Susan Feldman No Flash-in-the-Pan Success
By Rieva Lesonsky

It’s not often we see an industry be born and mature all in less than four years. But the flash-sales industry did just that. Led by Gilt Groupe (the first site to capture national attention) in 2007, flash-sales websites have netted so much consumer attention (and so many dollars) that Susan Feldman, who cofounded One Kings Lane, a “leading home and lifestyle shopping destination” in 2009, says you’d be “late to the game” if you wanted to launch a flash-sale site today.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, which Feldman says has become a global phenomenon with successful sites in India, France and Turkey, flash sales are promotions limited by the amount of inventory (of known, branded merchandise) being sold, and the short time a consumer has to buy it.

Feldman, who serves as the chief merchandising officer for One Kings Lane, came to the industry the way so many entrepreneurs do—out of personal need. When she moved to a new house in Los Angeles after years of living in smaller New York City apartments, Feldman was frustrated searching for the perfect décor at affordable prices. So she did what entrepreneurs do—she started a company that would provide just that.

As in most new industries—especially ones fueled by technology like flash-sales sites are—Feldman moved fast. A fortuitous meeting with cofounder Alison Pincus in fall 2008 led to the launch of One Kings Lane four months later in March 2009. The success of flash-sale sites is all about serving niches. One Kings Lane was the first to focus on home goods, and today, when many other flash-sale sites are offering a broader array of goods, One Kings Lane remains “singularly focused “ on its niche, which is what Feldman says has “allowed us to grow.”
One Kings Lane has been so successful that Feldman doesn’t consider it a flash-sales site anymore. She says, “We’ve grown into an awesome marketplace for home [products].” Another evolution in the industry as a whole, and at One Kings Lane in particular, is the de-emphasis on price. That’s not to say consumers aren’t looking for value, but Feldman says, “Value is not just price, but brands and presentation as well.” Part of One Kings Lane’s value is “providing the best products, vetted and curated” in beautifully represented collections.

If you’re exploring your startup options Feldman believes there’s still room for innovative ideas in ecommerce. She explains, “Ecommerce and retail are constantly changing. Nothing is like it was even a week ago.” Feldman suggests you think about opportunities centered around mobile technology--but, she advises, “you have to move quickly. The first to market will succeed, the second to market will succeed, and the best to market will succeed.”

Ecommerce success is not just about the merchandise. Feldman says One Kings Lane is an “awesome technology company” as well. She believes “the balance between science and art” has contributed to the company’s rapid success. Although on Day One she and Pincus did not set out to build a multimillion-dollar company, that’s exactly what they’ve done—and in only three-and-a-half years. Company sales for 2012 should double those of 2011, hitting the $200 million mark.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.