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Mona Bijoor
Founder and CEO
New York

Mona Bijoor’s career began a decade ago as a sales associate at Zara. After college, she worked as a fashion buyer and merchandising executive with companies including Chanel, Elie Tahari, Cynthia Rowley, Mimi Maternity and Ann Taylor.

Bijoor recognized that technology could improve and support the wholesale ordering process. Today, her company JOOR brings the entire sales process onto one platform, allowing retailers to make buys online and designers to upload their latest lines directly to JOOR, all while integrating seamlessly with back-end systems — essentially eliminating paperwork and manual data entry.

Launched in 2010, the company now serves more than 500 fashion brands and 30,000 retailers worldwide. Clients include Diane von Furstenberg, Current/Elliott, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rachel Roy and rag & bone. Piperlime and Zappos are among the growing number of retailers JOOR serves.

JOOR recently announced a partnership with IMG Fashion, a producer of events like Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, Berlin, Australia and Istanbul, to assist designers in expanding their businesses through JOOR’s digital reach. More than $100 million in transactions were completed through the JOOR platform in 2012; the company is on track to complete more than $350 million in transactions this year.

Can you tell us about your education and early career?
I attended the University of Pennsylvania for my bachelor’s degree. After graduating, I worked in management consulting where I helped retail and consumer-based businesses develop and implement growth strategies. I decided to pursue an MBA at [the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business] because I wanted to transition from being a consultant to being an operator.

Wharton strengthened my background in operations, finance and marketing. ... I was attracted to Wharton because it is student-driven and fosters an environment based on giving. Wharton’s reputation is based on the strength of its community of professors, alumni and students. Similarly, JOOR’s growth is spurred by the strength of our community of retailers and brands and we power those network effects with technology.

At what point in your retail career did you have the “aha” moment — the idea of creating a tech-based answer to connect brands with retail buyers?
After buying for several years, I conceived the initial marketplace concept for wholesale commerce. Initially, I wanted to start my own clothing line because I had access to great factories, a strong background in merchandising and sales and access to capital. But when I started to write the business plan, it became very clear that the cost of distribution is what drives a brand to succeed or fail.

That was really the ‘aha’ moment: the realization that the economics don’t make sense when distribution is solely offline. In any industry, an online distribution channel that can successfully complement the offline sales channel can help a business to scale faster and more efficiently.

How long did it take from your concept to the launch of JOOR? What challenges have you faced along the way?
It was about seven months from concept to launch. My background is in business and fashion; my challenge was to find the right technical partners who would be passionate about solving the major pain points in the wholesale world. ... we’re constantly implementing new features to further enhance the platform — and given the speed at which technology moves, it takes effort and resources to keep pace.

How did you come to choose the name JOOR for your business?
JOOR is the last four letters of my last name. I was initially reluctant to use my last name since this business is less about me personally and more about the fashion community we serve. Ultimately we went with JOOR, because “jour” in French can be interpreted as “of the moment,” which is fitting for a business like ours as we epitomize the intersection of fashion and technology. After all, retail is all about getting the right product at the right time in the hands of brands and buyers.

What’s your experience with mentoring? Have you been able to mentor others or participate in the retail industry’s community?
I have had the great fortune of being mentored by several people throughout my career. I tend to gravitate to mentors who are passionate about what they do and share freely the lessons they’ve learned. I do my best to instill the same in my team. We try to create an environment where mistakes are acceptable — as long as we apply the lessons learned to inform future decisions. I also believe we are part of an unbelievably supportive community in retail today. We would not have been able to achieve what we have at JOOR in a relatively short period of time without being part of a giving community.

How do you nurture creativity and innovation among your team at JOOR?
My management style is to get our people to work together to do things better, smarter and faster. We set high standards but celebrate our successes and reward people frequently. No one has really ever built a successful marketplace in wholesale for consumer products; reminding my team of that is empowering and breeds creativity. This is an entirely new model so no one has the answers. Instead, everyone has an opportunity to shape the future of wholesale.

We nurture innovation through a research-based approach. We are extremely user-centric and therefore obsessed with making lives easier for our members. That’s what gets our team up in the morning. It’s rewarding to know we create efficiencies that remove pain points for our community. At this point in our growth, I am focused on operationalizing certain parts of the business so that we can scale quickly.

What would you tell anyone considering a career in the retail field? Do you have any specific thoughts for women hoping to make it at the highest levels of management?
Anyone who has aspirations in retail should focus on gaining experience in functional areas that are the main revenue drivers for the business. I learned early on if I wanted to advance at a retailer then I should be a merchant. If I wanted to advance at a brand, then I should be in sales or design and not strategy.