Creativity 50 2015

Creativity 50 2015: Rachel Shechtman

Retail Innovator

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Rachel Shechtman
Rachel Shechtman Credit: B. Ennis/Crain's New York Business
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Rachel Shechtman blurred the lines between magazine and retail store when she opened Story, a concept shop that derives the bulk of its revenue from sponsorships, in 2011. Featuring different "stories" from brands such as American Express and Target, the Manhattan-based store completely overhauls its appearance, including merchandise, fixtures and displays, every four-to-six weeks. Sponsorship for each iteration starts at $400,000. The company has had nearly 30 different iterations thus far.

This year, the company teamed with DreamWorks Animation's AwesomenessTV to create a retail experience around some of the studio's stars to gather data on the power of its influencers as its retail presence expands. Story consults for brands too and brought together NBC Universal and iStrategyLabs for a SXSW effort that "hacked" attendees' phones as if Mr. Robot were watching them.

While the bulk of retail innovation is happening in the digital space, Ms. Shechtman, a fourth-generation retailer and former consultant to Toms Shoes and Kraft, is one of a select few bringing radical revolution to the brick-and-mortar realm. Story was profitable in its first year of business.

Ad Age: What's your definition of creativity?

Rachel Shechtman: Creativity is something we all have it within us. It's simply about choosing to exercise the muscle daily through the decisions we make, big or small.

Ad Age: What was your biggest creative challenge of the past year, and how did you tackle it?

Ms. Shechtman: The biggest creative challenge I have had over the past year was trying to define what scale looks like for my business. I have tackled it by ignoring the obvious definition of "scale" for our business -- opening more stores or selling online -- and asked myself what could it be if it wasn't in a traditional format? This subtle shift in thinking has helped me identify what will make the most sense for me and my team and the result is a strategy that enables us to continue to innovate and do things differently … stay tuned!

Ad Age: What's your advice to anyone in a creative slump? How do you fight your creative demons?

Ms. Shechtman: Creative slumps are a self-fulfilling prophesy. When you think you're stuck, you actually become stuck. I think the best way to jumpstart creative inspiration is by starting. Doing. Going. Exploring.

Ad Age: What's the best advice you got when it comes to nurturing your creativity?

Ms. Shechtman: Surround yourself with people who are doing work that inspires and challenges you. My friends and the people I work with continually inspire me to reach higher, work harder and think in new and different ways.