It’s rare enough for childhood friends to stay in touch when they outgrow their Barbie dolls. It’s even more unusual for both to attend Harvard Business School and turn a mutual love for shopping into a successful entrepreneurial venture. But that’s exactly how Meredith Barnett and Cristina Miller came to launch StoreAdore, a Web site that dishes about the best boutique shopping, online and in a half dozen cities.
Barnett conceived of and wrote the business plan for StoreAdore during her second year of business school, while Miller was working in London. She revealed the concept to her friend during a New York City reunion devoted to engagement ring shopping. The two immediately decided to partner up. They not only trusted each other implicitly, but their skill sets were complementary, too. Miller had a management consulting background and Barnett had been an editor at Lucky magazine.
With their business plan in place and the necessary finances secured through angel investors, the two partners planned to launch their site in January 2008. But they happily jumped the gun when they were asked to appear on an “Oprah” segment about mentoring in conjunction with a book written by Barnett’s onetime mentor, Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black. Since launching in October 2007, they have revamped and expanded the site and are thrilled to find themselves becoming trendsetters in their two favorite areas—fashion and business—while still getting to be the BFFs they’ve always been.
What we learned from Meredith: “Write a business plan. Even if you’re self-funding, it helps to go through that process. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. It doesn’t have to be really long. But part of the process of writing the business plan is the process of proving to yourself that you have a viable idea before you have to prove it to everyone else.”
I Need, You Need
Meredith: “I would go to different neighborhoods in New York, or in new cities, and go, ‘I know there’s great shopping here. I know there’s a boutique shopping scene or neighborhood, but I just don’t know where to go. And if this information isn’t readily accessible to me, then other people must have that same problem.’ And that applied to online [shopping] too.”
Meredith: “Very quickly [after the idea for StoreAdore came about] I started thinking: What were the operations? Who were going to be our tech people? How were we going to build it? How long was it going to take? I think, before you do that, you really have to take a step back and ask yourself: Just because this is my vision, is it the right vision for this business?”
Meredith: “We contacted some retailers in different cities and said, ‘Can you get a group of 10 of your best customers together? Tell them it’s a focus group about shopping, hold it in your store, and we’ll give them each a $20 gift certificate to your store.’ We could just ask them a million questions, and we learned so much from them. We still reference that data, so that was really helpful.”
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