“Everyone sleeps — and most people are wearing something that isn’t letting them be their best selves,” said Lunya founder and chief executive officer Ashley Merrill. The former venture capitalist decided to found the sleepwear company in order to “offer something that lets you be your best self 50 percent of the day.”
Four years later, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company is experiencing five times year-over-year growth, in part because Merrill built a team that was invested and nimble.
She advises other entrepreneurs to look for hires who “passionately connect with what you are trying to do early on, because roles are not defined. I was really hiring for potential — people who saw opportunity with the company and for themselves within the company.” Also, those who aren’t afraid of experimentation or failure.
Merrill said the most challenging part of staffing the company came as it grew rapidly in size and needs shifted greatly from people with breadth to those with depth.
Somewhat counterintuitively, she didn’t seek people highly experienced in retail, but rather those who understood it and were motivated about growth and optimization. “With a company growing this fast, that requires a mind-set around growth, and the team. Having people who saw their personal growth as a product of the team’s growth do so well here.”
“I am an entrepreneur, but so is everyone when you work at a young company. If this was your business, what would you do? I wanted people to own the outcome and problem solve,” she said.
As for Lunya’s first freestanding store, in New York’s SoHo, “I should be knocking on wood, but we do well in brick-and-mortar. So far we are bullish on it. There are more locations on our radar, potentially another one in New York, and we’ll continue to expand on those next year.”
“We need more women running big successful companies and I intend to be one of those, so I am not capping growth. We don’t view ourselves as even having scratched the surface. If Lululemon can be an $18 billion company, I hope we can, too.”