Jennie Baik, co-founder of Orchard Mile sat down with our founder, Iman Oubou to discuss how she has worked to reinvent the online shopping experience as we know it with her creation of Orchard Mile, the ultimate virtual shopping mall. According to Baik, the name Orchard Mile comes from Orchard Road in Singapore, which is similar to 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive in the U.S. and ‘Mile’ refers to the Magnificent Mile in Chicago – the city’s most upscale shopping and dining section.
“With retail, as more and more retail doors are closing, people really do want to see the full collection of every designer. The experience that we’re bringing is that you can have all the access to all of the collections."
The two names represent what seems like the mall in the sky as Orchard Mile is home to dozens of designers in the luxury, contemporary and athleisure markets that sell their full collections on the site’s marketplace. Orchard Mile sells anything from Tom Ford perfume to Carolina Herrera evening gowns to Paige denim to Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. The best part? Each designer features their full collections on Orchard Mile’s site. The founder goes on to explain that only five to 10 percent of fashion brand’s digital sales are from their own website – the other 90 to 95 percent of their sales come from navigators, wholesalers, specialty stores, and the like.
Chandra Leather Mini Chain Clutch. Courtesy of Orchard Mild
But with Orchard Mile, the designers that are featured on the site buy into the marketplace, creating a direct consumer transaction, which is “really exciting for brands, and is more economical to be placed in this marketplace environment,” explains Baik.
Into You Halter Playsuit. Courtesy of Orchard Mile
Baik’s journey to creating Orchard Mile is quite untraditional. While most entrepreneurs will recommend starting a company with people you know on some level, Baik’s co-founders were all essentially strangers when they decided to start the marketplace after meeting at a networking event.
“Some people will debate me and say you probably made the wrong decision, but actually, I think what you want in a co-founder is a business skill set.”
She then explained to Iman that the decision to join her co-founders wasn’t immediate, and that, just like dating, she took about six months to “think about it.”
The founder also states that upon going to the networking event where she met her co-founders, that she wasn’t necessarily looking to start a business and enter the world of entrepreneurship. With a very diverse background from working with a friend with a fashion brand startup company in the beginning of her career. to finance, to consulting, and then to heading up the customer experience team at Burberry, Baik did not strategically set out to start Orchard Mile right away.
Like most startups, the daily operations at Orchard Mile are not exactly as glamorous as fashion lovers would think. “We’re not building a fashion company - we’re building a really interesting marketplace. About 5 percent of our business is that kind of [fun] stuff,” explains Baik. The fun refers to the runway shows, champagne-filled parties and blogger-like Instagram posts that many believe the fashion industry is like.
The founders, which include Jennie Baik, Julia LeClair and Mortimer Singer, started the company in November 2014 and officially launched in November 2015. What we were doing was building the tech product and signing the brands. ”Just signing the first working brands was so difficult,” explains the co-founder, since you can’t have a mall without the merchandise. Baik explained to Iman the difficulties the team faced when meeting with the different designers in the initial stages of contracting brands to be featured on the site and just how much background research had to be done on each prospective client when pitching the Orchard Mile to them – so much research that the Oscar de la Renta team thought that they had been hacked for all their data.
To hear more about Jennie’s run down the Orchard Mile, challenges she’s faced along the way, and how she selects her prospective employees, check out the Facebook live video.
The Orchard Mile can be found on Instagram at @OrchardMile.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.