The Women Who Are Changing the Face of the Wholesale Industry

The tech industry has two crusaders aiming to bring wholesale management into the digital age — and they both happen to be female.

Olivia Skuza, co-founder and co-CEO of NuOrder, and Kristin Savilia, CEO of Joor, came to the industry from different backgrounds but have found themselves on the precipice of implementing significant digital change.

“In 2010, B2B technology wasn’t keeping pace with the digital innovations in B2C,” said Skuza. “My co-founder and I ran a digital agency working with brands, retailers and trade shows. We’d walk trade show floors and see firsthand that the wholesale process was broken. Brands were still operating on pen, paper and fax machines, leaving room for error as well as money on the table.”

For Savilia, she first gained insight into some of the struggles wholesalers faced as a buyer at Macy’s. Then, after moving to XO Group — where she oversaw the digital transformation of the local marketplace for the company’s wedding website, The Knot — Savilia felt prepared to return to wholesale.

While Savilia and Skuza also hope to change the gender imbalance in the wholesale market, they faced immediate challenges from the get-go: finding enough women to hire in tech, an industry that’s overwhelmingly male, and raising funds from the right investors.

Joor's Kristin Savilia and NuOrder's Olivia Skuza hold up Founders for Change signs
(L-R): Savilia, Skuza and Skuza’s co-founder, Heath Wells, are all members of the Founders for Change initiative, a commitment to diversity in VC and entrepreneurship.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Brands

“You have to do your research on firms and see whether they’ve funded other female-CEO companies,” said Savilia. “It’s a good barometer to look at. I’m not saying that if they haven’t, then you shouldn’t talk to them, but it makes the conversation of why they haven’t a little more forefront.”

With that in mind, Joor now has multiple investors who are also committee members at All Raise, a nonprofit that promotes diversity in entrepreneurship. Similarly, one of NuOrder’s investors, Upfront Ventures, now includes in its Term Sheets a commitment to hiring women and minorities in executive positions.

That kind of initiative is increasingly common across industries, as companies try to address internal staffing issues. At NuOrder, diversity has been a priority from the outset, and roughly 45% of its employees are women; the company is actively seeking another woman for its board. Savilia believes that the reason that half of Joor’s leaders are female (and 38% of its tech team are women) is because it opened the funnel to a diverse pool of candidates.

Olivia Skuza and the NuOrder team
Olivia Skuza believed in a diverse hiring policy from the beginning; the NuOrder team is approximately 45% female.

Nevertheless, both CEOs are looking forward to a day when the label “woman in business” is no longer needed. Savilia said she is committed to trying to remove gender from her day-to-day work conversation. Instead, she wants to talk about how Joor is leveraging data and machine learning to bring wholesalers to the forefront of technology. At NuOrder, the company wants to focus on the $25 billion in transactions it has completed, with half of it occurring in the last 12 months.

“Being a founder of a high-growth company is challenging every day,” said Skuza. “Being a female may add additional challenges, due to bias. But you will face many more challenges just from running a startup that you will need to overcome. Find what motivates and drives you, and use that to accelerate your success.”

Watch the video below to see Keds CMO Emily Culp discuss how to effect change as a leader:

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