Lexy Funk is the co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Industries, the popular Brooklyn, New York-based lifestyle clothing retailer. Founded in 1998, Brooklyn Industries now has 15 stores in four states. Funk recently spoke with OPEN Forum about her strengths, her regrets and her dream of opening up a....gas station.
Q: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
A: I was going in my third year of university at age 18, so I would tell myself to take a year off and travel and work overseas. I would tell myself to take economics classes, to start a business right after university rather than waiting until I was 26. I would say don’t worry about what you do after university, try many different paths and save more money. My younger self would have still ignored these requests.
Q: If you could do one thing over, what would it be?
A: I would have started a business earlier than I did. I would have waited longer to have children, I would have bought a house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (assuming I had the money) in 1991.
Q: What personal trait has been most critical to your success?
A: Intelligence, sheer determination and creativity.
Q: What’s your biggest weakness and how have you tried to overcome it?
A: I work too hard and don’t delegate enough. I haven’t quite found the solution, but having other obsessions (I write creatively and train for a triathalon) helps to break up work. Delegating...growing our company and hiring more people will help with being able to delegate. In a small company there are never enough people to do all the work.
Q: At what point did you recognize that Brooklyn Industries could become the company it is today?
A: When we came up with our motto LIVE, WORK, CREATE. This crystallized our ideas behind the company and why we started designing. To be able to name this process and start building a brand around it was the point when I knew we had something unique and meaningful.
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Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
A: I am proud that I have been an entrepreneur and raised two boys at the same time. I am not quite fully proud of what I have achieved as there is still so much more to do. But I am proud of my sons.
Q: Where do you do your best thinking?
A: I think very clearly early in the morning, either working or running or swimming. I also am very productive and have clarity of thought on airplanes.
Q: If you were going to start another type of company, what would it be and why?
A: I constantly dream of starting other companies and most of these are fairly fleeting. The latest idea came from reading listings of businesses for sale late at night as a way to relax before going to bed. Most of the businesses for sale are either laundromats or gas stations. Doing laundry is really boring so I wouldn’t want to buy one of those. But a gas station in the middle of Brooklyn could be interesting…we could serve gourmet food and coffee, and have it be a transportation hub with a pull-up for bicycle repairs. It could have an electrical hookup and a battery swap-out station. It could have a place to play outdoor chess while you wait and perhaps some healthy Brooklyn take-away. The logo would be very important, and be more organic and modern. The dream starts to break down slightly when I have to employ the labor 24 hours a day, and really I know little about the margin on gasoline, cigarettes and lotto tickets. I will stick to clothing for now.
Q: Who has been your most greatest mentor?
A: Well, I never listen to his advice, but my father has been a mentor. He started and ran many businesses. Throughout my childhood he was in the Middle East working. He would religiously send me DO NOT DISTURB signs from places such as Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Another mentor of sorts has been the Harvard Business Review, and also Deleuze and Guattari’s writings on networks and rhizomes.