OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — “Not every couple talks about fundraising and HR issues at night?” joked Neil Blumenthal, chief executive of Warby Parker, on stage with his wife Rachel Blumenthal, chief executive of Rockets of Awesome. The entrepreneurial couple took the stage at VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, in an interview with BoF’s New York editor Lauren Sherman. It marked the first time that the founders, each successful in their own right, participated in a live interview together.
“I’ve always felt fortunate that we live super similar lives, but our own independent lives at the office and completely understand what the other is going through — even if it has been at different stages of our careers or our lives,” said Rachel. “We try to learn as much from each other as possible,” added Neil.
The Blumenthals certainly share a wealth of knowledge when it comes to launching and growing digital businesses, bridging the worlds of tech, fashion and social enterprise. Their conversation on Thursday ranged from building communities for their customers and creating strong brand cultures for employees to taking risks in the earliest phases of launching companies. Both agreed that leveraging data is pivotal to growth.
“When speaking to colleagues within the fashion world, there is this tension that is perceived between the use of data and creating emotional responses,” said Neil. “I think that's misplaced. We create emotional experiences and responses, but we can use data to enhance those.” He used return rates as an example. The company can glean whether it is sending the wrong pair of glasses to the wrong consumer or if there is a production flaw and adjust accordingly.
At Rockets of Awesome, a subscription-based childrenswear company, Rachel uses data to personalise service for each delivery. “Because we have a reoccurring business where customers are delivered a new assortment every season… we’re actually able to predict based on what items you purchased in the past, what we anticipate you are going to purchase over the next several months, what we are going to then send you and what you are going to purchase from an upcoming shipment to determine what we buy into,” said Rachel. “We are actually doing that at a specific customer level versus more broadly for girls who are four [years old] and like pink, for instance.”
Both Warby Parker and Rockets of Awesome blend qualitative and quantitative data to better serve their customers, and that requires an open dialogue with consumers who become more willing to share more data, and also often become a brand’s strongest advocates.
“It’s about… building a mission-driven business that is very authentic to that customer and what they need,” said Rachel. “Brands can build relationships with the customer the same way human beings build relationships with each other, and that’s through vulnerability,” added Neil.
As for the Blumenthals’ relationship with each other? It’s built on an exchange of ideas, support and shared gratitude. “We are both optimising for impact,” said Neil, borrowing a phrase from one of the founders of upscale supermarket Whole Foods. “That impact is across multiple dimensions, obviously our family and our relationship as well,” he said. “The greatest benefit is having my best friend and my advisor who I live with and I can ask questions to all the time, but more importantly that we never make each other feel guilty,” added Rachel. “It makes what I do so much easier.”