Oscar: I would like to welcome to the studio today, Ivan Rincon of the Orchid Boutique. Welcome.
Ivan: Thank you, Oscar.
Oscar: On behalf of EO South Florida, congratulations on earning your ranking on the 2014 Inc. Fastest Growing Companies in the United States. Congratulations.
Ivan: Thanks again. Thanks again.
Oscar: Ivan, tell us a little bit about the Orchid Group.
Ivan: Well, the Orchid Boutique, we are a fashion e-commerce company. We focus on mainly selling swimwear online. It was a initial idea that my wife and I came up with seven years ago. This is actually our second year on the Inc. 5000 List, second year in a row.
Ivan: We’ve expanded in selling unique designer bikinis all over the world in over 170 countries.
Oscar: How exciting. What motivated you to get into that business?
Ivan: It’s an interesting story. I’m originally from Colombia, South America. I was living in DC. I went to school here in the states and I felt that my calling in life was to come up with a company that would portray or show talent from my original country. We knew of very talented fashion designers down there that didn’t have an international voice. We decided to start this online portal. Very few designers, we had three original designers back in 2007. It was swimwear designers, handbag designers, and we started online in our guest bedroom. That was our first office. It sort of took off from there and very early on, we got relatively very positive feedback on swimwear and we focused on swimwear and grew the company to where it is right now.
Oscar: Where is it today? Describe the company.
Ivan: Today, we are one in the major e-commerce companies went it comes to swimwear. Very well known for designer swimwear, unique swimwear, not your regular one piece black swimsuit. This is the swimwear that you would wear to a party in Vegas or South Beach. If you want to call attention, the Orchid Boutique is the place to go.
Oscar: Interesting. What is the long-term vision for the Orchid Boutique?
Ivan: We feel that, again, we are very well-known for our swimwear. But we have gotten very positive feedback from our customers introducing other lines, other categories in the fashion space. We’re definitely going to continue to expand in other categories. We’re also looking at a new concept that we call our showroom or brick and clicks. It’s a very different shopping experience, so people come to our showroom and they can shop anything we have on our online catalogs. This is 5000 to 10,000 unique [skews 00:02:39] or bathing suits that you cannot get that on any other store. You basically come into our office. You shop like if you were shopping online, but instead of hitting “Shipping” you get it and you get it to try it on right away. We’re looking at also expanding in that area and also replicating our business model through consulting to other companies that are looking into growing in the online space.
Oscar: Fantastic. Very interesting. When you launched your business, did you have a detailed business plan?
Ivan: Very good question. I started off on a detailed business plan and very early on, I realized that it was about getting and doing it. Getting to do it because I think that the difference on an entrepreneur and somebody that stays in academia, the actual action. I think a business plan is a very good starting point, but you can always have another extra business model, another extra way of you know. At the end of the day, it boils down to just doing it. I guess the business plan progress and evolve as time [crosstalk 00:03:57].
Oscar: Sure. How did you financed the launch of your business?
Ivan: Everything up to this point have been self-financed. We did that for a reason. We want to control everything that happens in the company. It’s a very different way of going about it. The first website, we financed through our savings and since then, we financed through cash flow and as time has gone by, through different lines of credit and everything. But up to this point, everything has been kept 100% in-house per se.
Oscar: Ivan, what do you think the toughest decision you had to make in the seven years since you launched your business?
Ivan: I think it always comes down to employees. We have a very tight group and I consider my employees my family. Sometimes you have to make those tough decisions of letting people go. I remember the first time I had to let somebody go. I didn’t sleep that night. That is for the benefit of the company and what I’ve learned through the years is that if people see the vision and understand what’s going on, they understand that things like this have to happen. But those are always the toughest decisions that you have to make.
Oscar: Sure. I’ve been there before. What habits would you say helped you to attribute your success?
Ivan: I think one of the biggest things is you can never be satisfied. Especially if you’re in on the online space. There’s always somebody else that’s trying to copy your idea the next day, so you cannot just sit back and relax. Even though second year in a row for us in the Inc. 5000 list and things are great, you’re always have to be looking at the next idea and stay upfront in innovation. I think innovation is key to any business.
Oscar: What is an average workday look like today for you versus seven years ago when you launched your business?
Ivan: It changed a lot. Seven years ago, we were doing absolutely everything. So again, it was my wife and I from the beginning and we would actually answer the phone and pack our own orders and obviously, that has changed through the years and now we have a logistics department. We have an SEO department. I tend to focus more on the high level stuff, running the business rather than actually doing everything like we were the first couple of years. I remember we used to live in Washington, DC. That’s where our first office was. I remember like driving packages to the airport in the middle of a snow storm because a customer wanted their bikini for their vacation. It’s been a long road. But now obviously, with the growth, we’ve been able to have a great staff to support us.
Oscar: That is fantastic. You’re obviously a very dynamic and exceptional entrepreneur. I’d like to make an investment to your company. I like to give you a million dollars. How would you deploy those funds?
Ivan: Great. First of all, the first thing when coming to an investment there has to be somebody that sees eye-to-eye in our vision. Because I think that that’s one of the things that a lot of entrepreneurs, they take funding for the sake of taking the money and then they find their hands tight and it’s a tough thing having a boss. One of the reasons you’re an entrepreneur so you don’t want to have a boss.
Oscar: Of course.
Ivan: But with one million dollars, we would expand on our idea of the shopping inside the showroom. We can call it brick and clicks. We feel that that having that sort of location in a couple of key cities in the state be amazing. Nobody is doing it for swimwear right now and the feedback that we have gotten from customers is fantastic.
Oscar: Very exciting. Exceptionally exciting. If I gave you for just a couple of minutes magical powers and you had the ability of going back in time to day one of your company’s launch, up through the current. You had the ability of reversing any decision at all. What would you change?
Ivan: Wow, that’s a tough one. Let me think about that one for a second. I think that one of the things as an entrepreneur is that you learn a lot from your mistakes. A lot, a lot from your mistakes. I think the first couple of hires that we made. At the beginning, we didn’t really make senior hires. We had the idea of bringing people in and training them and that was a very, very expensive idea. I think if I was to do it all over again I would have hired senior people earlier. The experience, we overlooked that aspect of it. We thought that everybody’s driven like an entrepreneur and that’s not the case. You tend to hire people like you and sometimes that’s a mistake. We need a more organized, seasoned, experienced hires and if we would have done that earlier, I think that would have been … I think the hiring for us was a disaster for a couple of years.
Oscar: Got it.
Ivan: The talent area.
Oscar: Okay, fair enough. With the last minute or two of your magical powers, look in the future five years and tell me how you think the business climate will change and how that’s going to affect your business.
Ivan: Obviously, we are in the e-commerce world that changes everyday. Google algorithm is changing. [inaudible 00:09:49] our website rank, Amazon getting bigger. We just have to stay on top of innovation. I would say that if five years from now we are recognized as the place that has the best curation of swimwear and fashion apparel, it would be amazing if we can get that accomplished.
Oscar: Great. What one word describes you as an entrepreneur?
Ivan: I would say hungry. I would say hungry. Like I said, I think I’ve said that a few times. It’s you can never be satisfied and when you be an entrepreneur, it’s an evolving things. It’s not just about the first initial idea because your business has to adapt to the world and in our particular example, we’re in the digital world that changes everyday. We’re targeting customers over 170 countries. Huge age range from millenials to older people that are shopping, so it’s definitely keeping the experience maybe with social media. Everybody wants to know everything that’s going on every minute, so it’s very interesting.
Oscar: You’re a seasoned entrepreneur. In your opinion, are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
Ivan: I think you have to be born. This is something that you’re born with. I talked to a lot of people or friends or acquaintance that say, “Oh, I’m getting my MBA and I’m taking the entrepreneurship route.” I’m like, “What did they teach you there?” Then you have all this, again, going back to the difference between academia and actual action. That’s why I go back to … You can learn certain skills but you have to be born with that desire and you have to also be a little crazy to tolerate the ups and downs of running a business. Because a true entrepreneur is the one that is from day one willing to bet their house on the business because you believe so much in the idea. I believe you have to be born with this ideas.
Oscar: How do you define success?
Ivan: I think success is waking up every morning and having that drive to say, “Okay. I’ve given a hundred percent,” and that’s what makes successful because you have given 100%. You have not settled and that gives you … It doesn’t matter if you slept five hours or four or not at all. That makes you a successful person. You gave 100% with everything that was given to you. Everybody has different opportunities in life, different educational backgrounds, you grew up in different countries. But if you give 100%, that what makes you successful.
Oscar: Great, great. Ivan, if you’re looking to brainstorm an idea. You’re looking to problem solve. Who do you go to for advice or guidance or experience share?
Ivan: I’ve been in EO for close to three years and that’s where I go to. I go to my forum. I didn’t have that the first four years of my business. It was a little bit of a struggle because I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. Actually, it’s the whole opposite. It’s a stable corporate job, the same job, same company for 40 years and stuff like that, so I didn’t really have a role model growing up to ask this kind of question. I think that the forum experience is a great aspect and probably the most important aspect of EO.
Oscar: In forum, are these issues, the brainstorming, are these purely on business topics or could they be on personal or family as well?
Ivan: Any topic, any topic that is, I guess, the most relevant or the topic that’s affecting your life the most at that particular point. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s business. Just having that you know those group of guys are there for you. Just having that is amazing.
Oscar: Great. Great leaders are always learning.
Oscar: How do you learn?
Ivan: Again, in my area, being in e-commerce. Technology changes everyday. It doesn’t matter. Nowadays, more or less, a little bit away from the day-to-day. Before I was in it all the time, but I have to keep up with technology. I’m constantly reading blogs, Twitter, going to conferences. It never, never really ends. The day you stop learning, it’s scary [crosstalk 00:14:55].
Oscar: Of course. You’re pretty much done at that point.
Ivan: You’re done. You’re done.
Oscar: As a leader, how do you make a mark in either your business or your community?
Ivan: I think one of the things that we take pride at Orchid Boutique is how we treat our employees. You just asked me about learning and I feel that that’s the best thing I can give them is tools to keep on learning. It doesn’t matter what degree you had. It’s that desire, so teaching hopefully from all the experiences that I had running the business. If I can share a lot of these with my employees and make them better people. If they work for us for many years, great. But if they don’t and they leave being a better person and contributing to the community that’s great.
Oscar: That’s fantastic. Could you share with us a really cool experience that you had either personally or professionally in your business.
Ivan: Growing up in Colombia and having a business that we basically the first designers that we actually carry were extremely talented but they have absolutely no idea of how to sell internationally. Just having that recognition that we’re actually creating employment down in our country of origin is one of the best experiences. Going back to being successful and waking every morning and saying, “Okay. Well, I’m a hundred percent with what I’ve been given and I’m having an impact on other people’s life.” That’s really where it boils down to.
Oscar: That’s great. That’s fantastic. If I say the words trust and respect. What does that mean to you?
Ivan: I think that has to be at the core of every business. You have to respect just the business as itself, the core values of your business, your employees. They’re an extension of your family. If you’re an entrepreneur, your employees are your family. Trust is also at the top of the list just because as an entrepreneur, it’s who you surround yourself with and making sure that those ideas are align to growing whatever business it is. Taking it to the next level and if there’s no trust, there’s nothing there.
Oscar: Sure, sure. Final question. Let’s pretend for a moment that tomorrow morning when you wake up the Orchid Boutique is no more. What’s the next business that you are going to venture into?
Ivan: I think the easy answer to that is all these years in digital because at the end of the day it’s a digital market company. Selling online, ranking in Google. I see that there’s a big need for that. A lot of physical or brick and mortar stores are trying to sell online and they go to this digital agencies and a lot of them don’t have the e-commerce experience in actually going through the day-to-day. I think that we can definitely leverage everything and all the mistakes that we have made, very expensive some of them, and help out fellow retailers that are venturing into the e-commerce world.
Oscar: That is fantastic and very exciting. Again, congratulations for your well-earned ranking on the 2014 Inc. list and thank you so much for helping to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in South Florida. It’s been a pleasure having you in our studio.
Ivan: Thank you, Oscar.
Oscar: Thank you so much.
Ivan: A pleasure.