While diapers and women’s shoes might not be the first thing on Brian Lee’s mind, they are at the top of his list when it comes to starting a business. As a co-founder of LegalZoom, he’s moved from the rather dry business of legal documents to working with celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba on their latest ventures. He co-founded Kardashian’s ShoeDazzle.com three years ago, and most recently — The Honest Company, Alba’s new eco-friendly baby product company. I spoke with Lee to find out why he’s switching gears.
Why have you become drawn to women in product areas geared toward women?
Because that’s who controls the wallet. Men will shop, but they only shop when they need something. Women shop with passion and because it’s enjoyable and for some it’s even entertainment. All you have to do is step into a mall and see how many stores are geared towards men and how many are geared towards women and you’ll get the picture.
Have you seen a rise in women entrepreneurship recently?
Yes I have. I do a lot of work with angel investors and I’ve seen three or four angel deals in the past few months for companies led by women. Before that, I hardly saw any.
Why do you think this is the case?
I think as e-commerce grows as a category most e-commerce companies are focused on women because they are the decision makers and the consumers. When you think of e-commerce, and fashion is a big part of that, women are much more in tune with what other women are looking for online.
Some say women entrepreneurs are the answer to getting us out of the economic downturn. Do you agree?
I think women are a big part of it. In general, the more entrepreneurs we have, the better off we will be because the economy is driven by small businesses and creative ideas … I’m really excited about what the future holds for women entrepreneurship and to be a small part of that by helping Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba start their businesses.
Are there any changing trends that you’re seeing with respect to women startups?
I have noticed that there are more conferences geared towards women, which is a great, because it allows them to network and build a foundation to help each other and grow … Women have not had the entrepreneurial history in terms of pure volume as men have. I think the opportunities are much more open now. I think with more females coming out of the Internet and e-commerce they are providing more role models and encouragement.
What’s your advice for anyone looking to start a business now?
I think right now is a great time to start a business. I think the economy is definitely turning around and the second generation of e-commerce sites is really taking off. It’s a lot easier to gain traction when there is such a great proliferation of Internet access. The velocity at which some of these startups are gaining traction is mind-boggling. Companies like Shoedazzle, Stella & Dot, Gilt, Groupon – these companies are going from zero to hundreds of millions in revenue in three years.