Divya Gugnani, Top 50 Asian American Entrepreneur, VC & CEO Send the Trend Wants to Change the World

The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series features Divya Gugnani, venture capitalist and CEO of Send The Trend and Behind the Burner.

Divya has been featured in The New York Times, Time, Businessweek, and WSJ and contributes to HuffPost, Daily Beast and MSN. She has been honored as a 2010 Game Changer by New York Enterprise Report and named one of the Top 50 Outstanding Asian Americans in Business. Divya is also on the Board of New York Entrepreneur Week: a nonprofit movement formed around the belief that entrepreneurs change the world.

Launched in 2010, Send the Trend provides members with personalized recommendations for accessories and beauty at affordable prices. Send The Trend offers new chic collection of accessories and beauty every month, with recommendations tailored to customers’ style profiles.

Before Divya launched Send the Trend, she founded Behind the Burner, a company aiming to dissolve the boundaries between professional and home kitchens by sharing insider food and beverage tips, tricks and techniques from culinary experts and celebrity chefs.

We talked to Divya about her pitching advice for female entrepreneurs; the importance of technology to her company; and the happy day her site crashed seven times after featuring on The Today Show.

TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch Send the Trend?

DG: I used to work in finance and whenever I had a big work event I would head into Sak's Fifth Avenue to buy a dress. I always received personalized service and left happy with the perfect outfit. Once I became an entrepreneur my finance paycheck disappeared and I started shopping at mass-market retailers and realized I couldn't find someone to ring up my purchase at a register let alone get style advice and suggestions. So, I had a brain wave that we could leverage recommendation technology plus human curation to create an truly customized shopping destination online. My co-founders, Mariah Chase and Christian Siriano helped make this dream a reality when we launched Sendthetrend.com on October 4, 2010 on The Nate Berkus Show.

TNW: In a saturated accessories e-commerce market, what distinguishes Send the Trend?

DG: Send the Trend offers department store quality products at affordable prices. Our focus on quality for accessories, beauty and clutches at $29.95 and handbags at $39.95 sets us apart from other retailers. We source from manufacturers that stock department stores. Since we don't have a physical store we are able to save on rent, electricity, staff and many more areas and pass those savings on to customers. Send the Trend also provides a unique shopping experience online.

TNW: How important is technology to the success of your company?

Technology is the cornerstone of our success. Every business needs points of differentiation and our technology is a key competitive advantage.

TNW: What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?

DG: Word of mouth has been the key driver for our business. One happy customer is likely to tell her friends. We’ve also found that social and viral campaigns like invite friends promotions, Facebook engagement, etc. have had a profound impact on our growth.

TNW: What is next for Send the Trend? How do you see technology as a key growth driver?

DG: We will continue to expand into new product categories and make social innovations that change the way people shop.

TNW: As a venture capitalist, do you see any general differences between how male and female entrepreneurs pitch their companies? What would be your advice for female entrepreneurs on how to write and deliver a successful pitch?

DG: The big difference I see in female and male entrepreneurs is their sense of conviction.

The best advice I can give female entrepreneurs for pitching their businesses is to have a vision, strategy & data and be very firm about your thoughts. In other words, sell, sell, sell the investors and make them believe in you and your business.

TNW: New York Entrepreneur Week was formed around the belief that entrepreneurs can change the world. Which problems would you like to see entrepreneurs address in the next ten years?

DG: Helping each other vet their ideas and see the challenges of executing those ideas. Funding is an age-old problem depending on the size, market, team and many other factors. Existing entrepreneurs are the best referral source to get new entrepreneurs capital whether it is angel or institutional capital.

I’d also like to see entrepreneurs help other entrepreneurs in the hiring and scaling phases of their businesses.

TNW: What lessons did you learn from launching Behind the Burner which you applied when launching Send the Trend?

DG: Launching Behind the Burner taught me how to build a community around a brand and I leveraged those skills for Send the Trend. At Send the Trend I have focused on building a business entirely around the customer. We test and refine all of our strategies based on customer desires and reactions.

TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your career which you remember as the highlight so far?

Last December, Send the Trend was featured on the TODAY show. Our site crashed seven times in one day. It was a painful yet happy day.

I realized people love our products and we also needed to invest in technology to scale so we could meet and exceed customer demand.

TNW: How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your businesses? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN?

DG: DWEN has been an incredible resource for meeting accomplished women.  It’s a great network of women to learn from, get advice from and share your own experiences.

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our community?

DG: Hiring is one of the most important jobs of an executive team at any company. When hiring focus on attitude and aptitude.

At a startup, one’s job description changes by the minute so it’s best to get people who are hard working and intelligent. They will figure out any task at hand.

The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The NextWomen is in partnership with DWEN to bring you a series of 40 interviews with the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers: The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series.

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