Women in Business Q&A: Evelyn Fox, CEO and Founder, Baghunter

Women in Business Q&A: Evelyn Fox, CEO and Founder, Baghunter

Evelyn Fox is the CEO and founder of Baghunter, an innovative startup based in Beverly Hills, California, which offers buying, selling, consigning, and swapping services for high-end luxury handbags, including Hermes and Chanel. Evelyn's entrepreneurial spirit and drive saw her launch her first startup almost immediately after she graduated from college, selling high-end shoes online and attracting the attention of red carpet celebrities. With numerous factors leading to stagnant growth of her first startup, Evelyn became even more determined to succeed and spotted profitable opportunities in the secondary luxury handbag market, leading to the launch of Baghunter just over a year ago. Since then, she has worked continuously to use her experience, business principles, and love of high-end fashion to turn Baghunter into an industry leader and respected brand among lovers of luxury handbags and collectors around the world. Evelyn is also a passionate philanthropist and donates 10% of all net proceeds from Baghunter towards raising awareness and finding a cure for breast cancer.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I feel that my calling in life has always been to become a leader in fashion and business and there are many life experiences which have helped shape me into the woman I am today. Even casting my mind back to high school, I feel I always had a drive and ambition that saw me participate in numerous extra circular activities and be among the first to volunteer for any project leader or captain position. However, I feel my most valuable life experiences came in college. I had the drive and ambition when I was in college, but lacked the direction to make the most of it. The connections and friends I made during these years helped me find my direction and focus my energy on the right output. By the time I had left college I was no longer just an ambitious girl, but a focused woman ready to take on the world.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Baghunter?

Previous business experiences, including failures, are the only roads to success in my opinion. I have met many people through my past business ventures who have associated a small set back with failure and packed it all in to pursue less risky and less rewarding options. However, for me setbacks and failures are all part of the learning curve and play an essential role in future successes. For example, I went into my first startup head first, desperate to make a name for myself and perhaps didn't spend enough time researching and planning. My idea was to sell high end shoes online with this idea appealing to both my love of fashion and my love of business. What I didn't realize, however, was that 30% of shoe sales end up as returns due to the wide range of fits and sizes which can change from brand to brand, making it almost impossible to recommend the perfect size without a foot to try the shoe on. Even with celebrity clients such as Sharon Osbourne, who wore a pair of our shoes on the red carpet, using our service we simply couldn't survive the 30%+ return rate. This failure in my first startup didn't get me down. Instead, I took the lessons I learned and used them to start Baghunter. Indeed, many of the lessons I learned from my first startup have contributed to helping Baghunter take off and become the successful brand and industry leader it is today.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Baghunter?

The first, and biggest, challenge I faced with Baghunter was starting from scratch again after my first startup failed. There were many difficult moments while I was attempting to get Baghunter off the ground, in particular gaining trust with resellers who were initially reluctant to do business with a fresh startup. There were long days and nights we would spend literally begging resellers to list their items on our site. We even offered many clients listings at next to no cost and still found it difficult to build up our client list. However, looking back on it now it was totally worth it. Today, we have clients and resellers who can't get their items listed fast enough on our site and we can charge a fee of up to 30%. For me, the challenges have become highlights in retrospect and the journey to get to where I am today has all been an enjoyable ride overall.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

There are two words I live by and remember every day - take risks. In such a fast paced industry, even the slightest hesitation can mean you are left behind. I have made mistakes on my journey to get where I am today, but if I hadn't taken those risks in the first place and made those mistakes I know for sure I wouldn't proudly be the owner of Baghunter. There are many people who are scared to fail and see a setback or a failure as the end of the road. But, it takes a strong personality to bounce back from the clutch of defeat and rise again to the top. For any young women who are passionate about fashion and business, my advice is to never stop trying, learn from your mistakes, and become a stronger and better person from them.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?

To never give up and pursue your dreams. There are times in your life when people or circumstance will knock you flat on your face. It is how you recover from these setbacks that determine who you are and how successful you can be. Entering a competitive industry, such as fashion, is a daunting prospect and there are times when it feels easier to just give up on your dreams and quit. However, it is the people who have a strong determination to succeed and follow their passion that become the most successful. My will to get back on my feet, never give up, and follow my dreams is what has led to me becoming the success I am today.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Actually, this is the first time in recent memory that I have been able to create any balance at all between my work and my life. For the last few years I have been completely preoccupied with my first startup company and then picking up the pieces to start Baghunter that my work/life balance has been very lopsided. While getting Baghunter off the ground I would regularly work 15-20 hour days, building up my client list, working on the website, planning marketing strategies etc. This left me absolutely no time for any socializing or even for a little me time. However, the business is now functioning very well, meaning I can take the odd day off to recharge my batteries and spend some time with my family, but I still find it difficult to turn my cell phone off when I'm not at the office and to switch off completely!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Unfortunately, I think that the lack of women in top positons and as owners of businesses remains a serious issue. There have been great strides in recent years to create a balance between men and women in terms of position and wages, but I feel a lot more can still be done. This imbalance leads to other challenges such as a lack of role models for women who want to follow their dreams and reach the heights that their talent deserves. There are many talented women who are struggling to receive the plaudits they deserve for their work and companies are missing out on brilliant leaders because of this imbalance. If we can remove this obstacle I have no doubt that young girls and women will have a broad range of role models to choose from and will grow to become the leaders of the next generation.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentorship has always made a huge difference in my life, especially during the difficult times, and I simply wouldn't have reached the heights I have if it wasn't for my dearest mentor, my mother. From a young age, my mother instilled a confidence and belief in me that I could accomplish anything I desired and could be anyone I wanted to be. I strongly believe that the belief she provided me with from a young age proved invaluable during times of stress and difficulty and helped to shape my personality, giving me a never say die attitude and the confidence to reach for my dreams. Whenever I feel low personally or professionally, she is there to comfort me and provide me with the belief to face the world again.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

The first name that springs to mind is Oprah. I grew up watching her show, becoming inspired every time she appeared on the television as I'm sure many other young girls and women were. Whenever I talk to people about Oprah, they always find a new interpretation of her message that has helped to inspire them. I think this is the magic of Oprah, she provided a message that appeals to women of all status, color, background, and ages. For me, her message taught me that women can be successful in a difficult business world if they have the passion and strength to pursue their dreams, do what they love, and never give up regardless of adversities they face. There is a quote from Oprah that always sticks in my mind and provides me with the drive and will to succeed - "Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you."

What do you want Baghunter to accomplish in the next year?

My mission at Baghunter has remained unchanged since we launched and that is to create a marketplace where trust and client satisfaction are the main priorities. We have worked extremely hard in creating that trust and maintaining client satisfaction and going into 2016 our priority will be to maintain the high standards we have set. We view every client at Baghunter not only as someone to do business with, but also as a friend. Using this mantra, we have been able to set ourselves apart from other businesses and create an experience like no other for our clients. Our motto is to not only meet but to exceed every client's expectations and to raise the bar of customer service. In our eyes every new client should become a lifelong client and we will continue to create lifelong friends going into the New Year.

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