Inside Story: Rachel Shechtman’s Living Lab

Inside Story: Rachel Shechtman’s Living Lab

Inside Story: Rachel Shechtman’s Living Lab 1600 900 33Voices

When Rachel Shechtman was a little girl, she’d beg her babysitter to spend just two more minutes in each store they visited.

“Come here. Come here. Come here,” the six-year-old would say, pleading not to leave. 

“I have to show you something!” 

She never asked to buy what she saw. She simply wanted to share interesting products and tell stories about them.

I love discovering people and things in different places.

Rachel’s desire to bring products to life would shape her career helping brands tell their stories at her consulting firm Cube Ventures. 

Each challenge unveiling a new and revolutionary product ignited the same spark she had as a child. There is invaluable meaning in telling a great story. 

Despite working with brands like Birchbox, Gilt, and TOMS Shoes something was missing. 

With each new project came a deeper feeling that a more promising frontier existed: A simple, but powerful, way to reignite the love we once had for brands. 

The answer was Story, which TOMS’ founder Blake Mycoskie pushed Rachel to pursue on a car ride in April 2011, saying: “Enough of this someday shit. Are you going to keep talking or are you going to do it?” 

Rachel signed a lease five months later. Story had its soft opening in December. 

Today, the renowned store is Rachel’s living lab where brands and designs come to life. 

Brands are like people. No two are the same. You need to understand the nuances of their personalities.

Put best by her team: “Story has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery, and sells stuff like a store.”

For brands, being featured at Story gives them a partner who’s excited to showcase their work, a lab to experiment in, and most importantly, nostalgia. 

People remember the things they see, feel, and hear at Story. Unlike many of our shopping experiences, they want to go back. 

New York angel investor Joanne Wilson wrote, “This store has multiple gifts for yourself, friends and family for the holidays.  I have gone back twice now and made a few purchases.  I will return again.  Everything is hard not to want to bring home.”

Rachel’s theory is so impactful that it influences people who haven’t physically been to the store. 

Since learning about her work, I follow Story closely and share it with friends who have described it as “genius.” I’ve even bought a holiday gift from one of their brands, and reached out to another for an interview. 

Alexandra Shapiro, EVP Marketing Digital for USA Networks at NBC, once said that everyone wants to be an F.O.R. – A friend of Rachel. After spending time with her, it’s crystal clear why. 

Her assertiveness to find and create new answers (No just means you asked the wrong question), is contagious. 

She’s radically open to hearing new ideas and takes pride in pushing small and large brands (think GE and Pepsi) out of their comfort zones. 

I see it as my responsibility, that if I’ve had the serendipity to have access to these opportunities and people, to play matchmaker for people who are in industries that should cohabitate.

One way she practices this is through Story Pitch Nights. 

Take Beth Macri, for example, who pitched her Hidden Message necklace to the exclusively curated panel. 

After passing Rachel’s 10-second rule, being showcased in the store, and appearing on The View, after Whoopi Goldberg bought a necklace from Story, Beth is now a full-time designer. She won the Fashion Group International Rising Star award in 2015 and forged an exclusive partnership with Fred Segal. 

The team hosts dozens of Pitch Nights inviting moguls like Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSN, Adam Glassman, Creative Director of Oprah Magazine, and Tory Johnson from Good Morning America’s Deals and Steals. A three minute pitch gives makers the opportunity to turn their creations into careers. 

All you need is a ready-made product and the capability to fulfill a purchase order. 

Whether it’s through Pitch Night or the thoughtful design poured into each new layout, Story is a “democratized discovery platform.” 

It’s a living press release meets trade show.

A trade show where the CEO of Target and Martha Stewart enjoy spending their time.

10% of Story’s weekday traffic is other businesses. The audience has enabled small businesses to get some of the largest orders, partnerships, and investments in the companies history.

SmartyPants Vitamins founder Courtney Nichols, for example, was approached by Pharrell Williams to invest in her company. His creative director purchased the vitamins at Story sparking an interest to learn more about the brand. 

These stories are endless and will only become richer with time. 

In 2012, a year after Rachel started Story, Fortune published an article with the headline “Can a startup store reinvent retail?” 

She didn’t have the answer, but she bet on her theory of “retail media” to find it. 

Four years, 27 stories, and thousands of products, partnerships, and parties later, it’s safe to say that she did. 

Find out for yourself by visiting Story’s latest shop Home for the Holidays and following the team on Instagram. You won’t regret it!