Whenever Ray Raymond tried to buy his wife lingerie, he felt uncomfortable. It was the 1970s, when stores sold (ugly) floral lingerie under stressful fluorescent lights. Cherry on top, sales women were roaming and staring. Naturally, Raymond—and most men—felt like perverts.
In 1977, Raymond gathered $80k and launched Victoria’s Secret, a lingerie store where men felt comfortable. He chose the name
after his wife to evoke the respectable and refined Victorian era, which he intended to reflect in his store. By 1982, Raymond had 4 stores with $4m in sales! And yet, his company was nearing bankruptcy. Something was missing in his formula, and he couldn’t figure it out.
Enter Leslie Wexner, a successful entrepreneur looking to branch out. When Wexner entered a Victoria’s Secret store, he saw the sexiest lingerie he’d ever seen. But Wexner also quickly understood what was missing in Raymond’s formula. “It was not English Victorian, but brothel Victorian with red velvet sofas,” Wexner once told Newsweek. By focusing too much on men, the stores failed to attract enough women!
Wexner ended up buying the stores for $1m. He immediately abandoned the initial store design and introduced new products and styling. Today, Victoria’s secret is the most popular apparel brand in the world, with a net income of $5 billion.
Things didn’t end as well for Raymond, though. After the sale, he started another company that went bankrupt two years later. Raymond then got divorced, and in 1993, he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge 😢 #RIP.
Leslie Wexner, the man behind modern-day Victoria’s Secret.
BEYOND BUSINESS IDEAS
A lot of people would love to start a business but are stuck on, “I can’t find a good idea”. Ideas are essential, but you can find them by simply observing what’s around you. Beyond good ideas, starting and growing a company requires perseverance and adaptability. Also, those ups and downs can get to you easily and the stress will creep in. So, it is vital to stay strong and positive, and to seek help when needed.
© Story by Tarek Issa.