Jennie Baik is a consumer technology and next-generation retail strategist and is the CEO and co-founder of Orchard Mile, an online marketplace that gives consumers the power to curate and shop their own “shopping street” with the full assortment of their favourite contemporary and luxury brands’ sites with daily updates, and the ease of one checkout. Here's the full story behind the brand that changed the luxury retail market.
Baik started her career at Goldman Sachs which led her to strategize for Burberry Americas where her work focused on digital transformation. She also served in various positions at Omnicomgroup advising clients of the impact of online disruption on their brands. She currently resides in Chelsea in New York City.
Was there a specific life event or reason you chose to become an entrepreneur?
I believe one becomes an entrepreneur when something just takes a hold of you and it doesn't really let go, and you keep trying to forget about it, but you can’t. For me, I was always extraordinarily interested in the evolution of retail and the advent of new technologies on consumption and how we perceive brands that impact our lives.
What’s one piece of advice you would tell all entrepreneurs?
I would caution all entrepreneurs to remember that there’s lots of cultural myths that cloud how you think about your performance as an entrepreneur. In short: don’t fall into the comparison trap. I did that a lot in my early days, and then you realize every company has a PR company and sometimes the headlines don’t really reflect what’s going on inside. Realize that the rules have not necessarily been written yet for you and your idea. If you focus on the core of what can make you great i.e. to keep discovering and keep learning, you won’t need to expend unnecessary energy in getting discouraged by your progress.
What’s mission-critical for all investments/business decisions you make?
Any decision needs to sit right with me, as a founder that is closest to the business. It’s a lot of responsibility and yes, it can be scary! Over time, I’ve learned to find the confidence to listen to my gut. There are so many incredibly smart and accomplished people who love to give entrepreneurs advice, and sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to NOT listen to them. Ultimately, it’s really you that is closest to the situation and the decision really lies with your heart and what you think is going to happen. You might be right and you might be wrong, but that's [part] of the game.
What’s your favourite question to ask yourself and why?
I think a simple question that's often ignored by a lot of founders is,
what is really going to make you happy?
I think as you get older, there are more stakeholders, more responsibilities and the stakes get higher. Sometimes you get confused. I always said when I was younger, “I am never going to mistake comfort for happiness.” In the world of entrepreneurship, you often are surrounded by uncertainty and sometimes maybe you could use maybe a little bit of comfort. But, “what is really going to really make me happy?” is a question for the ages and that’s why life elements like faith and knowledge of yourself are critical to the journey.
What’s the single most important reason for your success?
Surround yourself with the right people who remain curious and positive despite obstacles. They have the ability to dream and believe in the impossible.
What does a typical day look like for you / how do you structure it?
There is no typical day. Every day has been completely different but what is the same about all of these entrepreneurial days is that the world is seemingly always telling you that you could have done more. Your brain is always on, and you’re always pushing. However, it’s important to take some time to observe. I like to spend a good hour of my day in the morning walking the streets of New York. If you’re in the consumer world, I think it's really important to know what people are wearing and what they are doing. It’s not just important what they’re doing on Facebook and Instagram. What motivates people? What are they responding to? What's interesting to them? If that sense gets lost, you've kind of lost your intuition. I also like to sleep a lot, especially when undergoing a particularly stressful time of which there are many in the entrepreneurial journey. I think it’s my brain’s way of repairing itself, fortifying for the next day. While I wish I could spend an hour reading or working out, my body needs it and I’ve learned to listen to what I need.
Do you have a favourite blog or book you recommend to friends or colleagues?
I just started reading Reboot, which was gifted to me by my friend, Jessica Graves, a data scientist at Sefleuria. We were catching up and talking about the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. She sent me this great book with a note saying how it is a primer to balance different parts of leadership.
Since being an entrepreneur, what has been your biggest mistake and lesson learned?
I think it's about not being so hard on yourself all the time. Not everyone's going to like you and you're not always going to make the right decision. Realize you’re trying your best and understand that is enough.
What companies and/or technologies are you paying attention to? Why do they stand out?
E-commerce is gaining so much ground, and it's going to make brick and mortar stores a luxury. I believe eventually that unfortunately, people on the coast will have stores, but the people in the middle of the country may not. It’s just going to be the major flagship cities of the world, and everything everyone else will have to buy online. I’m really interested in companies that are reinventing the physical shopping experience and augmenting it with elements of the digital.
How do you reinvent retail in a way that works for everybody?
Retail stores are closing everyday and because of the advent of online shopping, there aren’t enough consumers in them to sustain the costs of real estate and staffing.
For the past 3 years, Orchard Mile has been pioneering a brick and mortar retail model that celebrates the individuality of communities and women. While we are a marketplace and technically don’t own any products, we orchestrate innovative retail experiences.
So for example, we will do a hyper localized pop up store in a community like Martha’s Vineyard or Greenwich CT and curate the “Martha’s Vineyard Mile” choosing pieces from our participating brand partners for the store. The brands help us cover the rent and lend us full size runs of the products and then we will focus on driving traffic and engagement to that physical location as a mirror, to www.orchardmile.com, by doing interesting event series (Japanese flower arranging, female founder panels) and personal styling in our space.
This does two things 1) it allows brands to focus on creating great product and dip a toe in a smaller market that perhaps would be too risky/expensive to build a brand owned shop 2) allows real estate owners to bring excitement to their properties 3) allows Orchard Mile to create a brand that doesn’t just live online.
It’s cooperative economics that benefits everyone.
What do you think about networking? Is there a specific way you prefer to network?
Like most people, I hate networking. I often avoid tech meetups because in my experience, it has been somewhat fluffy and there’s a sense that it doesn’t facilitate learning. Instead, I choose to do 1-1 more in depth meetings over coffee or in our offices with people who have a sincere interest in improving your industry and are doing cool things (according to my context, not according to the latest tech article) — I love to be exposed to their ideas and learn how they view the world.