When our interview with Carla Holtze and Kimberly Skelton (the co-founders of Have to Have) began with a discussion about the need for tax write-offs for clothing, we knew we were going to be fans of these ladies.
Have to Have is a self-described “shopper’s utility tool” as well as a “registry for your lifestyle” – sort of a universal wish list that makes it possible for consumers to save items from retailers all over the web, in one place. Their goal was to create a platform that enables customers to have a more personalized experience with the brands and retailers that they care about while shopping online. Add to this a buzzing social community of friends, family, and style-setters – and they totally piqued our curiosity. Carla and Kim were quick to point out that while the technology itself may not be the first of its kind, their application of this technology is revolutionary – and we agree.
“The community build-out is what takes an eon to get right,” mentioned Carla. These ladies – who clearly know their stuff – went on to point out that even on Facebook, a vibrant social community, only a small percentage of people are actively creating new content; most are just passively engaging in the content that’s already there. As Kim said, “We wanted to create an environment for the passive user as well as the active user.”
By creating a platform that makes it easier for a consumer to take an action that they were already taking anyway, Have to Have is bound to develop a major following – check out the rest of our interview with Carla and Kim.
Third Wave Fashion: Tell us about your company.
Have to Have: Have to Have is a universal personal registry that enables you to add products from all across the web; you can save products to lists and share them with your friends and family. There’s also a click-to-buy feature and best of all, we tell you when things go on sale. It’s very much for the person who loves to shop and hates to shop – it saves you time, it saves you money, and it really takes the guess-work out of gifting.
TWF: If you could describe your company in five words, what would they be?
HTH: Fun & savvy social personal registry.
(Editor’s note: Loving the idea of a “personal registry” – don’t you immediately want one?)
TWF: Tell us about your team. Who does what and how do you manage your staff?
HTH: We have about 10-15 people on our team. Kim and I are the co-founders; Alex helps us with finance and operations. Our CTO is Stephen, who is in New York, and there’s a development team in South America. We also have three marketing/social media consultants. Then there’s our group of advisors – which is pretty fabulous. We also have two UI/UX people.
TWF: Oh, you have two!
HTH: One UI (user interface) person and one UX (user experience) person. Great UI/UX does not come overnight – it’s definitely a system of trial and error. Rather than recreate the exact shopping experience that the user would have in the store, what we’re really trying to do is recreate the function and the emotion of what’s happening in the store. The way that process happens online is very different from how it happens in the store, so we have to kind of break it down. This means translating these emotional qualities into UI and UX. This is a learning process over time; you see what people are gravitating towards on the site and you want to make sure those features are surfaced.
TWF: What is unique about your company?
HTH: It helps people shop more efficiently and effectively. It’s a really fun way to shop online because it engages you with your community; the people you care about. It’s all about “you” – the UI is designed to say, this is your favorite, this is something you must have. This is your personal registry and we think that makes this different – we’re focused on the curator, the “you.” This is your list of must-have’s.
A brand can be authoritative for consumers – it is what they have to have – and we think that’s a position to really work when there are so many other brands. And it appeals to a lot of people, men and women alike. A lot of men use the site, shopping for women – this actually makes us very unique. Yes, our target demographic is women, but men are shopping for women every single day and they want to flatter and get the right thing. For example, a husband can see what his wife wants without her having to manually share it — he can surprise her with something that she’d really like. We certainly haven’t seen any other sites focused on that.
TWF: What are your future plans?
HTH: To tie in mobile! We’re testing our mobile app right now. It will really take the online platform that we’ve built and enable the user to bring it with them into the real world – or take the real world and save it online.
TWF: Tell us about the market you’ve been trying to target and the response you’ve gotten so far.
HTH: We’re trying to target fashion-conscious consumers so, as we said earlier, we have a lot of people who love to shop and also people who hate to shop; yet, everybody on our site is somebody who cares about how they look, what they’re wearing, what they’re buying – they’re interested in buying good quality things that they really like. We’re focused on 20-45 year old females and males. We actually seem to spend a lot of our time on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, talking to shoppers and working with the retailers on Madison Avenue.
TWF: Ah, because it’s aspirational – you’re not going to fill your wish list with a bunch of running shoes.
HTH: Well actually, people do that, too! Maybe you need a new pair of running shoes and you’re looking at three or four different ones. You might want to put them into one place so you can compare them side by side without all the noise from the different websites that they may be coming from. Or you can save the running shoes so that when they wear out, you can quickly have a reference to go back and buy them again. We also let you know when your products go on sale.
We like to think of ourselves as a decision-making platform, helping people decide what they want to buy. Sometimes they need to put three or four products together so they can look at them and compare; sometimes they want to send the whole list to a friend and get somebody else’s opinion; sometimes it’s just that they need to wait for a price change in order to make that decision. Sometimes they want to discover what other people they care about are looking at – whether it’s a style-setter or a brand or just their friends and family.
TWF: How many brands do you have on the platform?
HTH: The technology works with all retailers across the web – we’re affiliated with about 300 of them, though. We work with them to surface their products and to surface their brands on the site.
TWF: What things inspire you most – whether in business or in life?
HTH (Carla): In life, I’m inspired by travel, yoga, nature and of course my family and friends. I like trying to find beauty in everything. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader, is one of my favorite people – I admire her style, her dignity, and her diplomacy. Steve Jobs as well, of course – though I think everyone is going to say that. Right now, I’m inspired by companies that do email marketing in a way that is value-add to their consumers. So basically, the companies you get emails or notifications from that you actually open and want to read.
TWF: Whose emails do you open?
HTH (Carla): I was thinking about this last night – what do I actually open? Linkedin, because it’s personal. I think Urban Daddy is doing a phenomenal job with their emails – for some unknown reason I open those emails all the time, and I don’t know why – I think it’s because of the imagery and because of the messaging and they’re actually telling me what I want. But it’s really the companies that know how to market to me and make me feel like I’m a friend to them; that they’re providing me with something and not just trying to sell me. So, I’m still looking for the perfect company, but these are two really great examples of this. And then I mean, great designers, but I’m not even going to go into the list of great designers that inspire me because that’s just TOO –
We all laugh.
HTH (Kim): Although I guess one designer — the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met. I thought it was incredibly inspiring – the best exhibit I’ve ever seen there and they do a lot of great exhibits. And also entrepreneurs who have built successful companies, I’m inspired by them and look up to them. Building a company is a very hard process and it takes a lot of time, energy, effort – and a little bit of luck. Of course it’s also a really fun process but I certainly look up to the people who have made it and hope we’ll be there soon.
TWF: Anyone in particular?
HTH: Probably Dennis Crowley (of Foursquare fame). We think of Dennis because he had this vision and he kept on and kept on – he had a version that he worked on, sold it to Google, and then took those learnings and made it happen for himself. And from our perspective, he sat down with us – he’s talked to us, he’s so approachable, so cool, so candid. He’s out there trying to make a difference – and succeeding. And one of the reasons he’s well-liked is because of his congeniality and his down-to-earth nature.
Whether they were laughing over the distinct possibility that attending business school resulted in major moments of over-analyzation or making insightful comments about their business, such as “The art is in simplifying and focusing,” these ladies were absolutely charming, with the brains to back it up.
“Sometimes you just want to browse around Saks, and sometimes you’re there on a mission. ‘Cause that’s really how we shop – sometimes with intention, sometimes without any at all.” -HTH
Jess Surbaugh is a social media and editorial intern at Third Wave Fashion.