Cheryl Kaplan tried consulting, merchandising and buying, and even once was a restructuring advisor for distressed companies. But all along she was itching to create something of her own. Then came M.Gemi.
The Italian-luxury shoe brand is gaining popularity among fashion's elite today but also targets shoppers on a budget. All the products — sneakers, heels, flats, boots and loafers for men — are made in Italy, constructed within one of M.Gemi's workshops, but cost on average $350. For quality leather goods, many would call the price tags a steal.
The timing of new inventory is unique, to keep customers interested in M.Gemi and always coming back for more. Every Monday, the company drops a new shoe style for shoppers to snag, but only for a limited time. (Though some styles, like the coveted Felize moccasin or Corsa ankle boot, are here to stay.)
"Retail is like everything else — if you stay the course people will get bored," Kaplan told CNBC about the current retail environment, which is rife with store closures and businesses going bankrupt. "Everything cycles through, and right now consumers are looking for experiences. ... If you don't change, you get stale. It's as simple as that."
Kaplan started her career in retail as an intern with Gap, then leaving college with a fashion and business education. She went on to build Rue La La with some co-workers from SmartBargains.com, where she spent more than seven years early in her career.
The Rue La La business model became well-known for offering stellar sales on brand names, but only for a small window of time. It's an approach to retailing that Kaplan and Rue La La founder Ben Fischman eventually brought over to M.Gemi.
In 2014, Kaplan got together in Boston with Maria Gangemi and Fischman to pull together the idea for an online shoe brand that filled a niche.
Fast forward to today and Kaplan is president of M.Gemi, which is named for Gangemi and is expanding its e-commerce business into bricks and mortar. But M.Gemi's stores, more like showrooms, are a far cry from a Finish Line, Stride Rite or Clarks.
The company opened its first location in 2016 in New York's SoHo neighborhood, where other e-commerce brands such as Allbirds, Casper and Warby Parker got their start.