Jyothi Rao is the President of INTERMIX, having taken over leadership of the company from the fashion brand’s co-founders in 2014. Her path to this point is a wonderful story of pure perseverance: Raised in Africa, India and Europe, she immigrated to the United States as a young adult. After working her way through college in Texas, she got a job at Gap Inc., and climbed the corporate ladder for 16 years, growing Gap and Banana Republic both domestically and internationally. She went on to hold executive positions at Calvin Klein and Gilt Groupe, and along the way also took on the title of Mom—her daughter Lily, is now 8. Here’s a little bit more about Jyothi, INTERMIX, and her busy life as a working mom.
How would you describe Intermix for those who aren’t yet familiar?
INTERMIX is a destination for the best fashion edit of the season; the most relevant trends, discovery of new designers and complimentary styling services customized to your personal taste. As President, my role at its core is to offer services that enable women to do it all with style.
What separates Intermix from other fashion-forward brands?
At INTERMIX, we take the hard work out of the shopping experience and curate a selection of clothing and accessories that fit into the busy lives women lead today. We offer on trend products that are versatile and we help you pull it all together with the help of our stylists.
What gets you most excited about your job?
I love visiting our boutiques nationwide, meeting our customers and team and learning how we can provide the best experience possible for them. I’m fortunate to work with a passionate and talented team of women and men who are endlessly inspiring!
What is the biggest challenge that you face at work—and at home?
Having the discipline to effectively distribute my time to the work that adds the most value to our customer, business and to my family. We have 36 boutiques, a rapidly growing e-commerce business, over 300 brands and 500 employees so it can be quite the juggling act! I also have an active and bright 8-year-old daughter who keeps me on my toes. My life is full is in all the best of ways!
How has your diverse background prepared you for this role?
I am a very adaptable person and enjoy change which is useful when you’re running a business in a fast-moving and evolving industry. Having lived in different cultures, I easily embrace diversity and I am very proud of the diverse team we have at INTERMIX.
Can you tell us a bit about the women’s initiatives you’re working on at INTERMIX?
At INTERMIX, we have so many wonderful women shopping with us and we are committed to supporting them and the communities we operate in. We support over 100 charities annually through localized events. In March we created an exclusive capsule collection for International Women’s Day, designed by some of our very talented women designers and donated a portion of the proceeds to charity. This month, in celebration of Mother’s Day we are co-hosting events with our customers in most of our boutiques supporting local charities that they are passionate about, ranging from the Women’s Sports Foundation to the Breast & Ovarian Health Organization.
So amazing! What are the key lessons you’ve taken with you from your various positions?
Invest the time in learning the foundational skills needed in your profession, work hard, take risks, think big, have integrity and value relationships.
Do you have any mentors who have inspired you?
My father was my first mentor; a man who grew up with little means and was able to become a successful entrepreneur. He instilled a strong work ethic and unwavering integrity in my approach to business. I have been fortunate to have worked with some remarkable people in my career, from Mickey Drexler (from whom I learned everything I know about merchandising) to Maureen Chiquet (who taught me to be agile and never to stop improving your product) and so many more people who taught me about creativity, risk-taking and leadership.
What’s your “mom uniform”?
I like to mix it up but my go to work uniform is typically jeans (Mother, L’Agence or Frame), a versatile blouse (INTERMIX label), a blazer (Balmain, Blaze Milano or Veronica Beard) and a pair of high heels (Jimmy Choo, or Alexandre Birman). On the weekends, I live in my Golden Goose sneakers during the day and a statement dress for nights out (Alexis, Jonathan Simkhai, Zimmermann, Saloni—so much to choose from!).
What is your typical day like—or is there one?
Every day is different, which is what makes life fun and interesting! I’m up at 5:30AM on mornings that I have my trainer and my day is action-packed from the minute I’m up; I get our daughter, Lily, out of bed and ready to leave for school on time (my husband takes her to school in the mornings), followed by a breakfast meeting either to meet talent or network in the industry and then I get to the office around 9:30AM. My day is split between internal meetings with various departments such as creative, real estate, ecommerce, finance, and external meetings with the designers and brand partners with whom we work very closely. I don’t commit to more than two after work events each week and I’m usually home to hear about Lily’s day and put her to bed.
Sounds busy but under control! How do you find balance as a working mom?
I make up for not being able to do school drop off and pick up by making sure I attend all important school and after school events—the most recent ones being Lily’s second grade “circus” performance and a piano recital. I also plan long weekends out of town and fun vacations to exciting destinations—we were recently in Tulum, Mexico, celebrating my birthday. When I’m at work, I’m all in and when I’m with my family, I’m present and try to make our time together count. I also have a very supportive husband who has a more flexible work schedule so he takes on a lot of the responsibility of organizing fun activities for our family—he’s our camp director!
An involved spouse is so key. How do you deal with “mom guilt”?
Like most mothers, I see my daughter growing up so fast and wish I could have more time with her, but I know that it’s quality not quantity that matters. I have worked her entire life and we still have a very close relationship and I hope that my experience helps her feel like she can achieve anything in life.
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