Carla Holtze & Kimberly Skelton, Co-Founders, Have to Have: Reinvention Leads to Investment

The first time I met with Carla and Kimberly it was the day that Prince WIlliam married Kate Middleton. It was a warm day and all day long I wore a very Katesque piece on my head. It was the only day that I wore it and now it is stashed away in my closet. Funny enough many NYers stopped me on the street that day and told me how much they loved my headpiece and when I pointed out I was wearing it because of the wedding most of them didn't make the connection. 

Both Kimberly and Carla were very excited about launching their first concept the following week. At that point it was called Wingtip. They were both very driven but I didn't like the idea or the name. The concept was that you could create an online closet by dropping items from any retailer and purchases into your virtual closet. Friends and family could shop with you.

The idea was based on the fact that retailers were having a hard time converting customers on line (btw they still are). The revenue model was around an affiliate fee.

Here is the problem with an affiliate fee business: even if you do $1m worth of business, you only get 3% of the $1m so in essence it really isn't a very big business (even if the fee is 5% it still doesn't work IMHO). Lots of work for very ltitle money. 

I wished them well and at this point had no interest in putting money in. They had boot strapped the business and they should continue that down that line until they could prove their concept.

Re-Launch of Startup: From Wingtip to Have to Have

A few weeks after Wingtip launched, they both realized that they have to completely rethink this idea and pivot...and that is when Have to Have was born. 

Let's get to the background. Carla grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and went off to Northwestern to go to college. She spent her junior year in Paris and realized when she came back that she wanted something more. Instead of returning to Des Moines she spent the summer of her junior year in NYC working for Lehman Brothers. When she returned to Northwestern for her senior year, in a down economy, she had a job under her belt when she graduated. It wasn't the ideal job but it was a job and she knew she had to be in NYC. 

Her first year at Lehman was as an analyst and then moved to the strategy office where she was able to work in Asia and that allowed her to travel often. Pretty sweet. She returned from Asia in 2007 and decided to go to graduate school at Columbia University doing a dual major in journalism and biz school.  It was a 2 1/2 year program and she really focused on new media. Carla spent a fair amount of time doing a thesis the Asian Playboy spending a lot of time in Chinatown. During the summers of graduate school she worked at Goji Gourmet with her best friend from childhood friend to make cash. She also did consulting on the side for The Economist.

She kept pretty busy but it was meeting Kimberly her first day in the tech lab at Columbia that really changed what she ultimately did when graduating.

Kimberly grew up in NYC. She went to Duke for undergraduate and returned to NYC after graduation.  Her first job out of college was for Wunderman where she worked on direct marketing. After a year Kimberly decided to try out her skills in real estate. She spent four years working in real estate and eventually got burnt out and decided to go to Columbia Business School where she met Carla. While going to Columbia she worked in the ecommerce group of Tory Burch.

What they both talked about after meeting was how much they wanted to do something entrepreneurial. Their experiences were different and together they covered a lot of bases. Being in academic surroundings gave them both the opportunity to sit back and think about what that would be. 

Between their first and second years they took the Launch New Ventures class together. They started out with three ideas and eventually drilled down to one. They created prototypes and had the ability to show retailers what they were working on. They got a lot of feedback and were able to use the crowd to hone their idea. They were accepted into the Greenhouse program at Columbia. At the end of the program, they presented their idea and realized it was time to pivot into their first idea called WIngtip.

Search for CTO

It was time to search for a CTO. Kimberly was at a wedding of a friend who went to MIT and he introduced her to the perfect CTO who has been with them from the very beginning. They were now off to the races but they actually weren't. 

After our initial meeting, they kept up with me over the course of the year. After Wingtip launched and when they realized that it wasn't going to make it they spent the next year figuring out what would sticking with their basic concept. When they came back to see me a few times over the year I was impressed. They have built Have to Have.

First of all, I love the name. Second of all, I give anyone kudos who sticks it out after realizing that their concept is not working and perseveres until they get it.  

Third, I liked what they figured out. Have to Have not only has the basic concept of what Wingtip started it has more. They have the ability to direct market to their audience, collect data on what people want, purchase items across the web from many retailers, follow others who might have the same taste as you do and connect you to trends. There is more but they have just started to build the foundation of a business model that I believe is sustainable over a long period of time with potential to grow big.

So, not only am I a fan of Kimberly, Carla and Have to Have...I am also an investor. 

Based in New York City, Joanne Wilson, aka Gotham Gal, started working with web startups folllowing a career in fashion. She is now involved with various startups as an advisor or investor, including Curbed (Eater/Racked), Food52, Red Stamp, Ricks Picks, Hot Bread Kitchen, Gotham Gym, The Moon Group and MOUSE. She has also invested in a few restaurants, is an early supporter of the Highline project, and sits on various non-profit boards. 

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