Evan Dash – Founder & CEO, StoreBound

During a successful career in department store and big-box retailing, Evan Dash gained experience in almost all aspects of the business from planning and finance to merchandising and eCommerce. Dash was most recently senior vice president/general merchandise manager for the Home business at Macy’s, where he was the youngest member of the Executive Committee to lead the consolidation of seven operating divisions into one centralized buying team, followed by the acquisition and integration of all divisions of The May Department Stores Company into Macy’s. In 2010, Dash founded StoreBound, leveraging a unique approach to innovation, sales, content marketing, and the consumer experience. Headquartered in New York City, the team of retail industry executives and fresh creative talent outperforms slow-moving heritage brands and connects with the consumer through the industry’s largest social media following.

Dash served two terms on the board of directors of the International
Housewares Association. He has two teenage sons and lives in New
York City with his wife, Rachel.

Tell me about your early career.
I started my career in the Executive Training Program at Lord & Taylor. When I started my career, there were over 100 department store companies in America. Over the next two decades, I switched companies multiple times and gained experience in almost every product category offered in a department store. I spent most of my retail career at Macy’s, beginning when they had 70 stores and eventually leaving as the senior vice president for their Home division, where I ran a $2 billion business across almost 800 stores.

How did the concept for StoreBound come about?
There were two key moments. First, while I worked for Macy’s, I met a mother and daughter at a trade show where they were exhibiting a new invention. I spent some time speaking to them and realized how little most people know about retail, and without the understanding, how much risk they can unknowingly expose themselves. The second moment was what inspired me to start StoreBound. I was at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan watching my kids experience decades of great American inventions. At that moment, I knew that I wanted to take my expertise in product development and retail to help ordinary inventors, designers, and creatives bring their own ideas to market.

How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was the most challenging. I quickly got an education on how to operate a small business. In my corporate life, I never had to consider resources or financing. I bought billions of dollars of merchandise without any concern for how to get it to 800 locations on time. For the first year at StoreBound, we built our infrastructure, brainstormed products, and hemorrhaged money, but we had a lot of fun!

What was your marketing strategy?
Our initial marketing strategy was to leverage our retail relationships to pair the right products with the right retail outlets and to rely on their marketing. It was incredibly gratifying to see our first products on the Home Shopping Network and in Macy’s catalogs. Eventually, we launched a social media campaign which quickly took on a life of its own, yielding us over 1,000,000 followers.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We’ve been doubling in size almost every year in business so far. This year, we made the Inc. list America’s fastest-growing private companies.

How do you define success?
Obviously, sales growth and running a financially-healthy business are important, but our success is defined by winning hearts – the hearts of our employees, our customers, and the consumer. The more we win hearts, the easier growth and profitability will come.

What is the key to success?
People are the key to our success. We have built an enthusiastic team of individuals who care about the team and our results. We are constantly striving to inspire the consumer and improve our results.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
David vs. Goliath is real. The little guy can beat the giant.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“If nothing good can come of it, don’t do it.” – My father

What are some of your favorite books?
I love audio books on business trends and innovation. I spend a lot of time in the car and this helps me to productively pass the time.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
My toughest day as an entrepreneur doesn’t compare to bad days in the corporate world. At the end of the day, we are in control of our own destiny, which always creates a feeling of optimism, even on the most difficult days.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The responsibility that I feel to my team and my family is the greatest motivator when we meet adversity. When meeting adversity, in some cases, I shield my team from it to keep them positive and forward-looking, and in other cases, I use it as a way to rally the troops together to overcome a challenge and celebrate the win. Finding the right balance here is something that I always wrestle with.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Take “expert” advice with a grain of salt. Be honest with yourself, always. Ensure that what you are building is what the customer really wants and not just what you are enamored with. Once you are sure, trust your convictions and outperform everyone else!

Who else should we interview? Nominate someone!

Interviews are conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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