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Trading titan

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  • | 11:00 a.m. May 15, 2015
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Uri Minkoff brings two unlikely industries together: technology and fashion. But now that he's built one of the top brands in high-end fashion and handbags to $100 million in revenue with more than 25% growth annually, it's clear that it's a good match.

Minkoff made the Business Observer's 40 under 40 list of top business professionals in 2006, for building Fortis Software, a software consulting company he founded in 2001.

At the time, Minkoff admitted that the three magazines on his nightstand were GQ, Fortune and Wired. Since, Minkoff and the company he co-runs with his sister have received mentions in both Fortune and Wired, and his new line of men's apparel and bags, Ben Minkoff, has been featured in GQ.

It's a Cinderella story for the company that his sister Rebecca Minkoff started in 2005. Back then, she was struggling to make money in an industry dominated by the elite. Rebecca called Uri to ask him if she should become a waitress at an Italian or Japanese restaurant, curious which one he thought would earn more tip money. Without allowing her to go further, Uri asked her if being a designer was her passion. When she said yes, he told her she shouldn't give up, and he'd help her start the company.

From the start, the company embraced social media, and gave users a voice in the designs. Before social media was popular, naysayers would tell the Minkoffs they shouldn't do that. Now other designers are following. “We were ushering in a new group of disrupters,” Uri says.

The company is the largest global brand in fashion with a female designer under age 35. Uri acts as CEO and Rebecca is the creative director. One of the most difficult challenges to navigate was determining when to scale back his other ventures, Uri admits.

Within five years of helping with his sister's business, Uri sat down with his team and admitted he was getting pulled in too many directions. He had to deprioritize Fortis and its spinoff Auto Loop, shed his real estate investments and become a board member of his health business. “I had to decide which of my babies to focus on.” By 2010, he was working on Rebecca Minkoff full time.

Uri's tech background has been applied to multiple pieces of the business — down to designing stores based on a shopper's user experience.“Let's do retail 3.0,” he said. He determines the top pain points a female has when shopping and uses technology to solve them. For example, shoppers can request additional items to try on by scanning a tablet in the dressing room. They can also scroll through other items that might go with the outfit, from the designer's standpoint, so they don't have to leave the changing room half-dressed.

They've also added a line of wearable technology, including a bracelet that can work as a charger for iPhones and a fashionable bracelet that can be linked to your phone, similar to the Apple Watch.

The company's biggest challenge moving forward is maintaining majority ownership while continuing to scale. “Almost no one else has done this,” he says.

Blast from the past
A glimpse back at Minkoff's answers from the 2006 40 under 40 issue.

Formula for success: Listen, observe, analyze and act

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today: Lack of sufficient technology talent.

How would you solve it? Promoting the area as a region ripe with opportunity and use business, university, the arts and social groups to foster such.

Hours worked per week: 60

Book you can read more than once: "Problems of Work," by L. Ron Hubbard.

Books or magazines on your nightstand: GQ, Fortune, Wired.

What would you like to be doing more of? Training.

What would you like to be doing less of? E-mails.

If I had it to do all over again I would... do it all over again.


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