Juicy Couture Founders Offer Entrepreneurial Lessons

By Nedra Rhone
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Remember the early 2000s when every fashion lover’s bottom was clad in a velour tracksuit from Juicy Couture?

The bright colored drawstring pants and zip-up hoodies were everywhere, and at $80 for the pants and $75 for the top — they weren’t exactly cheap.

It was a breakout moment for founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, who have written a tell-all on how two girls with minimal business experience turned a $200 investment into a million-dollar business.

“The Glitter Plan” (Gotham Books, $27) is a memoir as well as a how-to in which the ladies offer general principles on building your own business while chronicling the rise and fall of their own.

They hope to inspire female entrepreneurs to take a chance with their own instincts and not rely on boys’ club rules to make their dreams come true.

If you haven’t heard a lot about Juicy Couture of late, it’s probably because the ladies sold the biz in 2003 to Liz Claiborne for $56 million and a split of profits.

They left for good in 2010 and pocketed $200 million, but by then the brand — by their own admission — had become a victim of its own success.

The best friends and business partners met in 1988 when they were working at an L.A. clothing boutique. Pam had launched a line of hats while Gela had pursued acting. They hatched an idea for a line of maternity wear and asked their parents for $75,000 in credit to help fund it.

From maternity, they moved to T-shirts (worn by the cast of “Friends”) and started getting six-figure orders. Juicy was officially born in 1995. A foray into Juicy Jeans didn’t hit big, but in 2000 they began moving into terry cloth territory where they would make their biggest mark.

Just a few years after the tracksuit success, things began going south. The deal with Liz Claiborne was supposed to help them grow and gain access to more capital, but it also meant being pushed around by a corporation with shareholders to satisfy.

Eventually, Juicy Couture got too big, there were too many Juicy branded items everywhere — sunglasses, fragrance, bags — not to mention all the competition from knock-off brands. The Atlanta boutique in Phipps Plaza closed and was scheduled to become a Kate Spade boutique.

In 2012, the founders attempted to buy their company back, but the deal never got off the ground. Instead, the brand changed hands again and will be sold as an in-house brand at Kohl’s department stores this fall.

Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor had a noncompete clause that ended in 2011, so they have come up with a new brand called Pam & Gela. T-shirts are $115 and leather jackets are $995. A lot pricier than a tracksuit …

All of this was fun reading, and you may learn as much from what they say about running a business as what they don’t say. Here are some of the tips Skaist-Levy and Nash-Taylor give to budding entrepreneurs:

— Do what moves you and find your partner in crime.

— Learn from a starter business.

— Do one thing and do it well.

— Build your staff like family.

— Take it to the next level.

— Cope with growth and growing pains.

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