Good thing Mike Smith doesn’t like to sit still. He joined Stitch Fix as one of its first employees five years ago, and since then, the online retailer has become so successful that even Amazon is trying to catch up.
At Stitch Fix, shoppers receive a personalized assortment of clothing that they buy or send back, without the hassle of credit card refunds or return shipping fees. In September 2016, the company launched a subscription service for men and tapped Smith, then COO, to lead it.
The role has been a perfect fit. With a deep e-commerce background, Smith helped Stitch Fix Men scale within six months to the size its women’s line reached after three-and-a-half years. As the head of a startup within a startup, Smith has been able to take risks that yield insights benefiting the women’s line, too.
Scaling fast is in Smith’s blood. In 2003, he was recruited by three Haas classmates to work at Walmart.com, a then-fledgling division of the retail giant. He rose through the ranks to become COO of the company’s e-commerce operations where, among other initiatives, he led the rollout of in-store pickup services—a huge feat given the logistics of delivering products sold online-only to one of Walmart’s 3,500 locations. At the time, no other retailer had attempted in-store pickup at that scale.
Smith, who once covered sports for The Washington Post, credits Haas with helping him combine his entrepreneurial ambitions with his strong sense of how to work with others.
“Haas is very big on collaboration and I connected with that,” he says. “It’s not about me. It’s about ‘How can I work as a member of a team to make this product better and shape company culture?’”