Women in Business: Q & A With Mona Bijoor, CEO of JOOR

Mona Bijoor is the founder and CEO of JOOR -- the leading online global marketplace for wholesale buying that directly connects brands and retailers.

Mona's experience as a brand consultant for CHANEL and Elie Tahari and within buying departments for global retailers inspired her to create JOOR to solve some of the incredible challenges and time constraints that she came across during her career. Whether it was running to showroom appointments, managing stacks of line sheets or handwriting in wholesale orders, she knew that there was an opportunity to develop an online technology solution that could improve and support the wholesale process.

Since launching JOOR in 2010, she has grown the company to a 30-person team serving over 600 fashion brands and 40,000 retailers worldwide. Clients include fashion brands such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Current/Elliott, 3.1 Phillip Lim and rag & bone.

Mona also holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up, both of my parents were entrepreneurs, so I've always been exposed to the hard work and resourcefulness required of a business owner. They both set a good example that would follow me throughout life.

Prior to launching JOOR in 2010, I worked with brands including Chanel, Elie Tahari and Ann Taylor, where I initially identified the problem brands and retailers were experiencing in the buying process. I also had a desire to start my own fashion line, but quickly realized the cost of distribution was incredibly high and that there was really no solution available to address the problem.

Applying my business school experience and my fashion industry background, it was then I decided to build JOOR and create a sales channel that didn't exist for wholesale until now.

How has your previous employment experience aided JOOR?
I've personally experienced the pain points that brands and retailers face, so I have a passion that drives me to deliver the best solution possible. Many entrepreneurs have great ideas but lack the firsthand experience. I believe having experience as the "user" is a critical component to any successful business.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't consider it balancing. I have a passion for my business and I have a passion for my family. Making time for both can be challenging. I need both. Each passion drives the other.

What have the highlights and challenges been founding JOOR?
The biggest highlight recently has been hitting $60 million in transaction volume in July 2013.
The biggest challenge for us tends to be hiring. We are focused on building an A+ team. Creating a culture that drives itself is difficult. Often I am pushed to hire fast, but I find that doing so backfires. When we hire slow and make sure the fit is right, then we tend to win.

What advice can you offer female entrepreneurs who are seeking to establish their own business?
Try not to get caught up in the gender debate. Find your passion, build a business that can make money, establish traction and surround yourself with a solid team. Keep that focus and you'll realize success.

In your opinion, how is technology bringing positive change and opportunity in the fashion world?
While technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, most innovation in the fashion industry has been around consumer experiences. We've only just begun to realize the importance of innovation to the wholesale side of the business. Most of those in wholesale still operate using pen and paper and we're changing that. Today nearly 600 brands and 40,000 retailers use the JOOR marketplace to conduct business.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
While fundraising, some investors were concerned about my priorities, as I have two young daughters. My children were perceived as potential distractions and unfortunately, many of these questions of balance are primarily asked of women leaders. But again, I do my best to avoid discussion of gender bias altogether and instead focus on moving the business forward.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Her book builds a great case on how women (and men) can navigate the challenges faced in the corporate world. She illustrates how we shouldn't let fear of risk or guilt hold ourselves back.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I probably wouldn't have gone down the path I did if my parents weren't entrepreneurs. They were my earliest mentors and I still rely on them today for support and guidance as I continue to build JOOR.

Today, I rely on a small group of mentors in my professional and spiritual life. They understand my values and help me stay focused on business priorities by acting as sounding boards. I think the biggest difference they've made is that they provide an amazing source of energy. I go to them when I need to recharge.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are many, but most recently I've been thinking about a speech given by Indra Nooyi while I was in business school. She spoke a lot about how her Indian values have influenced her professional career. She seemed so content with who she was: CEO, wife, mother and felt it was her duty to do right in all those roles. Doing right in all those roles were determined by her values and her upbringing rather than external factors.

What are your hopes for the future of JOOR?
I'm proud of the JOOR team for working hard to revolutionize the way brands and retailers do business. My vision is to be the de facto operating platform for brands and retailers globally. Aside from our primary business goal, I am even more hopeful for our people goals. We are working to build a culture of hard-working, passion-filled people. My hope is that we can sustain the culture as we scale.