Discover more from Future Commerce
Season 1 Episode 2
November 9, 2021

Mini Dream Teams

Today on the pod, Ingrid sat down with April Uchitel, Co-Founder and CEO of THE BOARD. They chat about talent and the humans behind the brands that bring brands to life. PLUS: product development, distribution, marketing, and everything in between that wouldn't be possible without those people. Listen now!

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This Episode Sponsored by:

Infinite Shelf - Givz
Infinite Shelf - Opinew
Infinite Shelf - Chatdesk

Today on the pod, Ingrid sat down with April Uchitel, Co-Founder and CEO of THE BOARD. They chat about talent and the humans behind the brands that bring brands to life. PLUS: product development, distribution, marketing, and everything in between that wouldn't be possible without those people. Listen now!

“It gets lonely at the top”

  • {00:06:03} “A lot of young entrepreneurs moving at the speed of light, you know, kind of that move fast, break things, don't ask for permission and apologize later mentality, which is just not the world that I ever grew up in.” - April
  • {00:011:16} “But ultimately, it started to be a little bit like, ‘Hey, collectively wear so much more powerful if we help each other.’” - April
  • {00:020:20} “Are they sustainable? Are they doing something better for the planet or society on a whole in terms of potentially giving back or supporting certain communities?” - April
  • {00:026:21} “Because it all kind of goes back to something that you said earlier, which is identifying your superpower. Having a really honest conversation with my team and myself about what are the things that we know how to do really, really, really well?” - Ingrid
  • {00:038:08} “Exactly. It's just an honest conversation that sometimes we're just too polite or even too busy to have.” - Ingrid 
  • {00:040:13} “It's really this idea of almost an advisory, but you know, a monthly call with this curated group of people, depending on your business and your needs where you really can have a safe space, a little bit life coach, a little bit strategy, venting, connecting, leveraging networks, ideation, kind of A B thinking and help founders and CEOs in that space between where it's really lonely, where again you have to kind of manage your investors a certain way.” - April
  • {00:045:34} “Because like you were saying, it gets lonely at the top. You can't be super transparent with your board, your actual board, And then you have to keep up this appearance with your employees.” - Ingrid
  • {00:048:03} “It's really like, how do we support you? What are your challenges? What can we take? What can we do together? What can we help you think through differently? And so we want to work in a different way and we want to really immerse ourselves not only just with the senior leadership, but whoever is touching that project.” - April

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Ingrid: [00:01:36] Hello and welcome to Infinite Shelf, the podcast about human centric retail. I'm your host, Ingrid Milman Cordy. And today's episode is all about talent and the humans behind the brands that bring brands to life. The product development, distribution, marketing, and everything in between wouldn't be possible without those people. Our guest is April Uchitel, and she is the Co-Founder of The Board. Before she began The Board. She was the SVP of Sales at Diane Von Furstenberg. She was the Brand Officer at Spring and most recently, the CEO of Violet Gray. She brings decades of valuable experience and perspective from luxury fashion and beauty in retail, and frankly has built the connections of a well networked executive, has the product of a true tastemaker, but I'd say, most importantly, the guts and wherewithal to make shit happen in retail. If you haven't heard about The Board yet, get ready. They are going to be the next big thing in brand development. So let's hit it. April, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to now.

April: [00:04:01] Yep, thank you so much for having me. It's always fun to tell my story. I think that it's been an interesting journey, and to really give you a background of kind of how I even got to The Board itself. I was about 25 years spent in fashion in both Los Angeles and Manhattan, nine of those as EVP of Sales and Strategy at Diane Von Furstenberg. And I really just knew that I did not want to be a 50 year old garmento. And I saw the digital bus coming, and I really felt like I would be barely grasping the tailpipe if I didn't make a move soon. And so I left kind of what would have been a traditional trajectory to the President's role and decided I really needed to figure out how to go down and around and hopefully not lose too much of my investment in time and seniority in the process, but ultimately did end up kind of taking a significant shift after a couple of years of consulting and advising and mentoring. I was a mentor in the CFD Incubator program. I was asked to join a team, a startup called Spring, and I became the Chief Brand Officer. And it really appealed to me greatly because it seemed to be a big disruptor to an otherwise broken industry, building a mobile mall basically that allowed brands to go direct to consumer and having fought department stores for twenty five years, it was incredibly appealing to have an alternative distribution outlet that you could control as a brand and also gain a lot of information and data that you don't get from your traditional retail partners. And so I did that. I went from a big office with an assistant and a team to running around Manhattan in a WeWork with an app reporting to my employer, who I was 20 years older than. And it was a pretty big drinking through a fire hose moment and really learning a completely new language, a completely new way of working, a real stakeholder mentality versus kind of the more hierarchy mentality of traditional corporations. A lot of young entrepreneurs moving at the speed of light, you know, kind of that move fast, break things, don't ask for permission and apologize later mentality, which is just not the world that I ever grew up in. And so I ultimately played this role of kind of like Chief Curator. So knowing the brands and knowing what brands want, I was able to take that lens and helped build out kind of the UX side of it, but also curate the types of brands that I think would see the value. And we really focused on what a direct to consumer brands. So back in that day it was, you know, Harry, Warbys, Reformation, Casper, at the time Nasty Gal, Everlane and getting all these brands on board, as well as a lot of contemporary brands. We launched with Opening Ceremony and then eventually thirty two months later got to Gucci. And so it was quite a wild ride, and it really also introduced me to beauty. So we started working with a lot of the beauty brands, and I was literally running up and down the streets of Manhattan like a crazy person getting as many brands as possible.

Ingrid: [00:07:04] {laughter} You were having the time of your life, though, I can imagine.

April: [00:07:06] It was something I was so excited and honestly really thought we were going to be the Phenix that rose from the ashes. And so when you're passionate about something, you really go all in. And I think that was the first time I really felt that sense of like, "Oh my God, we can really make something incredible. We can change the direction for a lot of companies, and we can give a lot of opportunities." And so while doing that, I also realize that it's a chicken and egg world. And so while you're building getting the customers, you got to get more brands and we're getting more brands, you get more customers. And so I kind of started to organically add in other value propositions to the brands that had decided to kind of trust us and join us on this journey. And I started to create fireside chats, which is very kind of ubiquitous now. But at the time, in 2014, it wasn't really happening, especially not in fashion. And so I would bring in like Jeff Raider from Harry's and Rebecca Minkoff and various people to come and talk to a handful of brands that were be invited into our office space and really have these dialogs that weren't happening and try and connect more of the dots from brands to each other. It was still very competitive landscape, not a collaborative landscape. Everyone really kind of had guardrails up. And so while I was talking to so many brands and realizing all their pain points, it became really clear that everyone was kind of moving through parallel worlds hitting the same walls and not sharing any of those experiences. And so I started to kind of do that from a 360 perspective, where I could see someone going in a direction or struggling, and I just talked to someone who just did that and I would start to make those introductions and slowly became this kind of go to for everything from networking, advice, matchmaking, guiding, mentoring and really loved doing that, but it was really nothing that I could monetize at the time, and I ultimately had this idea of like, how do I create like Angie's List meets Tinder for brands like, there seems to be such a disconnect. And unfortunately, it wasn't something that like the CFDA focused on, you know, they weren't really focused on bringing brands together in the way that you...

Ingrid: [00:09:15] Just to like ground everyone that has not worked in fashion retail. Fashion is just the most siloed, competitive sort of like individual sharks circling in the tank waters. And so for you to be able to spearhead that type of collaborative talk and community not only in a world that was not designed for that, was quite the opposite designed for that.

April: [00:09:46] Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:09:46] During a huge time of tumult and ambiguity and confusion just is unbelievable. Like, I can't even... I think that you applied that, like you said, stakeholder mentality to a world that was so not that. And I just want everyone to appreciate how difficult that is in fashion.

April: [00:10:08] You know, everyone was very territorial. The mean girls and fashion is a thing, and there's very much this like, "I earned this spot, and I'm not giving any of my secrets away" kind of mentality.

Ingrid: [00:10:18] Exactly.

April: [00:10:19] And you had all these direct-to-consumer brands coming up who just didn't live in that same world. And so we were able to put together some marketing activations that were so fascinating, like Mother Denim launched on the platform and they were doing a charity partnership with this artist who is basically traveling across the country and photographing trans kids, kids that identified anything other than straight and then doing a whole, complete profile on them in a huge exhibition. And so Mother Denim was supporting this initiative, and they had a program that was called Love Your Other. And I was able to get 10 different designers to wear the Mother Denim T-shirt and promote it on Spring and something that you know normally like, "Why would a designer put on another designer's T-shirt and go and say, "Hey, go buy this T-shirt at Mother Denim?'" And it just didn't happen back then. And they all saw the value of the charity, which is obviously the tie in. But ultimately, it started to be a little bit of like, "Hey, collectively wear so much more powerful if we help each other." And I remember even the Founders of Mother Denim later, they're like, "Thank you so much. Why did you do that?" But I just saw this moment to start to connect the community on the platform as opposed to just have everybody have their own taxonomy and their own brand list and their own shop and just operate independently. And we did the same thing for International Women's Day, and we photographed thirty three female founders and we had them all come in in 15 minute increments into the studio and they started to see each other and meet each other. Every time we took a picture, we put it up on the wall and they just all hung out. And then at the end of the day, I basically sent an email to everybody and I purposely did not BCC, which again was not the thing you do back then, and I was just kind of I remember about to hit that send button and really contemplating, like, do I really want to do this? And you know, it was Rebecca Minkoff and Ulla Johnson and Eileen Fisher and thirty three incredible founders, and I hit the send button and I just said, "This was and incredible day. And so many people had either known each other had always wanted to meet each other." And then we ended up having Rebecca jumped in and she's like, "Let's do a cocktail party." And Ariane from Hatch was like, "I'll host it."

Ingrid: [00:12:30] Incredible.

April: [00:12:30] And everyone brought a different cool female friend to it. And it was just such a crazy opportunity for me to see like, wow, there's such a desire to connect, and there's such a need to share resources and information at all levels, and it planted that seed back then. And then I moved to Los Angeles, and I became the CEO of Violet Grey, where I worked with another one hundred and thirty brands. At Spring, it was about two thousand brands, and the same pattern kind of kept repeating where people would reach out, like, "Do you know someone? Hey, can you take a look at this? Can you connect me to...?" So when I finally left after three years there and I just really thought, like, what do I really want to do next and what are my superpowers? And I think COVID had this huge reckoning, obviously, for all of us and so many people were in that exact same position as I was, where they're really reevaluating, what is really important in my life right now? And we had that opportunity to spend so much more time with our kids and in our homes and just have a completely different appreciation for the smaller things, but also for getting rid of a lot of stuff that we don't know we don't need, time spent on things that didn't really matter.

Ingrid: [00:13:43] Yeah. The Great Reevaluation.

April: [00:13:44] Huge reevaluation and obviously a huge struggle, you know, and a huge uniting moment of people coming together. And I've been on the founding team of I Am a Voter where it's a nonpartisan grassroots movement to make voting cool, so people do it. And we kind of started about four and a half years ago, about twenty eight of us that rallied on our off hours and literally used all of our relationships where we felt like if we can sell lipstick, we can sell voting. And so we went after all of our brand partners, and we really built something pretty incredible and we got so many, you know, we end up parting with CAA and Disney, and we worked with all of the NFL, NBA, you know, every type of sports team to huge amount of Hollywood A-lists from Jennifer Aniston to, you name it, Lizzo. My neighbor manages her, and I saw her do a voting thing on Instagram, and I went and begged if we can get that song in. And it was just this hustle. But again, driven by this passion of wanting to make a difference and that spirit kind of carried over as well into kind of what we're building at The Board and this idea that we're more powerful together and what was happening is through this reckoning, so many of my peers started to reach out and tell me, "I moved upstate." "I left LA." "I got laid off." "I sold my company." "I'm finally going to do that thing." And the common thread was, and "I'm freelancing and I'm freelancing and I'm consulting." And so it became super clear really quickly that there was this incredible opportunity to kind of aggregate this talent pool, which doesn't really exist. You know, it's not really a LinkedIn, you know, it's not vetted. Obviously, LinkedIn, I think they're actually getting a lot of trouble for fake reviews. But ultimately, this trusted network of people that I know how they work and live and breathe. And to me, the live and breathe is just as important as how they work. And so making these quality of life decisions really informed the passion for which they want to now live and work, which really kind of feeds into the powerful opportunity to kind of collaborate and kind of make what we call mini dream teams of this talent pool. And so we're working with brands and businesses. Sometimes it's a one on one kind of match up with the skill set and other times, you know, there's up to nine people at the most so far working on a project. And it's been incredibly inspiring. And I have an incredible Co-Founder, Anita Gatto, who came from an experiential retail and we had done a project together with Estee Lauder and Violet Grey just prior to the pandemic. And of course, her world came to a crushing halt when everything closed down. So we had been talking over the summer and she was having all the same feelings that I was about the what's next. And so we co-concepted this idea. Initially it was kind of the idea of like mini SWAT teams. And I really came up with the name of The Board because it is really the sense of, you know, at Uber, everyone's a driver, at Glam Squad, everyone is a stylist and ultimately every company and every co-founder, founder, CEO wants to be able to leverage a board in a way that can really help propel the business forward. And the challenges are, you know, it's hard to do that when you're managing up to investors and kind of down to employees. And so the board can play this really interesting role that can kind of come in and pitch hit, in terms of like growth opportunities, obviously strategic advice, but really lean into execution because no one, you know, really benefits just from being just told what to do. And I think we've all, most of the people on The Board have had those experiences where the experts have come in at some point in their careers, given the guidance and then hand off a huge deck and it doesn't get executed...

Ingrid: [00:17:32] Oh yeah. The dusty deck sitting collecting...

April: [00:17:34] The dusty deck. Yeah. And it happens over and over and people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for that deck that never is put to use. Heartbreak and you know, and time and money spent. And so we really thought about what is broken in the same way that at Spring, we looked at what's broken in retail. It's really what's broken in agencies and what's broken in org charts. You know, it's really hard to... You can't have all the talent in-house for the next stage. You can't afford that no matter what size you are. And even some of these huge companies have very small teams that wear a million hats. And so we can kind of come in and really become an extension of those companies. And we can be a little bit more grassroots. We can be a little bit more nimble than they can be. And for the smaller emerging brands, we obviously bring in our networks and our seasoned experience where they might have a product, whether it's a serum or a tech platform, that they either need to get in front of retailers or brands. And we can help really build out the Y and the narrative and then go and make those introductions. And so we're about eighty two people now, which is bonkers. We really kind of turn the lights on in March. And so the talent side is there and so excited to stay part of a community. You know, when you go out alone, it's a whole different dynamic than if you've been in house for a long time. And so, you know, helping make that transition and people that are seasoned consultants still also want to be able to lean in and share and collaborate.

Ingrid: [00:19:06] Yeah. Well, I mean, oh my goodness, how do I even start to crack everything open that you just shared? I've been voraciously taking notes. One of the things that you had mentioned that has been kind of a distinction between a traditional consulting model and an agency model, and the board is this concept of vetting. So clearly, you know, consultants, it's hard to become a consultant. They don't just like hire anyone. Agencies probably less so, but also have somewhat of a vetting process. But I think that you all seem to have a vetting process that is not just for the talent. Like that's first and foremost, but also the types of clients that you're taking on and the types of products that those clients are using. And so tell me a little bit about that vetting/filtration system that is existing within The Board and how that connects to your higher purpose.

April: [00:20:03] Yeah. It's definitely discerning both, like you said, on the people's side and the brand side. And for us, there's just so much product pollution. There's so many things no one needs. And so with new brands coming to us, it really is assessing again their value proposition. Are they sustainable? Are they doing something better for the planet or society on a whole in terms of potentially give backs or supporting certain communities? And if they don't and if they're just an amazing product, is it a doctor who really, really knows what she's doing and wants to change the trajectory of something in the beauty world and bring things based on her hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of clients in case studies that there's real value in terms of not only efficacy, but, a white spot, a white space, something that doesn't feel like it's just marketing. I think that's something that none of us are that excited to get behind. And, you know, at this stage in our lives, you know, we tend to be generalists. And so what we've done at The Board is really lean into people's superpowers. And so when you're really concentrating on the part that you love, you only really want to do that for brands and companies that you're excited to get behind or it really feels hollow. And so unlike a traditional agency where it is a bit about, you know, bringing in a lot of people, putting them through the same routine with the same 12 people on those accounts, it's really customized. And so you really get someone who cares about what that brand is leaning into or is excited to be part of that story. And at the same time, on the people side, it does become about this quality of life, quality of work, collaboration. We really have a no asshole policy on all sides, and that's something that we're really clear about. And we've definitely exited some people and we've definitely walked away from some opportunities. Just, you know, it's like dating, you know really quick if it's fit or not. And in some cases, you just kind of have to suffer through it. But again, we're at this point where we want to look back in a few years and just be really proud of the companies and the people that we've interacted with and that we've helped move forward. And so that really becomes a critical lens. We've had companies send us product and we didn't love it and we didn't think it was worth the money they were charging and we couldn't really see any value because at the end of the day, it's protecting our relationships. And so if we're going to go and make introductions or really suggest that someone takes time out of their day to even take a look at a platform or a product, and if they immediately think it's crap, it's a huge red flag on us. And so that discerning side is really about trust at the end of the day.

Ingrid: [00:22:47] And the relationships that you're building.

April: [00:22:49] Completely. Those relationships are 20 years old in many cases. And so what the value and I think, you know, it's funny to me when people get into consulting really young, and I've never quite understood unless it's obviously very technical, you know, even financial, unless you've kind of like, lived, messed up, cleaned up, lived, screwed up, fixed it multiple times...

Ingrid: [00:23:14] Times ten.

April: [00:23:15] Yeah, exactly. It's really hard to say, like, I know I can get in there. And if it goes this way or this way or this way, I can figure it out. And so I think it becomes about that level of trust. And we've definitely worked on a project that started to go off the rails and it was just like all hands on deck. And we all dropped everything and turned it around. And, you know, we're learning, we're working all in a new model. And so finding some of the key stakeholders, even within The Board has been really interesting. It's definitely a community where you give out what you put in, and in some cases, people are like, "Call me if you need me." In other cases, they're really driving projects into The Board. And I think the difference in our model versus the traditional agency is it's very much incentivizing people to share work and to recommend The Board and board members to clients if they additional support, or if it's something that's not right for them or they don't have the bandwidth, so that's, you know, it's not Anita and I going out and doing lead generation pitches to then get board members work. And so we make that really clear that we are not their agent, but this is really a platform in a community model that we can share learnings, share networks, share work, share deal flow and really create a unique value prop for businesses to think about how they how they think about consultants and how they find the best ones in a way that currently doesn't exist. You know, recruiters are leaning more and more into consulting because that just is the freelance model I think it is just going to continue to grow. There's many other consultants, agencies like this. There's a few other groups, collectives that we actually work with and we share learnings with as well. And it kind of goes back to that collaboration side of the new world, where even if it's a competitor, it's very much like, how do we support each other?

Ingrid: [00:26:11] Even just comparing The Board to an agency is not even doing it very much justice because frankly, The Board could come in and then assess the business and recommend an agency to come in and do what needs to be done. Because it's all kind of goes back to something that you said earlier, which is identifying your superpower. Having a really honest conversation with my team and myself about what are the things that we know how to do really, really, really well? And then figuring out how do we either hire internally or externally to complement what we don't really know how to do very well. And I think that a lot of times that turns out to be agencies or consultants. But I think at higher leadership levels, when you're talking about CEOs, C-suite, all of those types of roles, man, does that become even more important because there are CEOs, especially in these huge growth companies, emerging brands who are superstars, they're just incredible. And they're these people that know how to be really, really high level visionary thinkers and the doers. But the Achilles heel that I've seen is they don't always know when to tap out or when to take a step back and say, "Hey, my superpowers might be more than the average person, but they're still limited. And then making that assessment is actually a really, really critical step in taking that next growth step within an organization. And I think that the way that you look at these mini dream teams or mini boards is such a good way for us to even take that first step. Maybe you don't even know what your superpower is and you need someone else to point it out. And then once you learn that superpower, you can learn the things that you're a little bit weaker in, and I think there's so much value to that.

April: [00:28:04] Well, and I think also, no one wants to say, "I'm not good at that," but it takes... And I've always, you know, so many leadership books and conversations where with really amazing leaders, that's what they're able to really say, "That's not my core competency. You're such a star and that I'd love for you to take the lead." It's hard. It's really hard. And when I was a CEO at Violet Grey, it's really hard to say, like, "I've never done this part before. Let's figure it out together," when you kind of feel like you have to fake it till you make it at a certain point, but it doesn't serve the team in the long run. And at the same time, if you're a limited budget, limited bandwidth, and you can't bring on that three hundred thousand dollars person who is going to now do product development or take on a whole new vertical, this resource of freelance becomes like, OK, how can I bridge this until we know that this is going to get traction and then we can hire accordingly? And those are the situations where if it's a clear level of expertise, but again, where do you go to find those people? And you would just always go to your network. And so this ability of this network effect I think is really powerful, and we're working with some companies who had 70 people pre-COVID have gone down to 20 post post-COVID, and they're thinking, OK, what do I build back? What do I outsource? What do we really need?

Speaker3: [00:29:23] It's this huge opportunity to like, look at things with a fresh perspective, not that anyone would have designed it that way, but here we are. So like, how do we rebuild out of the rubble?

April: [00:29:32] And every leader that I'm talking to, they're seeing crazy turnover. You know, even companies that are very well respected and loved, they're still seeing this everybody really did have this kind of come to Jesus moment of Is this where I want to live? Is this what I want to do? You know, and so you're seeing sometimes 40 percent turnover in some big companies, and they're really scrambling for talent. And I remember during the beginning of the pandemic or about midway through a friend of mine who is a recruiter in New York, and she recruits for luxury fashion. And she called me and she's like, "Oh my God, I have eighteen hundred applications for one job." And at that point, there was literally like everybody was let go at most of the fashion houses, a lot of times senior leadership is let go first because they're the most expensive and they can kind of try and pay down that balance sheet if they get rid of, you know, a bunch of people at the top and then keep the workhorses, which is what they're all struggling with now that now these guys are burnt and they don't have the experience to step into those roles. And so the company is now trying to figure out what they do. And in many cases, they're hiring back those people as consultants, you know that they let go. And so it's just such an interesting time. It happened, obviously in media, magazines that happened with all of the editors. And you know, there is an ageism part. There is a senior piece that's interesting. And I think a lot of the consultants on The Board, you know, have been in those companies where they start to see the writing on the wall, and you start to realize, like, "I probably don't have a lot more years in doing this. A) They don't want me here. B) I don't want to be here, but what do I do next?" And then they have to take a step back and realize, like how incredibly valuable they are and their experiences, and then they don't know how to go and how to apply it elsewhere. How do you get on the radar? It's like it's just such a challenging part of our industry, which we want to help change, and be able to kind of build this destination that supports kind of this quality of life, but then really supports the brand side and the business side by being able to tap into, just like I said, a crazy network of talent. And so what we're finding is that that win win and the all boats rise that I really tried to create at Spring, you know, and seeing it come to life now where everyone kind of gets what they want out of that scenario. And so it's all about transparency. You know, it's not an agency where the costs are hidden and you're not quite sure what you're paying for. And everyone's an independent contractor and they negotiate their own rates, and The Board is a referral model. And so from a monetization perspective, that's where we're at today. And like I said, we just opened the doors in March. And so we're just we're incredibly blown away by the reaction and kind of how we're getting discovered, and we purposely didn't do any press. We love the idea of it being kind of a word of mouth. And if you know, you know where people are reaching out now and saying, "I heard about The Board through so and so. I'd love to talk to you about my brand." And so it's been phenomenal. And ultimately, we're crafting other kind of services where we can do unique things with this group of humans.

Ingrid: [00:33:59] It sounds like you're taking your Chief Curation Officer role from Spring and applying it to humans and matchmaking them with brands and that's just incredible, and I think that there's so much potential to unlock both in terms of the brand of The Board, right? Because you have this gatekeeping ability and this like The Board stamp of approval when it comes to these trusted relationships, and so there's a lot of weight to that. So I'm this buyer or I'm in charge of a huge swath of department stores and I'm going to come to you, The Board, and try to understand what you're seeing is popular. What is going to hit? Just get your brains on that from like these really, really high level decision maker roles and then also being able to take these smaller, more innovative, more forward thinking groups and give them the airtime that they wouldn't have otherwise had within the more traditional model of bringing things to market in all the different elements of that. I think there's so much power to that.

April: [00:35:11] Well, and it's understanding like what everyone's looking for, right? So you're almost this weird broker in that moment, and when I first started, you know, kind of wrapping our head around The Board, I spent a lot of time reaching out to all of my retail cohorts, and some of them have literally been in their jobs for 20 years. And I worked with them back when I was in fashion and reconnected with everybody, every department store, most of the multi-brand beauty companies and let them know what we're building so that when we do make those brand introductions, they understand that they have already vetted to work with us to begin with, and I wouldn't bring them anything that I didn't think was valuable to take a look at. Having been pitched a million things in my career, that's an hour that you can afford to spend when you know immediately it's not right.

Ingrid: [00:35:54] Exactly.

April: [00:35:54] And so getting into this like shorthand where it's thumbs up, thumbs down and we can move quick and I can then help the brand rethink, Ok, that was your desired retailer. It's not going to happen for all these reasons. And so don't spend six months, eight months a year holding out and waiting. Let's go a different direction. And so that's the valuable part of being able to have those really honest conversations at the decision maker level. At the same time, we've also worked with brands and once we've gotten all that feedback gone back and help them kind of rethink what their MVP is and have helped them start to kind of pivot through what they thought they were building and what they really think now what the industry is telling them they need. And then we can kind of go back and work with them, from not only the strategic but also literally helping them think through how technology can be applied differently than they actually thought the need that they were solving.

Ingrid: [00:36:54] Oh man. That's powerful. I just want to just nail into this point here because if I'm understanding correctly you playing this intermediary between the larger department stores or whatever it would take to unlock the potential and the decision makers who are actually behind the product and the marketing and the actual brands, and you have this unique position where you can have the honest conversation that can't be had with the buyers and the brand.

April: [00:37:24] Totally.

Ingrid: [00:37:24] It's like God, just how many times have you wanted to actually hear like man, I think that that went really well, but then it didn't, right? And so The Board, you guys can come in and go, "Well, I'll tell you, because they told me," and I think, man, is that in and of itself just a huge unlock.

April: [00:37:41] I'm working with two companies from that perspective right now, and it's really understanding the competitive landscape, for one. Their competition is moving much faster and they want to know why, you know, and I can have those conversations with my peers who went with the other platform, and I can do and get some really strong intel. And it's not, you know, trade secrets. It's just understanding what was your decision making process for going A versus B in order to help B rethink their value prop.

Ingrid: [00:38:08] Exactly. It's just the honest conversation that like sometimes we're just too polite or even too busy to have.

April: [00:38:15] And honestly too corporate, you know? I mean, they have a they have a template that they send. "Thank you so much. We'll be in touch," you know, and what you really want to know is like, "Will you? Will you ever be in touch? Because I don't know."

Ingrid: [00:38:30] Truly.

April: [00:38:30] And then we're also able to do some really interesting kind of grassroots marketing that we've created and then we kind of take to a platform. So for Postmates, we had this idea to do a beauty on demand bag. We had been talking to them about different opportunities for pop ups. And you know, again, these companies get very corporate red tape and don't have a lot of nimbleness in them, and a lot of decision makers wait on a lot of things And so very few things get done and not at a certain speed. And so we pitched this idea of this bag where brands participated. We curated the brands. Claire Vivia designed the bag. We actually got a dark store at Bev Center through all of our relationships, and we did this limited edition kind of drop for Postmates members. We brought an influencer strategy, and Postmates literally was like, "Here's your store. Thank you so much," you know, and so we were able to take this idea and then decide, like, who do we want to bring this to? You know, and so the value for the 18 brands, the visibility, the kind of associations with each other and then the influencers. And we're going to do another one for holiday. But it's this kind of idea of like, Wow, what else can we do? Because we can kind of we're almost, we can kind of ride on top of everything in a way that I think is really interesting. And again, knowing where brands are looking for opportunities for greater distribution, for visibility, like how can we create these moments that may not be specifically through a retailer lens or may not be about setting up a significant logistics side of it and to test and learn that way. We're offering something called Mini Boards, which I wish I had when I was at Violet Grey. It's really this idea of almost an advisory, but you know, a monthly call with this curated group of people, depending on your business and your needs where you really can have a safe space, a little bit life coach, a little bit strategy, venting, connecting, leveraging networks, ideation, kind of A B thinking and help founders and CEOs in that space between where it's really lonely, where again you have to kind of manage your investors a certain way. You can't really share what's working, not working in the way that you want to, and you definitely can't do that for your team. And so that's the part that brings a lot of burnout, you know, for founders and CEOs. And, you know, they do lean into advisory groups, they do lean into many other, you know, the Y Combinator and whatnot where they can have this.

Ingrid: [00:41:04] Or even tunnel vision too. It's not like there's burnout on one end. And just like super laser tunnel vision on the other, where like you sometimes can end up with like an emperor with no clothes on because no one's willing to be honest with them.

April: [00:41:17] The forest for the trees...

Ingrid: [00:41:17] Yeah, yeah.

April: [00:41:18] And we've done a few of these sessions where someone has a business and it's doing really well, but they're like, but I think there's more here, and I just can't see it. Like, Can you guys, can we just do like a whiteboard session? You know, can you just all take a look at my business and tell me, like, what else am I missing? What else should I be thinking? Like, how big should I be thinking? And I think those are really powerful, and it's incredibly fun for the people to participate in because all you can show up with just your best ideas and all of your learnings. And you know, then we can do additional scopes from there. And so I think those are some of the ideas of things that are starting to pop up. We definitely are doing more IRL experiences. We're doing a pop up for a Reese Witherspoon launching in a few weeks for her book club. And so working on kind of all of the production, all of the development with her team, those that world is reopening. And that was Anita's background. And so we're having a lot of brands reaching out to us from that perspective. And again, we can grab a Creative Director, a different Creative Director from The Board for each different one. So you're not tapping into just here's the same three people that do all the pop ups.

Ingrid: [00:42:26] So exciting. And I love this. So we obviously have quite a few people within retail CEOs, founders, software development agencies. So if you had to give a couple of insights into what you would recommend to help these companies determine or find what they're... Wait, hold on. I want to restate this this way. Like I'm trying to get to... Because we have a lot of founders and CEOs and agencies and everyone within the retail world listens to this show, what would be your advice for helping them to discover both their superpower and their not superpower, where The Board can come in or where they should really just like take a step back and determine when they need some help?

April: [00:43:34] Well, you know, we've had conversations with people and then six months later, they come back and say, like, "OK, I'm ready for The Board," you know? And I think sometimes it's just saying like, "I'm stuck, something's not working." And we've gone on calls where they're literally like, "I need help with everything." And in other times, like, "I need help with this one thing." And then as we start to unpack it, we start to realize exactly that you can't do that until you've done that and that and you actually don't have anybody on your team to do that."

Ingrid: [00:44:00] Right. Peel back those layers. And you're like, oh, actually...

April: [00:44:03] So sometimes it's just an initial conversation and that's what's been happening. I think I have five calls this week with different founders at different levels who I just need help with this thing. I just hung up with a shampoo company before I got on the call and you know, he's like, "This retailer wants it and this retailer wants it. But I'd like to talk to someone who can tell me about how they work. I don't know." And so it's that insight side where I don't want to sign up for the wrong partner and I don't want to take on more than I can chew. So it initially started with that. But as we were talking, he was like, "OK, and I could also use that, that, that." And so we kind of do this Chinese menu approach in that perspective where, you know, a bit of a brain dump of all the things and then start to phase it out, it's like what would be phase one? And that's where you kind of go back to these conversations. And I do think this, what we call these blue sky sessions, it's really just this like unpacking of where they're at currently, what they're thinking, where their gut is telling them they need to lean into next. And then where are the areas of like, "This is all super dark, and I have no idea." "I need someone to help me with my TikTok strategy." "We are with these three agencies and we're not happy." "I'm trying to figure out how to get into this whatever potential retailer." And then they're like, Actually, those are all... I need five things."

Ingrid: [00:45:27] So basically it starts with this therapy session where you're just like, blah, just like get it out. Let's hear it, all right?

April: [00:45:34] It really does.

Ingrid: [00:45:34] Because like you were saying, it gets lonely at the top. You can't be super transparent with your board, your actual board, And then you have to keep up this appearance with your employees.

April: [00:45:44] Which is why I think so many CEOs get exec coaches and they find someone that can help them navigate some of the crazy, but also the pressure. Because, you know, every problem is your problem and at a certain point that definitely wears you out.

Ingrid: [00:45:59] And an exec coach, though you can't like, OK, it ends there, which, hey, that is a very, very important service to have and to make sure to be aware that you need. But then I think the difference is after that therapy session, there's this next step and action items and things that you can actually wrap your arms around and say, "Hey, I actually now have a person and a plan, and I'm not 300k in the hole with this one hire. I have, I've potentially spent 300K, but I have a team. I have a mini board that's for this extended period of time. There have a very specific charter for what I expect of them, and I could hold them to that." And I just think that that's really much more powerful. You need the therapy session, who doesn't need the therapy session?

April: [00:46:45] Yeah, for sure.

Ingrid: [00:46:45] Then what? Let's get to fixing and roll our sleeves up and do that. So April, how do people get in touch with you for a therapy session? Like, how does this work?

April: [00:46:58] You can go to the our website and there's an inquiry link there.

Ingrid: [00:47:04] That's just

April: [00:47:04] Yeah, exactly. It's actually, and I am That's really how we see ourselves And definitely reach out. There's just an incredible group of humans that are so eager to work with incredible founders and great projects. And I think, you know, brings so much insight and integrity. And that's really the key for for us. We're going to be only as good as our reputation and it's only as good as every project and company that we support. And so I would say in every case, I think we've overdelivered so far, which I love and people have been really thrilled with the experience and the teams that we're working with are so excited to work with us and we really see ourselves as an extension. We've all seen what the impact of consultants on culture can be, and it can really kind of kill culture. And so it's not about again, the experts coming in because you can't do it. It's really like, how do we support you? What are your challenges? What can we take? What can we do together? What can we help you think through differently? And so we want to work in a different way and we want to really immerse ourselves not only just with the senior leadership, but whoever is touching that project. We have Zoom calls where there's 17 people on the call. It's not just us in a CEO, and I think that that's what's really important for them to feel like they've got not only the resource through us, but they can hopefully learn and be inspired by this group of senior leaders that have kind of come through in many different ways and are bringing a lot of new perspective to the way they're problem-solving.

Ingrid: [00:48:45] Right. And bring everyone along on the journey, to your point, where it leaves, it expands out from just that CEO conversation. That is hopefully very...

April: [00:48:55] We love that most of the companies we work with tell us that we're their favorite phone call of the day.

Ingrid: [00:49:00] Oh what a compliment.

April: [00:49:01] They'll be like, "This is our favorite time right now is to be able to work with you guys," and I think that's such a testimonial to the energy, like I said we bring but also what we deliver. And I'd love to talk to anybody who wants to talk, you know, not only the brand side, but investors and people that are making those financial investments in new companies and know that those teams need support. I think that's a real sweet spot for us, and it's not about always a $300,000 deal. We're about, you know, in full transparency, it's about a ten thousand dollar minimum. Just because to get any more than one person on a project, it's hard to do for much, much less just to give a threshold. But you know, there's definitely unique ways that we can work. There are some members who will do equity and we'll do retainer plus equity. And so, you know, hit us up regardless and we'll see where it goes.

Ingrid: [00:49:54] Perfect. And we'll put all that, all the contacts, in the show notes, so it's really nice and easy.

April: [00:49:58] Amazing.

Ingrid: [00:49:58] But April, you are such a rock star, such an inspiration. And I'm so glad that you were here.

April: [00:50:05] Thank you. As are you. And I'm so excited we got to chat and I got to know you in the process of one of the clients on The Board.

Ingrid: [00:50:10] Yeah, that's right. Shout out to Madison at the Mada App. Well, thank you. I'll talk to you soon.

April: [00:50:18] Thank you.

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