The recent downfalls of such legendary brands as Toys “R” Us and Sears might incline one to believe that retail is, as they say, dead. But the industry isn’t dead, nor is it on the decline—it’s changing quickly, and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 class of 2019 is helping drive the disruption.
For the eighth year in a row, Forbes set out to discover the young entrepreneurs and executives revolutionizing the consumer experience with our annual 30 Under 30 list’s Retail & Ecommerce category. To determine the list, we spent months searching for the best and the brightest, vetting hundreds of nominations before ultimately selecting our final 30 with the help of four expert judges: Shoptalk founder Anil Aggarwal, Dia&Co cofounder Nadia Boujarwah, Forerunner Ventures founder Kirsten Green and Away cofounder and 30 Under 30 class of 2016 finalist Steph Korey.
Leading this year’s cohort are Kory and Mallory Stevens, 29 and 26, cofounders of high-end footwear company Taft. The husband and wife duo launched it in 2014 as a sock brand and switched to shoes one year later after spotting a gap in the market. “Companies keep designing the same shoes over, and over and over,” says Kory Stevens. “There’s an underserved market of men who want to stand out.” The Utah-based couple’s two-toned oxfords, woven-plaid loafers and floral-print boots seem to be paying off—for the first time this year, Taft brought in outside funding to the tune of $5 million from several angel funds, not to mention patron and NBA player Dwayne Wade.
Just as the Stevenses recognized and remedied a need in footwear, so too did Eric Huang, 28, and Steven Mazur, 27, in men’s clothing. While serving as Venture for America fellows, Huang and Mazur realized just how few clothing options exist for shorter men. So in 2015 they launched Ash & Erie: a men’s retailer specializing in shirts and pants for those 5’8” and below. The Detroit-based cofounders—who appeared on Shark Tank last year, earning a $150,000 investment from Mark Cuban—expect more than $1 million in revenue for 2018.
And then there’s Jenna Kerner, 29, who, disheartened by the hypersexualization of lingerie, wanted an intimates option that more accurately reflected her wants and needs. With cofounder Jane Fisher, 30, a fellow Wharton MBA alumna, she started Harper Wilde, a bra brand that “takes the B.S. out of bra shopping” with practical designs and free home try-ons. Since starting up in 2017, the pair has raised $3.6 million in funding from the likes of Charles River Ventures and M Ventures.
Many of this year’s finalists have found success in the trend toward all-natural beauty. Take Kimberley Ho, 28, an investment banker-turned-entrepreneur who saw a need for more nontoxic skincare products for children and filled it with Evereden. Since launching earlier this year, the Malaysian immigrant has raised $2 million in funding from angel investors. Or look to Karissa Bodnar, 29, founder of Thrive Causemetics. After losing a close friend to cancer, the former L’Oréal product developer bootstrapped her own line of vegan, cruelty-free cosmetics, one that matches each purchase with a product donation to a woman experiencing cancer, homelessness or domestic violence. Three years later, her direct-to-consumer brand sells one mascara every nine seconds.
Paul Michaux, 28, another L’Oréal alum, is also capitalizing on this trend, as well as that of product personalization. Disdainful of mass-manufactured shampoo, Michaux and his cofounders started Prose, a haircare company that employs AI-driven diagnostic tests to create individualized hair masks, shampoos and conditioners using the ingredients each customer’s locks need most. Founded in 2017, Prose has raised $7 million in venture capital from Maveron and Lerer Hippeau, among others.
While most of the trailblazers who make up this year’s Retail & Ecommerce Under 30s call themselves Millennials, Generation Z is represented among the ranks by Caroline and Isabel Bercaw, 16 and 17, the cofounders of Da Bomb Bath Fizzers. When the sisters were 10 and 11, they discovered their love of bath bombs—pods that burst and fizz in the bath. What they didn’t care for, though, were the stains and sticky residue that these things often leave behind. So in 2015, they took it upon themselves to make a better, cleaner bath bomb, one that leaves behind only a welcome surprise (such as a small charm or toy). Da Bomb Bath Fizzers is expected to earn the high school students more than $20 million in revenue this year.
Take a look behind the scenes of your favorite retailers, and there too will you find members of this dynamic group, like Jessica Schinazi, 29, head of business development and branding for Amazon’s luxury beauty division; Melanie Masarin, 27, head of retail and offline experiences at Glossier; and Michael Krakaris, 24, cofounder of Deliverr. With $7.1 million in funding from firms such as 8VC and individuals including Zola CEO Shan-Lyn Ma, Deliverr has been streamlining logistics and fulfillment for leading merchants on eBay, Shopify and Walmart since 2017.
These are just 10 of the 30 honorees recognized on this year’s list. To meet all of the young visionaries reinventing the way we shop, click here.
More Info: forbes.com