How a strong culture helped Trunk Club scale from 60 to 550 stylists in 3 years

Wardrobe stylist looking at sweater

7 mins, 48 secs read time

Since its launch in 2009, Trunk Club has become one of the most successful personalized men and women’s clothing service companies in the U.S. So much so, in fact, that it drew the attention of its current owner, Nordstrom. Trunk Club’s success is rooted in its understanding that its members have limited time and expertise to build out their own wardrobes, but that their style shouldn’t have to suffer because of it.

Who is at the helm of this effort? It’s the company’s strong network of salespeople, aka stylists – those who are providing fashion consultation and selling apparel to the company’s valued members across five “clubhouse” locations (Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City)...and counting.

Rapid scaling

Over the last three years, Trunk Club has scaled quickly from 60 to a whopping 550 stylists. (That’s an increase of over 800%!). This growth wouldn't have been possible without a thoughtful approach to recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding candidates. Trunk Club's structured hiring process ensures that whoever comes into the stylist role not only has the desire to succeed and the tools to do so, but the ability to add value to the unique Trunk Club stylist culture almost immediately.

We recently chatted with Kelsey Lawrie and Megan DePorter of Trunk Club’s recruiting team to learn more about their process for bringing on right-fit stylists into this strong culture, ensuring that they can effectively form relationships and serve members and continue to propel Trunk Club’s rapid growth.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the 5 hallmarks of the Trunk Club stylist culture and learn how the company’s robust recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding processes work to support it:

1. Focusing on skills, rather than on prior experience

To protect Trunk Club’s stylist culture, the company knows it must have the right people in the stylist role. This is rooted in the recruiting process. Even though the stylist role is technically a sales position, the recruiting team makes sure to go beyond just searching for “sales” on resumes—in fact, most Trunk Club stylists don’t even have sales in their background. Instead, recruiters look for those who strive to build strong relationships and create memorable experiences as well as those who have a natural interest in fashion (“passion for what we do,” in fact, is a quality that’s listed on the interview scorecard). Most importantly, in the interview process candidates are assessed on their ability to strike up conversation and develop a genuine rapport. When it comes down to it, it’s the stylists’ goal to build long-lasting relationships that will keep members satisfied and engaged and coming back for more, while also meeting monthly sales goals. Therefore, Trunk Club sees sales as an organic byproduct of a strong relationship between stylists and members.

2. Offering transparency around every corner

Transparency is so embedded in the Trunk Club culture, that it’s even apparent before stylists fully sign to come on board. After the interview process, hopeful stylists shadow an actual stylist on the job as a preliminary assessment of whether they like the company and the work and want to continue in the interview process. Providing this shadowing opportunity helps to weed out those who don’t see themselves succeeding in the role. (Just think of how offering a shadowing opportunity could help streamline your hiring process and support greater retention).

Those who advance past the shadow round become “trial stylists” and are invited to participate in a trial period with a sales and activity goal where they get to try out the job on site at one of the clubhouses (and receive commission for doing so). Here, they see firsthand how they like this type of format. Do they like the role? Do they like their workspace? Do they like the stylist-member dynamic? Kelsey notes that this is an incredible way for someone to experience what a job is really like before having to fully commit to it, and on the flip side, a great way for the clubhouse Sales Directors to determine whether the candidate has the drive, accountability, and personality to succeed in the role.

Clearly, it’s a big component of Trunk Club’s hiring approach to have people test the waters – whether through shadowing or trial – before they fully sign on. This is how Trunk Club protects its culture, since having the right people in the stylist role is most crucial to the company’s success. Trunk Club discovered early on that any one stylist can make a great deal of impact on the overall clubhouse culture, so ensuring that each stylist fits the mold is incredibly important.

And once a stylist does come on board, the transparency continues. At Trunk Club, there is a lot of exposure to senior leadership. Office walls are glass; doors are open. You know what everyone is doing. People are authentic and open to discussing just about anything. This includes the all-hands meetings that take place each month, where the CEO provides a state of the union, including updates on new clubhouse locations and metrics and sales performance, showing honesty and openness in saying things like “here’s where we can do better next month.” As a result, everyone feels like they’re in the loop and knows what they need to do to contribute to the company’s success. As simple as it sounds, keeping employees informed really does make them feel valued, serving to engage them into the company and culture that much more.

3. Focusing on mentorship as a driver of success

When new stylists are hired, their onboarding consists of being mentored by seasoned stylists and shadowing them on the floor. There’s constant back-and-forth communication, with questions like “How should I deal with this member who has this issue?” And seasoned stylists take on a coaching role, responding with things like “try this tactic, because it really works.” This creates a strong sense of collaboration and also encourages a friendly competition between stylists, but not in the way you may think – stylists take note of who is successful and question, how can I be as good as them? It’s this “to be the best, you’ve got to learn from the best” mindset that spawns a genuine interest in helping one another grow and succeed. This translates into everyone being truly invested in helping the company progress.

Stylists are hungry and dedicated to being proactive in their networking and sourcing of leads (this ability being assessed during the interview process) and keep business on the incline. Why? Ultimately, it’s about the company doing well, because if the company does well, the stylist will be more successful. All of that hard work will have been worth it, and both parties will reap the benefits. Finding people who innately share this perspective is not the easiest thing, especially in a sales-type role, so that’s why the trial period is so important. This quality, if lacking, will reveal itself at that point.

4. Encouraging personal brands to develop

From day one, stylists are encouraged to build a vibrant personal brand. The company is keen on the individual thriving, as it enables the business as a whole to expand its reach. Stylists really get to know every aspect of a member’s life, whether it’s where they work and where they play or the type of events they’ll be attending in the near future. This way, they can make tailored recommendations and outfit members for every occasion. In addition, stylists can give the member’s family tips on what to buy them as a gift since the stylists know them inside and out (and in some cases, better than the family members themselves!). This is why the interview process screens for those people who are stellar at engaging people and developing long-lasting relationships.

5. Promoting from within

This is a big aspect of the stylist culture, and it all stems from having trust in one another – trust that each new hire will carry out the Trunk Club philosophy and do the best job they can for the better of everyone around them. As such, some of those who started out as stylists are now running individual clubhouse locations! Trunk Club emphasizes that any career trajectory is possible – all it takes is hard work and dedication, which are traits that are assessed during the stylist hiring process. Trunk Club believes that those who have worked their way up and have thus seen the business from every angle are the best suited for management positions because they truly understand both the high points and the challenges of being a stylist, the foundation of the business. This is why so much effort goes into hiring and onboarding process, to ensure that if they’re going to invest that much in the talent, that the talent will hopefully stick around and continue applying their skills to benefit Trunk Club for the long-term.

Clearly, Trunk Club goes to great lengths to find the right people for the job and then prepare them to do great work in order to give customers a high-quality experience and help propel the company to the next level. This is the essence of Trunk Club’s philosophy: Give employees what they need to succeed and the company will thrive.

To read other companies innovating their hiring practices, check out the Greenhouse customer stories.

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