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Friday, July 20, 2012

By Invitation Only: How We Built The Gilt Groupe And Changed The Way Millions Shop by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson

Alexandra was speechless.  She put down the phone excited but stunned.  Giovanni Cafiso, the executive in charge of ready-to-wear sales at Valentino, had just rung her.  He told her that he had a large volume of Valentino inventory - about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth - that he was willing to offer her company, the Gilt Groupe.  The condition was that Gilt had to provide a cash commitment instead of the usual arrangement of paying for what members bought and returning the other items.  He only gave her one hour to make the decision.  Her partner, Alexis, was away and she had no way of contacting her.

This is the kind of tough decision that you may have to make if you run a business.  By Invitation Only, the story of Gilt, gives advice on making these decisions and the other aspects of organising a start-up business.  These include finding partners, developing a leadership style, hiring employees, and marketing and branding.

The authors, Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson, combine this advice with the exciting story of how they built Gilt from nothing into a business valued by investors at one billion dollars. They were both barely 30 years old but they had MB A's from Harvard, experience at working in fashion and great contacts.  Written in a breathless, but interesting style, this book describes in detail how they established Gilt's business - invitation-only online sample sales of designer fashion at prices up to 60% off.

Each chapter ends with a checklist of questions designed to help people thinking of establishing a business.  Although the book is mainly designed for people who want to set up a business with a good friend, even those who are 'flying solo' will find these helpful.

Some reviewers at Amazon have criticised By Invitation Only as 'shallow', but I don't agree with this.  The founders of the business obviously conduct it with great integrity - and they emphasize the importance of doing this.  They have probably received this criticism because they deal with luxury fashion, but I feel that it is unfair.

This tale of business acumen is definitely a keeper!

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