Entrepreneurship: Victoria’s Secret Case Study

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Victoria’s Secret (VS) is an American venture that is mainly focused on designing, manufacturing and marketing the premium lingerie for women, as well as producing women’s wear, accessories and beauty products. In 2016, net sales of Victoria’s Secret worldwide amounted to about 7,78 billion dollars (Statista 2017). The number of stores equals to 1,177 worldwide with the selling square feet of 7,577,000 (L Brands 2017). This data indicates that VS is one of the most successful lingerie producing company in the world today.

The Early Years

The history of Victoria’s Secret is usually divided into two periods in accordance with two owners on board: Roy Raymond and Leslie (Les) H. Wexner. We are going to cover both periods because if analysed from the point of Timmons model, they both are interesting for our case study and can be used to pinpoint the key lessons for a nascent entrepreneur to learn.

Roy Raymond

Roy Raymond founded Victoria’s Secret on June 12, 1977 (FMD 2017). It all started on the day when he visited a local department store with an idea to buy some lingerie as a gift for his wife. He was extremely disappointed to find “racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns,” let alone that he felt like an “unwelcome intruder” because of the saleswomen’ side glances (Newhall 1981, 52). His embarrassment resulted in an idea to create a men-oriented shop where the latter could peacefully purchase lingerie for their wives or girlfriends (Gutsche 2015, 11). According to Timmons model, the venture appears when an entrepreneur finds the opportunity, “not money, not strategy, not networks, not the team, not the business plan” (Arienclairediego 2012). Raymond found this opportunity: he realised that there was a blank in the market in this sphere and decided to create a friendly shop for men to feel comfortable while buying lingerie for their partners. Thus, we have the first component of the Timmons model: opportunity.

After the incident in a department store, Raymond spent eight years studying lingerie and searching for resources and eventually borrowed 80,000 dollars from a bank and his parents to establish the first store (Revolvy 2017). He decided to make it a fashionable place with exclusive lingerie that was completely different from what he had seen eight years before in a department store. Raymond called it “Victoria” because wanted it to be associated with Queen Victoria of the UK and the elegancy of the Victorian era. The “Secret” was supposed to mean the underwear which is hidden underneath the clothes as a secret. As a result, Victoria’s Secret brought him 500,000 dollars after its first year. This amount of money was enough to expand business and open more stores of the brand that eventually brought him millions of dollars. (Revolvy 2017). Thus, we can witness how the founder gathered the required resources: the first time he borrowed the money, and the second time he used the corporate income to invest in the prospering business. It demonstrates how the amount of resources depends on the market needs: once the people’s interest and demands raised, the demand for financial resources also increased.

Speaking of team, Raymond did not have any that the world knows about. He founded Victoria’s Secret with his wife Gaye Raymond who, seemingly, played the role of a counsellor (Revolvy 2017). There are no sources that would mention or describe Victoria’s Secret first team. This fact allows assuming that Raymond preferred to control the business by himself. Probably that is why Victoria’s Secret began moving towards bankruptcy despite its initial success. Experts claim that companies with strong and creative management teams are “more likely to achieve innovation” (Zeng et al. 2011, 213). It turned out that innovation was exactly what Raymond needed. While marketing to men, he did not see the new opportunity: marketing to women who turned out to buy most lingerie (Gutsche 2015, 11). This is an example of how entrepreneur did not have the team, which would have helped him to find the new opportunity and to keep all elements of the Timmons model in balance: opportunity, team, and sources.

Strategy Change

What I worry about is a fear that you won’t have the idea or that you have figured it out wrong” – Les Wexner (Alexander 2014).

Les Wexner was the one who purchased Victoria’s Secret in 1982. Within several months, a new management team changed everything from stores to catalogues. To make it appealing to women, they reimagined brand, style, colours, shapes, which “worked like a charm” resulting in a “$6 billion megabrand” thirty years later (Gutsche 2015, 11).

Les Wexner

Les H. Wexner was born in the family of middle-class retailers in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio State University majoring in business administration (Hecht 2013). He started attending law school but dropped it to help his parents in a small family store and quickly understood that he was capable of managing the business better than his father. Soon, Wexner received a $5,000 loan and opened a store with a limited collection of pants and shirts solely because these items were the most popular among customers, from Wexner’s perspective. He was right (Alexander 2014). He named the store The Limited, which turned into L Brands and now sells over “$12 billion worth of lingerie, soaps and candles annually” in over 3,000 stores all over the globe (Forbes 2017).

When Les Wexner bought Victoria’s Secret for $1 million, he had a vision and understood that lingerie is the product meant for women to buy and made them the target audience. This is called opportunity if analysed from the point of Timmons model. Wexner evaluated the opportunity by assuming that women went shopping much more often than men and made a show out of it. He “lifted lingerie out of the red-light district, launched it onto the runway, and landed it right into the underwear drawers of mainstream America” (Adler 2010). Gaye, Roy Raymond’s former wife later admitted that “Roy just didn’t get that piece, there weren’t a lot of stringent limits and boundaries on spending or planning” (Alexander 2014). This is an example of how opportunity works even for an experienced entrepreneur.

By the moment of purchasing Victoria’s Secret, L Brands was already a successful company. Thus, gathering resources in terms of money was not that necessary. What was necessary is the resources by which a company could draw the public attention. It is agreed that Victoria’s Secret’s goal is “to be the physical manifestation of fantasies and dreams” (Zillman 2015). That is why managers often redesign VS shops and collections to meet the demands and interests of women. Wexner says: “You never figure out what interests them; they’re always changing” (Zillman 2015). By this example, he demonstrates how important it is to follow the market as it “keeps changing constantly” (Arienclairediego 2012).

Raymond’s example showed that team is important for a venture. According to Timmons model, an excellent team is “a major factor of business success” (Arienclairediego 2012). After Howard Gross had been appointed a VS president (The New York Times 1985), the brand became the leading chain of lingerie stores across the US (Belkin 1986). Grace Nichols, and Sharen Jester Turney, the following CEOs of Victoria’s Secret, also contributed to the company success by resolving problems with quality and changing the style of products (Strom 1993). By the success that Victoria’s Secret owns now, Wexner demonstrated how important it is to build a strong team.

The examined examples of Victoria’s Secret management demonstrate that Timmons model of the entrepreneurial process can serve as a manual for nascent entrepreneurs. It contains the key components ensuring the success of a venture. To be precise, it is the entrepreneur who ensures the success of a venture by carefully balancing the essential factors: opportunity, resources, and team. These components are dynamic, they are always “in motion, expanding and contracting as the environment and opportunity change” (Arienclairediego 2012). The case study showed that if the entrepreneur fails to balance each of the components the venture will fall sooner or later (Raymond example). Alternatively, if entrepreneur succeeds in controlling those elements, the venture is likely to flourish (Wexner example).

Conclusion: Key Lessons

The analysis of Victoria’s Secret venture during two periods of its existence allowed to pinpoint the key lessons for a nascent entrepreneur to learn. Those lessons are essential if one is eager to become a professional and prosperous business person. They are based on the key components of Timmons entrepreneurial process model (opportunity, resources, and team) and can serve as recommendations for a business person.

  1. Opportunity is the starting point of any venture. It is crucial to understand that a good idea is not always a good business opportunity. One should always assess the demands and needs of the market, and, by doing that, assess the potential of the idea, which is the opportunity.
  2. The entrepreneur is responsible for gathering a strong team which is an integral part of the venture success. The team, in its turn, is responsible for picking good ideas among bad ones depending on their potential in the market. However, in the case of team’s failure, the entrepreneur remains responsible since it is his or her job to keep the team on the right track.
  3. The market is a changing environment that demands constant monitoring by the management team. Once the interests of the target market change, the products of the company should change accordingly.
  4. There is no need to have an exceeded amount of resources when starting a venture. It is enough to have as much as the venture requires to produce the goods corresponding with the demands of the market at a given moment.
  5. It is essential for an entrepreneur to balance between opportunity, team, and resources. These are three crucial components that are indispensable for the venture success. If the entrepreneur fails to control them, the company is likely to fall.

The key recommendations are interconnected and are to be followed simultaneously.


Adler, Carlye. 2010. “Victoria’s Secret’s Secret.” Newsweek, Web.

Alexander, Dan. 2014. “Victoria’s Other Secret: The Low-Key Billionaire Behind the Lingerie Giant.” Forbes, Web.

Arienclairediego. 2012. ““TIMMONS” Model of the Entrepreneurial Process.” Arienclairediego. Web.

Belkin, Lisa. 1986. “Lingerie’s Great Leap Forward.” The New York Times, Web.

FMD. 2017. “Victoria’s Secret.” FMD. Web.

Forbes. 2017. “Les Wexner & family.” Forbes. Web.

Gutsche, Jeremy. 2015. Better and Faster. The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas. New York: Crown Business.

Hecht, Albert. 2013. “Leslie Wexner Makes a $100 Million Donation to Ohio State University.” Jewish Business News, Web.

L Brands. 2017. “Victoria’s Secret.” L Brands. Web.

Newhall, Emily. 1981. “A Catalog-Business Boom.” Newsweek, Web.

Statista. 2017. “Net Sales of Victoria’s Secret Worldwide from 2010 to 2016 (in Million U.S. Dollars).” Statista. Web.

Strom, Stephanie. 1993. “Profile: Grace Nichols; When Victoria’s Secret Faltered, She Was Quick to Fix It.” The New York Times, November 21. Web.

The New York Times. 1985. “Lerner Stores’ New President.” The New York Times, Web.

Zeng, Fan‐qi, Xiang‐zhi Bu, and Li Su. “Study on Entrepreneurial Process Model for SIFE Student Team Based on Timmons Model.” Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship 3, no. 3 (2011): 204-214.

Zillman, Claire. 2015. “The Longest-Serving Fortune 500 CEO is a bra salesman.” Fortune, Web.

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BusinessEssay. "Entrepreneurship: Victoria’s Secret Case Study." January 16, 2022. https://business-essay.com/entrepreneurship-victorias-secret-case-study/.