Send the Trend, Looking To Transform the Way Women Shop, Comes From Reluctant Entrepreneur

Divya Gugnani grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and told herself she’d never do that.

Now, she’s CEO of two startups. One of which, she says, is out to transform the way women shop. That would be Send The Trend, a website that sells personalized accessories like jewelry and scarves. It’s one of the many New York fashion-focused sites that has started up in the last couple of years.

Gugnani, who early on developed a passion for cooking, pursued a traditional career in finance after graduating from Cornell, taking positions at Goldman Sachs, and private equity and VC firms Investcorp International and iFormation. Those exposed her to the creative side of startups.

“I really got to see how people started a business: how they grow it, how they start it, the problems they have,” she says. “I really got to get a feel for business, but the end of the day you haven’t done it. As much as I loved being a venture capitalist, there was just this bug in my body that wants to be on the other side.”

It took her a few years, though. She went to Harvard Business School, mainly because “working in finance for four years is enough to kill someone,” she says. She ended up cooking a lot and making new friends, but when she was done, jumped right back into venture capital.

While working at FirstMark Capital, Gugnani had the idea to turn her passion for cooking into a social website for tips on recipes, nutrition and mixology. A colleague encouraged her to pursue it as a fun side project in 2008, and months later Gugnani quit her career in VC to run the site, Behind the Burner, full time.

Living the scrappy startup life exposed Gugnani to the challenges most women face while shopping, she says. “From that experience my life as a woman changed dramatically. It used to be that a great sales rep would say, ‘this is what you need to wear.’ Shopping was an activity where you got so much service and customization. Once you don’t take a salary, shopping sucks.”

“Women have a hard time shopping, whether it’s online or not online, they can’t discover the things they want to buy,” Gugnani says. “Discovery is the biggest problem.

So last year Gugnani launched Send the Trend with friend Mariah Chase, who had worked with Project Runway winner Christian Siriano. The trio developed a website that surveys women on their style preferences and brings them … Next Page »

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