Natalie Massenet’s 8 tips on navigating your career and being an entrepreneur

First published at Vogue

Written by Zara Wong

The e-commerce entrepreneur’s resume is long – model, receptionist, fashion editor and writer – and now one of the most influential people in the fashion industry. Here, she speaks to Vogue about some important things to remember.

Have an idea of where you want to go

A favourite book of Natalie Massenet’s is Creative Visualisation. “You can’t get to where you want to be without knowing where that is,” says Massenet – even if she didn’t envision e-commerce exactly, she had an idea of what she wanted her career to be like. Before reading the book, she describes herself as “unemployed, confused and soul-searching.” After reading the book: “it changed everything and I really feel it helped me get to this place. It was a very powerful tool, and you imagine something and then you believe it’s already happened with every cell in your being and the universe conspires with you, and as long as you start doing the work, it seems to happen.”

Know when to trust yourself

Before starting Net-A-Porter, Massenet came up with other business ideas including a line of luxury candles and gourmet coffee shops – ideas that her friends advised against. “My friends talked me out of it and I was like, ‘Yeah, maybe you’re right. What do I know?’ The fact that those ideas became important over the next 10 years, I had a bit more confidence in my ideas.”

Have some confidence in yourself, too

“My father always said, ‘Never be afraid of what’s on the other side of the mountain,’” says Massenet warmly. “He filled me with this amazing confidence and used to say that you should never show fear to children and always show them optimism.”

Make your decision – and move on

“I know what I want. I walk into a showroom and go ‘This, this, this and this.’ I meet people and know what I think. I’m always the first person to order at the restaurant. I’m not someone who dwells on things if I make a mistake. I don’t dwell on decisions too much.” And when making a mistake in one’s career, be sure not to dwell on them either. “It’s how you learn.”

Always put in the hard work – whatever your position

After graduating from UCLA she worked as a receptionist for the film director and producer John Hughes. She admits that she didn’t take the job as seriously as she could have, and learnt her lesson by putting in the hard yards later on in her career. “Now I have so much respect for receptionists because my attitude as a receptionist was really poor. At best, I would doodle. At my worst, as soon as everyone came back from lunch, I would clear my desk and sleep,” she remembers (see, even Massenet had her career failings). “My boss at the time gave my first review and said I wasn’t motivated and I couldn’t believe that he said that! Of course now, I realise that I could have made that much more of an opportunity than I did. That’s my advice – just because you are making the coffee in the backroom, doesn’t mean you can’t get noticed. You need to have the right attitude.”

If you’re good at coming up with lots of ideas, learn how to focus do one thing really well

“I’m an ideas person, and it’s dangerous, I need to just park them!” she admits, though she divulges that these personality traits are what a lot of entrepreneurs have. “One of the drawbacks is you start a lot of things, get a lot of balls in the air and you just have to stop and re-focus.” When asked about whether Net-A-Porter will expand beyond fashion to say, lifestyle, she’s adamant that they will remain in the fashion category. “Focusing on fashion, just doing one thing really well is my goal.”

Continue to push yourself

While Net-A-Porter is the international success story of e-commerce, Massenet strives to innovate and evolve, with the launch of the app, The Net Set, just this year. “I don’t want to look back and say, ‘Oh, that was a really fun ride, Net-A-Porter has a really good place in the history books. I want Net-A-Porter to help write the history books. I think the team here really shares the view that we built something that was pretty disruptive in 1999 but we need to remember that the customer is moving on at the speed of light and multiplying and dividing like gremlins, and we could be disrupted.”


Tagged: 8 tips to be an entrepreneurNatalie MassenetVogue