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Self-Funded, Profitable And Growing Fast: Pink Lily's Co-Founder Shares Her Secret

People

When Tori Gerbig turned her eBay shop into an official e-commerce site, she quickly became one of the fastest growing online retailers of women's apparel in the United States.


Pink Lily is a completely self-funded home for women's fashion that grew to generate millions in sales, employ over 20 staff and move to a 25,000 square foot warehouse in just three years. With a growth strategy rooted in social media, the company has over 224k followers on Instagram and more than 1.4 million fans on Facebook. What's the secret?

In this Q&A with Gerbig, she tells SWAAY:

How did you get the idea for Pink Lily?

I always knew I wanted to be self-employed one day. While in college, I studied marketing with a concentration in sales. During one of my classes, I became intrigued with branding and the overall concept of marketing items to consumers. I combined all I learned with my love for fashion and social media, and Pink Lily was born. My goal was to create a place where customers could shop for affordable and stylish clothing, all from the comfort of their home.

Tori Gerbig Courtesy of Pink Lily

How did your original idea evolve into Pink Lily?

Pink Lily actually started as an eBay shop in 2011. When I took maternity leave two years later, it turned into somewhat of a side project for me. I quickly gained a dedicated Facebook following and a fast-growing demand for our products. That's when business really took off. On January 1, 2014, my husband and I launched Pink Lily's official website and within six months we both left our jobs to focus full-time on the shop.

How do you get the clothing that you sell?

We work with over 500 vendors in Los Angeles to find new styles and designs. A portion of our inventory also manufactures just for us. It's not easy to keep up with the latest trends, but I love the challenge. I'm always flying out to Los Angeles and attending a variety of markets for inspiration. Needless to say, it has been very exciting to watch our brand evolve over the last few years.

How do you use social media to further excel your business?

We keep our fans engaged on social media, which is how we've managed to generate over one million Facebook fans in less than two years! Our posts currently drive roughly 300,000 likes, shares and comments per week. To engage our customers, we host daily contests and giveaways and we let them “be the buyer" when we attend a market show to shop for new looks. Our shipments all go out in a custom poly mailer bag with our logo and exclusive hashtag, so we also ask customers to tag us when they take a selfie in their new outfit.

What would you say are your goals for Pink Lily?

In the next year, my goals are to successfully open our flagship retail store in Bowling Green, Kentucky, reach $20 million in annual total sales, and grow total social media followers to two million people.

Personally, I am also very active on my own Instagram where I frequently incorporate Pink Lily into my posts. The majority of the items I wear are my own from our shop and I tag Pink Lily often. Naturally, many of my followers are also fans and customers of Pink Lily.

What do you most credit your success to?

My parents taught me that hard work and work ethic are the only things that put everybody on a level playing field when it comes to business. Hard work is something we are all capable of, regardless of how much money you have, what school you went to, or where you grew up. This mindset has made me the hard worker that I am today. When my daughter was born I only took two days off!

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

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.