Every day, the website AHAlife delivers unique products from categories like fashion, food, beauty, accessories, home décor, tech and travel experiences right to your inbox. The site exudes “tastemaker status“, pairing a glossy editorial vibe with celebrity curators including Tim Gunn, DVF, Carmindy, Wendi Murdoch, Daniel Boulud, Bobbi Brown, Petra Nemcova, Cynthia Rowley, and Tina Brown in an attempt to cut through the noise in the online fashion world.
Today, the New York City based e-commerce company is officially launching international shipping to 106 countries, targeting cities like Mumbai, Beijing, Mexico City and Sao Paolo and accepting 42 major currencies. To celebrate, it’s donned a tasteful online makeover featuring vertically stacked “shelves” of products.
AHAlife’s founder and CEO Shauna Mei is anything but unimpressive. She was born in Inner Mongolia, raised in China and moved to the US shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre. The 28-year-old entrepreneur (who was mentioned in our epic run down of NYC’s tech scene) studied computer science and electrical engineering at MIT and upon graduation, went to work at Goldman Sachs, where she worked on the sale of Neiman Marcus.
After Goldman, she co-founded a luxury investment boutique with Jeffrey Aronsson, (the former CEO of Marc Jacobs), Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta. However, when the recent recession began, Mei decided to move to Stockholm, where she studied design and ran the Swedish activewear brand Casall. Not long after, Mei returned to New York and launched AHAlife in fall 2010 during NYC’s fashion week.
AHAlife’s vibe is similar to other fashion sites we love like Of A Kind and Svvply with a mission to provide a curated experience of the best lifestyle products from all over the world where the consumer can come, discover, learn about and seamlessly purchase what AHAlife’s tastemakers love.
Why do I love AHAlife? I don’t know many other online boutiques that showcase Chinese inspired vases, high end make up, charitable gifts and Jimmy Jane vibrators all on their front page. It’s the wide selection of “things I want to own” that keeps me coming back, even if it’s just to window shop.
Unlike discount giant Gilt (where this starving writer admittedly does a lot of online shopping), AHAlife.com’s full price, full value business model has (unsurprisingly) received a fair amount of acclaim from industry insiders. “I do not believe true luxury goes on sale and niche brands are finally starting to realize the damage flash sales and heavy discounts can do to their business,” says Mei. “It was my mission to create a sustainable platform to not only sell unique crafts of artisans and designers from all over the world but also to tell their story. I am excited to be able to deliver to a global audience of intelligent, sophisticated consumers.”
The company is backed by DCM, FirstMark Capital, and a few prominent leaders in media and commerce. The company also recently announced the addition of wellness expert, Deepak Chopra, to its board of directors as well as the opening of an offline boutique in Beverly Hills (an unusual move for an online retailer).