Inspiring Women: Susan Gregg Koger of ModCloth

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Ever dreamed of transforming your passion into a million dollar business? Susan Gregg Koger did. This stylish go-getter went from collecting vintage finds to running the massively successful ecommerce empire, ModCloth.

If you’ve ever skimmed the pages of this brilliantly ‘vintage meets modern’ retail dream looking for ways to save on business attire or a dress for your BFF’s summer wedding, you’ve had a glimpse into the wonder that is ModCloth. But besides offering incredibly cute clothes, there are plenty of lessons in business and success from the building of this empire.

Susan Gregg Koger is a wonder woman example of the determination it takes to make your passion an international success.

Early Years

ModCloth began in a college dorm room, not unlike other popular websites of today. Susan had more clothes than she could fit in her closet, so she sold the excess online in the hopes of making money to pay for books. With the help of a development-savvy boyfriend (later husband), the two created a site where Susan could grow her brand and boy did it grow.

Over a period of three years, visitors to ModCloth grew enormously and the site suddenly looked like it could be the real deal. The business duo, who seem to perfectly balance their love life and career, built the business one step at a time from attending fashion trade shows to getting investors.

“Approaching a problem from a rookie point of view enables you to innovate just because you don’t how it’s usually done.”

Susan Gregg Koger  

Turning her passion into a legitimate company took guts. Susan had no retail or fashion experience. She didn’t go to FIT. She simply had an eye for vintage style and a love for her audience.

Career-Defining Moments

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With the initial success of ModCloth and momentum from investors, the retail game-changer began to scale quickly increasing employees, office space, and offerings online. But it would all plateau if Susan and her partner couldn’t figure out a way to stand out in the online space.

“It's not just about coming and buying, it's about being part of something and participating and helping others."

Susan Gregg Koger

Enter Susan’s innovative genius. ModCloth has become the success it is today much in part to its unique business practices that set the tone for the digital age. Susan created ModCloth as a community of women with strong personal style and personality. The genius here was fusing the community into the business. Susan and her team got customers involved on a whole new level when they implemented practices to get customer feedback on what to stock and added customer images to product pages.

What We Learned From Her  

On Vision

From one look into the origin of ModCloth and the site today, it’s clear how Susan’s vision for community shaped the success her business has seen. Susan shows us how powerful it can be to create the company you want to see in the world.

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Before ModCloth, Susan had a strong love of fashion, but she didn’t feel like she was a part of it. On the ModCloth blog, Susan shared, “There wasn’t a company who spoke to me and made me feel good about who I was — so I decided to make it.”

This lady boss certainly walks the walk. ModCloth was one of the first companies to take the No-Photoshop pledge and offer a full range of clothing sizes. Susan’s intimate awareness of her customers may be one of her greatest business assets. She proves that you don’t have to be a tight-laced, uber-professional CEO to be successful. Being yourself and believing in your vision can end up making the biggest difference for your business.

“The easiest way for a brand to be authentic is to put some of your person and personality into it.”

Susan Gregg Koger

On Change

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Since ModCloth’s beginnings in 2002, Susan has learned that change is inevitable and you need to be prepared for that as a business owner. She related, “Change can be scary and bittersweet as it marks the end of one era, but it can also be exhilarating and full of possibility as a new one begins.”

When faced with making big changes at ModCloth, Susan and her partner make it a point to sit down and talk through all the possibilities. They aren’t afraid to confront possible worst-case scenarios. Then, they make sure they get real feedback. The duo revealed to Inc Magazine that they always put samples in front of customers before making a big investment and beta-test all new technologies.

"I asked myself, 'What's the worst that could happen?' I'd go bankrupt, which would remain on my credit report for 10 years. I was in my early 20's, so it didn't seem so bad. Once I thought it through, it still seemed like a risk worth taking."

Susan Gregg Koger

When you’re dreaming of taking your passion to the next level, remember Susan Gregg Koger and her ModCloth empire. Your personality and rookie ideas can be an enormous asset to your business. Do things differently than everyone else and always remember your audience!


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