Maria Raga, current CEO of Depop, the Instagramesque app that allows you to sell your clothes online, believes the climate in Europe for working women has changed exponentially, and the barriers to entry no longer exist.
The curated content on the app makes for very clean viewing and easy buying. It leans into the influencer aesthetic that makes up much of millennials feeds on their favorite photo-sharing app, Instagram. “It's a product that's extremely social and mobile," says Raga. “Being able to shop and express (yourself) digitally, but in a social environment." Depop is thus in part driven by creativity and in part by engagement: the more followers you have on your Depop account, the more clothes you'll sell, naturally. Having a solid base on Instagram will always help you gain followers on Depop - the two work almost symbiotically.
Raga, originally from Valencia, Spain had spent three years at popular discount site, Groupon, before moving to Depop, where, under her management as CEO, the company has raised $20M in their most recent investment round, Series B.
And she says, there was nothing stopping her from getting there. “I never, ever felt discriminated (against). I cannot say I had to push harder or had to change perception, ever." Having rose through the ranks of European tech and e-commerce, she asserts that the veritable 'gap' has absolutely been breached and those barriers to entry women used to face are now gone.
SWAAY spoke to Raga about Depop, the millennial driving force behind its success, and how her career has informed her opinion of the modern workforce.
“I never, ever felt discriminated (against). I cannot say I had to push harder or had to change perception, ever."
A principle driver for the app, especially in Europe, has been the rise to prominence of the millennial-heavy influencer industry, through whom Depop can amalgamate customers. Given that influencers get a tonne of free press products (that they don't necessarily want or need), the option for them to resell based off of their photos already taken with said product, makes for very easy money.
It's evident the millennial generation are consumers who are heavily influenced by what these pseudo-celebrities are wearing on their Instagram feeds. “They are looking for someone to inspire them (millennials)" Raga comments. “That's why influencers have become so big, it's the timing. The fact that we have a product that suits the new generation, which happen to be a segmented population, and the fact that people don't really know how to approach them because they are completely different to the older generations in how they shop and how they use digital."
The Modern Marketplace:
Depop relies on its look, feel and accessibility to stand out from a market of marketplaces that are, on the whole, a little clunky. Take Ebay or Amazon for example. Buying clothes off either is a pain and an eye sore to look at. When you have all of your favorite people online cordially organising your wears in a pretty, curated grid, why would you have need for scrolling through pages of product with varying price ranges on these bigger sites?
Traditional means of selling - brick and mortar stores, advertising in print magazines or newspapers - are on their way to becoming relics of a bygone age. This of course means that sites willing to evolve and focus solely on this kind of emotional marketplace will profit from this new online space of buying, selling and sociability. When you buy off Depop, you're buying from a person - perhaps someone you wish to emulate, or have been following for a while. There's a connection there you don't get from buying, say from ASOS, or Nordstrom. It's engagement, in a uniquely intimate online setting.
Maria Raga, Depop CEO
What is tricky however about working with those reliant on these social channels for money-making, is that once a change is made to the interface or set up of the app, there is war. "The moment that you try to improve your flaws, you end up pissing off some people," laughs Raga. "Or you might jeopardize the nice look and feel, on top of the fact that people don't like change. We experienced this when we launched our new app in July, the amount of complaints that we got about the font, being too bold, you're always going to get that."
As for direct competitors, the size and scale of Depop has meant their entrance into the U.S market has gone down very well. "It's not an easy space. It looks easy to get in, but once you get in, you realize to really get to scale, you have to have a big community," says Raga. Depop's community now comprises of 25% U.S customers, heading up competition like Poshmark and Tradesy.
"Managing a marketplace is hard - you have to be looking at the buyer's side, and the seller's side. Many businesses just look at one, and focus on that."
Raga was resolute in her belief that being a mother never once hindered her ascension to CEO in an industry notorious for its bro-ish nature.
"The moment that I became a mother - everything changed," she remarks. "My priorities in life changed, the amount of time that I dedicated to myself, to work changed. For sure, it made me a better manager, because it gave me a lot of perspective in life, you don't take things as seriously. You have more empathy, more patience."
She does however posit, that while women are increasingly found in executive positions, or leading companies, that they will never be there to the extent or number of their male counterparts, because of motherhood, and their attachment to their child. As the choice becomes more readily available to stay at home or go back to work after a baby, she posits women will continue to make the choice to bring their children up themselves.
"The two most powerful women in Europe at the minute are Theresa May and Angela Merkel, (neither of whom) have kids," she says. "Women, like men have a choice to make there, that's very much inherited in their biological DNA. It's just harder for women to decide to do that."
This is not necessarily a negative thing, she states. Priorities and where they lie as women continue to breach the gap, will wind down to individuality and preference, rather than what society, or your company, deems correct. "I don't think it's a bad thing that women take a couple of years off their careers and go back," says the CEO. "With life expectancy going up, we're going to have enough time to work. If women want to take time off now and then continue, and the men do the same after and continue, it's completely fine. "
As for reaching those estimable heights, Raga is adamant it's up to the women themselves to achieve executive positions, rather than blaming men for blocking their way there. "It's up to them. It's not up to the men to open up. It's up to the women to be willing to do it. If they want to do it - the road is there."
Universally loved, and, (especially at this time of year) drunk merrily and in excess, wine is the answer to much if not all our prayers, on a regular basis.
The wine industry also happens to be home to some major female leaders, and it's become apparent, that the barriers to entry women face in almost every other industry don't apply here, as long as you've the work ethic and brains behind your operation.
"This is a people's business," says Delia Vader, CEO of Viader Wines, who's vehement about the gender neutrality of the wine industry, and hopeful for it's future, (even with the hefty factors of global warming, and recent wildfires, contending with the grape-producing vines).
Naturally, we were all too excited to sit down with five leaders in the industry working throughout the globe, that are innovating and shaping the future vintages from California to Italy and beyond. Below are five such women, ranging from vineyard to store owners, and one woman who's completely shifting the way we think about wine consumption.
Francesca Planeta, Wine Director, Planeta Wines
Francesca Planeta has been a rising star on the Sicilian wine scene for the last few years. Planeta is devoted not only to promoting her own vineyard, but promoting all the wines of Italy's largest island, which is most famous for the wonderful, Nero D'Avola.
Sicily's wine scene veritably boomed around Planeta as she was growing up. So when she finally began working on the Planeta Wines vineyard in her early twenties, she quickly learned the nuances of the land and the grapes she would ultimately come to produce. “I had begun to help out at the winery, using a graphics studio to create the logo and the first labels, and then I returned to Sicily, during the time of that first harvest. (This) was the moment when I decided that I would take on the challenge of working with the business that bore our family name."
Given that the business was family owned, Planeta did not encounter any barriers to entry because of her gender, but instead made sure that women are integral to the process on the vineyard. “Women have a fundamental role in our business," says the winemaker. “They are entrusted with many responsible positions; from wine making to directing exports and from the hotels to the entire marketing and communications office."
A worrying factor for both Planeta and the women at the vineyard however is global warming, something which has plagued wineries across the globe in recent years. Given that the taste and production of wine depends heavily on its “terroir" (or, surroundings), changes in environment are immediately a factor for anyone in the industry to consider when its coming to harvest season. “It generally seems to us that global warming presents not only a problem of warming in itself," she comments. “But in extremes of weather phenomena, with heavier rainfall – when it occurs, and rather longer periods of drought. (However), living and working in the centre of the Mediterranean gives us better conditions and the last twenty years have shown greater climatic stability."
Selling upwards of 2.3M bottles of wine a year, her chief markets (apart from Italy), are the United States, Germany, England, and Russia, followed by Canada, Switzerland and Japan. And she recommends that for the chillier months, if you're drinking a Sicilian wine, to go for Merlot, Syrah, or Burdese.
Delia Viader, CEO, Viader Wines
Argentinian-born Delia Viader was in the midst of an M.I.T degree, with three children at home, when an opportunity arose to purchase a vineyard in Napa Valley. “The timing was perfect for relocating my very young family," she says, who quickly got to grips with their new surroundings as their mother began constructing a powerhouse wine team to launch Viader Wines.
It hasn't always been easy for Viader and her team however. Before the financial crash of 2008, Viader was sold in every state throughout the U.S, and exported to 24 countries abroad. Since the crash, and an arsonist fire at a warehouse of theirs containing the entire 2003 vintage, they've changed their business model drastically. Now, they sell 90 percent of their collections direct-to-consumer, with the remaining 10 percent sent abroad or to the bigger markets of New York, California and Texas.
She has also become naturally concerned by the Californian wildfires of late, and their threat to both the vines, and the warehouses where the barrels are kept. “The biggest impact on our vineyard has been the change of weather pattern we have been experiencing for the past 35 years that we can speak of," says the CEO. “We are learning a lot about how resilient affected vines can be, and how wine made from those grapes needs to be processed to perhaps reshape stylistic performance of the resulting wine. The winegrowers as an industry will be learning a lot from this."
Learning and innovating are at the core of Viader's vineyards, where her son, Alan is championing new ways to irrigate their 92-acres of land, and fine tuning an understanding of “the exact optimal time to harvest at each vines' peak ripeness." And while she may be the CEO, she heavily depends on him for his expertise and blending capabilities. “I am the owner and CEO but I call myself the wine mother because I am the mother of the vines (I had them planted myself, my way); the mother of the wine (I 'created' our Cabernet-based wine to be highly influenced by the terroir with a high dose of Cab franc and remain, highly influential at the final assemblage-blend); and I am the mother of the winemaker, my son Alan Viader."
What is Viader most likely to be drinking at this moment? “I am very susceptible to a vibrant Pinot Noir from Burgundy most times," she says. “But my choice really depends on two variables: the food I am going to have and the company, the people I am going to share that bottle of wine with. I love harmony in the wine, the food pairing and the conviviality that springs from sharing a great wine."
Julia Jackson, Propietor, Jackson Family Wines
As one of the largest family-run wine groups in the U.S, The Jackson Family has garnered quite a name for itself. Leading the way within the group is Julia Jackson, daughter of mother Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson who built the group up from the ground, which is now worth an estimated $2.3 billion.
Today, their portfolio boasts wines from 52 wineries throughout the world, and integral to that is building relationships from within and amalgamating abroad. For Jackson, that means working in almost every facet of the business in order to cover all the projects she wishes to pursue. “I wear a few hats in my family business," she comments. “I'm spearheading my first acquisition project in another country, (and) I work with our international sales team to be one of the faces for Jackson Family Wines." On top of this, she's also involved with the group's environmental and philanthropic efforts, which, given the wildfire situation in California, will be work much needed in the years to come. “All my philanthropic efforts are focused around our environment and I created a charitable program that gives grants to women within the eco-space through our Santa Maria based winery Cambria."
Jackson's favorite wine at this time of the year? Gran Moraine from Willamette Valley Oregon.
Hortense Bernard, General Manager, Millesima Wines
Hortense Bernard was working with global industry leaders Moet Hennessy Diageo in Paris as a brand manager before she made her big move to the U.S. Now, she stands as one of the youngest female General Managers in the world of a large international firm, atop the Millesima USA group.
Millesima, a leading retailer in Europe, who branched into he U.S in 2006, owns upwards of 2.5M bottles of fine wine that are housed in the company's cellars in Bordeaux, France, (which is also the largest AOC vineyard in the country).
Bernard, who had her first glass of wine at eight years old, works primarily with direct-to-consumer retail and educating the U.S market about Bordeaux wines from their shop on the Upper East Side here in New York. "My goal is to educate as much as I can," she says. "In store, we speak about Bordeaux, and try to explain (because Bordeaux wine can be really complex), the wine."
"When I arrived here, I didn't know anything about American consumption," she laughs. "So it took me quite a bit to learn about it and understand how Americans see wines, and what they mean when the ask for a Chardonnay."
On top of chatting with customers, Bernard plays host to a lot of cultural events throughout the city, accompanying her wines whenever there might be a chance to express the history and significance of the wine for both France, and the industry at large.
So naturally, when asked what she'll be drinking on the celebratory occasions of December, it will be a big full-bodied Bordeaux " because that always takes me back (home)."
Marian Leitner, Founder, Archer Roose
Once it dawned on Marian Leitner that Millennials were drinking more wine than beer, she saw an opportunity to modernise the way we purchase, consume and enjoy wine.
"In the U.S, you actually pay more for the shipping and the packaging than you do for the wine itself," says Leitner. "So I started to ask why and learn more about the alternative packaging market."
Branching away from bottles, Leitner looked to packaging wine in every way beer is packaged - from cans and kegs, and then also, in boxes.
"You have to separate consumers into two buckets - the super high-end collectors, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, and then you have people who are drinking, "value" wines. And then the rest of America are basically beer drinkers."
Upon the realization that Millennial wine drinkers are more than beer drinkers, she also came to understand that they're also very brand-loyal. Brands that represent qualities and values they share, are the ones they're consuming the most. "So we decided to leverage the alternative packaging movement (which is keg, can and box), to cut through all the noise of the bottles in the wine store, and really connect with consumers." In doing so, she launched the company, Archer Roose Wines.
This move means, that apart from the ultra-hip way the wine is presented, you're also economizing. One box of Archer Roose wine contains the equivalent of 4 regular bottles. And inevitably, the kegs contain a huge volume.
Wine kegger, anyone?