Kristin Savilia, CEO of JOOR, is a seasoned retail and e-commerce professional with a wealth of experience in building online platforms to support marketplace transactions and transform businesses. In her role at JOOR, Kristin is spearheading the company’s significant growth and reaffirming its industry leadership in connecting the world’s best brands and top retailers for faster, easier, and smarter wholesale business.
Prior to JOOR, Kristin was President of the Local Marketplace at XO Group Inc., parent company to The Knot, The Nest and The Bump, responsible for achieving 68% revenue growth for the #1 local wedding vendor marketplace. She has also held buyer and regional director positions at Macy’s and Linens N’ Things.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I developed my leadership skills when I was young, on a soccer field and track. Soccer is where I learned that teamwork matters – and that working together towards the same mission is what creates winning results. While running track involves a team, it also places value on solo performance. I learned a lot about what an individual contribution can add to a team, the importance of hard work, tenacity and ultimately how all of those factors combined can create a strong following.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
When you take a look at the bigger picture of my company, JOOR’s brand and retailer applications solve pain points that I experienced firsthand in the wholesale industry. It truly solves challenges that I’ve faced as a buyer at Macy’s back in the nineties: very manual assortment planning processes and inefficient, error-prone order-placing and tracking with my wholesale vendors. My experience gives me credibility with my team, our clients, and prospects when I’m selling our platform. Not only do I truly believe in our product and how we’re positively disrupting these cumbersome processes, but I also understand the problems it solves and am extremely passionate about how we can continue moving our industry forward.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
The highlight of my current role is, hands-down, my team. I get to work with a group of incredibly passionate and smart individuals, each different in their own way. Included in this team is a dream c-suite I was able to assemble from personal recommendations or relationships. I love to champion our achievement of product-market fit, which is one of the hardest milestones for a startup to reach.
The challenges I’ve experienced really stem back to the industry we’re in. Brands and retailers have a traditional, non-disrupted way of doing business and are comfortable with the processes in place: pen, calculators and paper line sheets. Like any new software, JOOR requires brands and retailers to move out of their comfort zone and adopt a digital way of doing business so that they can do the same things more quickly, easily, and intelligently. That first step is always the hardest, but always results in a win.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Join me! As a female tech CEO, I am certainly in the minority, but we are serving an industry that already has a large number of females. It’s women who are predominantly using our product, and what I’ve seen is that not enough women are guiding the solutions. If you feel something is missing, do your best to fill the void.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
The people who work for you are your most important asset. You have to value those who show up everyday and devote their talents and skills to growing your business. Make them feel valued by recognizing their contributions, putting them in positions to succeed, and trusting that they’ve got it under control.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am married with four children, ages 19 to 6, so I have been working on perfecting the “art of work life balance” for years. My days are certainly very full and high energy is a requirement, but I prioritize by identifying needs. There are days where my kids are all good and JOOR needs my attention a bit more, and then there are others where the needs of my children have to be prioritized over something related to work. This is where building and trusting a strong team comes into play. It’s enabled me to be a flexible working parent, and it’s also created the same flexible support structure when they need it.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The fact is that women have to work a little harder and be a little better. Subconscious gender bias is real, and often unintentional, but can have a strong, negative impact. I do feel extra pressure to succeed as a female in a role typically reserved for males, but what I’m confident in is knowing this industry and understanding the intricacies of it so that when I do sense gender bias, I look past it to achieve my goal (and prove them wrong!).
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
Support and mentorship are key! It’s that first leap that is always the hardest, but there are challenging — and rewarding — moments throughout. Having trusted mentors from all backgrounds is critical. Don’t be shy to reach out and develop a relationship with someone who can help advise you when you’re taking the first step and many steps thereafter.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am always trying to find people I can learn from. I’ve found mentors in surprising places and seen an overlap in personal and professional mentorship. I coach my daughter’s soccer team and work beside a seasoned trainer/coach. He’s taught me unbelievable tactics to keep motivation levels high, which I’ve brought into my workplace. Professionally, I have had male and female mentors. The ones who embrace my strong personality and help me channel it are the ones who have impacted me the most.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
To draw from an industry we work alongside everyday, someone I really appreciate is Diane von Furstenberg. She’s a fashion veteran, who created an iconic piece of clothing, and is always so strong in her beliefs and leadership. I recently read a study issued by the CFDA (of which she’s chairwoman) where they found that most C-suite level execs in fashion are still male. I admire that, like me, she’s dedicated to tackling that problem head-on.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
My personal and professional goals will continue to collide as they always do. Personally, I’ll be supporting my second oldest son in the college application process so we can find the right school for him. It’s a process I’ve been through with my oldest and requires management, patience, flexibility and thick skin. As you can imagine, these are traits I use daily at JOOR!
Professionally, I want to continue to build a diverse and inclusive team. I’m very proud of the really great culture we are building here and it is important to me that I “walk the walk” and work with a team that is representative of all walks of life and can bring these different perspectives to the work they do to maintain our leadership position in the industry.
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneurs starting out?
Stay focused. There will be many distractions that can take you off your path, but remember your mission and the problem you’re solving. The biggest mistake CEOs make is spreading their companies too thin with too many objectives. That’s when the company tends to lose its identity and ends up standing for nothing.
Stay flexible. Your original mission may change as you mature in your work. Lessons from the industry may change your point of view on how to solve the problem. Be open to that possibility because you never know when it will make you better.
Be decisive. Long decision-making leads to lost opportunities. Decisions are not usually permanent. Make the decision, move forward and iterate if it is wrong.