When Katrina Lake brought her toddler to the NASDAQ bell ringing in 2017, she reinvented the stereotypical CEO image. Lake is the founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, one of the leading online personal styling services that curates stylish clothing for clients in the United States and United Kingdom — over 4.1 million of them.
The idea was born in her Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment in 2011, and six years later, she was the the youngest woman to take a company public at age 34 (a title she gracefully handed to Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble this year.)
Financial success is, obviously, key for any company but for Lake, running a lucrative business also means being a change-making leader. Two of Lake’s biggest leadership goals are diversity within her team and meaningful mentorship. In August, she’ll transition from CEO to Executive Chairperson of the Board, a seat change that will keep her close to Stitch Fix while allowing her to focus on a new passion project: Elevate. The Stitch Fix grant and mentorship program uplifts Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs with a $25,000 cash grant and advisory support from the Stitch Fix team. The eight-month program kicked off in January, and already has six designers whose collections will launch this fall.
In her mission to create a more diverse retail landscape, Lake is accelerating change in the apparel industry. For Glamour’s Doing The Work column, she shares how she creates her impact, deals with rejection, and takes a hard pass on investors making deals over beers in a hot tub.
Glamour: What’s your typical morning routine?
Katrina Lake: My kids are up by 7 a.m., so my days start early! The first hour or so of the day is totally devoted to getting them up and ready and fed. One of the pandemic silver linings has been how we’ve been able to share meals together so consistently — having breakfast all together every morning is something I love and helps me to start out the day grounded and present.
If it’s a Monday, I often kick off the morning posting a question box on Instagram stories for my Mentorship Monday program. I love being able to connect with entrepreneurs and people all over the world through it. I get such amazing questions, and sneaking in time to answer them is something I really look forward to. I wish I could spend many more hours in the day on mentorship and advising. Spending time connecting with people in a more lightweight way over DM and Instagram stories is a rewarding and fun way to be able to share and have an impact.
Are you a breakfast person? If so, what do you eat?
Every day. Breakfast for me always consists of coffee and fruit. Sometimes eggs and, if I’m very lucky, a croissant from [San Francisco bakery] Arsicault. My favorite is actually Japanese breakfast—rice, natto, often fish—but realistically, I only get that when I’m traveling in Japan.
If you weren’t in your current career, what would you be?
Data scientist—I wish!
How do you typically deal with rejection in the workplace?
Like anything, practice helps, even with rejection. During the early days of Stitch Fix when I was fundraising, over 50 venture investors said no to me. Even today, as a public company, we’re meeting with investors all the time — some of whom are supportive, some of whom are skeptical, or worse. I’ve been able to build some thicker skin so the sting of rejection doesn’t hurt so much. Even better, I do think there are silver linings. If you’re not getting rejected, you’re probably not reaching or stretching far enough. There’s much to learn from all of the flavors of rejection. I have grown to really appreciate feedback, especially from skeptics, or people who don’t believe — it’s really helped us over the years to refine the narrative, to understand risks in the business, and to grow my own self-awareness.