A plaque on a bench in New York’s Central Park reads “Arthur J. Krakower. 1921-2009. Still Inspiring.” For successful entrepreneur Susan Feldman – the visionary behind home-decor empire One Kings Lane – her father has served as a powerful role model to her of the power of reinvention.
After a long, successful retail career at Macy’s, Krakower became a successful Realtor. After that, at the age of 80, he pursued his passion for painting, graduating with an MFA from California College of Art. Feldman says she thinks of her father every day, asking herself, “What would Arthur do?”
Getting in the Groove
With her own ability to reinvent herself, Feldman serves as an impressive example of someone who has successfully harnessed her own passions and talents to find joy and satisfaction throughout her career. Over four decades, Feldman has had an ability to tap into consumers’ needs and desires, whether that be as a buyer for a department store or creating a new shopping experience like One Kings Lane.
Feldman’s latest venture – Get in the Groove – calls itself a lifestyle destination for age-defying women “somewhere in the vicinity of 50.” Like AGEIST, Feldman hopes to redefine the concept of what it means – and doesn’t mean – to grow older today.
“I really hope to shine the light on all the amazing women in this demographic,” says Feldman.
Always Knowing the Fine Details
With an enviable energy level, the 63-year-old dynamo gets more done in a day than the average person does in a week, says One Kings Lane co-founder Alison Pincus. And she does it all with “the most perfect, beautiful hair wherever she goes.”
“Susan’s ability to focus and prioritize are monumental,” says Pincus. “And, of course, her ability to always see the big picture at every juncture is highly valuable. Running a business, building teams, enhancing relationships, imagining a new product, balancing priorities and always knowing the fine details enable her to win as an entrepreneur.”
We spoke to Feldman a few hours after she landed back in Los Angeles after attending an event at One Kings Lane’s Soho flagship store – a living showroom where the inventory constantly changes. “I feel like a proud mother,” Feldman says of the company she founded. “We really disrupted the home space. We democratized the home decor industry.”
Retail in Her Blood
Like many of us, she has taken a non-linear path to her current vocation. The daughter of a Macy’s executive, retail was in her blood from a young age. After graduating from high school in Atherton, Calif., she attended Stanford where she majored in psychology. She worked at Macy’s throughout high school and college.
After graduation, she joined an executive training program for a large retailer before returning to college after four years to get her MBA from UCLA’s School of Management. With a passion for fashion and retail, she steadily climbed the corporate ladder as an executive in the fashion industry in New York City. Over the course of her career, she headed up sales for such brands as Cole of California swimwear, Ralph Lauren sleepwear and Polo Jeans Co. When her husband, Bob Feldman, took a job with Dreamworks Animation in Los Angeles, they moved to Los Angeles, where she oversaw sales and marketing for C&C California.
Over the years, the retail industry she loved so much evolved and changed, with leveraged buyouts, consolidations and bankruptcies becoming increasingly commonplace. “I had always loved what I did, but I wasn’t enjoying it anymore,” she says. “It was getting kind of toxic.”
Home Sparks Inspiration
Around this time, the idea for One Kings Lane began percolating in her mind. After living in apartments for most of her adult life, Feldman was like a kid in a candy store when she and her husband moved from New York to a home in the Hollywood Hills. She wanted to decorate her new abode with amazing furnishings. With a demanding full-time job that left little time to go out to stores, she searched online for a place to purchase cool, unique items. “It didn’t exist,” she says.
What if she created an online store that offered flash sales for high-end home furnishings? Gilt Groupe was successfully doing this with luxury fashion. She had experienced the power of this model while at C&C California, when they sold 1,600 T-shirts in 24 hours on one of these sites.
“I became obsessed with this idea,” says Feldman. “ ‘What would it look like? How would it operate?’ After talking about it for a year, my husband said, ‘Either go do it or stop talking about it. You’re driving me crazy!’ He pushed me in the pool, so to speak. I was off and running.”
She needed a partner with a digital marketing background and was introduced to Pincus through a mutual friend. “Allie lived in San Francisco and I lived in Los Angeles, and we talked on the phone. When she flew down to meet in person, I had to Google her to see what she looked like.”
The two women clicked, and three weeks later they formed their LLC. Launching in the midst of a recession — with no investment available — they bootstrapped it. Their main goal was to launch it quickly to be first to market. Four months after forming the company, One Kings Lane launched in March 2009.
Limited Inventory of Unusual Offerings
With One Kings Lane, Feldman and Pincus created a unique online shopping experience – an ever-changing, limited inventory of unusual offerings where people felt an urgency to buy things before somebody else did.
“We sent out the first email and it was like lightning in a bottle,” she says. “It was nuts! We started with 5,000 people on our email list. By the second day, we had 25,000 people on the list,” thanks to the now-defunct Daily Candy media company, which ran an article about the new venture.
One Kings Lane beat revenue goals for the entire year within the first two months. Over the next decade, the company evolved from a flash-sale site into a multifaceted home decor empire where products, design services and inspiration can be found both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Worth $900 million at its peak, One Kings Lane was acquired by Bed, Bath & Beyond in 2016 for an undisclosed amount.
Another Aha Moment
Like One Kings Lane, Get in the Groove started with a similar “aha” moment two years ago. After the sale, Feldman says she was having conversations with women in their 50s and 60s who felt ignored and underserved.
“Why can you go from a decade where you own the world to a decade where it’s like you’ve expired?” she asks. “This didn’t make sense to me. What’s out there for us that’s inspirational, smart and directional? Somebody has to do something about it. I’m going to do it.”
She launched Get in the Groove at the end of 2018 at an event with Lingua Franca NYC, which sells luxury hand-stitched cashmere sweaters. Lingua Franca founder Rachelle Hruska was so inspired by Get in the Groove’s mission that she created five sweaters – with five embroidered messages about the power of these women – especially for the site’s launch. They did a photoshoot with such luminaries as beauty icon Bobbie Brown, designer Nicole Miller and Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman.
“I have always been inspired by women with the sort of confidence and self awareness that only comes with experience,” says Hruska of her collaboration. “I am truly grateful for all the age-defying women who have nurtured me, both in my career and throughout my life.”
Articles on the site cover a range of topics – from FORIA (a cannabis-based topical spray that supports vaginal happiness) to “The Swedish Art of Danish Death Cleaning.”
“We are reporting on everything from trends in bioidenticals, cool sneakers, dinner for one or how to go gray without apology,” she says.
“I Knew a Little Too Much”
This time around, starting a new business has taken more time than expected – creating a new brand, sourcing writers, designing the website.
“I had to reset my head after One Kings Lane,” she says. “I had a great knowledge base of what I was doing and what was involved. I knew a little too much.”
She’s pleased with the end result, and is encouraged by the feedback she’s getting from both readers and potential advertisers. “Every time I talk to somebody, they tell me it feels different, it feels fresh, it feels like a place they feel comfortable,” says Feldman.
“I know she will reimagine how women are rethinking their well-being; their practices and their self-care in their 50s, 60s and 70s,” says Pincus of her former One Kings Lane partner’s new venture. “Bravo to Susan for always thinking in such a big and transformative way.”
As she builds her newest business, Feldman says work-life balance continues to be an ongoing, dynamic process she’s “still trying to figure out.”
She makes family a high priority, and calls Bob, her husband of 16 years, the love of her life. “It took us a little while to get together, but when we did it was magical.” She has three children – two daughters and a stepson – and two adorable grandchildren who live nearby in Los Angeles. Every week, the family gathers at their Hollywood Hills home for Sunday dinner.
Feldman values exercise, especially Pilates, spinning and golf (a Get in the Groove writer calls golf “the Coachella for people over 50”).
Feldman and Bob love to travel. Africa and India (she traveled to India seven times during her One Kings Lane days) are among her favorite places, and she’s a big fan of US destinations like the Grand Canyon. On the couple’s hit list are New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Iceland and Alaska.
The Original Reinventor
Retirement, she says, is not on her radar for the immediate future. She has to look no further than the artwork on her wall – beautiful mixed-media paintings that her father created during the last eight years of his life – to remind her of the opportunities that exist throughout one’s life. At the age of 80, Arthur Krakower became the oldest graduate of the California College of the Arts, and his gallery solo shows drew art collectors by the bus full.
“He was the original reinventor,” she says.
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