Leadership Lessons With Tori Gerbig, CEO of Pink Lilly
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tori Gerbig, Co-Founder and CEO of one of the fastest growing women’s fashion boutiques in the US, Pink Lily. In four short years, Pink Lily has surpassed more than $50 million in sales, without taking on any outside funding. Tori is also Co-Founder of LeisureTees.com, a destination for graphic tees for the whole family where $1 from every item purchased is donated to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! Well, after finishing school and working in insurance sales, I got the idea to turn my love of shopping into a side business and started a small Facebook group and eBay shop that featured styles I loved and thought other women would love as well. At the start of 2014, seeing momentum grow from this side hustle, my husband and I took a leap of faith! Like so many other innovative and hard-working Americans, we decided to start our own business. We launched Pink Lily’s first website and within six months the business was growing so fast that we both left our “real jobs” to focus full time on this new venture! Fast forward to today, and we’ve surpassed $50 million in sales — a milestone we still have to pinch ourselves about!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
What I find most amazing is how quickly our company has grown and changed — the transformation of Pink Lily being a small hobby to a multi-million dollar business just happened so fast.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, perhaps not funny at the time but ridiculous in retrospect is our lack of implementing a strong inventory management system from the start. When we eventually fixed this, we already had thousands of dollars in merchandise. Something I don’t recommend and have to laugh about today.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Pink Lily we’re constantly providing a look behind the scenes at what we’re working on, I love chatting with customers via Facebook Live or Instagram Stories, and we really ask our fans what they want to see next in the shop. When I go to shop trade shows for new looks, I always bring our followers with me and incorporate their input into what we bring on for the next season. I think the way we openly dialogue with our customers and fans is something that makes us unique. I also bring our customers behind the scenes in my personal life — from time at the Pink Lily warehouse to weekend adventures with my kids.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Being an entrepreneur is hard and the reality is that for most it is not an 8–5 job. I think it’s important to keep your eye on the prize and always remember not just the goal you’re seeking to surpass but the “wins” you’ve already had. Personally I also make time to unplug in the evenings until my kids go to bed so that we have focused family time together. Getting in exercise is also helpful for clearing your mind!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Pink Lily would not be what it is today without my amazing husband and Co-Founder, Chris! This business really is the fruit of our labor together and it has been an amazing experience to live this adventure in entrepreneurship as both Co-Founders and husband and wife.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m a big fan of mentoring other women in business and believe it’s important for all entrepreneurs to remember that hard work and work ethic are the only things that put us all on a level playing field in the workforce. Hard work is something we’re all capable of, regardless of our wealth, where we went to school or where we grew up. This mindset has helped me become the person I am and keep my motivation strong when times are challenging.
We also recently launched a sister business to Pink Lily called LeisureTees.com, which features just a fun assortment of graphic tees for the whole family. We donate $1 from every item purchased to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Steve Jobs once said, “Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”
Both in life and entrepreneurship there will always be ups and downs. It’s important not to let them get to you.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Don’t forget to have fun. After all, that’s probably at the root of why you started your business! When stress comes in, growth arrives and responsibilities grow, it’s important to remember why you started your business and what you love most about it.
Building the perfect team will take time. With quick growth comes the need for quick hiring, but the reality is that building the perfect team doesn’t happen overnight and you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. Be patient.
Work life balance is a constant work in progress. Finding the perfect mix of work and family time is really a constant work in progress, and that’s OK. Follow your gut and adapt as you need.
Automation is your friend. The sooner you can incorporate the right technology to help automate operations, the better you’ll be in the long run!
There will be naysayers. The road of entrepreneurship is full of people who will judge your decisions. It’s important not to let them get you down.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe in paying it forward. What if we were to all spend just 30 minutes a week helping someone we know achieve their goal? Where would that lead?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!