Jessica Murphy, co-founder of True Fit, along with her business partner, Romney Evans, is on a mission to change the way consumers purchase clothes and shoes. In short, True Fit helps real people find clothes and shoes they’ll love and keep. “First we are changing the way people shop,” Murphy states matter-of-factly. “The next step is changing the entire retail industry; everything from how products get produced to how consumers buy.
The idea for True Fit emerged out of a shopping experience gone horribly wrong. “One day I received an email from a guy who is now my partner,” Murphy states. “I thought he was looking for advice with retail. He told me a frustrating story of shopping with his wife looking for jeans. By the end of the conversation he asked me, ‘would you like to join me in trying to solve this [the frustrating process of finding clothes that fit and flatter]?’” At the time, Murphy was in graduate school with experience as a buyer in the retail industry. Her conversation with Evans sparked an interest. “From day one I was so determined to solve this,” smiles Murphy. “I knew we could change the game for consumers and for the industry with a simple value proposition: help people find and buy clothes and shoes they’ll love and want to keep. It’s a concept of using data and technology to match a consumer with a set of preferences to styles from mass-produced products.”
Murphy transitioned from working in retail to building the first-of-its-kind data-driven personalization platform for the retail industry. As a buyer at the May Department Stores Company, which was acquired by Macy’s, she realized that the one thing that plagues retail is lack of advanced analytics. “Retail has never been first with adopting technology,” explains Murphy, “let alone advanced analytics. I got to the point as a buyer that I was feeling frustrated by the way we were making decisions and that we weren’t trying new things, so I began applying to graduate schools. I thought business school would be the place for me to figure out what I wanted to do next.” Murphy and Evans launched True Fit out of business school.
Murphy’s passion for fashion and retail has driven her to keep going even when the odds were against her and her company. “I learned pretty quickly that I was a bigger risk taker than I thought,” Murphy expresses while discussing the early years of the company. “After graduate school I decided not to take a regular job and focus on building this company. We [Murphy and Evans] each put in five thousand dollars. We then raised one million dollars in seed capital in our first round from angel investors to start the company.”
True Fit gives people confidence to buy by making the process seamless. The company is a data-driven personalization platform for footwear and apparel retailers that uses rich connected data and machine learning to enable personal experiences for fashion retailers. “The consumers put a little bit of information about themselves in [within the platform], and we do the heavy lifting behind the scenes,” shares Murphy. “The retailer displays to them a set of products that are really going to work well for them. The consumer doesn’t have to read through 15 reviews or scroll through hundreds of products. We’re simplifying a process when people don’t have the time nor the patience to navigate the amount of content being thrown at them. This technology takes the friction out of shopping for the consumer."
Murphy has faced two major pivots with the company. The first major pivot occurred prior to raising their Series A round. “Those were pretty dark days,” she reminisces. “We were operating on fumes. We were sued for a trademark infringement by a large retail brand. At the time, we were operating the company as a direct business to consumer website that was the test kitchen for the technology. The lawsuit accelerated the pivot to the business model we have today. Our intention was never to become a retailer. It was always to build a tech company.”
Although the company’s first major pivot almost put Murphy out of business, the second major pivot changed the course of the company and propelled them to success. True Fit landed an endorsement from one of its initial retail partners, one of the largest Department Stores in the U.S. and still a customer today. “Having them co-write a letter with us to the industry,” she continues to explain, “saying ‘you should entrust True Fit with your data. They are going to hold it in trust for the benefit of our shared consumer.’ That was the point where we went from getting dozens of companies to share their data with us to hundreds and thousands.” That’s the point where True Fit became recognized as a trusted advisor for the industry.
Through it all, Murphy relies on three main concepts to help her manage life’s pivots:
- Believe in what you’re going after; in yourself. Let your belief and your why drive the opportunity.
- Be flexible and nimble. The story isn’t going to unfold as perfectly as you have in your head and that’s ok.
- Develop grit and perseverance. No matter what people say around you, it’s liberating to bust through obstacles and challenges.
Murphy and her team just raised a round of Series C funding, which is enabling them to open up their data set to the industry to continue to improve the way people shop and buy. Her big message is “do something that you love!”
Cheryl Robinson , WOMEN@FORBESI focus on embracing the pivot during life’s transitions. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.