The first sentence in a Wikipedia entry for Fred Mossler includes the terms “business executive,” “fashion guru” and “philanthropist.” He has also been called a customer experience expert, digital visionary and serial entrepreneur.
But it is Mossler’s humble roots in rural California that keep this wildly successful “original shoe guy” of Zappos.com grounded.
Mossler was by all accounts a typical college student. He attended classes and worked in a local shoe store. When he graduated from SOU in 1990, Mossler moved to Seattle and began working at Nordstrom, where he learned the art of customer service and nurtured his penchant for fashion. From Seattle, Mossler moved to San Francisco, where he became a merchandise buyer for the company.
Mossler was approached by Shoesite.com founder Nick Swinmurn in 1999 to join a budding venture. Swinmurn had secured enough capital to launch one of the nation’s first online shoe retailers, but he needed someone with fashion sensibility and a proven background in customer service. That was Fred Mossler.
Although the name Shoesite.com didn’t last, the company made an important impact on the online retail industry. Shoesite.com was replaced by the name Zappos.com within several months of the launch so the company would have the flexibility to sell more than shoes.
First-year sales were minimal, but sales in 2000 reached $1.6 million. By 2009, when it was acquired by Amazon, Zappos.com had more than $1 billion in sales.
As head of the day-to-day operations at the company, Mossler was at the epicenter. His assignments during 17 years with the company included merchandising, logistics and customer care. He also drove great innovation that included many groundbreaking e-commerce and customer experience moves, such as responsive, highly-personal service and free returns that set a new standard in the e-commerce industry.
At Zappos, Mossler helped build the company’s culture into a competitive differentiator. The 4 C’s: Culture, Clothing, Customer Service and Community were the foundation of a quality experience for all employees and customers.
Zappos made its debut on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list in 2009, making the list again in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Much of the reason for Zappos’ appearance on the Fortune list was an unrelenting focus on building a company culture that valued its employees and their lives.
“My whole focus was to help bring people in at entry levels and help them develop skills that made them more valuable employees and more valuable people in their communities and in the world,” Mossler said. “I’ve tried to do that in all my work, and it was at SOU that I realized that was something I really loved to do.”
Mossler credits SOU with giving him a strong academic foundation and the confidence to follow his business instincts and dive into new ventures.
“My time at SOU absolutely helped shape my career path,” he said. “SOU gave me the confidence to pursue a career in the business world, and my experience as an RA in the residence halls taught me some valuable lessons in terms of managing people.
“I’ve built my business career on management, and a lot of the skills I apply in management I learned as a residence hall director.”
Mossler stepped away from Zappos in 2016 to focus on other entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures. Along with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, Mossler is setting out to revitalize downtown Las Vegas. And he has been a major player in producing the Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival, which brings music, culinary and art into the revitalized downtown area each year.
Additionally, Mossler and a former Zappos executive have launched an upscale, après ski-inspired shoe brand called Ross & Snow. Mossler also produced the 2018 film “Viena and the Fantomes” featuring Dakota Fanning.
But perhaps Mossler’s most intriguing venture is that of restaurateur. Mossler and several partners opened Nacho Daddy in Las Vegas in 2010. With four locations, Nacho Daddy has its signature scorpion shot, but it does something even more unique. It donates a portion of every entre purchased to a child in need.
Since 2016, Nacho Daddy has contributed some 250,000 meals through Three Square, Southern Nevada’s only food bank.
Mossler’s philanthropic work extends to the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, where he is an honorary director. Goodie Two Shoes provides children in crisis with new shoes and socks, and other essential items to ensure good health and positive development.
Looking back, Mossler said that a strong sense of community led to his active involvement while on the SOU campus. In addition to his residence hall work, he played intramural sports and helped organize campus fundraisers.
“My advice to students is to get involved,” he said. “SOU provides a great entrepreneurial environment. It gives students freedom to create and learn and pursue their interests.
“I was deeply involved in campus life and those experiences were priceless.”
Reposted from the Fall 2018 issue of The Raider, SOU’s Alumni Association magazine