How Revolve’s CBO Went From Being Completely Broke to Helping the $1.2 Billion Brand Go Public
Raissa Gerona shares her journey and what it's like being the only woman of color in Wall Street's biggest meetings.
Over the course of 16 years, Revolve went from unknown start-up to one of the biggest online shopping destinations out there. Many people also know the brand for hosting one of the most-talked about music events of the year, Revolve Festival. I feel pretty confident in saying that there probably is not one millennial influencer on the planet who hasn’t heard of Revolve Fest. Over the years, an invite to the exclusive concert-slash-carnival experience has become the unofficial signal that you’ve “made” it in the influencer world. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Revolve Fest eclipsed Coachella thanks to the VIP guests and the A-list roster of performers.
Raissa Gerona, Revolve’s Chief Brand Officer, deserves a round of applause for the brand’s social media success. And last Friday, she helped the company complete a successful initial public offering at the New York Stock Exchange.
This was definitely one of the most stylish IPOs I’ve ever seen. On the big day, Gerona was dressed in a Lovers + Friends shirtdress cinched with a crystal-embellished PVC skirt and elevated with Amina Muaddi pumps. I sat down with Revolve’s badass (and chic) CBO Gerona to talk about the IPO, being a double minority in Wall Street investor meetings, what she's learned from the world's biggest influencers, and how she got her start.
On Revolve's IPO journey: "This is definitely a monumental day. But I’ve been helping and building the brand for over ten years now. I really grew up with the company. Revolve has been around for 16 years, but because the last couple were on Instagram, a lot of people found out about us [more recently]. It’s taken so long to get to this place and it’s so rewarding to be here with everyone. Getting to this day with the IPO, it was just grueling."
On meeting with investors: "I was fortunate enough to be on the road. It’s basically two weeks of meeting with investors every single day in a different city. And it’s really challenging because you have to explain to everybody what the company is about and what makes us special. What I do is so new — the influencers and all of the social media strategies. Some of the investors don’t even understand the concept of an influencer, so can you imagine trying to explain Revolve Festival? To explain it to these older investors that are mostly men is pretty funny. But I had so much fun doing it, even though it was tiring, because I felt like I was the one educating them on how to connect with young people. It’s really just getting down to the basics and explaining what an influencer is, the types of parties that we have, and the trips that we do. Young people care about festivals and they need outfits to wear to them. The breakdown of it is totally funny.
On being the minority in the rooms: I’m a double minority when I go into these meetings. One: I’m a woman. And two: I'm Filipino. I was so proud to be able to represent young people and women out there who are just working and taking care of business, especially within the brand marketing team here at Revolve. To be out there talking about our strategy and what we do was a huge honor.
On finding confidence: This might sound dumb but, well, there are a few things [that help]. Having a great outfit that I’m comfortable in really makes me feel great. [Before], I wondered what, exactly, I should wear to these important meetings. Should I switch it up and buy something at Banana Republic? Ultimately, everything I wore was from Revolve. I needed to represent the brand and also show people that there is a new way that young executives do things.
I have to remind myself, you got this. Throughout the IPO process there were times where I was really self-conscious. I was asking myself, am I good enough? I didn’t go to business school. I didn’t go to marketing school. I questioned myself. The reality was that I was the expert in the room because people don't even understand what I do for living and this concept. I kept reminding myself that I've actually been doing this for a really long time. It's also about trying to get as much sleep as possible, which felt impossible because we were traveling so much. But sleep and eating right were very important, too.
On her early days at Revolve: I had my own brand back in 2007, and Revolve was my biggest wholesale customer. That's how I met Revolve founders Mike Karanikolas and Michael Mente. I was in my early twenties. I didn’t even really know about having an entrepreneurial spirit; I just always thought that I could maybe work for myself. And then, obviously, that [spirit] transferred into my work here at Revolve. Everyone’s pretty scrappy, always thinking about new ways of doing things and not being boxed in to what everyone else is trying to do. I think if I worked somewhere else, and I pitched these ideas they’d be like, "no." It ultimately comes down to Mike and Michael being like, "Ok, let’s try new things," and having that entrepreneurial spirit.
On overcoming her biggest obstacles: I’ve experienced so many struggles. I actually had to close my clothing brand because I ran out of money. And as devastating as that was, life just works out. When one door shuts, another one opens, as cheesy as it might sound. I had to close it down and within months, I met with Michael and he said we should start a brand together. We started Lovers + Friends, which was purchased by Revolve, and that’s how I officially came into the fold. I never thought I’d be doing this type of job. Like I said, I didn’t go to marketing school, but along the way I’ve learned you have to be your own cheerleader. Because people are rooting for you, but if you’re not rooting for yourself, it can be hard to pick yourself back up during those dark times. It’s so important to believe in yourself. Yeah, there are times when you are going to fail, but if it’s something you want to do and accomplish, you continuously have to get yourself back up and believe you can do it.
On the people who inspire her: Oh my god, there are so many people, starting with my parents. They are immigrants. I moved here when I was seven; I was born in the Philippines. To see them and the work they had to do to make sure my sisters and I were ok and successful has been so inspiring. I get to have contact with Mike and Michael every day, and they are some of the smartest, most forward-thinking people I’ve ever met. I never take that for granted. They continue to push me to be a better person and also a better executive for the company. And then, obviously, all of the influencers that we work with. Influencers are entrepreneurs. They’re super savvy, they’re super smart, and they wear so many hats, whether they’re being editorial directors, stylists, hair and makeup artists, or publishing content on their blogs. Then there’s the business side of it when they’re making deals. I remember [when] Aimee and Chiara [were] starting out and now, they’re just these successful, powerful people. They continue to inspire me as well.
On the most important lesson she's learned: Nothing happens overnight and nothing is given to you. You have to work hard for everything. My parents moved their entire family for us to be successful. It was all hard work. Mike and Michael started the company with $50,000 of their own money and built it up to be a $70 to $80 million company. And the influencers, the really really big ones, are there for a reason. Some of them have been building and building and getting to this point for 7, 8, 9, 10 years. Hard work is what it takes to get to where you want to go.
On the three keys to her success: I would say for sure confidence. Believing in yourself and just knowing that you can get up and do what you have to do is really important. There have been so many times when I thought I don’t know if I can do this presentation, or I don’t know if I’m going to make it, or is this strategy going to work. Two would be a whole lot of work. I just believe in putting in the work in order to get where you want to be. And the last would be fun. I know people probably wouldn’t think that, but I have the best job in the world. I love it and I have the most fun doing it. That is what continues to fuel my drive and determination — like I actually love it. I love the people I work with. I love what we do. I love what the company stands for, and I’m just so happy to be a part of it.