DREAM CATCHER: KELSEY DOOREY
Delaware native Kelsey Doorey studied psychology and economics at Columbia University before starting a career as a management consultant for IBM and Rent The Runway. While studying for an MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, she interned at Bloomingdale’s, Michael Kors, and BCBG, and was all set to work in Bloomingdale’s corporate offices after graduation. Her plans were derailed by a course assignment that asked her to develop a business plan for a new company. As she tried to think of an unmet need, she eyed the six bridesmaid dresses at the back of her closet and started thinking about why it is that men can rent tuxedos for weddings, while the women in the bridal party often spend a lot of money for a dress they will wear exactly one time (regardless of how emphatically the bride insists otherwise). She had an idea to create a business renting designer bridesmaid dresses, and her professors urged her to enter the idea in Anderson’s Knapp Venture Competition. She won, and several of the investor judges offered to fund her business on the spot – a first in the competition’s 30-year history. She gave notice to Bloomingdale’s and after one year of beta testing, Vow To Be Chic launched to the public in the Spring of 2014. By November of that year, Kelsey was earning accolades such as being named one of the “Top 50 People to Watch” in Southern California’s technology industry.
How did your former career prepare you for running your own business? All of my past jobs and work experience (including internships) have helped me get where I am today. Consulting taught me a great structure for problem solving, Rent the Runway taught me about dress rental, and startup internships taught me about jumping in wherever needed.
What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome before launching your business? Probably getting the guts to give up a corporate job with stable income for the unknown of starting a company.
How long were you in business before you started to see real growth? What do you attribute that to? We accidentally launched during beta testing, because I talked to a Yahoo reporter about the company. I woke up one morning to an article… and 40,000 bridesmaids who wanted to use my company long before I was ready to fulfill such high demand.
How did you fund your dream? After working on this business idea as a class project, my professors at UCLA Anderson urged me to enter a competition and present it. After winning the Knapp Venture Competition in 2013, several of the judges who were Venture Capitalist investors offered me funding on the spot.
How do you organize your day to best optimize your time? Describe a day in your life. Normally, I wake up early and check my email from bed with one eye open. Then I take my dog, Brogan, for a walk along the beach. It helps me center myself for the day ahead. In a startup, each day is different and each day is crazy. That’s why I live by my to-do list. It may never all get done, but it helps me prioritize.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be… I can’t imagine doing anything else. I stumbled into my dream job! Originally, I was lined up to take a corporate job in New York at a major retailer upon graduation from business school. I thought that was what I really wanted back then, but the challenge of running a startup is exhilarating and addictive!
Five years from now I see myself and my company… Helping women make the wedding planning process easy, fun, stylish, and affordable! Our concept is so new to the market that we’re already disrupting the industry in a big way, but I promise we’re not done yet. There are lots more exciting things to come, even in this year alone!
The key to balancing it all is… Prioritization. I keep a running turbo-charged to-do list. My friends make fun of me because both the smallest and largest things are on it. But it helps me make sure that the things that matter don’t get lost in the cracks.
If I had to do it all over again I would… Period. If I could do it all over again, I would.
The most important thing I have learned so far… It’s true what they say – startups are like roller coasters with highs and lows, so hold on and enjoy the ride. Focus on each day in front of you. Building a startup can be like climbing Mount Everest, but you climb it one foot at a time.
“I think that’s true for too many women that I meet – we stand in our own way, or don’t believe in ourselves enough.”
LET’S GET PERSONAL:
I am most proud of… The fact that our team has already offered women a new way to shop for bridesmaid dresses that are affordable and chic.
My favorite getaway is… I love traveling so I’m always up for a getaway (work permitting these days). I like places that are a little more underdeveloped where I can travel with nothing more than a backpack and learn a new culture.
My favorite nail polish, lipstick, or scent is… I’m more of a fashion girl than a beauty girl. I keep it pretty simple when it comes to beauty. I appreciate a good dark nude or red gel nail polish. (It’s a time saver because it lasts for weeks!)
My favorite TV show or movie is… Modern Family! They actually filmed an episode a block away from our office. That was a fun day.
I try to achieve mindfulness by… Focusing on the positive and taking everything one step at a time.
My favorite non-business book is… Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.
One talent I wish I had is… Teleportation – how cool would it be if I could wake up in Bali and show up at work in LA soon after?
A woman who inspires me is… My mom. She really encouraged me to take the risk of starting my own company and has helped me along the way. She’s probably the main reason that I’m an entrepreneur today!