ModCloth owner visits CMU, her alma mater
The day-to-day life of an entrepreneur is like a roller-coaster ride.
“There are the lowest of lows and the highest of highs,” said Susan Gregg Koger, founder of ModCloth, an online retailer of indie and vintage-inspired women's clothing that Koger and her husband, Eric, started in Pittsburgh.
Koger addressed students, faculty and community members Sept. 22 at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland. Koger and her husband are graduates of the school.
“As I walked around the campus, it felt good to be here,” Koger said. “It's been way too long since I've been here.”
She wanted to come back as a way to pay it forward to a school where she gained a lot of business savvy.
Founded in a college dorm room by the Kogers, ModCloth has since grown to more than 350 employees across offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. The venture started as an outlet for her love of thrift shopping. In high school in Florida, she often found herself unable to pass up a great vintage find, no matter its size.
When she came to college, she didn't have a lot of disposable income but needed a new wardrobe for Pittsburgh's cooler temperatures.
In 2002, Eric Koger, her then-boyfriend, created a website to help turn her thrifting passion into a business. After graduating from CMU in 2006, she made ModCloth her full-time career.
The two lived in Friendship and kept inventory in the basement until opening their first office in 2008.
Pittsburgh is one of the ModCloth's top-performing cities. As of the end of the first quarter of 2016, ModCloth had five consecutive quarters of profitability. Its net revenue has grown in excess of $150 million and it has 5 million plus social-media followers, including 5 million visitors to modcloth.com. ModCloth's app was rated the No. 1 clothing retail app by the Application Resource Center from Applause, a third-party analyst that researches customer app ratings and reviews.
The company has opened pop-up shops across the country, including one in Downtown, which will be open through Sept. 27.
The pop-up shops have been a great way to continue to interact with customers, Koger said. Customers get to experience a one-on-one shopping experience with ModStylists. Koger said permanent brick-and-mortar stores are a possibility in the future.
She is constantly looking at feedback from customers, which has inspired a ModCloth exclusive line of apparel as well as a bridal collection.
ModCloth offers garments in a full range of sizes — extra small to 4X — because fashion is for everybody, Koger said.
“I like to reflect on our customers and know who they are and focus on helping them discover the best version of themselves,” she said. “Our customers are passionate. We want to give customers a say in the brand. When I see someone in ModCloth, I think to myself, ‘This is so cool.' I hope that never gets old.”
Koger said the ModCloth woman is in the 21-to-35 age group and is interested in fashion because it is a part of who she is.
Kate Carey, a first-year master's student at CMU in human computer interaction, said ModCloth was the first website she felt comfortable buying clothes from.
“I was confident it would fit because I read the online reviews and saw people in my size wearing the item,” said Carey, of Palo Alto, Calif., who attended the talk. “I have a lot of ModCloth clothing. I just got a package from ModCloth.”
Koger's advice at the end of the presentation?
“Most days I am so excited and love what I do, but there are also days when I say to myself, ‘Who put me in charge?' But really, I would say, enjoy the ride. It's scary, but when I look back, it's not about the destination. It's about the journey. And ModCloth isn't there yet. We are a small fish in a big pond, so that's why I keep dreaming and chasing those dreams.”
The Pittsburgh pop-up will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 23, 24, 26 and 27 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at 625 Smithfield St., Downtown. It has a curated collection of ModCloth styles, including dresses, separates, shoes, graphic T-shirts, accessories and home decor. There also are one-of-a-kind vintage pieces and offerings from local Pittsburgh artists.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7889 or email@example.com.