Women-Run Startup Bulletin is Out to Reinvent Retail—And It’s Nasty

Bulletin cofounders Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston. Courtesy of Seth Caplan
Bulletin cofounders Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston. Courtesy of Seth Caplan

Brooklyn-based startup Bulletin is intent on finding the very coolest stuff on the internet, and curating it for people like us who just don’t have time for that—while giving emerging brands a lean way into the retail space. “We wanted to reinvent the way stores work, and make it easier for cool new brands to access physical retail space without schlepping through the crazy maze that is consignment and wholesale,” explains co-founder Ali Kriegsman.

Here’s how it works: brands pay a flat fee to sell their wares in Bulletin’s physical locations, which they can also use for activations, brand launch parties, workshops, and other events. “We believe community is central to the future of retail, where people go to brick and mortar to shop, but also to learn, connect and interact,” says other-co-founder Alana Branston.

This brick-and-mortar commerce is supported by an online shop, with products grouped by theme or buyer segment. Bulletin Broads, for example, is a female collective that hosts 40 brands that make sassy, woman-power swag. “Think pussy pins, pithy tees, feminists zines,” Kriegsman summarizes. Bestsellers include a daggered heart pin that reads “Don’t tell me to smile” and “The future is nasty” postcards—not to mention this magazine.

How do you deal with the constant sense of urgency that comes with being entrepreneurs?

Alana Branston: We talk about this all the time. We think when you have a good team, a product you believe in and a company you care about, the urgency doesn’t feel stressful or anxiety-laden—it feels fun and exciting. The urgency drives us but it doesn’t leave us pulling our hair out. The two of us could be doing some ridiculous task like building out one of our stores in under five days, but we can laugh through it and have a good time.

Ali Kriegsman: I think we both really do believe in work-life balance as well. We know how important it is to recharge, have a weekend, take a trip, and we want our employees to value those things, too.

How have you grown, both as entrepreneurs and personally, as you’ve grown your business?

Ali Kriegsman: We began working together on the initial version of Bulletin, which was a shoppable magazine where readers could learn about the coolest new small brands and buy their products. Alana has always loved working with small brands and I loved to write, so we just began chipping away at Bulletin as a side project. Not to say we didn’t take it seriously, but at the time it was just a nice, fun escape while we slaved away at our full-time tech jobs.

“That shift really challenged us to take the business seriously, because we saw that we could potentially change an entire industry.”

But when we eventually retooled the business to focus on physical retail and created our rent-share model for brick-and-mortar, we saw that we had a strong, viable business model on our hands. Small brands were very eager to pay a flat fee for square footage. We booked out our first space in under 10 days. That shift really challenged us to take the business seriously, because we saw that we could potentially change an entire industry. Now we’re both almost now manically fixated on scaling the elements of our business that are working well.

Alana Branston: I think we’ve personally become a lot tougher, too. When you are running your own show, you have to learn to stand up for yourself and push for what you want. Now that we run a company where we’ve had to pitch investors, negotiate real estate deals, hire people, fire people, build partnerships…There have been so many instances where people underestimate us, try to take advantage of us, or just undermine what we’re doing. We’ve have to learn to put ourselves out there and stand up for our business, because quite literally no one else will. We’ve become more fearless and bold.

How do you leverage your influence and leadership to create a wider movement of change?

Ali Kriegsman: I think a good example of our effort to leverage our stores and influence change is Bulletin Broads, our Brooklyn store. We were inspired to create Bulletin Broads as a direct response to the current political climate. We curated 40 of our favorite female-run brands and facilitated a rent share for them in the heart of Williamsburg. We think of Broads as both a store and feminist brand collective where these entrepreneurs can meet, do events, and create a little hub of resistance against our administration and the state of reproductive rights, equal pay, and more.

Alana Branston: We didn’t just want to open a new concept store and sell a ton of product. We wanted those sales to mean something greater. So we quickly decided to collaborate with Planned Parenthood. Ten percent of all store sales go directly to clinics around New York City.

Ali Kriegsman: We’re working on our second Bulletin Broads store as we speak, and are on the hunt for an amazing location with just as much exposure. We think there is a lot of power in physical space and physical retail if done right, and we’d love nothing more than to leverage that power for good.

We’re so glad you’re with us. We’re a community of women who are changing women’s media. That’s no small task. But because you’re here, we know that you care, too. For us to keep doing what we do, we need your support. So we can keep printing, posting and furthering our mission. With you.
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