By Heather Celeste Mitchell • October 31, 2013•Writers in Residence
This month, Law by Design interviews Anisha Bhasin Mukherjee, Co-Founder and COO of DRESS FOR THE DAY.
First, the Law by Design survey:
Favorite Designers: I love mixing and matching pieces in all price points; some of my favorites come from: Chanel, Joe Fresh, J. Crew, Saint Laurent, Club Monaco, Parker, Black Halo, Zara, H&M and of course, the Gap! My fashion motto is “you don’t necessarily have to spend a million bucks to look like a million bucks.”
Favorite Weekend Activity: Making brunch with my husband and going for long walks through Soho and the West Village.
And now, for the interview!
L by D: Thanks for taking the time to share your story! The concept behind the website you co-founded, Dress for the Day, is both stylish and practical! Can you tell us more about the site?
DFTD is essentially a digital fashion calculator: you plug in your occasion, personal style, zip code for weather, and voila—we’ll give you curated Looks based on your selected criteria. The Looks come from various streetstyle blogs and user uploads. We feature real women, in real surroundings. No red carpet, model shots here. DFTD is about the everyday woman and her everyday lifestyle. The Look is then broken down by Piece and you can filter the Pieces based on your budget and body type. We feature Pieces in all different price points so that users can splurge or save, however they choose. Finally, we’ll direct you to the e-commerce site so you can purchase the Piece(s) you’re happy with. We’re currently partnered with over 70 of the nation’s top retailers and brands.
DFTD is an easy solution to solve the everyday problem of “what do I wear?” It makes getting dressed each morning fun and simple and makes pre-planning outfits for weddings, interviews, vacations, dates, etc. a cinch. We’re all about expressing individual style and showcasing unique fashions in the most efficient way possible.
L by D: How would you describe your path from law student to design/new media entrepreneur?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial by nature and knew that I wanted to do something unique with my law degree. Music and fashion are two of my greatest passions in life so my coursework while in law school focused on intellectual property, copyright, trademark and entertainment law. After graduating law school and passing the bar, I worked as an in-house counsel for a music publishing company for about 2 and half years. I had been working there for about a year when the idea for DFTD was born. It was quite a balancing act to make sure my priorities at my 9-5 were in order while still giving 100% to the startup, but I knew it would all be worth it in the end. The time was right to take the risk and follow my dream. Not putting all of my eggs in one basket, I stayed employed and worked ungodly hours after work and on the weekends on DFTD, keeping my “double life” hidden from almost everyone except for my parents and husband. When it came time to launch, I had to disclose my “baby” to my boss and co-workers, who were more than supportive with my decision to resign and focus on DFTD full time. They understood that life is all about taking risks (calculated ones, that is!) and encouraged me to fulfill my entrepreneurial passions.
L by D: How did you come up with and develop the idea for Dress for the Day? Can you share with us the steps you took to move from idea to launch?
My business partner, Shradha Mehta (co-founder and CEO of DFTD) and I were having dinner about 2 years ago, discussing outfits for upcoming events we had (she had a wedding, I had a warm weather vacation). We were trying to give advice to one another on what to wear, while simultaneously checking the weather, browsing fashion blogs for inspiration and searching e-retailers for pieces to match our budgets. Shradha and I also exhibit very different personal styles and had to comb through fashion websites for edgy and classic looks. Needless to say, we became very frustrated with all of these moving parts and wondered why there wasn’t a simple resource out there to help women get dressed daily and for specific occasions while factoring in the weather, their personal style and budget. We had our lightbulb/eureka moment and started brainstorming ideas of how we could make this happen.
A couple of meetings later, we had completed our due diligence and realized 1) there really was nothing out there that resolved all of these fashion dilemmas in one streamlined manner and 2) we wanted to be the ones to create and gift this resource to women across the globe. Shradha and I gave ourselves a hard deadline of 1 year: if we could take our concept to product within this time, then we’d forge ahead, not looking back. And so we did! We partnered with an awesome team of web developers and designers and worked around the clock tweaking and editing our vision until it was something we felt comfortable sharing with the world.
We met with various tech gurus, mentors and advisors and picked their brains until they were sick of us so we could absorb every bit of information and wisdom as possible. We learned all sorts of tech industry lingo and read every book we could on coding, launching a startup and entrepreneurship. We immersed ourselves in learning and had no shame whatsoever being eager albeit annoying students.
After a year and a half in the making, we were finally ready to launch. I will never forget the adrenaline rush and feelings of pride I felt that day, on May 15th, 2013. As minorities and as women, it was no easy feat starting our own company but any adversity faced along the way was easily compensated by the moments of pure joy and gratification.
L by D: Your legal experience includes working in-house at H. B. Webman, the music publishing company. In what ways do you apply the skills you developed there to your work at Dress for the Day?
Starting a business entails a great detail of legal knowledge and application. Fortunately, instead of shelling out money (every penny counts while bootstrapping a startup!) to an attorney, I was able to take care of DFTD’s legal needs and this was partly due to my experiences at my previous job. H.B. Webman is a small, family owned business, therefore a great deal of responsibility fell on my shoulders at a very early stage of my legal career. From drafting various legal agreements, to negotiating deal terms, to understanding financial implications, I became intimately familiar with all facets of a fast-paced small business. Because of the tools and techniques I grasped at Webman, I am much more confident and effective with my everyday business and legal dealings at DFTD, namely negotiating commission rates with retail partners, drafting operating and MOU agreements, making sure our intellectual property is properly protected, respecting the copyright of blog and product images we use and polishing our business plan and financial projections. I am very grateful for the opportunities I had at my previous position and know that the legal skills I carried with me will continue to be honed at DFTD.
L by D: What’s the best part of your new career?
As trite as it sounds, being happy doing what I love and being continuously educated. On the fashion/creative side, it is so refreshing and exciting to be constantly researching new trends, designers, retailers and keeping up to speed with fashion news. On the tech side, my brain is perpetually thinking of ways to improve the design and interface of our site and I am always on the lookout for how we can improve the DFTD experience for our users. It is also so fascinating to literally learn something new about the tech industry each day. It’s an ever-evolving space and it’s imperative for me to stay current on all tech and media developments. On the business side, I challenge myself to be better versed in the financial spectrum; an area I was previously very scared to delve into. As a small business owner, however, analyzing financial implications and being cognizant of things like overhead, costs, revenue, etc. is vital. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned thus far is with a startup, you learn by doing and have to be an open-minded sponge! The education I am receiving on a day-to-day basis is priceless—and there are no student loans to worry about!
L by D: Can you share with us a career challenge you’ve faced, and how you worked to overcome it?
I think the biggest career challenge I’ve faced is simply not letting setbacks or hurdles impede our success. There have been so many examples of this throughout the course of DFTD, and any startup I’d imagine. I am a perfectionist by nature, so when a deadline isn’t met, or there is glitch on the website, or users are down one day, I tend to take it very personally. However, I quickly learned that I needed to change my perspective on how success is measured. Attaining perfection is basically impossible with a startup, and anybody who tells you that their startup or business is perfect and can’t be improved, is downright lying! The most important part, is the ROAD to the perfection; doing everything you can to make your product the best it can be but accepting that there is ALWAYS room for improvement.
L by D: What advice would you give other attorneys who are interested in becoming design entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to try something new! Challenge yourself and explore different industries and areas outside of your comfort zone. It certainly is a risk to branch out and start a company, but with the right amount of hard work, patience and perseverance, anything is possible. Be prepared for long hours, frustration and feelings of self-doubt. But feel confident that you will always have your legal degree no matter what, and the tools and experiences you’ve had while in law school and in your legal career will definitely come to good use in your entrepreneurial ventures. Most importantly, choose something that makes you happy. The rewards, financial or not, will come quicker and bigger if you enjoy what you do. Don’t give up and don’t listen to others who may have doubt in your vision; use your lawyerly art of proving others wrong!
L by D: What are some of your professional goals for the next twelve months?
DFTD is off to a great start and sky’s the limit for us! Our main business development goals for the next year are focused around marketing/PR initiatives and securing funding in order to expand our company and take it to the next level. We have some exciting ideas for the near future, including an app and branching out to men’s apparel so keep a lookout for updates! We want to give users the best experience possible and will be doing everything we can to improve the site and make dressing for the day as fun, easy and quick as can be!
Many thanks to Anisha for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her experiences with Ms. JD! Be sure to check out Dress for the Day to style your next outfit, and follow Dress for the Day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!