Fab.com And Why Failing Isn’t Always Failure

This past November, I clicked my first Facebook ad. It was for animal butt magnets and it was one of the best choices I ever made – not only because they were a great Christmas present for my mom, but because it introduced me to Fab.com.

The Company

For the unfamiliar, Fab.com is a flash sale website founded by Jason Goldberg and Bradford Shellhammer that offers daily design inspirations and sales at up to 70% off retail. Just to give you an idea of what they’re about, their core beliefs statement is this:

Fab.com is design • Everyone, everywhere can benefit from good design • Exceptional customer experience is our most valuable design • Behind every great design is an even greater story • Our team is designed for success • We’re on a mission to be the world’s most valuable design resource • Smile (you’re designed to).

The company does a lot of things right. First of all, they negotiate a price with suppliers up front, so they’re able to offer the greatest discount to customers without screwing the designers and suppliers who create and sell the products. Second of all, orders made through Fab.com are shipped straight from the supplier. Fab doesn’t pre-purchase its products, so it doesn’t have any inventory risks. And third of all, their stuff is distinctive and unique.

It’s a good model. Plain and simple. There are ton of business-y lessons here — an especially big one in the fact that Fab can trace more than 50 percent of its initial growth to social sharing. (And it has a great customer service team accessible through social media, too.) But that’s not the point of this post.

I want to talk about Fab’s story before all that. Because every brand has a story that makes their product or service that much more special.

The Story

Fab.com didn’t start out as Fab.com. It started out as Fabulis, a gay social network. According to a story on Fab published by Forbes:

The site had attracted 50,000 members in its first three months, only to plateau nine months later at 130,000 members— 30,000 of them active.

The market had shifted. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and Glee and Lady Gaga all made ‘gay’ more mainstream,” says Goldberg, 39. “That ‘de-ghettoization’ of gay people worked against us.”

But, instead of apologizing to investors and shutting everything down, they took a critical look at their company and made a change for the better. They had added a hugely popular “Gay Deal of the Day” flash sale section to Fabulis that was an instant hit for both gay and straight consumers. So they capitalized on that success. And the rest is history. Fab.com sits at more than three million users after just under 10 months of existence.

The Point

The take away is that when you’re trying something new, there will always be good things and bad things, hits and misses. So go with what works and scrap the rest. It’ll be tough to accept that something you believed in didn’t work out. And it’ll be really tough to scrap tens of thousands of lines of code and start from scratch.

But remember: Success comes disguised as many different things. And just because something fails, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. 

(Photo credit)

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