Oct. 10 2019
Katie Hunt is the co-founder and CRO of SHOWFIELDS, which is on a mission to be “the most interesting store in the world.” With an emphasis put on experience, this brick-and-mortar features bestselling products alongside workshops, a cafe, and even an art gallery—disrupting the retail landscape. And, with ever-changing themes and offerings, SHOWFIELDS ensures consumers always find something surprising at the shop. Beyond being an entrepreneur, Katie is also the co-founder of The Fund, a community-based VC made up of over 80 founders and operators that invests in and mentors early-stage companies in NYC. Before her current exciting ventures, Katie was the third Warby Parker employee, and then the Chief Brand Officer of Hinge. We wanted to know how this trailblazer went from working as an early startup employee to starting a company of her own—and starting a VC firm in between. Below, Katie shares her incredible journey.
What was your first job out of college? How did you get it? Did you have a connection?
I was an extra on All My Children when I first graduated from Brown University. I met the casting director through a group called Casting Networks where you could pay to audition and get feedback. As you can tell from the fact that I was cast as an extra, my days in acting were numbered.
After two years of acting and auditioning, my career path changed overnight. My brother was launching a company from graduate school and needed help with customer service and operations. I figured that I could help out while still auditioning, not knowing that the company, Warby Parker, would go on to be an overnight success. What started as a part-time job became a life-altering three-year crash course in what it takes to build a company. I was by far the least experienced person on the team and had an endless amount to learn, but I had the opportunity to learn from one of the smartest and most innovative teams I have ever met.
What was your college major? Did you feel like your major was necessary for the field you wanted to work in?
I was a Theater Arts and Literature major at Brown. In retrospect, I wish I had taken a few more business courses, but I am grateful for how creative and independent my education was. While you would assume that I would not use these skills in a startup environment, I get to write and edit daily, and surprisingly, theater and art are an integral part of the strategy behind SHOWFIELDS. SHOWFIELDS is made up of two words, “show” and “fields”, “fields” being the spaces that showcase brands and “show” being the spaces that showcase art and theater.
We believe that content is a big part of the future of retail, so we are always featuring emerging artists, experiences and events for our customers. We just launched a fully immersive Sleep No More meets retail experience on our second floor where we have a full performance and actors that tour you through the space. While we have a team that builds these experiences and deserves all the credit for bringing them to life, it’s exciting to be around such creativity and to help in whatever way I can. I guess everything comes full circle.
What internships did you do prior to your first job?
Most of the internships I did were in theater, so I credit my time at Warby Parker as really being my first internship in entrepreneurship.
How did you land your current job? What were the steps you took?
SHOWFIELDS was one of the first companies to pitch The Fund for investment two years ago. I guess I am a bad VC because I leaned in so far that I became the co-founder. For me, Tal and Amir’s vision and plan just made so much sense. All brands going forward will need a physical touchpoint, as the cost to acquire a customer continues to rise online and more and more brands are created every day, yet doing physical well can be incredibly expensive and challenging. SHOWFIELDS flips the script by making physical easy and affordable, as well as completely reinventing what retail looks and feels like. I believe at scale, SHOWFIELDS is the opportunity to build something that will fundamentally impact the growth of companies all over the world and create an entirely new paradigm around retail where the customer comes first.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to find your superpower. There is something that you do that no one else can, and once you identify that you can begin to search for a role in a company that brings out the best in you. When you are given the chance to do what you do best, it feels less like work and more like your mission. That does not mean that there are not daily challenges or mountains of work that do not live up to those standards, it just means that there are moments of joy where you get to really give yourself to what you are working on. Building with heart is how great moments, brands, and stories are given life.
Is there any part of your role that our readers would be surprised to know?
The most surprising part to me after so many years working in digital mediums is how meaningful having a physical place has been. Walking into SHOWFIELDS and being able to talk to our customers and our brands is a privilege. For my entire career, I have had to rely on surveys, focus groups where people have self-selected to be there, and purchasing data to understand what is working and what needs to change. In SHOWFIELDS, it’s as easy as just being in the store and talking to the people that are there. Taking the time to lift my head up from my screen and be present with the people that we are building for has ultimately led to being able to build faster and with less assumptions. It is truly the first time that the connection between what I am working on and who I am working on it for has been so direct.