for New York. And if you think about the consumer brands of the last 50 years that have gotten to critical scale, and I'm talking the Nikes of the world, or even Spanx, a lot of times they're not coastal, or they're not in the major tech startup hubs. And we believe there's something to that, there's something about being the merry band of outsiders and I don't know if you've read the Nike bio, but they talk about that a lot there. It's their brand their way, we're doing it our way. Lori: Not that you don't borrow from the best practices of other startups, certainly. But at the same time, you're authentic to who you are as people, as founders, as well as authentic to the brand, and to the consumer. And that is working for us. And so we're grateful to be based in St. Louis, I do think fundraising outside of the coast can be very difficult, particularly at the earliest stages. And if you think about it, less than 3% of venture capital goes to women founders, less than 20% is what is outside the major hubs of New York, San Francisco, and Boston, so the odds were for us, and the earliest venture stages were tough, and we heard, No, many times, particularly at our seed round, but thankfully we persevered. Stephanie: Yep, yeah, I saw that you guys raised 26 and a half million or a little bit above that? Lori: Yes. Stephanie: Yeah, that's huge for this kind of company. I'm wondering what lessons did you learn going through each round, and how did you close that final, large round on the third time? Lori: So, I think, honestly, the large round was the easiest, and I think it has to do with the proven numbers. Whereas when you're at seed in series A you're still selling yourselves as founders, as well as the concept. And I mean, it's a bit of a stretch for two women founders, and starting with swimwear as a garment category. Now, we always intended to be that larger lifestyle brand, and we're certainly executing on that now. But it's still difficult at the early stages to convince people that, that's the one, that's where you're going and see that you can do it. Lori: And I'm grateful that we have amazing investors on our team, and that we were able to get it done. Lessons learned, I think one of the most interesting lessons we learned along the way is ... I can give credit to a researcher at Columbia, Dana Kanzi, and she somewhere in 2017/2018, published an article in Harvard Business Review. Around the questions investors ask female founders, and I don't know if you've seen any of this research, but 65% of the time, women founders are asked what she refers to as prevention questions and 35% of the time promotion questions, and the opposite is true for men. Male founders, men are asked 65% promotion, 35% from it prevention. Lori: And the strategy we took immediately upon seeing that research is to always answer a prevention question or a promotion question it doesn't matter, with a promotion answer and not to get into that cycle of mitigating risk, which is essentially what happens as a female founder, if you're asked a prevention question you answer in a small way, here's what we're doing to keep us from failing, here's what we're doing to be the biggest and best possible we in the company can be, and it makes a big difference in the outcomes with regards to fundraising. And I'm a big believer that all women founders, and probably as it's important for all women in general, to really learn how to advocate for themselves and to not answer questions in the risk prevention the smallest way possible. Stephanie: Yeah, that's great. I want to dive a little bit deeper into that, because it's interesting. What is another or a few examples of a prevention question, and how would you answer that? And then what's an example of a promotion question just to make sure I fully understand the two? Lori: Sure. Okay. I was speaking to an MBA classroom, probably 18 months ago, and I told the Summersalt story, told our growth trajectory, fundraising path, clearly, we were hitting the top 1% metrics from a growth perspective worldwide as it relates to venture capital backed consumer startups. So, having this big story, and the first or second question I fielded from the class was essentially a prevention question and the answer was, given your extraordinary growth, how are you going to manage the crazy amounts of inbound, negative customer comments in regards to ... Like essentially just assuming that given our growth, we were going to have a lot of complaints. There was no reason for that type of question. Lori: And I took that opportunity to say, "Hey, stop, let's talk about what just happened, and certainly you asked me a prevention question, would you like to reframe?" And he did, and I think I'm sure, hopefully, we'll never do it again. But that being said, just understanding that happens a lot to women founders. And ironically, it's not just by male investors, its female investors too. And so, just understanding our own biases to make sure that we're allowing founders to paint their opportunity in the biggest possible way is super important. Lori: Promotion questions would be telling you about your growth plan to get to as XYZ number next year, or where are you going to be in three years? What's the biggest market opportunity? What's your next step? What's your next product category after swimwear? What's the fifth product category? So, all of those things, how do you reach your consumer on an ongoing basis increase that lifetime value and repeat purchasing behavior? So, all those things are growth oriented. Risk oriented would be anything that was around minimizing the bottom as opposed to maximizing the top line of the revenue. Stephanie: Got it. Yeah, I love that. That's such a good reminder, whenever someone's phrasing something in like a fear based approach, or like you're already set up for failure type thing, you don't need to answer that. And I like that just stopped them and said, "How about you rephrase that to actually ask a meaningful question instead of trying to have me go down like a negative spiral and answer it in a way that's going to hurt me ultimately." So, that's great. So, did you pick any investors that were strategic in the D2C swimwear space? Or how did you go about finding a good fit of investors? Lori: Well, swimwear in particular, I think there are very few venture backed companies, and I believe that as a category, it's not something that particularly male investors can relate to. And so maybe had been underfunded for that reason. In the past also, there were a lot of old school legacy brands that are sold with many, many multiple middlemen in swimwear space. So, a lot of licensed product that's essentially sold through independent sales reps, and then eventually through major retailers and so there was just huge opportunity for disruption there and we knew that. We certainly have many investors that have D2C experience just not in the swimwear space. Stephanie: Got it. That reminds me of Sara Blakely story with Spanx, when she's pitching all those investors and they're like, "I don't see a need for Spanx." And then I think one of the investors wives tried it on and they're like, "This is amazing." But it's sad, because you can't convince some of these investors like, "Well, this is what women need." And same thing with swimwear. A lot of them are probably like, "Ah, a bathing suit is a bathing suit." They don't understand why that is not the case. Lori: Yeah, and I think, again, it's about the early stages it's tougher than now we certainly have the quantitative metrics to back up our success, as well as to paint the bigger picture from a growth perspective. Stephanie: And how do you keep track of your inventory? When I was thinking about your waitlist earlier, what have you learned to maybe help not have as big of a waitlist or work on the inventory maybe issues? So, we've heard a lot of that happening, especially for the companies that have come on the show so far, who've gone through Shark Tank, and they've had huge surges in demand, and then they're trying to figure out their supply chain. Is there any best practices that you guys have found we can copy? Lori: Yeah. So, a couple of things, we have a robust planning process that we're managing on a daily basis, but certainly on a weekly basis, making adjustments. We do a couple of things incredibly well. We certainly forecast for growth, which that's ... If you've never worked with a venture backed company, and you're a planner, it's completely different than planning 2% up year over year. Like we're talking significant growth rates. Lori: And so we have a top line plan that we're looking to target. We have an overall breakdown of apparel to swim by month, were buying to that. And then what's different about Summersalt Is we launch multiple limited editions on an ongoing basis, and those are planned to sell out in two to three weeks. And so, we really plan obsolescence and have a good idea of what our weekly sell throughs are going to be throughout the year. Lori: And so, I think that we're quite sophisticated actually in our approach to inventory, as well as planning for those limited editions while we still have core product always available as well, that urgency that comes from the limited editions is interesting. And then on the other side of things on the supply chain side, you just have multiple amazing partners across the world, and so as we started to see supply chain disruptions this spring around COVID-19, that diverse supply chain set that we have and their ability to move at our speed. Lori: And remember we have that legacy of quick turnaround in manufacturing allows us to scale quickly to shift manufacturing quickly to mean into product categories that are important to the consumer right now, for instance, loungewear, while she might not be wearing a resort dress, if that makes sense, and to be close to her knees at any given time, which is critical and has proven invaluable, particularly this year, as we're both scaling and dealing with the COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. Stephanie: If someone didn't have a background like you and they're like, "I'm really looking to get into apparel or something." What steps would you tell them to find the right partner, manufacturer, or factory? How would you go about it if you didn't have anything to start with? Lori: So, the Commerce Department, you can actually track down Asian factories, we can look at our numbers on all pain tags or garment labels in garments. So, if you want to start taking notice of who's manufacturing what product and where that's a good way to do it. And then, I think there are several ... If you're looking to start on a small scale, there are several mini-manufacturing organizations and particularly in LA, that have domestic manufacturing as well as in New York. Stephanie: Okay, that's cool. Yeah. I always wondered, how do people find all these great partners who work so well? I mean, you also hear some of the bad stories as well. But a lot of people who've come on the show so far have good partners and I haven't asked the question is like, how are you finding these people? It seems so hard for me to think about working with someone in other countries who maybe haven't met before, and just interesting to think about that process. Would you advise companies starting out to always have more than one factory partner or? Because I'm thinking right now we were just talking about with like, everything with COVID. A lot of people are having problems with their supply chain and their manufacturers. Do you think a lot of people should pivot now to always have more than one, so they're not over reliant on just one partner or how are you all thinking about that? Lori: We believe in diversification, for sure. And of course, because we have multiple product categories. We certainly by definition, have multiple factories by their areas of expertise, but we want to have redundancy for all categories as well. And I think COVID-19 has certainly brought to light why that's important. But it's important from a fair pricing perspective, it's important from a logistics perspective. And also, as you continue to scale and you're in growth mode, like we are at Summersalt, it increases your capacity that much more. Stephanie: Very cool. So, another thing I was curious about originally, I saw that you were selling swimwear under your name, which, to me you have a great name. It's very designery, and then you shifted over to sell under Summersalt. And I wanted to hear what that process was like and why you switched to not selling under your name anymore? Lori: So, I think a couple of things. First of all, we wanted Summersalt to be a true disruptor in the space and sit next to other direct-to-consumer brands that are disrupting the category. What better name than Summersalt, right? We were amazed that it was still available. Stephanie: That's a good name. Lori: Yeah. And this idea that we're turning the industry upside down, as well as evoking the sense of summer and salts, and all things joyful and fun. So, first and foremost, it really was about building a brand of the future. And also, I don't need to be the center face of the company at all times. In fact, I've enjoyed just my role as CEO. And I certainly love to design and I have a very trained eye but I think my skill set is around building the business in whole so I'm very comfortable just letting Summersalt stand on its own. It doesn't need to be my name, for instance. Stephanie: Got it. I think that's always a debate when founders are first starting a company it's like, "Do you want to build a brand around yourself and have your name be the company or pick a unique name?" So yeah, that's interesting to hear your thought process behind that. So, little higher level eCommerce question. What trends are you most excited about over the next year? What are you following? What are you preparing for? Lori: So I think, fortunately for us, but unfortunately for our country COVID-19 has brought a once in a lifetime adjustment to the retail industry. And some forecasts are that as much as 50% of physical stores, particularly mall based stores are likely to close over the next 18 months. And what we know is that that demand is not going away, those sales are probably going to move online and so they just tailwinds and eCommerce in general, for brands like Summersalt are phenomenal. And I think it's truly being in the right place at the right time, having the ability and the resources to scale at a time when the demand is climbing. I mean, we see almost unlimited potential there. Stephanie: Is there anything you're changing from things that you've seen over the past six months or so that maybe you weren't thinking about prior to this? It can be a business model, website anything. Lori: So, I think the biggest thing for us is that the opportunity for Summersalt is bigger and it's sooner than we anticipated. So, this idea of being the go to eCommerce brand for our generation of women and consumer for women like us, she has fewer and fewer choices both in store and then physically. And then also a lot of the brands that she's turned to over the years, are struggling tremendously due to the COVID-19 headwinds. Lori: And so just knowing that she is likely to go to brands that she already knows and trusts I think we all in this time have a sense that we have so much change, We don't want to try just completely new brands, but Summersalt particularly she already knows us, she loves us, she's familiar and is able to know and trust the product as well as the consumer experience. It's really in our favor. Stephanie: Yeah, I think trust is so important and key right now, especially in this environment. Are there ways you go about garnering that trust, whether it's like developing a community and help generate word of mouth among your current consumers? How do you think about building that up? Lori: So, we have an amazing community of customers, women on social media, as well as an awesome customer happiness team. I don't know if you saw but in the midst of COVID-19 we launched Joycast, which really was a text based platform for women could customers, not just women, customers could text us and we would send back a little clip, or joyful uplifting message, video, image, anything that made her life a bit happier. Stephanie: That is great. Lori: We have an amazing customer happiness team that's led by a group of women that are either in a counseling program or they have a master's degree in English. It's just really all are great communicators, and have super high empathy for the consumer. And it's a quite a different approach than any of our D2C counterparts are taking. And what's interesting is the consumer has responded to this group and to our approach for customer service. Stephanie: Yeah, that's really fun. Did you see anything come from that experiment that you didn't expect? Lori: We had a lot of people that responded, it was amazing. Hundreds, thousands of texts, which was fantastic and it allowed us to feel like we were supporting her through a very difficult time. And I think our customer happiness team loves doing their part to make the world a little bit happier. And it was a difficult time for everyone. Stephanie: Yeah, I completely agree. So, before we move on to the lightning round, is there anything that I missed that you were hoping I would ask? Lori: No, I think that you've done amazing. Yeah. Stephanie: Oh, thank you. Well, let's move right into the lightning round then, it's where I will ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Lori? Lori: I am ready. Stephanie: All right. If you were to create a Netflix original or documentary, what would it be about? Lori: Oh, I think the Netflix original would be about my life as a mom of two boys and my life as a startup founder and how at times it seems like those are completely two different worlds. But somehow I managed to navigate them both hopefully well. Stephanie: I would watch that. I have a lot to learn. So, I'd be your first viewer. Lori: Or not so well. Stephanie: It's a balancing act for sure. What's up next on your reading list? Lori: What's next on my reading lIst? I think I just finished a couple of interesting books but the one next to my bed is Million Dollar Brand. Stephanie: Is that good? I have that on my list. Lori: I think it's great ... Oh, sorry. Billion Dollar Brand not a million dollar. Let's Let's do that one again. The one on my reading list, next to my bed right now. Let's do it again. Stephanie: Yep, what's up next on your reading list. Lori: The book that is on my nightstand right now, next to my bed is Billion Dollar Brand sent to me by one of our investors. Stephanie: And are you enjoying it? I have that one on my reading list as well. I haven't gotten to it yet, though. Lori: It's great, and what's interesting is, I personally know several of the founders that are referenced in the book, so it's great to hear their early origin stories and hopefully they'll write a subsequent chapter on Summersalt. Stephanie: They will. Very cool. Yeah, I definitely have to check that one out. What new piece of tech are you enjoying most right now, it could be an app, it could be something you're using at Summersalt, that you are just trying out. That was exciting around tech that you're using. Lori: Tech wise, we are always using the latest and the greatest, but I think in the COVID-19 environment, I've never been more grateful for Slack. We used it pre-COVID but now that we have 100% fully remote team, our team was already somewhat integrated with Slack but now it's part of our day in and day out every minute. Stephanie: Yeah, us too. I love Slack. What new product are you most excited about launching? Or are you working on behind the scenes that no one else knows about? Lori: We have a few things that are top secret, but- Stephanie: I want to know them. Lori: We had some amazing loungewear launches this spring and summer. And I'm super excited about continuing to build out loungewear as a category and particularly for Q4 gifting. I think the consumer is going to be blown away. Stephanie: Cool. I can't wait. I'm all about loungewear these days. Lori: We all are. Stephanie: All right. Yes. Last hard question. What one thing will have the biggest impact on eCommerce in the next year? Lori: Oh, it has to be the store closures and the continued consumer reluctance to actually even go and shop in store and so just understanding that the growth of the category. Clearly it's taken 10 years to get to this point as far as adoption of eCommerce and I think we're going to see another 10 years worth of growth in the category in the next 18 months. Stephanie: Yep. Great answer. Lori, it's been a blast. Where can people find out more about you and Summersalt? Lori: Please go to our website summersalt.com, spelled like summer the season and salt like the seasoning. And then of course, we're on LinkedIn as well. Stephanie: That's the best way to describe Summersalt. I like that. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. It was really fun and we will have to have you back once you hit that billion dollar mark. Lori: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it. Stephanie: Yeah, same. See you next time. Lori: Take care.