If you’re under 25 you might not be familiar with the term “disruption.” Disruption was the buzzword that drove most of the tech-boom in the early 2000’s.
“Disruption” is a euphemism. It’s a combination of revolution and destruction. For example, streaming music platforms “disrupted” the recorded music industry. Uber “disrupted” the taxi industry. And in the biggest, most widespread disruption of all, e-commerce led by Amazon, disrupted the retail industry.
As a result of e-commerce disruption, a huge number of small retailers had to shut up shop. And too-big-to-fail retailers like Sears, Nieman Marcus, Toys R Us, JC Penney and Circuit City, all filed for bankruptcy.
Amid this widespread retail carnage, a local New Orleans women’s clothing store called Hemline has not only survived, it’s flourished. Hemline has grown from a single store on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, to a chain of local stores, and a franchise with a total of 30 stores in 7 states, including Florida, Tennessee and Texas.
The Brand Marketing and Events Manager of Hemline is Cristina Ebberman.
The reason you barely hear the word “disruption” any more is because pretty much every industry that could have been disrupted, has been.
In 2017, Laurel Hess was in marketing. When she came home from a business trip to a mountain of laundry, she had the sudden realization that nobody had disrupted the laundry industry. Thinking there had to be other busy people like her who would love nothing more than for someone to come and take away her dirty laundry and bring it back the next day washed and folded, Laurel created the Uber of laundry – Hampr.
Hampr started life in Lafayette, Louisiana. Today, Hampr is in 8 states, including Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, and that number is growing almost monthly as the Uber of laundry spreads across the country and attracts investors.
the future of disruption
As times change and we hand the reins of business over to the next generation, it’s interesting how our definition of success is changing. Success used to be defined numerically. By a dollar amount. Today, how you make money is as important as how much you make.
The rise of the sharing economy reflects this sentiment – spreading wealth in a socially responsible manner is a better goal than individually getting rich at any cost. For example, we all know the name Henry Ford. Ford didn’t invent the automobile, but he did invent a way to make a lot of money out of making and selling cars. This generation, we all know Uber. But it’s the concept of ridesharing we admire. Most people probably couldn’t tell you the name of the person who started it.
If Hampr gets to be as big as Uber, founder Laurel Hess’s primary source of pride won’t be how much money she’s made for herself, but rather, how many people she’s given an opportunity to have an independent business.
In the face of the stiffest retail headwinds in decades, Hemline is bucking trends and expanding a chain of clothing stores because, rather building an empire for a single owner, the company is intentionally growing a family of locally-focused, women-driven businesses.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur. And you can also hear recent conversation with other disrupters in e-commerce and insurance .