If anyone was to forecast Couture USA co-owner Frank Hewitt's professional career path, few would have ever predicted that this Electrical Engineering graduate from Upstate New York, with a passion for software development, would eventually co-own and lead the business operations of a luxury designer resale business. After all, he admits that as far as fashion goes, he is your typical "Michael Kors button-up shirt and jeans" type of guy.
But what makes Hewitt perfect for the job is his passion to innovate and commitment to elevate customer experience at every touch point of the luxury designer resale business.
Much of this drive could be traced back to the early days of his career. While as an intern for New York Power Authority (NYPA) responsible for generating daily power production reports, he began researching for ways to automate the report generation process—a tell-tale sign of his innate drive to innovate.
"It was there that I discovered my early passion for software. I then spent the next few years in manufacturing, developing quality control and data management systems for the textile industry, and those were the years that ultimately solidified my career path," Hewitt says.
In the summer of 2008, he left an 18-year career in IT/software development to join Couture Boutique—and has never looked back since.
When you first started working at the luxury designer resale boutique, you knew very little about the designer fashion world. What was the most challenging part about the job?
That's an easy one. Authenticity and product knowledge! At the time, I had virtually no luxury product experience and there was very little information available to the public. With authenticity and customer trust being the cornerstone of our business, it was critical that I learned every aspect of authentication as quickly as possible.
We were a very small operation at that time (two to three people, including myself), and although members of our staff had the luxury product experience and knowledge, we had very little in terms of processes or authenticity documentation.
During that first year, I spent countless hours researching, studying and documenting every bit of information I could uncover. Even today, authenticity continues to be a major focus. As counterfeiters become more advanced and as luxury manufacturers try to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters, we are continually learning and updating our training materials to reflect the latest changes and updates.
Given your software development background, you were instrumental in helping push Couture USA in the forefront of the online luxury designer resale space. What do you think is Couture USA's competitive advantage against other luxury designer resale companies?
Our customer experience! There are several aspects of both our online and brick-and-mortar business that have contributed to our overall success, but our focus on "customer experience" is the foundation of everything that we do. If we're able to create that "wow" experience for our customers, the net long-term effects of that have a significant positive impact on our business.
Frank's top five picks for male designer brand lovers include (clockwise): Breitling Chrono Superocean watch, Hermes derby shoes, Chanel aviator sunglasses, Burberry card holder and David Yurman diamond band.
From a technology and customer service standpoint, what innovations have you introduced that have significantly grown the business?
When we consider the overall growth of the business and how to scale moving forward, internal process automation has and will continue to play a very important role. As our business continues to grow, we face an ever-increasing need to do "more" with our existing resources and staff. This includes everything—from sales channel diversification and marketing, to inventory management and shipping. Being able to effectively automate in these areas will not only allow us to scale more rapidly but will also allow us to remain a lean profitable organization.
As an entrepreneur, what drives you to work every day?
A burning desire for knowledge and self-improvement. I love what I do! I love what WE do as a team! It's not hard to be driven when you're constantly growing and are surrounded by great people who share the same passion.
What's the most important business lesson you've learned about running a designer resale business?
I've learned many great business lessons over the years (I'm sure I'll learn quite a few more), and honestly, it's difficult to choose only one. So I'll list my top five (in no particular order):
If you can have coffee with a modern-day innovator and entrepreneur, who would it be?
- Ask for help when you need it!
- Be honest, be humble and be fully-committed.
- Don't sweat the small stuff, but the small stuff still matters.
- Surround yourself with great people who are smarter than you and who have great character.
- Embrace change and never stop learning.
That's a tough one! There are several modern-day innovators who I find very interesting: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Plank, Mark Zuckerberg…but off the top of my head, I'd have to go with Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuck
). If you don't know…check him out. He's an interesting guy!
How would you describe your personal style and how has it evolved since you started working at Couture USA?
Anyone who knows me well would find this question rather funny. I wouldn't exactly say that I have a style, per se. I go for comfort more than style and, as a bigger guy, most designer brands do not fit me well. On most days, you'll find me in a Michael Kors button down shirt with jeans and a pair of black loafers. Simple!
What was your first-ever luxury purchase?
I went through a watch phase for a few years and had a Breitling Bentley watch. It was a beautiful watch but I didn't wear it often so I ended up selling it on coutureusa.com! Now, I just wear an Apple iWatch.
Where do you envision Couture USA five years from now?
That's a difficult question to answer. More so than any other time during my career, the business world is changing at an unbelievably fast pace. Desktop computers are becoming secondary to mobile devices, the future of traditional retail is in question, customer expectations are continually on the rise and the world of artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize our entire way of life. So what do I envision for our company? Change…and lots of it!