Katrina Lake has downtown Minneapolis to thank for the success of her start-up Stitch Fix. The former Minnesotan (a 2001 Blake School graduate) saw women’s shopping habits change as online retailers multiplied and downtown style houses such as Neiman Marcus, Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue disappeared.
Lake, 31, got into Harvard Business School a few years ago with an idea to create a company that combined what women love about brick and mortar shops with the convenience of online shopping.
In 2011, she funded and launched Stitch Fix (www.stitchfix.com). The San Francisco-based service does your shopping — and styling — for you. With each “fix,” customers receive five items that have been selected for them. An algorithm determines customers’ measurements, budget and other data to make selections. Customers buy what they like and send back the rest.
During a recent trip to the Twin Cities area, Lake talked about her favorite local hangouts and why Minnesota women love their “fixes.”
Q: How did your teenage years in Minneapolis influence your vision for Stitch Fix?
A: I remember when Dayton’s used to be the place you’d go, and you’d always see the same salespeople. The idea of going somewhere where the salesperson is able to personalize the retail experience for you doesn’t work anymore. Stitch Fix is an opportunity to provide a service for people who are looking for more than just buying the cheapest thing with one-day shipping.
Q: Minneapolis is one of your site’s most successful markets. Why is that?
A: When we look at our demographics we see that our women are really busy. Minneapolis is a place that has an amazing job market and great schools, and it’s a place where people are really family-focused. It’s that sentiment of feeling really time-starved, but wanting to take care of yourself, too.
Q: When you come back here, where do you like to shop and dine?
A: I love going to the State Fair. I’m super interested to see the new Shinola and Filson stores. Cocktails at Cafe Lurcat, dinner at 112 Eatery, Brit’s for lawn bowling and, of course, the Local. I like Bluebird Boutique in Edina. I think that the merchandiser at Fashion Avenue in Edina and Minnetonka does an awesome job.
Q: Who is your average Stitch Fix customer?
A: Busy working moms and busy 27- to 32-year-olds who are building their careers and working 90 hours a week at law firms. Busy women in general.
Q: What is your style like?
A: Classic with a twist. I like to wear more traditional work outfits like pants and a blouse, but I want the blouse to have something that is a little bit different and interesting — like with some studs on it or a little bit of lace. I want to feel comfortable and confident and don’t want to have to think too much about what I wear every day.