women to watch: interview with ariella maizner: founder of theme

'women to watch' female founder interview:
ariella maizner: founder of theme

if you have instagram and love inspiring young entrepreneur stories + a splash of tie dye, chances are ariella maizner, designer and founder of theme is already on your list of women to watch. she started sewing when she was 7 years old [same] and 3 years later has become our favorite youngest designer ever.  each piece is designed + hand-made by ari, and is inspired by another female founder.

at just 10 years old, ari already has a lot to teach us about taking something you love doing and turning it into a booming business. read her story + how she’s grown her business in new york city below!

you started your company when you were 9 (!!!). talk to us about how you got started and how you grew theme to what it is today. 

i started sewing when i was 7. and loved making things that i would want to wear. especially for special events. then my friends started asking me to make them pieces too. i fell in love with it and begged my mom to launch my own brand when i was 8. we used to stay up late coming up with logos! then we started posting on instagram and people loved what i made and were really supportive of me. 

 

what was your first piece?

the robyn maxi was my first dress. it’s a candy color striped maxi dress with a purple belt. i still love it. i named it after @byrobynblair. she was the first founder that sat down with me and gave me amazing advice. i love asking her for advice still. 

 

a big part of growing theme has been your ability to put yourself out there and network. talk to us about different inspiring people you’ve met and how they’ve impacted theme.

of course…you both have been such amazing supporters of me and theme! thank you for being there for me since the very beginning! and helping me present theme in such a perfect box!! it made a major impact. 

really everyone i’ve met with are all incredible people. i am really really lucky to learn from them. everyone has really been so kind and given me different ideas and smart advice. i feel lucky to have met with founders, Ceo’s, influencers and the most supportive group of women. i’m so blown away. 

also amazing companies have been super supportive of me too. I partnered with @thetot for my first wholesale deal and just did a collaboration with @statebags. their founders have been so amazing. i’ve also done pop-ups with cool stores like love shack fancy, ever after and lester’s.

i’ve learned a lot about production and fashion from so many people who have done it before, and even got my own wework office and showroom! i’m also super lucky to have the support of the team at rent the runway and excited to now be on jetblack! both big time innovators in the fashion industry which makes me want to come up with new ideas too!

 

you started sewing when you were 6 for fun. how did you decide to turn it into a business? 

i just had this idea for making a brand! i wanted to call it theme from the start. i used to always ask my mom what the theme of the parties that we were going to was so i knew what type of dress i should make. once i had a name. i had a vision. 

 

what’s been the most challenging part about taking something from ‘for fun’ to a real business?

it’s hard work. but it’s also what i love to do. so it makes it worth it. and i’ve met so many amazing people. my mom always asks me are you sure you want to keep doing this and i always say yes.

  

you originally started theme as a collection of signature pieces, each completely different and inspired by a #girlboss. you now are focused on a collection of custom tie dye tees, barrettes and headbands. talk to us about how you balance growing the new tie-dye line while not losing focus on your original hand-made designs.

i am still making my one of a kind pieces. and very focused on that and making them for more people to wear too! i am working on something exciting for holiday! the tie dye just took off and it was something i could make without having to go into mass production. and i could still make it myself…which i liked. i love seeing it on so many people and how happy they are in it. 

 

what’s it like being only 10 and running a business? how do you manage your time with school, theme, and being a kid?

 

i have a lot of support from my family. i really focus on the design and learning. i get to go to cool events and meet amazing people. otherwise my days are normal and filled with things i always do. like camp in the summer. the beach and family vacations. and then back to school with after school activities and hanging with friends. 

 

what advice would you give to other young aspiring entrepreneurs?

 

if your serious about something….go for it. but get advice along the way and learn from people. it’s ok to make mistakes. and you may hear no but it’s ok follow your dream. 

 

we first met because you messaged us on instagram, and you’re always such an incredible networker. talk to us about building your confidence as a young entrepreneur. how has building your network helped you with theme?

 

i am lucky to have a lot of supporters and people who love what i am creating and building. i am learning along the way from them. it’s really cool. 

 

our signature question… how’d you choose ‘theme’ for the name?

 

i knew i wanted to call it theme from the beginning, but since i launched i realized theme has the words the me in it. and that is really powerful. i hope that all the girls that wear theme can be the best me they want to be.

*flashbacks to what we were all doing at 10 years old*

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of ariella maizner and theme
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

all images are property of respective companies

women to watch carrie berk gen z author + influencer

women to watch: interview with carrie berk: gen z author + influencer

women to watch female founder interview:
carrie berk: gen z author, influencer + no bully ambassador

carrie berk is far more than your average sixteen year old… she would certainly put our sixteen year old selves to shame that’s for sure [don’t act like you weren’t addicted to spray tanning and beverly hills 90210 when you were 16] . carrie has been busy in a…different way. she’s authored more than 21 books, has 106,000+ loyal instagram followers  and hosts a popular fashion blog. she’s more than just one of our women to watch….she’s THE woman to read [and follow]! 

you’re only 16 years old have accomplished so much. how did your career as a writer and influencer start? how old were you?

 

i have loved to write ever since i was eight years old! i specifically was captivated by the idea that i could infuse real-life themes into fictional scenarios in order to project a message to my audience. i decided to become an influencer after launching my style empowerment website, carrie’s chronicles, in 2017 because i thought that social media was a great way for me to further spread a message of inclusivity, positivity, and unapologetic individuality.

 

most of your books you co-authored with your mom. tell us about that process. any plans to solo-author a book in the future?

 

we start off by brainstorming, just jotting down some notes with a pen on paper. then we chat about the general arc of the novel, although we often change the plot as we progress. we usually alternate writing chapters and go back and forth editing each other’s work. once we have a completed first draft, my mom prints it out and i mark it up with a bright red pen. after going through that process multiple times, we receive galleys in the mail, which are giant sheets of paper that have two pages of the book on them. at this stage, we can only make emergency edits. finally, we receive an advanced reading copy in the mail, which looks just like the actual book but it’s not available to the public yet. and yes, i would love to write a ya novel of my own and have some ideas i’m working on!

 

how has your writing/genre evolved since you wrote your first book? what’re your favorite topics to write about?

 

i’ve always loved to use my writing to call attention to bullying. it is extremely rampant among today’s teens and tweens, so i like to show the impact it may have on someone, why it’s important to think and choose kindness before you say or post anything. my most recent book series, ask emma, is my first series that shines a light on cyberbullying. as a social media influencer, this is something i frequently experience personally, and i wanted to capture that emotion through emma’s eyes.

 

your blog, carrie’s chronicles, is one of your more recent endeavors – tell us about the inspiration behind the blog and how you see it evolving over the next few years.

 

my peers used to bully me because i didn’t want to dress like everyone else—i love my bold sense of style but my classmates would tell me my glitter sneakers were too “out there!” over time, i recognized that my style is my superpower, and there’s nothing more beautiful than being your authentic self. over the next few years, i aim to continue writing articles that hopefully inspire others and expand my site’s reach to a larger audience. 

you have 75k+ instagram followers. what’s your favorite part about having this platform? least favorite?

 

producing content that makes people smile is definitely my favorite part! my least favorite part is the occasional cyberbullying and hate messages i get. i’ve learned to just shake it off and try to not let it faze me. 

 

talk to us about your work as a no bully ambassador.

 

i help no bully on their mission to teach people, especially kids, to practice kindness and empathy toward each other. recently, i wrote the script for their public service announcement video called “girls against bullying,” showing how teens and tweens have a responsibility to empower each other instead of tear each other down. 

 

where is the coolest place you’ve traveled for work? why?

 

i was on the boys of summer tour this past summer in los angeles and san francisco and it was amazing! i loved meeting so many fellow influencers and fans. plus, blasting music on the tour bus in the middle of the night was a lot of fun! truly one of the best experiences of my life.

 

how do you balance school, friends, and such a robust career at your age? do you ever get tired and just want to ‘be a kid’?

 

i am so thankful for all the amazing opportunities i’ve had, i wouldn’t change anything for the world. plus, i’ve made so many amazing friends in the industry that i’ve had an amazing time with!

 

we feel kind of silly asking this since you already have such a big career, but what do you want to be when you grow up?

 

i would love to be the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine like vogue!

 

what’re some upcoming projects we should look out for?

 

ask emma: boy trouble comes out this fall! i am also launching a carrie’s chronicles merch line in september, so stay tuned!

do you think it’s weird for a 28 year old to start reading ask emma and the cupcake club in public? asking for a friend… 

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of carrie berk 
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

all images are property of respective companies

women to watch nicole ayoub founder + ceo of truly you skincare

women to watch: interview with nicole ayoub: founder of truly you skincare

'women to watch' female founder interview:
nicole ayoub: founder + ceo of truly you

nicole ayoub, founder of truly you has been on our list of women to watch since the minute we met her [through another female founder, obvi. so on brand]. we were instantly impressed by her grace + business sense….and that’s before we found out she’s only 16. when we were 16, we were doing many things but starting a company definitely wasn’t one of them. nicole started her company at age 12 [same] and set out to solve a real problem. 

truly you is a brand with a mission to free all you eczema sufferers (guilty) and sensitive skinners from the stress of finding products that work for you. read on to learn how this #girlboss solved the problem for you and how you can get ya hands on her products.

you started your company when you were just 12 (!!!). that alone makes you one of our women to watch, but you’re actually solving a real problem. talk to us about the inspiration behind the brand and how you teamed up with your mom to do this.

 

i started the company at a time in my life when my friends and i were first starting to get interested in makeup and skincare. the inspiration behind the company was the fact that, because of my eczema and extremely sensitive skin, i was not able to use the standard, name brand type skincare products. if i was to sample a product, say at bath and body works, i would get a massive skin reaction from all of the chemicals/fragrances used in the actual item. my company is based from 100% organic and natural ingredients so people, such as myself, can have and enjoy a body scrub for example without the consequences of a skin reaction.

 

in order to execute the startup of the company, i looked to my mom for guidance since she works full-time in business. she helped teach me about taxes, invoices, the difference between wholesale vs. retail, etc. 

 

we know a little bit about how your operations started but tell us more about the behind the scenes of truly you. what does your day-to-day look like?

 

day-to-day, i work to grow the company’s influence: reaching out to potential retailers, expanding the company’s presence on social media, and go about general marketing activities. when i get an order from a customer or retailer, i hand make, package, and label those products fresh so they can last as long as possible. i refrain from making a giant batch and then storing those products until i get an order since the formulas to all of the products do not contain any preservatives. 

 

it’s been two years since you started truly you. how has the brand evolved? what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a business owner? what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started truly you?

 

over the years, i would say truly you’s presence in peoples’ lives has definitely grown. i feel like more people know the name truly you and the story behind the company and that is really all thanks to advertising, social media, and a lot of word-of-mouth! the number of products has also grown tremendously. when i first started out i only sold body scrubs and now i have been able to add 6+ more lines. 

 

the most important lesson i have learned as a business owner is that you have to stay true to why you started the company in the first place. the story behind the company is the real selling point, especially in truly you’s case. without embracing the company’s story, you have no meaning behind the products you sell, there is nothing driving you or the business. as a result, i try to keep the true essence of truly you in the back of my mind at all times. 

 

one thing that i know now that i wish i knew when i initially started truly you is that even though people may misjudge and underestimate you because of your age, there is no reason to let that get to you. believe it or not, when i first started i was a bit embarrassed because i thought people would laugh at my ambition and think of the company as another “lemonade stand” run by another “kid”. now, i use those thoughts as a way to drive me in order to show people that even though i am fairly young, i am still a legitimate entrepreneur. 

what advice would you give to other young aspiring entrepreneurs and our other women to watch? 

to other young, aspiring entrepreneurs, i would give them the same advice i said in the previous points—your company’s story is everything and do not let your personal fear of others have any effect on your ambition or drive to succeed in business. 

what’s it like being a teenager and running a business? do any of your friends own their own businesses yet? how do you manage school, truly you, friends + family?

it is really cool being a teenage entrepreneur. no, none of my friends have their own company. in fact, i used to wish that i was sporty or artistic like a lot of them, but i have realized that my company is what sets me apart and makes me unique. 

it does become difficult at times to balance truly you with other things in life, specifically school, but i find a way. sometimes i spend a saturday making products, but i make sure to fairly manage it all. sometimes my mom or my friends will come hang out with me while i am making products or we will facetime.

the first time i met you, we were at an event at luminary. how have you leveraged networks like luminary to help learn and grow your business?

well, i feel like this interview is a great example of how i have leveraged networks like luminary to help me learn and grow my business. it has allowed me to reach out to other startups, founded by women who are looking to network and make connections just as i am. those new relationships/connections can then lead to potential opportunities whether that means actual business or some version of marketing. in the midst of it all though, i am also just learning from the women i meet. the majority of them are older than me, and as a result it makes them mentors and bases of inspiration.

what’s the biggest challenge of your business? if there is someone reading this interview that could help you with that challenge, what would your ask be?

the biggest challenge of my business is growing it into other retailers and spanning truly you’s influence beyond my local market. this occurs mainly because i am a small business and i am a young entrepreneur. those two factors, i feel, have an effect on how people view truly you. they may see it as a bit less professional than other brands, in the end choosing not to bring truly you into their store. if somebody could help me with this challenge, i would ask them to help spread the word that truly you’s products are just as professional and effective as those, say for example, in sephora. these products are made by an entrepreneur who puts a lot of heart and effort into running her company, in turn, having an immense amount of dedication behind the products she sells. 

we saw you just released face masks! we’re so excited to try them! any other products in the works you can share with us? or maybe, ‘dream’ products you’d like to eventually develop?

so far, i am mainly just focused on spreading the word about the newly released face masks and getting others to understand how unique and personable they are than the majority of other face masks out there. they come in a powder state and all you have to do is add a bit off water and then apply. with that though, consumers can add their own oils, serums, etc. that work for them personally, making the face masks extremely unique to the person using it. in the future though, i am hoping to expand the line of lip balms i have and maybe do some travel size versions of the most popular products. 

our signature question… how’d you choose ‘truly you’ for the name?

when i was trying to find a name for the company, i knew that i wanted it to connect with each and every one of the customers on a personal level. to put it into context, it is true to you and who you are when you have sensitive skin and must adapt to that. it is truly who you are when you choose to refrain from using chemical based skincare products and live a healthier lifestyle starting with the things you put on your skin; in this case organic and natural skincare products. in essence, i wanted the name of the company to be true, hence “truly you”, to each and every person who uses truly you products. i wanted it to describe how everyone’s skin sensitivity or desire to maintain an organic/natural based skincare routine has a direct connection to them and who they are. 

this interview makes me want to face mask reeaaalll bad. on that note…

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of nicole ayoub and truly you
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

all images are property of respective companies

female founder feature: neha govindraj, co-founder + coo, glowbar

female founder feature: neha govindraj, co-founder + coo of glowbar

it’s an age old dilemma [no pun intended]: what is the secret to looking young forever? i say this with the full backing of my degree from sephora university: SKINCARE!!!! one strong skincare routine a day keeps the wrinkles at bay, and keeps us youthfully glowing with clear, beautiful skin in the meantime. yes, please. 
co-founder + coo neha govindraj is making glowbar the new secret weapon for your skincare: a cross between a spa and a dermatologist, they use clinical products and science-proven techniques to keep you glowing….and going. everything is under 30 minutes, meaning you can get in, get out, and get on with your day. read their story below!

first things first – you have a super cool story before glowbar. tell us! how did your previous experience help shape glowbar?

 

before glowbar, i was at bain & company as a management consultant and loved it! i primarily consulted businesses in retail / consumer in ideating and implementing strategic decisions. my experience at bain gave me perspective on how businesses grow, what problems they face and how to solve them. i also spent some time at glossier working with their executive team on growth strategy. these experiences helped set me up for success with starting glowbar because i felt so ready to build towards a vision and tackle any problems that came our way.

 

what sets glowbar apart from other facial spas? talk to us about how your differentiators helped you raise money. what questions did investors ask and were there any that surprised you?

 

glowbar is all about real results and professional skincare, offered in 30 minutes. we’re truly an intersection of a spa and a dermatologist: all the brands we use are clinical / professional grade and we aim to do things in the treatment room that you can’t easily do at home–– that is why we even have you cleanse your face for us (at our gorgeous wash bar)!

during the fundraising process, it was so important for us to stress how our differentiators would translate to the consumer. it wasn’t enough to just state what the differentiators were – that was an interesting learning, and it led us to build a strong strategy on educating our potential customers.

 

how do your investors come into play in the day to day of the business (for example – are they more focused on growth or are they ‘in the weeds’, helping you guys decide on what products to sell/hiring/marketing strategy, etc?)?

 

our investors really expand our existing network. they are the best people to go to with any growth-related (or sometimes even, ‘in the weeds’-related) “asks” –– which we often do!  they either weigh in themselves, or put us in touch with whoever they think is best suited to answer. 

 

signature question – how did you come up with the name for glowbar?

 

rachel (my co-founder) actually did in her apartment one day, and it stuck! we love it because the name ‘glowbar’ gets people in the right mindset of what to expect–– a destination that leaves you glowing.

what advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to open their first retail location? any lessons learned?

 

ask a lot of questions. and continuously follow up with people. brick and mortar was a new beast to me–– there are so many moving pieces, and a lot of instances where things might slip through the cracks. understanding what those are and being on top of it is tough but important!

 

you launched just over a month ago. tell us about the experience – the great, the good, the bad, the ugly.

 

it’s been incredible seeing all the thought and work behind building glowbar starting to come to life. beyond that, watching people experience the brand and build new habits is truly the most rewarding part–– they just get it and it works. the tough part? being consistently on your a-game. we’re open 7 days a week, 11-14 hours a day. that means making changes real-time to continuously optimize for providing the best possible experience for clients and our team, while simultaneously thinking about the future!

 

since launch, you guys have executed super unique and creative marketing strategies. talk to us about them. what marketing strategy has seen the best roi so far? 

 

thank you! one of our favorite initiatives right now is the “tear one” flyers we have posted throughout the city. we’re continuously replenishing them and people have been loving them! they’re a nod to those babysitter flyers back in the day. and hey, they work. some of them have “lucky you” written on them which let you come in for a treatment on us!

we also have a few ‘face it forward’ cards floating around–– if you land your hands on one, you come in for a treatment on us, and then… ‘face it forward’ (aka pass it to a friend to do the same!)

 

you co-founded the company with rachel – what were you looking for in a cofounder and talk to us about your strategy for tackling different roles. 

 

i couldn’t love mine and rachel’s relationship more. we are both so different in what energizes us (making it easy for us to tackle different roles), but are so similar in our values and goals. it was clear off the bat when meeting rachel that she was ego-less, sharp, and in this to start a great business that people needed. with that, i quickly knew she was someone i wanted to build with–– i am forever grateful to have taken the leap and now be in a founder relationship centered in confidence and respect. we continuously put our brains together to make sure that glowbar is the best it can be and nothing slips through the cracks.

 

what’s next for glowbar?!

 

so much. but first, more locations! 😉 

where are you from? south florida

 

favorite brand other than glowbar: peloton

 

biggest mistake you see startups making (drawing on mgmt consulting experience): not questioning every, single, part of what exists today.

 

skincare routine: cleanse, tone, treat, moisturize + spf (am only). morning and night.

 

self-care activity: dancing in front of my mirror by myself.

 

female founder you admire and why: kirsten green. what she’s built with forerunner is incredible, in a space where few female founders exist.

 

favorite place in nyc besides glowbar: my apartment. it sparks so much joy and i love hosting.

 

words you live by: ask enough of the right questions and you will figure it out.

now imagine if you could get a facial in the time it just took you to read this. thanks to neha + rachel, now you can! book glowbar here!

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of neha govindraj and glowbar
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

all images are property of respective companies

female founder feature: divya gugnani, founder + ceo of wander beauty

female founder feature: Divya gugnani, founder + ceo of wander beauty

it’s july, which means we’re officially less than 6 months away from 2020 (*what*) and we’re spending the month going back and forth between home and the closest body of water. between the constant travel and hustling to crush those 2019 goals, one thing is for sure: not one of us has time for a 20-step beauty routine. divya gugnani, founder + ceo of wander beauty…..just gets it. like her brand name suggests, her mission is to keep us gorgeous on the go. in her own words, “less time spent in front of a mirror, and more time doing”. can we get an amen?!

your background is in tech… how on earth did you go about breaking into the beauty industry? 

i’ve always had a strong interest in beauty, especially as someone who loves to cook (i went to culinary school!) who can be found concocting a face mask with the ingredients in my kitchen. after my last company ‘send the trend’ sold to qvc, i joined the qvc team and led digital innovation where i spent a lot of time on their beauty brands and business. i had the opportunity to work with some amazing brands, but none of them were speaking to my lifestyle. most brands were advocating artistry and 20-step routines, but i was a mom of two working full-time, getting ready on the subway each morning. i didn’t have time or space for that type of routine. i needed products that multitasked the way i did and kept me gorgeous on the go – so my co-founder, lindsay and i created them.

 

being a serial entrepreneur, disrupting industries is in your nature. tell us how you’ve disrupted the beauty industry with wander.

most beauty brands tell you that you need more, more, more: a separate cream for your body than you use on your elbows, five brushes to do a full face. wander beauty is saying the opposite. we’re giving you fewer multitaskers that streamline your routine, without compromising on performance or ingredients. all of our multitaskers set out to solve a problem, whether it’s a our dual-ended dualist concealer that allows you to both conceal and brighten with a two-in-one formula or our play all day translucent powder that eliminates the traditional mess and waste associated with a translucent powder by storing the powder inside of the puff. 

   

talk to us about your marketing ‘message’ to consumers? who is your target customer and why does she value your product? how do you communicate your value prop to her?

our target customer goes beyond sociodemographics – we are catering the time-starved woman who is living her life in motion and doing her beauty routine beyond the bathroom. we are offering her less time spent in front of a mirror, and more time doing

we work to socially co-create all of our products with our community so that we are not just giving her something that she wants, but something that she is asking us for. we are always asking ourselves how we can innovate, from packaging to formula, to give her the best solution to the problem she presents us with. 

 

you serve as ceo of wander, but co-founded the company with former victoria’s secret model lindsay ellingson. how do you divide + conquer in your roles?

lindsay and i come from such different backgrounds, but shared the same problem of not feeling spoken to in the beauty space as women living life on the go. we both have different strengths, which complement each other. she is our creative director and spearheads all of our creative. i’m our ceo and a data junkie and work more on the business side. we overlap on product development, which we are both so passionate about and bring our own unique perspectives to. 

 

wander is currently in it’s last month of it’s pop-up shop on the upper east side. can you tell us a little bit more about that experience and why you decided to do it? is this the store’s first pop-up?

yes! this is the brand’s first-ever pop up store. being a predominantly direct to consumer brand, we rely on our own digital storytelling and content to bring the brand to life through a screen, which is why we own the process internally rather than outsource. beauty is such a tactile experience, and we wanted to bring the brand alive in real life – and what better place to serve an on-the-go consumer than new york city? since our inception, we’ve seen the most growth from owning our own branding and storytelling, and having that then drive our own .com’s growth as well as having a halo effect on our retail growth. by owning our retail experience, our goal was to drive brand awareness while continuing to foster that personal relationship with our community.

 

what challenges have you faced with the pop-up vs. your online direct-to-consumer platform?

if you’re not challenged, you’re not learning! the entire pop up has been a learning experience – especially since i had never launched a pop up space myself. we’re lucky that we are still small and agile enough that we can still experiment and learn from our mistakes and adapt in real time. for example, we tested several types of our daily classes in our first few days to see what topics and times resonated most, and adjusted the following week to better accommodate our consumer and continued to adapt throughout the pop up as we see patterns. at the pop up store, it’s all about human interaction and bringing the brand to life through our ambassadors once they’re through the door. 

 

we spend a lot of time talking about what works in starting + growing a business, but as you know a lot of entrepreneurs live and breathe what doesn’t work (the hard way). tell us something that has worked really well for your brand and something that hasn’t worked for your brand that maybe you expected to?

i think our focus has really worked for us. we want to be something to someone not everything to everyone. we are two modern women who are more time-starved, busy and active. we are always doing beauty beyond the bathroom ™, and we focused on that lifestyle across all age groups, ethnicities and geographies. we are inclusive yet focused on our clients and their lifestyle. we create multitaskers that serve a purpose in their lives and save them time and space. with regards to what doesn’t work well, we thought that being in traditional retail channels would allow new clients to discover us. what we realized is that many retails have a vast array of brands and with limited space both in stores and online we don’t have chance to highlight our innovation and differentiation. so we learned from that and decided to pursue our dtc business and truly own our conversation with our clients and our community.

 

our signature question, how did you come up with the name ‘wander’?

we’re all about staying gorgeous on the go, so travel inspiration is the thread that runs through all of our branding and imagery. ‘wander’ came from the idea that even if your life is busy, whether with the day-to-day of life or a jetsetting adventure, your beauty routine should wander with you.

 

editors note: visit the wander beauty pop up store through july 31st at 787 lexington avenue (between 61st and 62nd street) and mention the fill to get 20% off of your purchase

favorite piece in the wander collection: this is like picking a favorite child! right now, i can’t stop using our trip for two blush and bronzer duo. it’s makes me look like i spent the weekend at the beach without having to go anywhere.  

 

female founder who inspires you: sarah kauss at s’well. at wander we create multitaskers so you can do more with less products. we care about sustainability and that mission lives through our product and packaging decisions. sarah has taken it to the next level with s’well and i admire that.

 

favorite me-time activity: swimming. i call it my “vision time” – completely device-free, and i can be truly alone with myself. 

 

favorite restaurant: novikov in miami- the fish is fresh and spectacular and i have yet to have a less than outstanding meal there.

 

go-to brands (other than wander): obe fitness for home workouts, tamara mellon for comfortable well crafted shoes, giapenta for intimates, primary for my kids clothes, inkbox for when i’m feeling adventurous and want to make a temporary bad decision. 

 

personal mantra / favorite quote: “i do not fix problems. i fix my thinking. then problems fix themselves.” -louise hay

 

fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i love to travel. i went to 18 countries during my two years doing my masters degree.

you know what they say….we have the same 24 hours in a day as beyonce. divya and lindsay, thank you for letting us use less of that time beautifying and more of that time….becoming beyonce. or as close as possible. 

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of divya gugnani and wander beauty
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

all images are property of respective companies

sweats and the city - blankbox female founder feature the fill

female founder feature: sweats + the city

female founder feature: sweats + the city

dale borchiver + elizabeth endres

best known from their highly curated and cheekily named instagram handle @sweatsandthecity, founders dale + elizabeth decided to leave careers in fashion + finance to pursue a sweatier path. they’re making it easy to navigate the sometimes overwhelming scene that is nyc fitness, serving up honest class reviews, serious outfit + lifestyle inspo & most importantly…..snack time Q+A! speaking of, grab a snack and read our Q+A with them below!

neither of you are native new yorkers. what brought you here and what did life look like before satc? 

dale: i originally came here for school, and later to work in fashion.
elizabeth: i moved to nyc for a job in finance at bloomberg. we were both dying to get to nyc before moving here!
 

we’ve all been there…midnight brainstorm sessions, waking up in the middle of the night with crazy ideas, thinking about and conceptualizing your new business 24/7…talk to us about that ‘aha!’ moment where you decided to start satc and how you originally envisioned the concept. 

the concept of satc was in the works for a long time without us necessarily knowing it! we found ourselves coming home at the end of most days and discussing the new studios & workouts we tried that day. we were searching for a platform that would give us the kind of ‘insider scoop’ studio details we were chatting about and couldn’t find anything. so, we decided to take matters into our own hands. we sat on the concept for about 8 months, putting together review lists (mostly for friends), before we decided to go live with it officially. it was really when we decided on a name that we we’re like “ok, this is really happening”. 

our signature question! – what’s the inspiration behind the name? 

as we’re sure you could probably tell, the name is a play on the show sex & the city. and as two 20-something year olds in nyc, we really felt it made perfect sense. 

how long did you keep satc as a side hustle before transitioning to full time? what was that transition like and do you have any advice for other “side hustlers” looking to take the leap and monetize a hobby or a side hustle? 

it took us about a year and a half doing until finally deciding to go full time with satc. when we reached the point where our full-time jobs were holding us back from opportunities, we knew it was time. it took a lot of preparation from a financial planning standpoint, and was definitely scary, but we’ve never looked back! our advice is to 1) keep your eye on the prize – we set a date we thought was feasible and we stuck to it and 2) plan well – look at your monthly income (growth & averages) & also your expenses, and plan accordingly! 

we know a little something about getting into business with your best friend! it’s funny because a lot of people warned us against it, but with our personalities it works perfectly and it’s clearly working for you! talk to us about how you navigate mixing business + friendship and any advice you have for two friends thinking of getting into business together? 

because we know each other so well, it’s a big plus that we always feel comfortable being open and honest, especially if we disagree on something. but, in working with your best friend, it’s also important to not take things personally and to look at the big picture. a big part of our job is being social and attending events, so it’s great to be able to do that together! 

how do you balance all the different roles of running a business between the two of you? 

at first, before we had established our unique roles, it was kind of chaotic! it’s honestly trial and error – once we were able to figure out what we should both be doing, as well as jobs that we each loved and wanted to manage on our own, things flowed really nicely. we keep a very thorough (and color coordinated, obvi) spreadsheet where our roles are clearly outlined. the jobs we add, remove & expand are ever changing, but it’s so important to have these listed out! 

talk to us about the workouts! do you guys work out every single day? if you had to pick a favorite from all your class reviews, what would it be? 

we definitely give our bodies rest days! recovery is super important. we aim to workout 4-5 days a week, but really depends on the week, our travel & schedules. our favorites are ever-changing, but right now we are obsessed with the sculpt class at dancebody. it’s the perfect combo of dancing & toning. 

let’s state the obvious….you’re both fit af. talk to us about the types of workouts you do and what you see the most results from? what makes a class really stand out to you vs. just an okay experience? 

that’s so nice of you – thank you!! we find a mix of light cardio and sculpting is the most effective for both of our bodies, but it truly varies for everyone. we went through a period a few years ago where we were doing a lot of really strenuous workouts, and not seeing the results we wanted (or feeling the way we wanted to, tbh), and that’s really what lead us to this. we are all about variety, though, and aren’t afraid to throw something intensive into the mix occasionally! 

a great studio experience really begins from the moment you book online til the moment you leave the studio. we appreciate when a studio goes the extra mile, which looks like: great amenities, welcoming staff, and a nice clean environment (& bonus points for having mints, haha). you want to leave the workout feeling great, not just physically, but mentally too. when it comes to instructors, an instructor that is not only super knowledgeable, but supportive, welcoming and encouraging is key. oh, and a killer playlist helps, too! 

 

in a world where everyone is trying to be an “influencer” and the rest of us can get exhausted by content, two things stand out to us about your brand. first, we both regularly watch all of your content and can’t say the same about many others. second, we’ve also seen your media kit so we know you deliver unusually high engagement and strong revenue generation for yourself + other brands you collaborate with. from your perspective, what makes you stand out to your audience? what specific actions have you taken to make it this way?

when we started satc, our goal was to be a relatable & trustworthy source when it came to fitness, wellness & health. there can be a lot of noise in the fitness space and most people don’t have the time and/or money to test out the insane amount of products and services available to them. we have made it our mission to showcase what we love (and don’t!) with all the raw, real details so our community can make informed decisions. and our hope is that people follow us & engage with us because of that! 

what started with class reviews has already evolved into so much more. what else can we expect from satc in the future? where do you see the brand in 1 year / 5 years? any pipe dreams for satc? 

we’ve already started to dabble in products collaborations with existing brands (check out our sweaty stuff bag here!), and we’d love to continue that. we’ve also been working hard to build out our website, particularly a project to create an interactive studio review map – launching soon! a long-term goal of ours has been to be ‘the infatuation’ of class reviews, so this new online offering should get us closer to that. stay tuned for more collaborations, city exploration, etc.! 

talk to us about your partnerships. what types of companies do you work with and why? how do you balance making a living with ensuring each brand gets dedicated, high quality content (which means time + energy on your part!) 

we’re very selective when it comes to the brands we align with. it’s so important to us that these companies share the same values as we do, and we have to believe in the product. for example, we often receive pitches for “quick fix” type detoxes and diets, which goes entirely against our brand … these are a definite ‘no’ from us. we also limit how many we work with, especially when it comes to certain categories (especially beauty!), in order to maintain our authenticity. our rates are reflective of all of this, as well as the time and energy we put into creating campaigns. 

you’ve worked with huge companies (victoria’s secret, bloomies, etc.) and start-ups, which are two totally different animals. do you approach them differently? 

our approach to all brands is the same, but their approaches can definitely vary, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with their size. this was something that surprised us! some brands are highly involved in the content creation process, and some offer a lot of flexibility … we love when brands trust our creative direction, because no one knows our community better than we do! regardless, we always make sure that no matter which brand we’re working with, we’re presenting their product/service in our own voice, in a way that resonates with our community. 

as a brand, it can be tough to know what to expect with an influencer partnership! give us some partnership advice – what we should look for, how do you set your prices and demonstrate how a brand can trust the expected outcome? 

it’s important that both parties are very clear on the deliverables and that both parties see value in the partnership. we never promise specific results (you can’t know for sure how your community will react). we try our best to ensure that our prices reflect the effort we’re putting into our content creation, the demand at the time, as well as the value that content is bringing to a brand – whether that’s general awareness or conversions. we are big on numbers, too! we provide brand statistics & case studies prior to working with us so they can get a feel for what we bring to the table. 

you’re both working out and on social media a lot. when you’re not ‘on’, what are you doing? 

sweats has pretty much become our lives! even if we’re not active on social media, we’re doing a ton of work behind the scenes. but, when we’re not working, we’re both pretty social and love to recharge with self-care: reiki, meditation, reading, facials, going out to dinner with friends. 

with that said, your lives are very public through your platform. how do you deal with the negativity and unsolicited opinions? any advice for how to block out the haters (besides dark sunglasses obvi) 

we’ve gotten better at dealing with negativity with time, and it’s probably a combination of desensitization and growth. that’s not to say that a harsh message doesn’t ever upset us, but it’s a lot easier to let it go. we also have each other, and that helps a lot! when you put yourself out there, negativity unfortunately comes with the territory. we always like to remember this — what other people think of you is none of your business. 

 

favorite workout (boutique): ‘the sculpt society’ with megan roup, ‘hot pilates’ (in la), ‘sculpt’ at dancebody 

favorite workout (not boutique): barre3 

brand you’d love to work with: w hotels 
go-to beauty product: skii essence 
female founder you admire: oprah 
one meal for the rest of your life, what is it? avocado toast with two eggs, over hard 🙂 
nyc neighborhood: west village & soho 
if you were doing something other than satc, what would it be? this is a hard one! i did really like working in advertising – so possible something in that area. 
me-time / social media break activity / thing that keeps you sane: meditation therapy – i go weekly, it’s the best! 

sweats and the city - blankbox female founder feature the fill

favorite workout (boutique): bunda (la) or any dance-cardio-sculpt mix (“body” by amanda kloots, isaac boots “torchd”, “sculpt society” by megan roup, “sculpt” dancebody).

favorite workout (not boutique): barre, core power yoga 

brand you’d love to work with: equinox 
go-to beauty product: laura mercier tinted moisturizer 
female founder you admire: sara blakely 
one meal for the rest of your life, what is it? yogurt bowl, with granola, berries and almond butter! 
nyc neighborhood: noho 
if you were doing something other than satc, what would it be? most likely still be in fashion! 
me-time / social media break activity / thing that keeps you sane: walking with my headphones in, listening to a podcast or one of our sweats playlists!  

dale and elizabeth, thank you for keeping it real on the [sometimes crazy, sometimes expensive, sometimes culty, sometimes hard for the coordination-challenged, but always fun + healthy for us] scene that is NYC fitness! and for reminding us that while it’s usually a good idea to work out, it’s also okay to skip it and binge watch netflix on your couch and having yourself a SNACKTIME.  

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of sweats and the city 
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

rebecca minkoff and elisabeth leonard - blankbox female founder feature the fill

behind the scenes of the female founder collective with elisabeth leonard

behind the scenes with the woman, the myth, the legend: elisabeth leonard

elisabeth is the special projects manager for rebecca minkoff [a role she balances with that of #workwife] and the other half of the female founder collective! there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes of ffc, so we’re taking you #bts with the one who makes it all happen. but first, in true team blankbox fashion, a story…

we first applied to the female founder collective when it was completely new…and so were we. we emailed elisabeth saying we weren’t sure if we qualified to join as we had just launched, but to let us know what we had to do to be part of it. this was word for word her response: “don’t sell yourself short! you are FOUNDERS and there is power in that. big or small, a founder is a founder; and that’s something you should be proud of. we’re all in this together, we need to support each other in order to make a change! that being said, we’d love to have you be a part of the collective!” 

this is one of those moments we won’t ever forget. the first time someone included us at the table, and the last time we ever assumed we weren’t part of it. we love you, elisabeth! without further ado…

start from the beginning…from birth. only kidding. how did you meet rebecca and start working on the rebecca minkoff team? 

i actually started as a temp receptionist at the company! it was only meant to be a three-month situation, but that changed quickly! rebecca and i had an immediate connection, and from the first day i met her, i knew she was someone i wanted to learn from and work with. 

one of the very first things rebecca told me was that “no is just the beginning of yes”. since that day, it’s always stuck with me. after my first few months as the receptionist, i took on the role of being ea to the ceo, cfo, president and rm. being the receptionist taught me a lot of things that i’ve carried with me to where i am today. 

i took all of my earlier roles as an opportunity to learn as much as i could. when you’re starting out, you can’t be afraid to ask questions. do all the jobs—no matter how “small” they might seem; that is where you will learn incredible lessons that will serve you well later in your career. 

 

how would you describe her leadership style? from your perspective, what else do you think makes the brand so successful? 

one of the greatest things about rebecca is she leads with compassion and empowerment. she isn’t possessive of accomplishments. when you’re on a team, everyone is in it together. rebecca always celebrates wins as a team, never as one person. rebecca is also a great listener. there’s a difference between leadership and being a boss. leaders show you what to do and bosses tell you what to do. and rebecca is always showing, teaching and helping others to learn more. 

one of the most important lessons rebecca has ever taught me is “no is just the beginning of yes”. don’t give up. don’t be afraid to ask questions. keep striving for what you’re passionate about! 

 

what’s your favorite personal mantra and how has it helped shape your life? 

don’t stop until you’re proud!– if you knew today was your last day, would you be happy with what you’re doing? if the answer is no, then change it. do what makes you happy. and live each day without denying your happiness. so, dream big, go after your dreams, do the things you want to do and be the person you want to be. 

get out there and show the world what you’re made of. there is no right or wrong way to exist. being human is messy. find glory in your own beautiful mess + be proud of who you are. 

 

let’s talk female founder collective! how did the idea come about and what’s your role within the team? 

the idea for the ffc came out of a meeting that rebecca was in where she was trying to work with only female founded companies and realized there was no way to find them easily. she then came across a study by berlin cameron that said the 82% of women are more likely to support female founded companies if they only knew how. that proved to rebecca that a symbol or a seal for consumers to recognize would be key for us to find ways to support and give our money to female founders. 

i focus a lot on community + brand partnerships as well as the growth of the community, but i love to help with anything and everything i can! i’m so lucky that i get to work alongside one of the most badass female entrepreneurs i know who also doubles as my work wife, rebecca minkoff!

 

as the co-leader of ffc, you see badass, successful women every day. what do you think makes a brand successful and can you share some “best practices” you’ve seen from ffc brands? 

success can be defined in so many ways. i think it’s important to remain humble and hardworking, be confident and believe in what you’re doing. if you don’t, who else will? you can never get comfortable in your own knowledge; it’s important to learn every day. and there is always more work to be done! 

one of the greatest practices that i have watched our members display is the power of collaboration. the amount of support these women provide for one another is truly admirable.  

rebecca shared where she sees ffc in 5 years – tell us where you see it going + how it’s changed from today? 

i agree with rebecca. we really hope to have conquered bigger milestones, such as the seal being used and known by consumers to change consumer shopping behavior. the ffc seal lets everyone know that a woman is in charge! i hope that the collective will continue to grow, not only in the us, but globally, and that this community encourages not only women, but everyone, to buy and support women owned businesses. 

 

i hope we see a big consumer adoption and acceptance of the ffc symbol that changes their buying decisions. 

 

how do you balance having roles at rebecca minkoff and at ffc? how do these roles differ? 

“the most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.” – dwight d. eisenhower 

 

a few months ago, i read an article about eisenhower’s urgent/important matrix. the basic premise is pretty simple: some tasks are urgent, and others are not. when you organize those, you make better use of your time. 

 

while it may not always feel like it, i’ve learned that there is a big difference between urgent and important. this way of thinking helped me learned how to separate the things that absolutely need to get done from the things that i really want to get done. this concept has played a huge role in how i balance my two roles. 

 

my role at ffc is more of a managerial role while at rm, i am part of a larger team. i have the best of both worlds! 

 

what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from a female founder you’ve met through ffc? any advice you’d give to women thinking to start their own business? 

 

the women of ffc in general have shown me firsthand the power of collaboration over competition; advice: take every opportunity and make the best of it. you never know where it may lead!  

favorite piece in the rm collection: bree belt bag 

female founder who inspires you: jen gotch 

favorite me-time activity: binge watching greys anatomy with a nice glass of wine and tons of candles! 

favorite nyc restaurant: rubirosa (best damn pizza!) 

go-to brands (other than rm): alala, terez, nike, lively, eberjey 

introvert or extrovert: extrovert, most of the time! 

fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i currently live and work remotely from santiago, chile!    

rebecca minkoff - blankbox female founder feature the fill

female founder feature: rebecca minkoff

female founder feature: rebecca minkoff
founder of rebecca minkoff + the female founder collective

it’s officially may, and that means a few things: first and foremost, the opportunity to post the ‘it’s gonna be may’ meme. don’t pretend you’re above it. secondly, it means thanking your mom for not putting you up for adoption during your angsty teenage years. but really, we often wonder how moms do it all.  to our moms, our psuedo-moms, and all the new mamas and mamas-to-be in our lives, we love you. 

speaking of moms who do it all…we’re excited to introduce this month’s female founder feature rebecca minkoff, founder of rebecca minkoff + the female founder collective….and mama of 3.  

rebecca was 21 years old when she started her namesake brand + the rest, as they say, is herstory.

tell us the story of how you started your namesake brand. it’s one of our favorites! 

i started the company in 2001 when i was 21 years old. i had just launched a five-piece collection with this “i love new york” t-shirt that i had kind of cut up and bedazzled, because that was on trend then, believe it or not! i had sent it to an actress [and friend], jenna elfman, on september 9. she wore it on jay leno [just after 9/11]. and [she] said my name. that impacted me in a big way. everything shut down when 9/11 happened. so the only thing that really kept it going was that i was donating all the proceeds to the red cross. that kept the orders coming in. 

 

some years later, jenna called me again and asked if i wanted to do a bag for an upcoming film. i was happy to help, thinking, ‘why not? i’ll try a bag,’ and that was the moment that led to the ‘morning after bag’. i had made one for jenna and one for myself and even though it didn’t make it into the film, i planned to add it into the clothing line: as an accessory piece, nonetheless. i had no intention of designing handbags, but when daily candy wrote about it shortly thereafter, it took off. at that moment, ii transitioned to exclusively handbags, only offering the ‘morning after bag’ in different colorways. i kept the focus on the details (i.e. theme and story around each bag), using beautiful leathers and trims. at that time, the showroom i was with told me i had to offer more than one bag and that is where it all began. 

 

the ‘i love ny’ shirt signified the beginning of me taking that step towards being a designer with my own line. i had always loved working with patterns, constructing and draping garments, but this was the first moment i could actually start working towards creating pieces under my name. once the daily candy wrote about [the mab] it was the perfect storm. more orders than i could have ever imagined started coming in and that’s when i decided to really put my full focus on bags. 

 

who were your first 3 key hires? what impact did they have on your growth? 

sales, finance and production; everything was around staffing up with things that would take me off design or pr so we hired strong people in those backgrounds with extensive experience. we doubled for 3 years in a row and kept having year over year growth. 

 

as new founders, we talk a lot about “what keeps us up at night” relative to our brand. how has “what keeps you up at night” changed from when you first started to now? do the early challenges ever get better?! 

challenges never get better. they actually get harder and the issues more challenging and complicated. you just get used to thinking about and approaching them. what keeps me up now is how we’re going to become a global brand without relying on traditional media the way that huge luxury brands do. they have money and buying power and can dominate a new market far quicker. how do we as david, beat goliath. 

 

you started your business with your brother uri. what’s it like working with family and how do you divide the roles? more broadly, what advice do you have for new or soon to be founders when looking for a business partner? 

he’s ceo, i am creative director. we have and respect our lanes but also try and support and help each other within our areas if we can. we fight. we make up. we see a career coach. 

 

when you’re with someone more hours in the day than your spouse, you have to make sure you know it’s okay not to agree, how to get through it and do what’s best for the business. 

the first few times we met you in person, we realized you’re your own best brand ambassador. you’re always in head to toe rm. talk to us about why that’s important. 

it’s simple: why would my customer want my goods if i didn’t? i am the customer, so i live and breathe rm and show others how to as well.

 

who is the rebecca minkoff customer? how are you able to identify and interact with her?

she is a multi-faceted woman. she is complicated. she is busy. she wants rm to make her day easier but also more meaningful. she knows she belongs to a tribe where other women have her back.

 

what differs your brand from the others? 

we have evolved our value proposition outside of a product. our customer comes to us because she knows we support and care about women, that we put our money where our mouth is and that beyond a product there is good being given back to our communities.

 

we were shocked to find out you have 3 kids (and 1 under a year!) first off, how do you do it?! do you follow any specific guidelines to balance the two roles? 

yes. i’ve used the last 7 years of having kids to test my boundaries, so i know what is too much for me. i now structure my schedule around this as much as possible. each person should do that for their own values, not for instagram.

 

we heard you speak at theskimm live podcast event, where you mentioned that your #1 interview question for nannies is “how fast can you run off the playground carrying three kids” (lol). what tips do you have for new moms & working moms who may be hesitant to leave their children under the care of someone else? 

make sure you hire someone who has the same values as you, who is there to help take a load off of you and help the household. that is responsible and more importantly, has the purpose of nurturing and raising children. sadly, this nanny is going to spend more time with your kids than you during a work week so you want to know they have the children’s interests at heart. trust your gut.

 

everyone who’s ever had more than a 5 minute conversation with us knows how much we love ffc. where do you see ffc in 5 years and how has it changed from today? 

in 5 years, i hope to have conquered some of the bigger milestones such as the seal being used and known by consumers to change their shopping behaviors. i want a global community that is the go-to for female founded businesses for a directory. i want women who have joined to be vocal about how coming together made their companies soar and that we went from 80 cents on the dollar to 90 to 100….

 

as the founder of ffc, you see badass, successful women every day. what do you think are the top 3 things that make a brand successful? 

telling a story on social
customer service is king.
using a network to shortcut the problems others have already experienced.

 

the question the people have been waiting for….talk to us about elisabeth! you both have done an incredible amount of work in such a short time as a 2-woman team of #workwives. how do you balance the responsibilities of executing the now vs. strategizing the future? 

elisabeth is a godsend. she is an incredible leader. we’ve divided and conquered; her passion for the community and its growth has allowed me to be able to do larger partnerships and activations that make ffc more well known, which in turn helps more of our members as we highlight them and help their products become known and therefore sold. we really are a true team with no set lanes, so she really helps with it all! i couldn’t do this without her! (click here to read our interview with female founder collective co-founder, elisabeth leonard)

rebecca minkoff - blankbox female founder feature the fill

favorite piece in the rm collection: kate circle bag 

female founder who inspires you: jessica alba 

favorite me-time activity: sleep 

favorite nyc restaurant: in the dez 

go-to brands (other than rm): nike, rachel comey 

personal mantra / favorite quote: no is just the beginning of yes (in all areas except dating) 

introvert or extrovert: extrovert mostly 

fun fact about you that most people don’t know: i’m scared of zombies

we always talk about the “transformative yes” moments that have and will change the trajectory of our business. becoming part of the female founder collective was and will continue to be one of those. rebecca, we cannot thank you enough for being the inspiring soul you are – we adore you!   

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of rebecca minkoff 
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

nearly newlywed jackie courtney - blankbox female founder feature the fill

female founder feature: jackie courtney, founder & ceo of nearly newlywed

female founder spotlight: jackie courtney, founder & ceo nearly newlywed

it’s officially the start of wedding season, and you know what that means!!! crying ugly tears while your best friend walks down the aisle, bridesmaid proposals [with blankbox, duh] and spending at least a month’s worth of rent on flowers. most of all, it means gaining a new appreciation for the people in the wedding industry who live to make it easier. jackie courtney, founder + ceo of nearly newlywed, is that person. from shark tank to having her company nicknamed ‘the amazon of weddings’, jackie’s story is extra sparkly… and so is her style.

for our readers who aren’t familiar with your business… what is nearly newlywed + why are you different from the rest of the bridal industry? 


first & foremost because we were founded on the premise that resale should be embraced and destigmatized; not that it is for everyone, but if someone wants to pass their dress along or wear something worn one time by someone else (by the way like almost all movie premiere and oscars gowns) then it is their choice and it should still be an amazing experience. second nearly newlywed is a digital company, so we endeavor to create products and tools around digital discovery, service and commerce. as we have evolved to be a larger destination and marketplace, we both want to help customers transact and have access online as well as help physical retailers have an online presence and to ultimately help smooth out some of the pain points that exist for wedding stores and designers that are very unique to the process. 


so, basically, women can buy and resell their dress, jewelry, accessories, everything for their wedding and designers/stores can sell and market on our platform as long as they adhere to our quality, transparency and sustainability standards. 


you pitched your initial business idea on shark tank in 2012. we have so many questions – why did you decide to go on? 


oh geez, shark tank, taking me back.  well, i never intended to do something like that to be honest, the opportunity presented itself to us and we had literally just launched the business with 50 wedding dresses in my bedroom. at the time we took it as something the universe was presenting and decided to go for it (also free trip to la! haha). it was all kind of crazy and happened very fast, we taped our episode two months after we launched, so we were a super baby business at the time. 


you declined the offer from the sharks, why? how do you feel about it looking back? what’re the sharks like irl? 


it wasn’t a good offer! so no regrets there. the feedback was helpful and some of it i really disagreed with, so honestly it spurred me to fight on without the high profile capital (and we raised a substantial angel round at a good valuation 6 months later). 


i am very glad we did it though, and thankful for the opportunity. it allowed us to put the idea and brand on a platform of millions of people and that accelerated our growth in a way i couldn’t have dreamed. i was also very lucky to have thousands of women reach out to me in support and to help me really push forward a grassroots marketing effort to spread the word. the sustainability approach to creating more value and choice in the wedding space and trying to remove stigmas that are often placed on it, especially on women, around the dress and what that is supposed to look and feel like, i think resonated with a lot of women across generations and many we would never have reached, certainly not so quickly, without the shark tank platform. 


the sharks were pretty great. mark cuban was my favorite, i felt like we were really having an authentic exchange about business mechanics and ideas. i mean, it’s a tv show, it’s tv, but it’s all taped live in one session so there are authentic exchanges. in general i liked mark and barbara the best. i suppose if i am being honest, didn’t live for herjkovic. 


editor’s note: follow up question. was mr. wonderful actually wonderful?! 

fast-forward to now, you’ve grown to more than 1 million brides per year (!!!). first off, congratulations! secondly, aside from blood, sweat, tears & sleepless nights, what do you attribute this growth to? 


you hear it time and again, but creating a base of customers that believe in your mission and empowering them to be brand advocates is key. especially in bridal, in which the consumer turns over and isn’t a lifetime one, having people that believe in your mission is priceless. lots of grit. plenty of tears. time, lots of time and waiting and inching the rock forward. some luck too i think. but yea, most of the real progress is the boring stuff, the sweat and such, the day in and day out. shark tank and a few key new york times features didn’t hurt either. and women like you ladies! supporting and sharing! 


let’s rewind a little bit…you have a design & management degree from parsons the new school and worked for numerous luxury brands before launching nearly newlywed. what was the hardest part about starting something on your own? 


i often say the hardest part of starting was, starting. like, i didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur or set out on that path in a traditional sense, so i had a lot of insecurities, imposter syndromes and just, straight up fear about telling people and self identifying as a business founder. i remember someone asking me that i wasn’t super close with after i had left my job about what i was working on, and i got very anxious, skittish, and she thought i was being guarded about my ‘idea’ as if i would be afraid she would steal it. which certainly i wasn’t and if, as most say if, anything is true in business it is that the ‘idea’ and the mythology of the idea is rarely where a successful business comes from. it is a part of it, but it’s execution and timing more than anything. and grit. anyway, telling her and owning that i was going to try to start a business, just saying it out loud, that was the hardest. and leaving a really sexy job in fashion was hard too. that was a very large part of my identity and understanding who i was without that, without the big company and big names to lean up against, was very difficult to push past. i mean, my boss said to me ‘you know most women would kill for this job’ when i resigned, and i mean, she was sort of right, so walking away to start something so unknown was very difficult, because i really didn’t know what i was doing. 


and then, not quitting when things were flat and hard and just, felt sort of like cross-country skiing in quick sand, that’s the other hard part. because shiny things sustain you, milestones anchor you…. but gritting your teeth and getting up and trying day after day, that’s where & how success blooms, in my opinion. man, can i reference the word grit anymore? grit grit grit grit grit, i still need more of it, so i suppose i can’t really say it enough. grit! 😉 


did you have an “aha!” moment that made you start nearly newlywed? 

oh and no aha! moment, ha, really just that i felt the bridal industry was innovating very slowly, much slower than luxury fashion which i had thought prior to getting engaged was behind all other industries (which it was) but then i realized bridal was even further behind, so i figured innovation had to happen at some point and i saw some real problems around value and transparency and sustainability – so i decided why not and went for it.

talk to us about storefront! what was your thought process behind creating this and how can other founders apply that thinking to their own brands? 

 

i saw that the wedding market was ready for more commerce and discovery online. the customers had been for awhile, i was one of them, but the industry took a longer time to evolve, so i was really waiting for the moment in which i thought there was enough need and appetite on the b2b side to coincide with the already existing demand of the customers (brides). 

there is a lot of chatter about disruption in spaces, and i don’t necessarily see nearly newlywed and our role in weddings as that. it is, in a way, disruptive, but ultimately there are incredible designers and stores in the wedding space and outside of it that want to sell and market to wedding customers. some are very anti-change and sustainability but many, many are open and want to innovate and adapt. i don’t want to disrupt the industry, i want to support and offer the customer what she wants – choice, value, amazing products and i want to help those in the industry that are open to market to the changing landscape and customer, to help fit the pieces together, offer them a digital voice and expertise and hopefully, create prosperity and value for everyone in the process. 

 

you see one million brides a year – i repeat, one million. what is your strategy to make sure you stay engaged with an audience of this size? 

 

i think scale is a tough thing. not scaling fast enough makes you feel like a snail and scaling fast is hard to keep up with. we did a good job of taking it slow, a million is big but seven years is also longoooo. but that is still a challenge. it is very hard for me that i can’t help every customer, talk to every designer, write every message to someone that messages us on social. i try, because that is part of our dna, but it’s a challenge. the biggest thing we do is keep things in house. we don’t outsource customer service, social, any of it. so everyone is part of the nearly newlywed team and brand full-time, [they] believe in it and are just as much a part of building it as i am. so even though, they aren’t me or maybe weren’t here from day 1, they are a part of the nearly newlywed team now and i think you can feel that when you interact with our brand and experience. 

 

best advice to brides or funny bridezilla story? 

 

if you find a dress you love, especially if you buy it, stop looking at dresses. amazingly and also frustratingly the world is full of incredible, amazing, gorgeous things and gowns. the architect of the idea that there is one dress and one look for every bride was a marketer, trying to close a sale. you will see something else that piques your interest and it will only upset your satisfaction with your current dress. that really goes for most things. look, be selective, and by all means, wear two dresses! three! five! but once you decide move away from inspiration boards and browsing to something else so you don’t unnecessarily wage war on yourself with fomo which you just don’t need. 

 

you’re a business owner and a mom…how f*ck do you do it? 

 

ask me tomorrow? haha. honestly, women are incredible. all of them. every single one. we make time and space for things and fight battles that inspire me all the time. motherhood is just another facet to that and it has made me much more measured about my time and forced me to get better at saying no. and i suppose also more bold. not sure if it is because i am constantly tired? or because i want to set an example to my son and think, well shit, if i am not going to be the person i want and set out to be now, then when will i? that definitely helps curb the moments when i want to throw myself out a window. 

i am also very thankful for some of the female founders and networks i have been a part of and many of which are for mothers or are mothers. heymamaco in particular is a great resource and connector for women that are mothers and in business. 

 

now for our signature question… inspiration behind the name? 

 

ah. well, we wanted a play on the idea of new vs used. newlywed was a term i always loved and thought it transcended just the wedding day idea because it speaks to the idea of fresh, fun, happy love. that honeymooning period (which we need to extend and keep reigniting rather than demarcate to the first year, but i digress) but the idea of a newlywed or someone on that path felt fun and light and lovely. and someone that was nearly there was on that journey to lifetime commitment and love. and then the play on nearly new was there, as we started with only used dresses that were ‘nearly new’ and we marketed to ‘nearlyweds’ and ‘newlyweds’ – also so many urls were taken, so we were like, ok it’s a mouthful but we like it.

in other words, jackie is just your average new yorker who turned down the most famous investors in the world, has disrupted the bridal industry to grow to over 1 million brides per year, and simultaneously raised another baby….all while maintaining killer style, confidence + the sparkliest personality you will ever meet. jackie, thank you for being you!

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of nearly newlywed
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real

cate luzio - blankbox female founder feature the fill

female founder feature: cate luzio, ceo + founder of luminary

female founder spotlight: cate luzio, founder & ceo of Luminary

step aside, chrismukkah, everyone’s favorite celebration is here: international women’s month! we’re so excited to celebrate all the inspirational, impactful women in our lives and couldn’t think of a better way to do this than sitting down with a woman who created a place for other women to connect, create, and collaborate:  cate luzio, founder & CEO of luminary. 

fun fact: in under a year, cate went from leaving an executive-level banking position and decades long career in finance to creating, funding, curating, and opening the doors of the first female-focused collaboration hub; think less traditional co-working and more perfectly curated apartment filled with people you want to meet. palace is honestly a better word; if you’ve ever been in the space, you probably want to move in and may think we do in fact live there. they have wine on tap, why would we leave? check out the space here!

can you share the “aha!” moment that made you realize you wanted to pivot your career from finance into the ‘next thing’? did you know at that time a workspace for women was what you wanted to do or did that come later?

I didn’t have an “a-ha” moment when I decided to leave banking, but I did have a “what now” reflection point after a pivotal meeting with my [male] mentor. he encouraged me to try something else and then explained “what’s the worst that can happen? you can always go back to banking.” I couldn’t get his comments out of my mind, and then I made the decision to give myself a chance to pivot.

the idea to create luminary was born two months later in march 2018. I realized that women needed a space in NYC to go to invest in their professional development (without sacrificing self-care), build community, and get work done. I created a business plan and it was full steam ahead to make it a reality; we opened our doors just eight months later in november 2018.

editor’s note: gabi + catherine moved in shortly after with the ‘side hustle’ membership. cate cannot get rid of them.

 

was anything holding you back from creating this? how did you work through that process?

nothing held me back. I truly feel luminary fills a gap for professional women “in the middle” – those who are pivoting and entrepreneurs looking to advance, so I just went for it.

in my opinion, preparation and execution are critical. I spent most of my career building, fixing and rebuilding businesses. writing a business plan was my first step; once that was done, I held focus groups and discussions with different women who reinforced that a place like luminary was needed. building out a 15,000 square foot space in less than eight months meant a huge hustle and having the best team around me.

 

your tagline for luminary is ‘come sit at our table’; can you talk to us about why this is important to luminary’s mission and to you personally?

we’ve all felt intimidated at some point in our lives. whether it was walking into the cafeteria on the first day of school, looking for someone to sit with, to your first day of college orientation or your first job, those feelings of self-doubt trickle in. whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we’ve all had these feelings and I wanted to create a place that was welcoming, open and engaging. our “come sit at our table” mantra is important because we are inclusive not exclusive. we are a community of women across all ages, backgrounds, levels, and industries. our goal is to inspire and be inspired and build a diverse community.

 

you’ve built a great team at luminary; can you share some ‘how to hire right’ secrets?

building the right team around is you is so important. I look for people that want to work hard, that have passion for what they are “selling” and believe in our mission. this isn’t just a job or a company, it’s a family that’s part of a bigger community. we rely on one another and succeed when we work together. I have always said you’re only as good as your team. we win together, but we lose together too.

how would your team describe your leadership style?

my team would definitely say that I am direct and demanding, setting the bar high for myself and others; but I’m compassionate, open, energetic and mission-driven. I wouldn’t say my hiring style has changed from banking to luminary, but I had to hire a team with completely different skill sets and backgrounds. when I look at the team we’ve built, I know we have something special.

 

you’re a seasoned finance professional, but first time self-funded CEO; can you share a few things that expectedly, or unexpectedly, challenged you with this career change and how you navigated them? 

self-funded or not, being a first-time entrepreneur is a roller coaster. the highs are super high, and the lows are super low; it’s hard to navigate the challenges most of the time to be honest. as a self-funder, I focus on execution and acceleration of results to cash flow positive, so I need to be laser-focused on revenue and expenses. I think whether you self-fund, you raise or you leverage various loan options, it’s still a ton of pressure, but that’s also what makes the success matter that much more. 

what has challenged me the most is that roller coaster and the lack of infrastructure that I relied on more than I realized working for a big bank. on the positive side, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of women, especially entrepreneurs, that have reached out to see how they can help. it’s really inspiring but I still feel there needs to be a support group for female-founders. maybe I’ll create one at luminary! want to join? 

 

can you talk to us about your decision to self-fund vs. raise money? were there different funding avenues you explored or did you always know you wanted to self-fund? 

frankly, I never really explored other options. I knew that if I wanted to open luminary in less than a year, I wouldn’t be able to fundraise. It’s a long process and as we are all aware, women get less than 2% of venture capital funding. I’ve been working with and supporting initiatives focused on gender equality for many years and I wanted to walk the walk and put my money where my mouth was. not everyone can self-fund, but I had saved a good amount from my banking days and wanted to invest in this company. I continue to look at funding options and leave the door open as the business grows. 

 

what do you consider your best pinch-me moment? 

the day we had our launch party, our furniture arrived at 8:30am (161 pieces of furniture, 3 weeks late from Asia and elevator out of commission). the entire team and then some pulled together, and we kicked off our launch party at 6pm. I couldn’t believe we did it, but then again, I knew we would. that day I received flowers from someone special and the note said, “never a doubt.” I think that was my pinch-me moment that we had done it – in less than 8 months. 

 

is there a female founder you view as a mentor?

there have been so many, but I will say the co-founders of The Second Shift, Gina Hadley and Jenny Galluzzo. they have been incredible – the advice, support, introductions to other female founders and just “get it done” attitude. I also recently met Michelle Cordeiro Grant at LIVELY and we just clicked; the idea generation, brainstorming on how to collaborate and reciprocity around introductions has been fantastic. honestly, we have several female-founders that are luminary members and they all inspire me!

editor’s note: check out our february issue if you missed our february spotlight on michelle cordeiro grant! and yes, thank you for asking, our pinch me moment is when worlds collide and founders we adore meet and click with each other – and invite us to sit at their table.

 

we ask every founder we meet this question, because it’s always a good story! how did you come up with the name for luminary?

after dozens and dozens of names on poster board, i checked my linkedin and had a message from a former colleague whom i didn’t know. he said that he hoped i was well and even though we had never met, he saw me as a luminary for so many. i actually googled it because i knew it meant light but when i read the definition: “a person who inspires others, a guiding light, a role model, an influencer, a leader, a legend, a heroine”, i knew. i wanted to build a community of luminaries.  

cate, thank you for being a luminary for us (and so many others) + for giving us a home away from home. we can’t wait to see what the future holds for luminary [i.e. the roof deck coming in april] and for all females who get more sh*t done because of you.

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of cate luzio + luminary. 
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real