53: Fixing the Shopping Experience with Tech: Katrina Lake, founder and CEO, Stitch Fix

 
Katrina Lake is the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix. At 34, she is the youngest woman ever to take her company public.

Katrina Lake is the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix. At 34, she is the youngest woman ever to take her company public.

Katrina Lake is the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix. And as of today, at 34 years old, she is the youngest woman to take her company public – ever.  

Stitch Fix is a San Francisco company that combines data-crunching computers with human stylists on a mission to send you the perfect outfit. On Friday the company went public on the Nasdaq stock market at a market value of more than $1 billion, and I was there for CNBC, covering the remarkable story. 

Lake sat down with me at the Nasdaq in Times Square minutes after shares of Stitch Fix started trading for the first time – you can hear the buzz of Stitch Fix employees and customers in the background as we talk. The first part of our conversation was live on CNBC's Squawk Alley, which I co-anchor weekdays on the network. She took some time after that portion to talk more about how she developed the idea for the company, why she still works as a stylist on the platform, and why the story of how she overcame sexual harassment from an investor is especially resonant today. 

Some highlights:

On why she started Stitch Fix:

"I love retail – it's a huge, meaningful category – it's like a $350 billion category that's growing. And yet only 15% of that is bought online. So I looked around and I was like, however people are going to buy clothes 15 years from now, I want to be at that company. And I looked around, and I just didn't feel like I saw that."

On where the entrepreneurial itch came from:

"I wasn't the kid that had a lemonade stand growing up. My mom is a public school teacher – she just retired, she was a public school teacher. My dad is a doctor in the public system. We didn't have a super-capitalist household. I always imagined that maybe I'd be a doctor. For me, it just ended up being this opportunity. I want to work at the retailer of the future. When I didn't see it, I realized that I could start it myself."

On the sexual harassment she had to deal with from an investor while building her company:

"My path as an entrepreneur hasn't always been easy. I've learned a lot through that. My hope is that now that there's such a broader conversation about the challenges of many people in many industries beyond tech, my hope is that the conversation moves things forward."

She had more to say about that – and a lot of other topics – on the podcast. Have a listen.