What does a professional skydiver do when she decides it’s time to stop jumping out of planes and move on to the next thing? If she’s Samantha Radocchia, she sells her expensive equipment and uses the money to found a badass online shopping site, Shop With Stella.
ShopWithStella takes the work out of looking awesome by scouring the internet for cool companies and unique products for the fashionista without time or, sometimes, without inspiration. This site wants to be your stylish best friend and I want to work for them.
Sam gave us a little peek into her world, which includes a Newfoundland named Chewy, a huge Brooklyn loft with a working fireplace, and breakups over CSS templates.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
Our initial idea was to build an automated, online personal shopper. You know those people who always seem to have great, unique style? Those people who seem to spend all their time scouring the racks of department stores and rummaging through boxes in vintage stores in order to put together that truly one-of-a-kind, daring yet remarkably familiar outfit?
I have plenty of those friends. I myself, am not one of those people. I’m not cool enough to be one of those people. And for people like me, how awesome would it be to have your own personal shopper – Stella – who will search all over the internet on your behalf to bring you truly unique fashion? So meet Stella, your online personal shopper.
In respect to the name Stella, the namesake can be owed to our Chief Business Development Officer Elizabeth Nolan’s great grandmother Estelle. Beautifully eccentric, Estelle was often quoted as saying, “Dress a woman in an outfit she truly loves and watch her confidence turn every head in the room.”
I never met the woman, obviously, but from what I can tell she was a total badass – world traveler, independent, trendsetter, and tastemaker. She made her own rules and that’s the kind of dresser we should all aspire to be.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
Probably the same thing you do. I don’t know, it’s not the same thing every day because I’m always late (which is embarrassing because my bedroom is down the hall from where I work).
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
Lizzy and I (as well as our resident Newfoundland named Chewbacca) co-founded ShopwithStella.com in the spring of 2011. We went to Colgate together. It was just us for a few months until we lured more people into our delusion! Just kidding! I swear they all work willingly. Anyways, we now have 4 wonderful employees/interns extraordinaire!
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
The biggest struggle for us wasn’t finding funding, or finding people ready to dive in head first. We were crazy enough to drop everything, especially in an economy like this. We thought, if we can’t get jobs, why not create our own? I guess the hardest part about starting up was learning to manage our friendships and keep that separate from Stella.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Apparently I handle frustration in what she has dubbed, “the Sam Radocchia three-step process.” First, I attempt to justify the mistake (if there was one). Second, I work myself into a fury about how everyone has apparently wronged either myself or the company. Third, I take a long walk during which I rationalize with myself, after which I return with a new idea for the company. Sometimes, I like to jump out of planes because it seems to speed up that process a little bit.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
Well, considering we are an all-girl-run tech company (which is not to say we are against dudes!) we ARE pretty tech-y. That is to say we know how to use our Apple TV and know how to use it to play music. I mean, it really depends on the day – if we are working away on spreadsheets then we throw on some classic rock, maybe some Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan. If we are getting glammed up to attend a retailer convention or shoot some webisodes, then you know, Call Me Maybe might be in order.
The highlight of our office really is our resident Newfoundland, Chewy. He’s the man. He also spends most of his time drooling on all of us so I’d say the office environment has to be pretty lax.
Also, I forgot to mention that our office doubles as our apartment… or rather, our apartment doubles as our office. It’s hard to tell these days where that line should be.
Basically, our living room now has a huge glass work table in it, but sometimes the best days are those when we can lounge – sweat pants, sweat shirts, and furry socks on the couch in front of our really awesome working fireplace.
I love some hot chocolate and furry socks in front of a fire with spreadsheets and emails. Coffee and business suits are so overrated!
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Acquired. By Amazon. I’m serious. Just watch.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food? Give us the deets, dude!
An irrational fear or mediocrity. The movie Almost Famous. People who stay married for over 50 years and grow old together. My dog. Jim Morrison. Smart people. And of course, my co-founders!
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded? Where’d you get the money, man?
I used to skydive competitively. After about 700 jumps I had amassed quite a big of equipment that was worth a hefty sum. Once I realized this was something I really wanted to do, I sold my rig and took a different kind of risk.
My co-founders and I then self-funded in order to pay for a swanky DUMBO Brooklyn loft in the summer of 2011. We filled it with programmers and a film crew, which ultimately led to our being considered for a television series on Bravo.
We then went on to raise our seed round of $150k from family and friends, who were generous enough to put their faith in our somewhat over-zealous idea for a company. We are now in the process of raising our series A – if you are reading this and have the dough, give me a call.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Aha! Lean startups. Just read that Eric Ries book at the recommendation of a V.C. friend. Hm. The only tip I could possibly give is DO IT ALL YOURSELF. You think you need someone to make you that fancy five thousand dollar “how-to video” that mimics an Apple commercial? Grab your cell phone camera and teach yourself iMovie. You think you need a lawyer to write your contracts for you? Co-Found the company with a law student. You think you need someone to manage your finances? No. Of course not. If you are starting your own company, you are capable enough to do it all yourself. It will pay off in the end
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your currently startup / projects)
Get another Newfoundland. Buy a house preferably on or near the beach. Pay to send my entire family on a well- deserved vacation.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
Well I guess you want me to say that no, I do not consider myself a successful entrepreneur… that the only thing that will make me feel successful is success, which I will never achieve cause it will never be enough. I already told you that what inspires me is an irrational fear or mediocrity – so I suppose that gives you your answer.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Delivery.com. I don’t know why, but I love it. Waffles at 4 AM? You got it! Call me an alcoholic but I found a nifty little trick – if you are having a dinner party that you know, extends into the later hours of the evening… let’s say around 12AM or 1AM… you can go on delivery.com, order from the local pizza place that happens to serve wine and voila! Wine delivery at 1AM. I was pretty proud when I discovered that.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
I really really love the dropbox app. I really love dropbox in general. Lizzy will probably want to shoot me for saying this because I talk about dropbox way too much.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs. BIG DOGS.
iOS or Android?
iLove my iPhone.
What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
Where can our readers get ahold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog? Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?