Brenda Coffee, Champion of Fashionable Women 40+ and Fashion Tech Entrepreneur with a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart
Where do I start with Brenda Coffee? Her career reads like an action-hero in a Hollywood blockbuster – a female 007 or Indiana Jones. She raced Porsches for nine years, doved for Spanish relics in the Caribbean, has dug for Mayan artifacts, searched for minerals and crystals in abandoned silver mines, and was the first journalist to drive and fire the Army’s M-1 tank. Today my friend Brenda has embarked on a different kind of wild and woolly adventure: the world of fashion tech.
Earlier this year, Brenda launched 1010ParkPlace, a mobile-first, content-driven shopping site for the wealthy, and yet extremely underserved demographic: women over 40. (The website’s slogan is “Where style is ageless.”) Yup, a site for women like me – women in the prime of their lives who, as a vintage Oil of Olay ad used to say, are “not growing old, but fighting it every step of the way.”
Brenda has seen it all in business, and even though she’s experienced at raising capital and battling it out with the old boys’ network in the boardroom (e.g. a hostile takeover that she won!), she never guessed that raising startup capital for 1010ParkPlace would be more challenging than hacking her way out of a three-canopy jungle.
As Brenda recounts, one prospective male investor asked her during an introductory meeting, “Do women over 40 know how to use a computer?” Another said he looked for “sexy deals,” and then told her that “there’s nothing sexy about women over 40” (Interviewer’s note: I beg to differ!!!). If the insults from prospective investors weren’t bad enough…one mega-brand told Brenda, “women over 40 are no longer relevant” (Interviewer’s note: at 49, I’m just getting relevant, very relevant, thank you very much!)
Note to readers (and that mega-brand): women over 40 are one of the fastest growing demographics on social media, and one of the wealthiest demographics in history. Brenda is determined to show investors and brands just how relevant and powerful this “niche” consumer segment really is.
Brenda’s vision extends far beyond a content-driven shopping site. She’s betting that 1010ParkPlace’s e-commerce combined with content/media and the company’s future goals will generate a sexy ROI [return on investment] for investors.
Who are your heroes?
Anyone who comes back from a challenge, or after they’ve been discounted by others.
What is your current challenge?
Achieving the traction needed to raise a seed round.
What is your greatest achievement?
Having been loved by James Coffee.
What is your motto?
Don’t take no for an answer. “No” today doesn’t always mean “no” tomorrow.
Why are you an entrepreneur?
I have this burning desire to create something out of nothing.
What problem are you solving?
Curating stylish clothes with 40+ in mind, while connecting brands and advertisers with the opportunity to reach a demographic they know are the “whales.” Other than the evening news, there aren’t many ways to reach them.
What problem would you like solved?
For opposing groups to let down their rigid ideologies long enough to really hear and appreciate where the other side is coming from. Lifestyles, gender equality, religion, politics…it’s endless.
While I never had problems finding my voice, I could have been wiser about how I used it.
What talent would you like to have?
To play rock and blues guitar.
Best pat on the back you’ve ever received?
I did a hostile takeover of a public company, standing in front of a ballroom full of people at the annual shareholder meeting. As I spoke, at times you could have heard a pin drop; at others there were collective gasps. My favorite moment was when I heard a “Mr. Big” say, “She’s smarter than I thought she was.”
Advice you wish you’d had?
Don’t go to Central America by yourself!
Your pitch in 140 characters?
“1010ParkPlace: Curated shopping/content/media site for the wealthiest, most powerful yet underserved demographic in history: women over 40.”
Your bio in six words?
“Survived more than you can imagine.”
Your nails on a chalkboard moment?
When I told what I thought was a “girlfriend” that I was raising startup capital, and she replied, “Why don’t you just get a job?”
The job you’d actually like?
The one I have, but with the seed round closed!
Biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?
Most people don’t realize it’s an all-consuming way of life.
What are you reading?
The content I’m working on for next week’s 1010ParkPlace. Reading for pleasure would be in my spare time, and I try to sleep then!
What book is your must-read?
To finish Keith Richard’s autobiography Life. A year ago I left off where he’d just come back from rehab and found a black capsule on the floor and said, “Wonder what this does?” then popped it in his mouth.
If I wanted to do what you’re doing, what’s your advice?
Know your market; look at the big picture; plan for worse case; assemble a great team, and know your exit strategy before you start.
Short cut, long route, or road less traveled?
The long route. Detours are where you find the good stuff.
Podium you’d like to stand on?
At a board meeting when I tell our investors we’re profitable.
One place in time you’d like to visit?
When God created the heavens and the earth.
Part of the trick to staying focused?
Not having ADD, and ignoring the shiny things passing by.
Tell me one thing I don’t know….
If I told you all of the things I’ve survived, you’d feel sorry for me. Just know it’s a lot. I’m not afraid of anything.
TAGS: Kelly Hoey