26 Feb 2014
The First Five Years: Morgan Hermand-Waiche (MBA 2010)
The founder and CEO of Adore Me is taking on all challengersTopics:
What's the story behind Adore Me?
"I had always wanted to start a company in the United States and after three years at McKinsey & Company, and following my graduation from HBS, I felt ready to take the plunge. Prior to launching Adore Me, I partnered with serial Internet entrepreneur Fabrice Grinda and worked with him on various ventures. We found that there was a big opportunity in the intimates industry, which is what eventually led to the launch of Adore Me."
How did you come up with the idea?
"My family has a history in the garment industry in France, so I frequently heard friends and family complain about the options for buying lingerie in the United States. I found that there was a huge opportunity to disrupt the intimate apparel space. People are so tired of high prices and slow fashion from Victoria's Secret, and I knew we could quickly chip away at their market share by offering designer-crafted lingerie at an incredible price with the convenience of online shopping."
What have been the best and most challenging parts of starting and running Adore Me?
"The best part has been the phenomenal response and rapid growth we've seen in such a short amount of time. It is incredibly validating to see so many of our customers signing up for the monthly VIP membership and, even if they don't buy every month, are always happy to receive our emails and see what we've picked for their showroom.
"The most challenging thing has been building a high quality and diverse product mix with limited funds. Unlike some of our competitors, who only offer a limited selection, it was very important for us to provide a wide range of sizes (from petite to curvy) and styles (from sweet and romantic to a little sexier and risqué)."
What advice would you give fellow HBS alumni or students interested in launching startups?
"Definitely take advantage of the HBS network. Some of my early stage angel investors and advisers were HBS professors who were incredibly helpful during early development. Early on, I also worked out of the HBS offices with a small team and took advantage of available resources."
What's the best piece of advice you received as an HBS student?
"The best pieces of advice I ever received were that, (1) you should work and live your passion, and (2) that everything is possible.
"Living your passion is, to be frank, a hard one! There are many elements in life that drive you away from working on something you're passionate about. It can be peer pressure (e.g., 'you should do consulting or finance'); money (e.g., 'a hedge fund is the job with the highest odds of making good money'); and life in general (e.g., 'oh darling, you can't go to LA to pursue your dream career; I'm in NY.').
"After a lot of introspection, I realized that I was truly passionate about entrepreneurship; and even in the hardest moments, when I was facing the wall in difficult operational and financing situations (which often brought about personal troubles as well), I was still in love with what I was doing, and that's probably the reason I could find the energy to make it all happen.
"Believing anything is possible is awesome when you study in a great MBA program, but you can also make it happen yourself. The point is to get the chance to meet inspiring people, either because they are giving a speech at HBS, or because you emailed them and they accepted your invitation to have coffee."
Who are your business role models?
"When I look to the business world, I am impressed by the path people have achieved, rather than the point they are at. Hence, a few people really inspire me. The first is my father, who came from a very poor emigrant family and became, in a generation, a member of one of the strongest fashion garment merchant families in the south of France. Another would be Fabrice Grinda, one of the rare Internet startup entrepreneurs who achieved success several times over, despite experiencing a lot of 'bumps in the road.' A last one would be Richard Branson, because his vision and ambition go beyond limits, which is impressive and inspiring."
Can you finish this statement? Great lingerie is…
"The foundation to any great outfit."
Follow Morgan Hermand-Waiche on Twitter at https://twitter.com/morganhermand.
Learn more about Adore Me at http://www.adoreme.com/l1.
Class of MBA 2010, Section F