Many years ago, it was really hard to pick out outstanding women who have carved a niche for themselves amidst cultural and religious hurdles in the Asian continent. However, in recent times, the tables have turned. Not only do we see women living a corporate life, but we also have them setting up innovative businesses to meet very urgent needs in their immediate and extended environment.
Success for an e-commerce business comes in many shapes, from building a multi-billion business empire to carving out a small but lucrative niche. The start-up story of Alexis Horowitz-Burdick is a perfect example of one of such situations where we see the zeal of a woman as she breaks free from her comfort zone, and becomes much more than she ever expected. Here is her story:
Singaporean Alexis Horowitz-Burdick started Luxola, a cosmetic retail site, in 2011. To her greatest surprise her business expanded beyond her imagination. The niche she carved for herself was so successful that it attracted the eye of French luxury goods giant LVMH, which then bought her beauty and cosmetics retail site Luxola.com for an undisclosed sum.
Her previous online business, The SweetSpot, a high-end group-buying site, failed to take off, so she sold the platform to a multinational corporation.
“But it did introduce me to e-commerce in Singapore, with a view to the broader Southeast Asia region,” she said. “What I learnt most was that I was in love with e-commerce.”
“The first year was very tough,” she said. “We started in an environment in 2011 when I don’t think e-commerce was of course nearly as popular as it is today.”
But with not enough money to provide the various delivery options expected by of e-tailers today, the team at Luxola didn’t initially have a backup plan to ensure that deliveries remained speedy during periods of high demand.
“We would all just get into taxis, and run around, and deliver goods to our customers”
According to Horowitz-Burdick, the road was bumpy in Luxola’s early days, when she was trying to secure funding in a venture capitalist environment that, she said, was less professional than it is today.
“Ninety-five percent never called me back or emailed me back. Then 3 percent told me this was a terrible idea. And there was 1 percent that was open to talking and from that, you still had to find the right partners that really believed in the business.”
After its takeover by LVMH in 2015, Luxola.com was rebranded Sephora Digital, becoming the e-commerce arm of the French cosmetics brand in Southeast Asia, with Horowitz-Burdick as managing director. It also expanded into 12 markets in the Asia Pacific region, offering a 4,000-strong product range from 250 high-end brands.
Some of LVMH’s famous luxury brands include Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon, De Beers Diamond Jewellers, Dior, and Sephora.
Although she lost her brand name Luxola, Horowitz-Burdick says she couldn’t think of a better partner and she gained in terms of Sephora’s significant international brand recognition.
Like many entrepreneurs, Horowitz-Burdick, a straight-A student with a 4.0 GPA, dropped out of college in the United States after only a year and a half.
“My poor mother, she was not pleased at that time,” she said, adding that her mother barely spoke to her after her decision. “I dropped out and decided to be a ski bum for a season and travel around Europe and then come back and ski again and move all over the country.”
Now, after spending four years building Luxola, Horowitz-Burdick is learning to work within a worldwide conglomerate.
‘Her Story’, is a true indication that perseverance, passion and dogged commitment are key values to be imbibed by all women who seek to get to the top echelon of their career or profession, irrespective of barriers faced along the way.