How Maisonette Has Embraced Its Founder to Find Their New Selves?

With the urge to build something that had not existed before. Two Vogue veterans who just raised $30 million, recalls on the emotional and valuable lessons they had earned along the way.
Maisonette co-founders at a residential house
Source: Hemopolish
By | 11 min read

For fashion-forward parents, the look of everything is important – and their kids are also their identity. However, finding stylish clothing for kids can be a hassle, no one wants to drag their little ones around stores or have enough time on the internet to so. There comes Maisonette  to save the day and ease up the lives of parents. The company provides an online shopping experience that allows parents to stay at home as they sift through a myriad of chic brands.

Founding Story: I Move on From Vogue, to Find Another Self of Mine

It’s all started around 2016, while Sylvana Durrett – a Vogue’s executive – was shopping for her two children and found what a nightmare it was for being too time-consuming. As adults, you always have an aggregated source online somewhere for everything you need, except when it comes to your kids. It takes hours to find a cool website, not to mention a specific product. Durrett recalls, of course there were massive options but what she wants is the best quality and the best style, which she knows many parents are also looking for. A taste level along with the need for those pieces.

So, here comes Maisonette, where its founders promise customers the best advice and inspiration and where you can actually buy it, just with one–stop.

Women in Action

It helps that Maisonette’s founders have an eye for what’s chic.

To have the chic, is one of the core resources building Maisonette. Co-founders Sylvana Durrett and Luisana Roccia met at Vogue magazine, where Durrett spent 15 years, joining the staff straight from Princeton and becoming its director of events. And when the two decided on what they were going to do, they have another ally on board – Marissa Mayer, who was known as Google’s first female engineer and its most fashionable executive.

Maisonette team celebrate with friends
Source: Masse

On this site, Mayer plays the core role to refine the company data strategy. To Mayer, one of the things that is really helpful when it comes to data and e-commerce is when you can capture people at a particular life stage. That is how wedding registries become popular.

“You get married, then you have children and [the retailer] can follow the children’s ages and start anticipating that customer’s needs and what they’re going to want two years from now.” Mayer explains, in terms of predictable supply chain, for inventory selection, having insight into those stages is really important and helpful. And she is there to help Maisonette carries out that practices.

Today, the company has scaled to gather over 9,000 brands across top market categories, from apparel and accessories to home furniture and decor. There are more than 25,0000 products on the site with 1,400 new products each month, according to TechCrunch. The site is also launching its own everyday basics private label, Maison Me, to address the $35B+ US Children’s apparel market, which has become one of the marketplace’s fastest growing brands.

The Math Explained

Generally, Maisonette operates on a marketplace model. Without holding inventory the site partner with brands and vendors to sell their products. This model allows the business to scale and grow quickly, while have the ability to be flexible and take risks on certain categories without it being a cost the business, said Durrett. That is how she is seeing the market for now, because the biggest problem with e-commerce is when people are sitting on inventory that cannot sell. So, just follow the formula if they are not working, there is no actual cost to you!

Played as the middleman, the site claims to be the solution for both customers and vendors, in a targeted and authentic way.

Maisonette store
Source: Maisonette

“As consumers went online for more and more of their shopping needs over the last year, we saw demand for Amazon alternatives grow,” said Larry Aschebrook, Managing Partner, G Squared. “Maisonette was positioned well and responded quickly to the shift by offering merchandise that consumers sought, 40 percent of which is exclusive to Maisonette or is hard to find elsewhere.  Maisonette delivered a timely and robust platform that many retailers needed to reach a large, collective audience of shoppers online.”

Cover a Problem That Is Out of Your Reach

To Durrett, anytime you are innovating, creating something that does not exist yet, it’s essential to face challenges. Because you started at the unknown, and it’s important not to get overwhelmed. The best way is to take things one day at a time, and above all, to trust that you have got this.

At Maisonette, the first and most challenging aspect is somehow out of its founders’ reach – a tech problem. There are giant complexities when it comes to integrating with each vendor’s inventory management systems and making sure that inventory is updated. “Obviously, we don’t come from a tech background” admitted Durrett. The founder claims it was sure daunting for her and the co-founder since both of them have nothing in that space and Maisonette is a tech-product, exactly. Yet, the only way out is through, they take serious time with the help of serious people, and the rest is history.

In addition, as the founders studied successful retailers, they observed that the best brands did not just sell clothes, they create communities. Offering up high-quality brands is not all Maisonette does, Roccia and Durrett’s site has an editorial section too, called “Le Scoop.” It is brimming with children-centric tips and insightful articles that foster a community of parents with one major goal in mind: to find only the very best for their kids.

Maisonette website homepage
Courtesy: Maisonette

The second is, however, the founders’ strengths – an appearance in the fashion industry as seasoned veterans. On a Fashionista article, Durrett and Roccia once mentioned how the experience at Vogue has boldly influenced Maisonette.

How the school of Vogue is very much a part of her everyday life, and the work there raised in her the instinct for looking at good brands, how to start one, how should you grow that brand and the importance of the look, the feel, and the who you will align yourself with. All those things, to Durrett, Anna Wintour was always on top of that. So, being Wintour’s sidekick has taught her a thing or two on engraining people’s head. Besides, time spent with the Fashion Fund finalists was really helpful with many Business 101, that the founder claims to play an essential role in many stages of her company life.

The Principles Maisonette’s Founders Always Has Themselves Aligned to

Besides, what has happened to Maisonette, what has taken place within the female founders are also great stories and conversations we want to bring up. Even though it is nothing new under the sun, to have more successful women remind you of values that work is a way to start the day.

Work It Out of Fear

“Mom have superpowers”

– Sylvana Durrett

When she and Luisana launched Maisonette, Durrett was pregnant her third baby. They were sacred, of course. But they did it anyway, “I just feel the urge to have do it right now, it is now or later, then why not at that very moment?” Durrett recalls, every time is a right time when you are ready. That is because of a fundamental strength in both of these women: confidence.

There are plenty of research supports the role confidence plays in success. Durrett advices, you can build your confidence by being reflective on your skills and strengths while reminding yourself of your accomplishments.

Prior to launch, Roccia and Durrett spent years finding the best womenswear for Vogue, so filling Maisonette with the best in childrenswear, was a decision they could feel confident about. “There are always hard days. It’s about what you do with it and how you pivot and go from there. Always iterating on the next thing,” Roccia on Fashionista.

“As a woman, it’s difficult to walk into a room full of men and ask for money month after month like we had to for our Series A fundraising round. That being said, we fully believe in what we are building and would do anything to make sure it’s successful”

Balance Is Organizing without the Guilt

According to the Maisonette founders, the best way to achieve balance is by giving yourself the time and space to be successful. Recognize that increased commitments mean that you need to prioritize and organize. Because you sure will be pulled in many directions, and knowing your priorities would be helpful for decision making.

Especially when it comes to moms who work, people expect you to be perfect at both places. Durrett advices the best strategy she has so far is tight schedule and honest presence. “I live and die by my google calendar app and my notebook where I am constantly iterating and task-mastering a to-do list.” Whether you are at home or at work, focus on that moment. And the best book for this: Getting Things Done and Organized Mind, the founder recommended. However, work smarter not harder, you should look for timesaving tools when it comes to the tricks that help stay on top of everyday responsibilities.

Maisonette CEO take care of her child
Source: Oscar de la Renta

And the most important aspect to stress, talking about moms. Be conscious of your priorities at the specific time and do not let yourself feel guilty about what you are not doing. If you are on an early call with your team, let go of thoughts about missing the breakfast at home with the kids.

Spare yourself the self-loathing and allow yourself to be imperfect, as women, as moms and as entrepreneurs

Allow Yourself to Be Open for New Learnings

Think of your family as your foundation before start building your own business. Roccia says starting up “has to be a family decision as the whole family will be involved. Getting the support of your family and community is really important, just like when you have a child.” On the early days, both the founders make regular tours for the kids to get to the office, have them on testing out products, and photographing.

Besides, learn to call for support when you need it, particularly from female mentors. To Durrett, mentors are key-levers to success and well-being, for how much she could lean on them at those early days and even till now. Find people who did what you want to do, share your experience, and learn from them. Look for help is never an outdated strategy.

However, the best part of receiving is to be able to give out again. Do not forget your part of supporting other women, it is how you help others that other will help you. Both founders shared how surprise they were for the supportive environment of mother and female founders. It was a real sense of shared experienced and paying it forward. Remember, there is room for everyone.

 But first of all, be open for connections, give others the opportunity to help you.

Two Things I Learned from Anna Wintour

More from Durrett and her days back at Vogue, what lessons did she learn from Anna Wintour that are still relevant to is happening today? An ethos that is urgent to be widespread?

There are two things she wants to stress mentioning Wintour. The first is work ethic. She has an incredible work ethic and she does not stop until it’s done. Wintour strives for excellence and that is something Durrett continues to take with her every day. “No” is not an answer, you fight until you get what you seek. That is a really important mentality in start-ups. As leaders, what you want to ignite in others must first burn inside yourself. You have to really want it and others will soon feel the urge to do it too.

The second thing, she mentions is the importance of a brand. Durrett recalls since the first day walked into Vogue, and certainly after having worked with Wintour for most of her career span. – the idea of the brand is really essence of it all. If you had built and protected successfully a strong brand, you can do anything. Like for Maisonette, the brand, the look, the idea, and the taste are actually the core of the business.

Great Work is Teamwork

Maisonette staff collaborate in an event at the head office
Source: Maisonette

Last but not least, let’s talk a bit about each other, what has it been like having a co-founder, especially in Mainsonette’s early days?

To Durrett and Roccia, the other’s presence plays crucial key in the company’s success. When it is a male-dominant place in the startup world, “we don’t have to say anything and we know that we are thinking the same thing.” So, it has been a huge support to have people you can trust around ­someone that is also at the other end of the stigma.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster, with ups and downs, excitement and terrifying all at once. Therefore, to have that sense of support with somebody whom you know has that same background and taste level and instincts is really comforting.

About being a first-time entrepreneur, she is proud to be pretty open with their experiences in this world. And you will find that there are people who are willing to share the pitfalls they’ve experienced. The start-up world is incredibly generous in that sense. People might think it’s competitive, but because it’s such an undertaking, and necessary advice— that wisdom of just having done it before. You definitely want to pay that forward.

The Bottom Lines

As the look of something is increasingly important. It’s not just about function; it’s about how it looks that make a whole statement for the product itself. Aware of the aesthetic needs, Maisonette is here to be a go-to brand for fashion-conscious families.

More importantly, if there is anything to draw out from the Maisonette story, it is how entrepreneurship is found everywhere right the closest aspect of life. And if you are not ready, it would never be the right time.

  • As a Market Strategy Analyst, Kaley is passionate about strategically matching individuals and organizations with unique outsourcing solutions ranging from ecommerce, healthcare to hospitality and travel. Having gained working experience…