After a shady run in with a transaction on Craigslist, Shadrow decided she would create her own platform to buy and sell clothing and objects for college students. Thus, developing the company known as Unitiques. Since its inception, the company has grown to 11,000 members with sales exceeding $200,000. She empowers women in a safe environment to support their own education and lifestyle without having to look too far to save up to buy an oh-so-coveted Celine bag. In fact, you might even find a Celine bag for sale cheaper than retail price on the site itself.
I first met Alex when she was marketing her company on the pavements of LMU. She had me at her collaboration with Rent the Runway founder, but after speaking with her for several minutes I could already tell she was mature, driven and headstrong who was absolutely committed to her company.
You mentioned when we met that you were in a competition that provided you with your partnership with Rent the Runway. Can you tell us how you got into that?
A: Someone posted a link on a Craigslist ad and said calling all fashionpreneurs and I applied. Then, I was a part of a TV show called Project Runway Startup where I was introduced to the CEO as a mentor on the show. But on the show, I was never introduced to her [Jenny Fleiss, Co-Founder of Rent the Runway] as here’s your mentor. It was more like here’s your meeting and I turned it into something more. Actually, when I was on the tv show, Jenny was on the TV show telling me about business and how to brand it.
So, how exactly did that partnership come about?
A: I always look for opportunities so it was never like here’s your partnership with rent the runway it was like here’s your interview and I turned it into more. That’s what I do is turn things into more.
And were you always like that? Where did that kind of mentality come from?
A: I have always been that way since the day I was born probably from my dad [Also an entrepreneur]. But even when my sister was four and I was six, we received money from family members and I would always tell her five is more than one.
Haha it really is. So, how has the partnership with Rebecca and Jenny opened doors for you in the business world?
A: Massive doors. What I say to everyone that owns a startup is no one invests in the startup. They invest in the team and in the people. For example, I had Katia [Beauchamp, Birchbox CEO], Rebecca Minkoff, and Jenny from Rent the Runway on my advisory board. Investors don’t understand how these very influential people meet me. Also, the only thing about projections is that they’re wrong. Normally startup investors don’t care as much about the projections but the people running it.
With such strong women as mentors in your field, how has that women empowerment approach impacted your business ventures?
A: I tell my investors I want to have all female investors and when I say that the pocketbooks open fast. When I opened Unitiques I thought of us as the Craigslist of college and when I changed the focus to girls we did so much better.
But, how do you think the perception of women in tech has hindered or supported your success?
A: I would say that being underestimated is an advantage. I think the more involved you are the less dumb you have to be. A lot of the women entrepreneurs I have met are giving, honest, forthcoming, and helpful. Once you plug yourself in, you will be gratified. And the old boys are definitely there, but there’s also these new women and YouTube video people that don’t even know about them. Always disregard the politics and if the politics are faced with you, play into them. Underpromise and overachieve.
And given your focus on women empowerment, what advice do you have for anyone entering into the business world?
A: Know your lane and play that lane.
Find your deck of cards- if you’re a photographer offer to take headshots and if you’re a blogger offer to write a article. Know what’s in your deck of cards and do whatever is in your deck of cards. Whatever you can offer people- offer them. Offer to make an introduction if you know someone influential. And if you feel you have nothing, I’m so sorry for you because that isn’t true but even if you “have nothing”, be a personal assistant. For example, I offered to be a personal assistant for Rebecca Minkoff and I charge $250 for consulting and make good money from them but here I offered it for free. Say yes take every opportunity even if you don’t know what it is. When I applied for the show, I didn’t even know what the opportunity was.
You never felt that you were compromising your abilities?
A: At the end of the day there are never compromises. Is it expensive? Depends what I get for it. There’s no such thing as expensive. The only thing that’s expensive is one you don’t get anything out of.
How about if they’re still trying to find their inner #girlboss?
A: The desire to find your inner girl boss is the wrong way to approach it. It’s this is what I’m good at; this is what I’m passion about and these are my margins.
If you want to be a girl boss these are the questions to ask yourself:
1. What are my margins?
2. Who are my customers
3, How do I reach them?
4. Is it worth it to reach them?
Also, having a message, having a purpose is really important.
My message is being enabled- send an email walk to a job interview. Unitiques empowers women to be entrepreneurs by turning their closets into stores. More than that, it’s giving back and helping others.
So, going back to Unitiques- you started your business in college. What kind of criteria does a college have to meet to have you on campus?
A: I have to see people that look fashionable. I’ve seen a lot of campuses that have been a waste and a lot have been a success. It’s an attitude. Every college that’s a success is a social campus. A campus that has events, an outdoor space.- we are into communities (and I speak for myself and Rebecca). First of all, a campus has to be social, second of all fashionable and then have an active community. The community driven campuses say to us “yes we love Unitiques and that’s what we are all about.” People aren’t there just to get a degree. They are there to have a college experience and learn.
Finally what are three words you would use to describe you?
A: Resilient, positive, loving