At KIDBOX, Miki Berardelli has managed to combine innovative leadership, social consciousness, youth empowerment and fun into a successful children’s apparel shopping platform. In 2018, KIDBOX is embracing private label and will be introducing its own exclusive private brands. Learn Berardelli’s secrets to success in this exclusive Q&A. You can also hear from her at the upcoming Retail Innovation Conference, April 30-May 2, where she’ll part of a panel discussing best practices for building a private brand in the digital era.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What are your proudest accomplishments at KIDBOX?
Miki Berardelli: Definitely my proudest accomplishment is our team and the ability we have established to attract best-in-class talent to a startup; it’s not the easiest thing to do. What KIDBOX is bringing to the market is really resonating with talent who want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
RTP: Can you tell us a bit about the social good initiatives at KIDBOX?
Berardelli: Our social mission is the heartbeat of the company. It is resonating with the talent. That is what is going to be a game changer.
We also hear from our customers who are parents that because of our causes — such as helping children living in poverty or foster care, members of the military, or those who have lost their home in a hurricane or flood — they are starting the conversation with their children about the importance of giving back. I find that to be emotionally powerful. When I hear that back from our customers it makes my heart sing.
RTP: Why is the “unpacking” experience such a valuable part of the experience for KIDBOX customers?
Berardelli: We tap into the child’s sense of anticipation from the beginning. It is a very interactive, very stimulating experience for the child. The boxes are addressed to the child. Our products are designed for children between the sizes of newborn and 14 and they still love receiving things in the mail.
The parent and child complete the style profile together, but don’t know what is coming in their box. We create a wonderful sense of anticipation. That’s why, in part, I don’t believe we need to be in the business of getting the box to the customer overnight. Waiting builds the sense of anticipation.
The boxes are colorful art cases that are reusable. A card is included featuring a personalized note from the stylist. The package also includes stickers or crayons. We get a lot of great UGC from our customers.
RTP: What kinds of brands do you offer to customers?
Berardelli: We offer well-known brands but also up-and-coming brands that are less known. It is a vehicle for discovering brands in some cases and brand adoption in other cases. Maybe the customer never considered buying Diesel products in the past, for example, but after trying it as part of a KIDBOX package it becomes part of the household.
We do a lot of fielding and pitching when it comes to working with brands. With so many retail doors closing and channels of distribution closing up, brands are looking for new channels of distribution right now. The timing is quite advantageous for us.
RTP: How do you collect feedback from your customers?
Berardelli: We survey our customers and have technology we leverage for customer listening. We regularly create word clouds from our customers. Recently the number one word describing their experience with KIDBOX was “LOVE.” If that is what our customer is saying to us we must be doing something right.
We also recently launched a Kids Board of Directors, before we created a board comprised of adults. We felt it was a stronger message for the brand. We asked children to submit videos sharing activities they participate in locally that are making a difference. In one example, a 10-year-old girl, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy and is wheelchair-bound, partnered with Northwestern University to develop a sewing machine without pedals.
They (Kids Board of Directors) serve as a feedback loop to us. They get a free year’s worth of KIDBOX for participating and their only assignment is to share their experience with us. In turn, we do a lot to spread the word about their social causes.
RTP: Are there any new technologies or strategies you’re currently working to implement at KIDBOX?
Berardelli: In 2018 we are launching our own exclusive brands — an amazing assortment that will be exclusive to KIDBOX. Each brand will represent the style and personality of our customers. Styles range from City Cool to Modern Casual and City Preppy. We believe there is a void in the marketplace for these types of children’s styles.
RTP: Can you share some insights on what you believe makes your leadership style successful?
Berardelli: I have had a long and storied career, part of several different companies and witness to the impact of culture – both positive and negative. I have worked for companies that had an amazing culture when they were smaller, then grew quickly and the culture went by the wayside. I also worked at companies that said their guiding values were one thing, but then management didn’t walk the walk.
With those experiences in mind, I created an exercise that is now part of our culture at KIDBOX. It is important to me, as their leader, to promote open communication. I asked employees to come up with adjectives that define how they would like to be described and write them on post-it notes. Teams may end up with 50 or 60 that they put up on a wall. Then they have an hour or two to cull it down to 5 or 6 that represent the team. This gives them the direction about how to show up for one another. It also gives team members the ability to share open and honest feedback with other team members.
Some of the words they’ve come up with include: “Happy, Passionate, Team Player, Customer-Centric.” I also added “Safe” and Respectful.” I felt it was important to honor diversity, treat each other with respect, and feel like they are working in a safe environment. Employees and teams can receive rewards and recognition based on these qualities.
RTP: Who have been your mentors during your career?
Berardelli: My first boss at Ralph Lauren, Sarah Gallagher, remains to this day as probably my number-one mentor in the business. She was one of the first managers I worked for that truly exemplified allowing people to take the ball and run with it. I almost had to adjust to working for her, since my prior roles were overwhelming in terms of micro-management. Working with her helped me to evolve from a Director-level to an Executive.
I have had other amazing mentors, both men and women. Like Mindy Grossman and Andrea Weiss, a pioneer in the digital space. I definitely believe there are not enough women CEOs in the world, yet women control the majority of consumership and influence more dollars being spent, certainly in retail. There is a sense of duty and responsibility that comes with the role I took on.
Miki Berardelli will be part of a panel discussion at the Retail Innovation Conference, April 30-May 2, titled: Best Practices For Building A Private Brand In The Digital Era.