Cecilia Pagkalinawan - Q&A
What was your favorite class at Hofstra?
I really enjoyed my journalism classes at Hofstra and being part of the News & Views team. It was great to work in a world-class broadcast video facility and have the opportunity to work with Cablevision & SportsChannel on their original programs.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduating was working as an assistant at Zink Entertainment. It was founded by a couple who had worked at Children's Television Workshop, and they were looking for someone to work on the development team and help create children's programming. I assisted with writing treatments, pitches, and working on the production of children's videos.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My field of specialty is in e-commerce and online marketing. I had been working at an advertising agency in the early '90s as a media specialist when the Internet was just emerging as a viable marketing tool. Clients started asking what the internet was about and what they should do with it. I was the in-house person who always shared articles about the Internet and tried to get the agency to pay attention to this new medium. I wound up being assigned to help clients develop their websites. I had to find Web developers to help with this process. At the time there were only a handful of Web developers in New York. One of the companies we selected wound up hiring me as the sixth person for K2 Design and, eventually, I became vice president of client services, helping clients such as AOL, IBM, Audi, Toys R Us, and Nine West with their online strategies.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
The extracurricular activities at Hofstra gave me an edge. I found out that another person who graduated from Yale also applied to my first job at Zink, but since I had more extracurricular and hands-on experience, I was able to get the job. I had also spent every summer and winter break working at ad agencies, so having work experience on my resume helped quite a bit.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
I think it's very important to know what you want and be determined to pursue that goal. I hate to say this, but I worked all the time while at Hofstra. If I wasn't in classes, I would work on television programs for Issues and News & Views, plus have at least 20 hours a week of work-study at Dempster Hall, the television and broadcasting facility. Real-world work wound up being easy after such a long and demanding schedule while at Hofstra.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What about the e-commerce industry attracted you to become involved in the field?
You have to be multidisciplinary when working in e-commerce. It is beneficial to use both the left and right sides of your brain. One day you could be producing or creative directing a photo shoot and, on another day, analyzing data on site performance. Working with a variety of clients early on had helped me understand the core needs of an online marketing campaign. No matter if it's a car company, a bank, or a toy company, the goals are the same; it's just the target audience that is different.
What advice would you give to an e-commerce business seeking exposure?
Do plenty of research and competitive analysis. It is important to understand what you are getting into and who your target customer is. A strategy should be accurate and realistic. It's important to dream big but also be pragmatic about what is achievable.
What marketing strategies do you feel are essential for e-commerce businesses to incorporate?
Social media is an important component of online marketing right now. The voice of individuals who may not be as famous can be very influential with marketing your brand as long as they have the right influence and social network. Targeting multiple customer demographics is challenging and exciting at the same time.
Cecilia Pagkalinawan '89 has a remarkable track record in launching and marketing successful e-commerce businesses. She currently is CEO of StyleTrek.com, an e-commerce boutique dedicated to helping entrepreneurial fashion designers from around the globe reach new customers through social commerce. Ms. Pagkalinawan founded StyleTrek in February 2010 after raising $1.5 million in seed capital from angel investors and venture capitalists, including RRE Ventures, Pelion Venture Partners, Primera Capital, Freestyle Capital, Madison Angels, and Angel Hub. Previously, she launched and marketed online stores for Nine West, Burberry, Frette, and La Perla. She has grown sales from 40 to 70 percent year after year for fashion brands.
Cecilia has experience in running and working for Internet startups such as K2, RichFX, and Abilon, and was CEO of BoutiqueY3K, an e-commerce consulting firm. After working at several dot-com startups, Cecilia was the founder/CEO of Boutique Y3K (1998-2001); vice president, strategic development at RichFX (2002-2004); consulting director of e-commerce at Burberry (2004-2006); and became vice president of e-commerce and direct marketing at Frette and La Perla (2006 to 2010).
Cecilia has received numerous prestigious awards for her work, including the National Association of Women Business Owners Award and the Rockefeller Foundation's Next Generation Leadership Fellowship. Cecilia was featured in both Silicon Alley Reporter's "Top 100 Internet Executives of New York" and A Magazine's "10 Hottest Asian American Entrepreneurs Under 30." Cecilia is among 96 executives featured in the book Distinguished Asian-American Business People, published in 2004. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal Asia, VOGUE, Asiaweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune Small Business, Entrepreneur, Advertising Age, and E-commerce Times and appeared on CNN's "Entrepreneurs Only." She is a frequent speaker at conferences on e-commerce, multi-channel marketing and entrepreneurship.
Cecilia has been actively involved with Mayor Bloomberg's Fashion NYC 2020 initiative, chaired by Rick Darling, CEO of LF USA; Diane von Furstenberg, chairman and founder, DVF, and president, Council of Fashion Designers of America; Terry Lundgren, Chairman, president and CEO of Macy's; Andrew Rosen, CEO of Theory; and Kevin Ryan, CEO of Gilt Groupe. Cecilia is also an active member of the Luxury Marketing Council and is on the advisory board of the Luxury Interactive Conference.