Katharine Requa and Kaity Cimo were colleagues at an athleisure startup before deciding to start a company together. They combined Requa’s understanding of operations with Cimo’s marketing expertise—plus their shared passion for retail—to create For Now.
Launched in 2017, For Now serves as a retail incubator that makes it easy to shop and support emerging entrepreneurs. The company combines the rapid-iteration mentality of an incubator with a direct pipeline to actual shoppers.
Here, the two co-founders discuss the challenges of retail and offer fundraising advice for those who are building and scaling in a highly competitive industry.
Cimo: We talked to many founders of small, emerging brands about what their pain points were. There were many, but one that was consistent was access to retail and wanting to get their product in front of customers. They all had their website, minimal marketing and bare-minimum operations, but retail was out of their reach.
"For Now could bring these brands to a storefront and have everyone share the economics of the storefront. Our retail experience told us that people are more likely to buy when they see something in person—and they’re more likely to buy more of it." - Kaity Cimo, For Now Co-Founder
Requa: Retail is really expensive if it’s something you’re going to go out and do on your own. It requires some knowledge of operational capacity. We felt we could make retail possible by sharing the economics with all the brands we work with. This was the most effective way for these brands to acquire customers that didn’t require a robust digital strategy or opening a store of their own.
Requa: We were completely self-funded until about two years ago. And because of the economics of the store, everything was on consignment. We didn’t have the inventory liability, and brands paid a fee to be in the store. We were actually making money before the store opened, which is quite uncommon in retail. But we did raise a small round about two years ago, which we intended to be growth capital. But then a pandemic happened, and it became survival capital.
Requa: If you’re raising money, make sure you’re raising from people who you’re confident in and happy to work with. As nice as it sounds to get a blank check, we would much rather have a check that comes with an advisory capacity so that it feels like we’re getting more than just cash. Know your burn rate, and don’t raise more than you think you need. We see so many brands that say, “Well, I could raise $7 million, so I should.” If you only need $1 million, raise $1 million. Don’t give up more than you have to just because you can.
Cimo: I think the expectations of growth are a lot different. And founders in our industry need to realize that hockey-stick trajectory doesn’t work for a lot of businesses—especially ones reliant on physical inventory and consumer interest and demand.
"Raising money has become a milestone. Once you do it, that’s cool, but then what? There’s a lot to answer for after that, and the growth needs to be there." - Kaity Cimo, For Now Co-Founder
Requa: We’ve been able to innovate and iterate very quickly and in various situations. We never wanted to be just retailers; we always wanted the retail store to be an incubation portal for these brands. And about a year in, we proved that a storefront was the most economical customer acquisition tool and feedback center for emerging brands. That’s one thing that I’m really proud of: We can constantly make informed decisions based on the insights that we're getting on a daily basis.
"You can look at a million pitch decks. But for us, we've worked with the founder, the product and the brand's customers. We can say with more certainty than most whether or not this is a viable business." - Katharine Requa, For Now Co-Founder
Cimo: I'm also proud of reaching $1 million in revenue in our third year in business. When you’re in it, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it was great we got there, especially knowing that only a small portion of female-founded companies reach that milestone. Not a lot of female-founded companies reach a million dollars in revenue, which is just incredibly crazy. So, in some sense, I don’t think about it much. But in another sense, that’s really great that we were able to do that.
Requa: We wanted to work with a banker who could help us navigate change, make suggestions and really try to mitigate our pain points—particularly on the financial side. But our excitement about J.P. Morgan goes beyond financial transactions. Jimmy [Nguyen] and I went to business school together; I knew he would go above and beyond for me. But I believe that everyone on his team has that mentality for anyone they work with.
"We’re really excited to have such a collaborative partner in J.P. Morgan." - Katharine Requa, For Now Co-Founder
I was lucky enough to be in business school with Katharine, and when I first heard she was opening For Now with her co-founder, Kaity, I immediately wanted to help. Katharine and I have the “founders first” mentality—what can we do to help founders grow and scale their businesses?
Not only does For Now have a fantastic brand story, the company also strongly supports diversity and inclusion and wants to cultivate a startup business community with more representation from women and other underrepresented groups.
My team and I look forward to continuing our partnership with For Now and working together to foster a more inclusive, diverse and equitable business ecosystem in the New England area.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Visit jpmorgan.com/cb-disclaimer for disclosures and disclaimers related to this content.