When Karla Gallardo co-founded Cuyana in 2011, she was driven by two things: a true love for fashion and a desire to impact the bottom line in a real way.
In the years since its launch, Cuyana has flexed its staying power among direct-to-consumer brands. Gallardo credits the brand’s success to date to the fact that the brand has scaled steadily and remained profitable.
“We’ve raised funding throughout the time of Cuyana, but we’ve done it in a very minimal way,” said Gallardo. “Our philosophy of ‘fewer, better’ that we sell to the customer is actually very much reflected in how the business is run. The North Star for Cuyana has always been to build a true, profitable brand, so we’ve kept fundraising to a minimum despite the tremendous growth that we’ve undergone over time.”
Now, with a $30 million round of funding under its belt, Cuyana is looking to ramp up its growth efforts in the U.S. According to Gallardo, the cash injection means that the brand gets to do more of what it already does really well. That equates to growing the retail footprint with both permanent and pop-up stores, expanding customer acquisition efforts and continuing to produce high-quality product.
On this week’s episode of The Glossy Podcast, Hilary Milnes sits down with Cuyana co-founder and CEO Karla Gallardo to talk about the brand’s newest round of funding, the key to building a billion-dollar brand and the aim of remaining focused on profitability. Edited highlights below.
The right time to accept more funding
“We’ve proven we can make product. We’ve proven we can scale a supply chain. We’ve proven that customers really want to buy our products without any incentives, and they’ll come back and repeat in an incredibly healthy way. We’ve proven retail — not as our primary channel but as our secondary channel, and as a channel we can grown and scale really profitably. Now that we’ve gotten here, it’s a good time to accept capital, so we can do what we do and just do it really well. We’ve seen this a lot: Many brands take capital to just fuel growth — meaning they spend it all on marketing — and they lose control. Bringing it back to a profitable model is incredibly hard. We’ve been incredibly disciplined from the beginning to build this in a way that’s sustainable so that when we get cash injections, it’s just to do what we do well and do more of it.”
Creating a sustainable and profitable brand
“I think the most important thing is that the brand really means something to consumers and that it’s a brand that will stand through time. We’re seeing a lot of different brands do the same things, and that to me sounds like a bubble. Only a few are true brands that have connected with a customer demo, and they’ll last. The second thing is profitability. A company needs to be able to stand on its own feet. There’s been a wave of funding toward direct-to-consumer brands, and I think now the question is, ‘How many of these are real businesses, and how many of those are just not?’ The companies that can actually provide real metrics are the ones that are going to continue to move along.”
Building brand loyalty is not about being trendy
“We don’t push the brand. When our customer buys something she loves, she’s going to come back for more. She’ll come back for more colors of the same product. She’ll come back to gift that product to someone else. She’ll come back to see more or to purchase more of these essentials that are making her life better. It actually works pretty well, because our customer ends up being incredibly satisfied. The other option is pushing trends, and that is short-term satisfaction. It’s like having a quick drink: It creates a high at the moment, but eventually, those products stop getting used. When we came to market with this concept, it was really new, and customers weren’t really being pushed to purchase that way. Now you’re seeing a lot more brands follow this concept, which is really great. And people like Marie Kondo are pushing this more as a philosophy of life with the concept of being surrounded by products that spark joy. It’s really exciting to see the world, and particularly the U.S. consumer, moving in this direction, because ultimately, this is the most sustainable way to consume fashion.”