At her startup Rent My Wardrobe, Rachel Sipperley is keenly aware of gender disparity in the tech field.
“As the founder, I am highly sensitive to the intrinsic need for balance of both masculine and feminine energy throughout the executive team and in the office,” Sipperley says.
The exec employs a hiring strategy that is equal parts intuitive and practical.
“When making hiring decisions, we look for character first, talent second,” she says. “There absolutely must be alignment of mission-vision-passion before technicalities and skill sets are even discussed. We focus on hiring the right people for the right position, and in our case that predominantly turns out to be women.”
Last year, Sipperley launched Rent My Wardrobe during Dallas Startup Week, complete with camera crews filming for the upcoming season of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Dallas. At that time, Rent My Wardrobe was near securing $1 million in seed funding with a $4 million cap at the time of the launch.
“We are one of the only female-founded technology startups in Dallas to receive venture funding in 2019,” Sipperley says.
Since then, Rent My Wardrobe has continued to grow with a company manifesto listing its guiding principles. Part of the manifesto states, “From day one, our prime directive has been to create opportunities for women. We will remain focused on this in the way we conduct business, the products we build, the company and brand that we create.”
A section of Rent My Wardrobe’s team that is predominantly male is the engineering team, but that doesn’t mean that the company’s female employees are left out.
“The female executives on our team assist with design, UI/UX, project management, product roadmapping, QA testing, and all components of the tech and product,” she says.
Dallas Innovates and Sipperley dove deeper into how Rent My Wardrobe empowers women in tech, along with tips for hiring the right employees and fostering a strong company culture.
How important is work culture for employee retention and recruitment strategy at your company?
Work culture is extremely important. When making hiring decisions, we look for character first, talent second. There absolutely must be an alignment of mission/vision/passion before technicalities and skill sets are even discussed. I see it the same way as choosing who you marry. You don’t select a spouse because it makes sense on paper. There has to be an undeniable spark and attraction and a complete commitment to running in the same direction, with the same values, and the same goals. We see company culture as the absolute most valuable component to retention and recruitment. We interview for alignment with our company manifesto during the interview process and make this a primary component of onboarding once integrated into the team.
How can workplace culture influence staff retention?
You spend eight to 12 hours a day with the people you work with. And let’s face it, in a startup world, you are often spending more time with your team than your family. You become a family. The difference is, your real family you are stuck with, and your startup family you can leave, so it’s extremely important for founders to foster an environment where people can’t wait to get up and come to work every day. If you love what you do, you never have to work another day in your life, and if your life is your work, you better love the people you work with.
How does your work culture influence the support and retention of women in your firm?
Our mission is to empower women, and that starts with our team. The culture of our startup starts with the people and the team. We believe that team is first, customer is second. Our two most important principles are transparency and communication and that is an environment women thrive in because we highly value free flowing communication, top-down and bottom-up. We also have a family-first mentality that we walk instead of just talk.
What do you consider the most sought-after skill or trait in your company?
No ego. Grit. Tenacity. These things you can’t teach. By the time you work with us, you either have them or you don’t. The rest you can learn. But that foundation must be there.
What insights can you share on how to create and maintain a workplace culture that attracts and retains employees?
I could share an entire podcast episode on this topic and now I just may. We implement super fun initiatives and challenges staff-wide to incentivize everything from innovation to cost savings implementations, to growth and traction. If you want a team that values character, it can’t always be just based on performance—intentionality must also be rewarded. You have to laugh. You have to have fun. We work really hard so we can play hard, too. Little things like snacks in the office and ordering a pizza and a case of White Claws when working late nights on projects go a long way. What is meaningful to employees may vary individually, so it’s also very important to determine early on what motivates and is meaningful to your team on an individual level, and establishing regular check-ins for two-way feedback. We require one-on-ones weekly with oversight and monthly founder one-on-ones with the founding team to ensure two-way feedback.
A version of this story was originally published in Dallas Innovates: The [Tech] Talent Issue.
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Dallas Innovates: The [Tech] Talent Issue, a special edition of the Dallas Innovates Magazine, looks at how companies in Dallas-Fort Worth are attracting and retaining the best talent. Startups, corporates, nonprofits, and organizations work hard to create a strong culture, promote diversity, and implement training programs that can help achieve success.
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