INNOVATOR: Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, founder of GILT

VIDEO: Nina Terrero and Alessandra Hickson

Raised in New York City, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson is the co-founder and Head of Strategic Alliances of GILT Groupe, a luxury e-commerce website. Wilkis Wilson worked at Bulgari, overseeing 15 American stores, and also managed Leather Goods Sales for Louis Vuitton North America. With 12 years of luxury retail experience, Wilkis Wilson took the luxury online market by storm with GILT Groupe, bringing the excitement of a New York City sample sale online for millions of shoppers around the world. Wilkis Wilson is also incredibly philanthropic, working with non-profits including: Dress for Success, Endeavor Global, Robin Hood Foundation, the New York Junior League and El Museo del Barrio.

IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION: My mother is Cuban and a teacher, as was my grandmother, so education was always very important at home. We always had standards for grades and my brother and I were held to the highest standard.

FIRST PAYING JOB: My first paying job, which I was so excited to have, was when I was 14-years-old in Miami. I actually worked in the Planet Hollywood boutique in Coconut Grove, which was actually a lot of fun. I had to use a lot of languages. I speak Spanish, of course, Portuguese, French and I could basically sell the ugliest t-shirt you can imagine to anyone who walked through that door. 

MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?: The most treasured possession that I have are probably photos of special experiences in my life. It’s nice that photography is now digitized so I don’t lose track of any photos taken. But I love photography; my house is filled with pictures. Nothing replaces a memory.

WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT YOU’RE TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN?: I come from a bicultural background. It’s important for me to encourage my children to respect people from all backgrounds, not to be judgmental and to always be tolerant and open-minded to people who are different.

FAVORITE FOOD: I love Cuban food! So every time I get off the plane in Miami my first stop is almost always Versailles. And my son loves Cuban food as well. Everything from croquetas to vaca frita to frijoles negros. And I love Cuban coffee!

IF YOU COULDN’T DO WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING, WHAT WOULD YOU DO: If I could do anything in the world, I would probably continue in an area I was pretty good at as a child. I would go back to piano. I used to be a talented pianist and by the time I got to college I started to get distracted with all the amazing things that happen in college. But I do miss my days of playing piano.

YOUR MOTTO: One thing I say a lot to my team at GILT is, “If you don’t ask, then you don’t get.” So I think you really have to go for it. You can’t assume good things are going to fall into your lap. You have to ask for opportunities. And in our world, we’re negotiating every single day. And so, as I say to my team, “If you don’t ask, then you don’t get.”

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