The fashion world is changing and big brands are struggling to keep up. Ivory Clasp, founded by Avi Zolty and Sean Rimokh, tackles the problem with a personalized subscription handbag service. The value for big brands? Reduce unnecessary overhead and maintain brand integrity.
How did Ivory Clasp evolve?
Avi: We started out as a way for brands to move excess inventory. There’s a lot of value in that, because brands pay to store unsold inventory. To clear inventory, it is common for brands resort to selling their products to discounters for a fraction of their retail price. The downside is that discounters advertise your product off-price, thus compromising your brand’s integrity.
We also recently made the switch from monthly service to quarterly, as there’s value in shipping less often.
How would you describe each other in three words?
Avi: Sean is charismatic, driven, humble.
Sean: I would describe Avi as daring, passionate, quirky.
If you were an investor, how would you look at Ivory Clasp as an opportunity?
Avi: The fashion world is changing. Big brands are dying and we offer a solution to that. You can look it this way: Macy’s isn’t doing that hot while TJ Maxx is killing it. The one thing TJ Maxx can’t do is sell in-season products and the one thing Macy's can’t do is sell discounted products. We bring a perfect balance between the two.
Our approach is more data-driven than current market leaders. Most 'established' brands are focused on relying on 'trendsetters' to create inventory which they then sell. However, outside of the trendsetter's ability to gauge market trends and what's 'cool,' there's a minimal amount of data used in the production of inventory. This is mainly because it is hard to "a/b" test products without designing, manufacturing, and actually putting them on shelves (and then waiting a set amount of time to see consumer reactions). With our business model, we not only get immediate responses, but we also don't have to wait for organic sales. Additionally, we can afford to design and produce multiple brands and styles to test as we are not relying on a third-party to purchase inventory from us. We also own our own customers and know exactly how many renewals we have upcoming.
What are some things you always carry in your bag?
Sean: An iPhone charger, wet wipes, chapstick, and a cliff bar.
Which entrepreneurs do you look up to?
Paul Graham. I’d say Paul is the single greatest mind in our generation when it comes to business and entrepreneurship. I did YC years ago, which shaped my approach to problem-solving. YC encourages you to ‘solve your own problems,’ and there are so many intricacies to that. To really dive into what solving your own problems actually looks like, you need to be your own user, focus on a core problem instead of chasing everything, and ‘build your own monopoly’, as Peter Thiel would say. I’m really grateful for the perspective I developed through YC.
Our mentors at Gener8tor,
All the PayPal guys. A lot of people just say Musk, but I think collectively they’re a great example of a group of people able to succeed over and over again.
What’s the thing you believe to be true that no one else agrees with?
Sean: We believe it doesn’t take $5M to build a brand. The traditional fashion model involves brick and mortar, in-person sales, and trade shows. As opposed to touching and feeling a product, today it’s all about credibility. Consumers look to what their best friends, celebrity idols, or influencers are wearing. It is critical for brands to cater towards the Facebooks, Instagrams, and Googles of the world by building an online presence and harnessing social media.
Where does the name Ivory Clasp come from?
Avi: We spent a long time choosing a name. Ivory has a luxurious feel to it and clasp has a double meaning association with handbags. You can clasp a bag and close a bag with a clasp.
What was the hardest decision you’ve made while running Ivory Clasp?
Sean: The biggest strain we’ve had so far was deciding to join an accelerator called Gener8tor in Madison, WI. With 12 employees at that stage, it was challenging to manage the team remotely. Those three months involved a lot of hustling and flying between both sides of the country, but it was worth it. We received valuable mentorship, advisement, and investment that was paramount to getting us to where we are today.
Do you wear any bags?
Avi: I wear a backpack by Tumi. Definitely one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I’ve taken this backpack all over the world with me. It’s been through rain, snow, and hail, and stayed in pristine condition. I love that backpack so much.
Sean: I carry a navy Herschel duffel bag. It has a shoe pouch, which is so functional because I can easily switch between formal and casual shoes throughout the day. I also bring my black GUESS briefcase to work everyday.
If you could pick any 3 bags to include in the Ivory Clasp set, which ones would they be?
Avi: Difficult to answer because one of the values of Ivory Clasp is that we personally style to each person’s unique tastes. However, in general, the top three bags to include in an Ivory Clasp set would be a small clutch, a tote, and a hobo, which is one our most popular styles.
Who are your top fashion or accessory designers?
Sean: Zara, lululemon, RTA.
If you could have any one superpower, what would it be?
Avi: I would love time travel. Every other superpower is a variation of time travel, when you really think about it. You can go across the world, you can go there and come back and no time has passed. As an entrepreneur, you have very little time in your day, or at least not enough time to do everything you’d like to do. It makes me wonder how much more productive you could be with the ability to travel back in time.
What’s an interest you share with each other unrelated to Ivory Clasp?
Sean: We love escape rooms. Collectively our team has done over 50 of them. They exercise a part of your mind that forces you to think fast and outside of the box. That way of thinking transfers over to day-to-day decision-making, especially where creativity is needed.
What’s the one item you can’t live without?
Avi: My cell phone, for sure. These days, I don’t think anyone can live without their cell phone.
What do you hope an equity crowdfunding round will help you get, besides cash?
Sean: Exposure. I’m excited for people to see Ivory Clasp from many different angles. This is a great medium to bring hyper-awareness to the solution we’re offering. We’re excited to build and establish relationships from investors who support us and brands hoping to work with us.
How are you building your team?
Avi: We look at how much Harry Potter trivia they know, how much they laugh at our jokes—altogether how much of a cultural fit we think they’re going to be. We care more about a candidate’s drive than previous experience or the school they went to.
Sean: Building on what Avi said, our approach is to solve problems by growing the team. When there’s a problem that can’t be solved with the current operations, we hope to expand the team naturally to address a problem or pain point.