Jeff Bezos asked this founder a simple question, and it changed how she runs her business

Tamara Mellon: 'I don't believe brands should be silent anymore'

Tamara Mellon co-founded luxury brand Jimmy Choo in 1996 when she was just 27 years old.

Now, with more than 20 years of leadership experience, Mellon has launched her own self-named shoe company that's female-led with 24 women employees and one man. Mellon says she was inspired by a Jeff Bezos quote to create a different kind of company culture, one where everyone feels invested.

"He said, 'Have you ever taken a rented car to the car wash?'" Mellon tells CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin. "I thought that was a great analogy. So everyone who works for me now is a shareholder in the business. So everyone feels like an owner."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Mandel Ngan | Getty Images

In a 2014 interview with Business Insider founder Henry Blodget, Bezos explained how his rented car concept applies to company culture. He says that in general, people tend to take better care of the things they own, which is why he says  most Amazon compensation is "done in terms of stock."

"Part and parcel with ownership is a mentality of long-term thinking," says Bezos. "You know, owners think longer-term than renters do."

As an example, he described the time a friend rented a house to some tenants. Instead of getting a stand for their Christmas tree, Bezos says the tenants nailed the tree into the hardwood floor. "No owner would ever do that," he emphasized, because most people have greater pride in things that are theirs.

In addition to adopting Bezos' belief that every employee should feel like an owner, Mellon has also worked to make everyone at her company feel more included by having an open floor plan.

"We sit all open-plan, which I never used to do at Jimmy Choo," says the entrepreneur, who recently raised $24 million in funding to expand her business. "I would sit in the corner office with two assistants outside like guard dogs, and that doesn't happen anymore. I sit with everybody on the floor, and we listen to everybody."

Mellon, who is passionate about many issues, including closing the gender pay gap, says she wants to her new company to have a braver voice, one that speaks up about the issues its customers care about.

"I think people want to be part of a community where they know their values are aligned with your values," she says. "I think they don't want brands to be silent anymore, and so that's how we are building our community."

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