An exclusive inside lookDallas Business Journal November 5, 2015
Last year, when real estate developer Chad Cook bought The Centrum, a 19-story office, residential and retail tower in Oak Lawn, he envisioned turning the fading building into a home for Dallas’ “most forward-thinking and fresh-minded entrepreneurs.”
And now it looks like his strategy may be succeeding. Fashion startup rewardStyle, founded in 2011 from an apartment in Mockingbird Station, just moved into 32,000 square feet on the 8th and 9th floors of The Centrum from 8,900 square feet in Travis Walk.
RewardStyle developed technology to help fashion bloggers make money and says it has driven more than $1 billion in sales to retailers since it launched. The system it created tracks customer migration to retail sites and pays commissions from retailers to its blogger influencers.
Cook says he went after rewardStyle founders Amber Venz Box, 28, and Baxter Box, 33, because they were just the kind of young Dallas entrepreneurs he is designing the space to attract.
“It’s validating to see rewardStyle come to our 1980s building, for them to understand our vision and trust us that we could develop their interior space,” Cook said.
A rendering shows the new exterior for The Centrum in Oak Lawn, a 1980s building getting a $25 million redo from owner Quadrant Investment Properties of Dallas.
RewardStyle now employs 185 people, 125 of them locally, and that number continues to grow.
“We get offers to move the company headquarters to other cities all the time, but we’re dedicated to staying in Dallas,” said Baxter Box. RewardStyle already has offices in London and San Francisco and this year added New York and Shanghai.
The Centrum was bought by Cook’s Dallas-based Quadrant Investment Properties in February 2015. The property on Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue stands out for its stair-stepping roof. When the 400,000-square-foot building was completed in 1987, it was one of the first new mixed-use projects in Dallas and was deemed the symbol of the “new Oak Lawn.”
But it got old, and to compete with Uptown’s real estate boom, The Centrum is getting a $25 million redo. It’s a massive undertaking, Cook said, with a new façade, lobby, courtyard and other amenities, including much-coveted parking. Some fixes are simpler. To start with, he had the dark dingy, lower level parking garage painted white and added bright lighting. Cook is adding a fitness center and creating outdoor usable space in a center court.
Amber Venz Box is the creative vision behind rewardStyle, and Baxter Box is an engineer and already had experience in early-stage startups. She worked with architects to create the new work space that’s clean and uncluttered in black and white with marble, leather and acrylic furniture.
A staircase in the middle of the two floors connects the offices that have floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Boxes are hoping their new office reflects the growing influence of the company.
It has a network of more than 9,000 bloggers from around the world that must apply to be among the 10 percent that it accepts. More than 4,000 retailers are part of its network that includes a range from Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom to Wal-Mart and Target. Hundreds of their bloggers make a living wage from rewardSyle, said Baxter Box. “Payments to bloggers are no different than a sales clerk earning a commission at Nordstrom for selling you a pair of shoes,” Venz Box said.
Last year, rewardStyle received $15 million in new financing that valued the company at $290 million.
New York-based Maverick Capital Ventures led investors that include some who are helping the brand grow internationally: Miroslava Duma, a Russian entrepreneur who created Buro 24/7, a successful digital fashion and lifestyle magazine, and Russian fashion influencer Nasiba Adilova, who lives in Dallas.
RewardStyle investor Veronica Chou is part of one of China’s most famous fashion families. Her father, Silas Chou, was an investor in Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger before they went public. Her grandfather created the world’s largest apparel manufacturers. China is already more than 10 percent of rewardStyle’s business.
Amber Venz Box still writes her Venzedits blog that inspired the couple to build their business. In 2014, the company created the first social shopping service for Instagram called LiketoKnow.it.
Jeff Eiting, vice president at the Dallas office CBRE’s technology and media practice, represented rewardStyle in their search for new space.
“What ultimately led us to this building is what Chad [Cook] is doing to it,” Eiting said. “He’s redoing everything about it, including adding a Wi-Fi system that keeps you connected from your office to the elevator and into the courtyard.”
“Dallas doesn’t have many properties that have all these amenities that he’s adding,” Eiting said, “but there are going to be more.”
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