By Invitation Only: A Story of Entrepreneur Passion and Leadership

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the uber organized, get-everything-done-way-ahead-of-time go getter. She’s adept at making and building meaningful relationships, not just by collecting business cards and e-mailing when she needs something. For Wilson, this means doing more favors than you ask for, treating all contacts as true friends, remembering birthdays and sending gifts, and attending weddings. This type of behavior helped Wilson accrue the 9,500 (yes, you read that right) contacts who she wanted to persuade to join Gilt or connect her with designers. (Five hundred of those contacts were even lost in a harrowing BlackBerry synching accident, but that didn’t seem to trip up the company too much.)

Maybank meanwhile is the perpetually late, entrepreneurial risk-taker who can keep her cool in the hairiest of situations. She loves her four-inch heels but can speak directly, anticipate complications among employees, and act swiftly to prevent them from turning toxic to company morale. She’s the scrappy strategic thinker, and as Gilt scaled up, she decided the role of CEO involved too many meetings and not enough hands-on idea generating and problem solving. She’s since bounced around to other company slots like chief marketing officer and chief strategy officer (her current position).

These personalities come to life in loads of colorful detail throughout the entire By Invitation Only story—from Gilt’s first-ever sale to its expansion to Japan—which is full of plenty of nail-biting moments and bloopers. It’s a fun, almost fiction-like read that offers lessons on startup musts. For example, there are tips on how to hire top talent (invite engineers to just hang out at the office and show them how fun it is, particularly by having models around for photo shoots), and how to transition from the sustained sprint of running a startup into the healthier marathon pace of scaling a big business. Part of this is knowing that pieces will break—“that’s a sign things are going well,”—and prioritizing what to fix first, Maybank said in our chat.

Ultimately, By Invitation Only shows that it’s possible to build something massively successful while staying true to yourself, cultivating your passions, and keeping important friendships intact.

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