Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Bezels & Bytes was founded in 2016 by Melissa Koerner and Sarah Shapiro, two retail veterans from Gap and Bloomingdales. Based in San Francisco, Bezels & Bytes is on a mission to deliver"Style 2.0": helping modern, stylish women keep their technology at hand in a fashionable and personal way. Sarah and Melissa love retail. Sarah spent 10 years as a buyer at Bloomingdale's in NYC and Melissa was a marketer at Gap Inc. for 11 years. They are motivated by making women feel confident in what they wear.
Sarah is originally from Virginia and received her Bachelor of Science in fashion design and retail marketing at Syracuse University. She lives in the East Bay, is a mom to two toddlers, loves baking, and is obsessed with her San Francisco mommy bootcamp and spin classes. Melissa is originally from Singapore and grew up in Palos Verdes, California. She received her Bachelor of Science in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and her MBA from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She lives in San Francisco, is a mom to two toddlers, and serves on the board of directors for Raphael House, an organization that helps families struggling with homelessness.
What is the idea behind Bezels & Bytes and how did you come up with it?
Bezels & Bytes started when Melissa and I were introduced by mutual friends and noticed we were both wearing rubber trackers. We both have a background in the fashion industry, and we thought it was crazy that there wasn't a more stylish way to accessorize your wearable... so we decided to do it! After our initial lunch meeting, we quickly began brainstorming our business.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
We started in March 2014 and launched pre-sale via Indiegogo in January of 2015. By April of 2015, we were shipping and had our own e-commerce site. Melissa and I work full-time on B&B, and we work with other freelancers as needed for extra help.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It's been three years since our initial concept creating accessories for wearable tech. We are thrilled to most recently launch our collection of stylish Apple Watch Bands.
What was the biggest obstacle?
We are always chasing tech products. We see them when the rest of the world does, and we want to accessorize them as quickly as possible and put the Bezels & Bytes stamp on fun tech products.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
There have been a lot! But being in Women's Health Magazine as the Award for stylish wearable and featured in the Goop Holiday Guide were huge for us!!
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Neither of us has a tech background so we think about technology and hardware very differently. But we find that to be a plus. Balancing all parts of the business and constantly being faced with things we've never done before is a challenge. We try to find the experts in the field and ask lots of questions to learn as much as we can.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
We think devices will become smaller and more discreet. Being in San Francisco but from a Fashion background we really love to partner with tech companies. We also think there is a huge opportunity to continue to accessorize your technology. We see that a lot with our Apple Watch Bands and Fitbit bracelets and charms. Many of our customers buy multiple pieces at a time so they can keep switching up their style depending on their mood or what they are doing each day.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, because we feel that women should be leading everywhere! Also, we are both moms to strong, independent young girls and can't wait to see where their smarts and personality take them.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Support each other & keep pushing forward because you are doing awesome things! And reach out to everyone you want to talk to. You never know where it might lead.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and fashion tech?
Angela Ahrendts - I've been a fan of hers since she was at Burberry, and we love the Apple Retail experience.
Eva Chen - We've followed her for a long time. We loved her in the magazine world and felt like she really pioneered fashion on social media. She has so much fun with her style!
Amy McDonough - GM Fitbit Group Health. We love seeing Fitbit's innovation in corporate wellness and how Fitbit has motivated teams of people to stay fit together.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.