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 - 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

lively boss babe pouches - blankbox gift guide the fill

female founder feature: michelle cordeiro grant, ceo + founder of lively

female founder spotlight: michelle cordeiro grant, founder & CEO of lively

can you think of a better spotlight for valentine’s month than the female founder who reinvented the lingerie industry? we can’t! we sat down with michelle cordeiro grant, founder & CEO of lively and creator of the ‘leisuree’ movement

fun fact: michelle was the first person we ever gifted a blankbox to! she runs a multi-million dollar business, but in the female founder collective spirit, has still found time to be an incredible resource, mentor, and inspiration. 

what inspired you to start lively? how has the brand evolved from the original idea?

 

It was while I was at Victoria’s Secret that I realized that the $13 billion lingerie category in the U.S. alone was dominated by this one brand, with one POV. I was inspired to create a completely new experience for this category, one that was inspired by real life. The concept of LIVELY began around what I always thought was missing from the lingerie category: a brand that delivered on what it means to be sexy today—smart, healthy, active and confident. Today, LIVELY sets out to deliver on high style and ultimate comfort in one place so that women can live their lives 14 hours a day and not have to compromise. Looking back, it’s amazing to see that every experience truly shaped the ethos and purpose of LIVELY and where I landed.

 

you don’t have a co-founder. can you talk about how you managed all the responsibilities of starting and growing a company early on? what are the most important things to dedicate your time to as a new entrepreneur?

 

In the beginning when I was my own CEO and only employee with no company name, I started the journey by developing a vision board. Then I spent most of my time networking and making a list of things I was unfamiliar with like digital marketing, customer service and so on. The reason I did this was so that I could use the network that I took the time to build to support me in those key areas.

 

you pioneered the phrase “leisurée” – how is this important to your brand values? What do you feel are the strongest differentiators about your brand relative to its competitors?

 

With our mission in mind and our experience in hand, we knew we wanted to do things differently. We started by wiping the slate clean and taking our time pulling together elements of high style, function, femininity and comfort that we personally loved. We began by buying yoga pants and cutting the waistbands off and stapling them to bralettes because this is what we wanted to wear all day. The end product was so authentic in concept and design that we realized we created a whole new product category—one that blurs the lines of active, lingerie and swim called Leisurée.

 

what has been your most impactful learning moment for lively so far?

 

One of the most impactful learning moments for us has been really taking the time to listen to our customers, incorporate them in every facet of our brand and deliver them products that they ask for. An example of this is when we launched our Busty Bralettes, which sold out in less than 24 hours with over 3,000 people on our waitlist. Our DD and DDD girls asked us to make a bralette for them and not only did we deliver, but we involved them in the marketing and sharing of this launch.

how would your team describe your leadership style, and how has that impacted the growth of your brand? any specific words you live by?

 

You’re only good as your team. One of my first bosses gave me this advice that I’ll never forget. I truly believe it’s not what we can accomplish as individuals, but what we can do together. It’s the entire team behind LIVELY that’s striving off each other’s strengths, talents, and passions that make this company a success. I strive to create an environment where my team is able to be curious, explore their passions and tackle new projects. It’s the most rewarding feeling in the world when our projects come to life, especially knowing that we all accomplished these moments together.

 

talk to us about your decision to raise money. at what point did you know it was the right decision, and what are some of the questions & concerns we can expect from potential investors?

 

When I launched LIVELY in 2016, I was able to fund the brand with an angel round pre-launch to help bring LIVELY to life. I strategically took a different approach in that I purposefully took capital from our manufacturer versus going to a traditional VC or financial partners. The reason why I took this approach was that I wanted to build LIVELY on community and experience first therefore needed to have a solid quality product that could stand strong on its own and go beyond our customers’ expectations. At the early stages, understand that investors are investing in the entrepreneur. They want to know and understand the your vision, they want to see the proof of concept or product and where it will fit in the market. 

 

what does being a female founder mean to you? Is there a female founder in particular you look up to?

 

As a female founder, my goal when starting LIVELY has always been to give back to the female community both through LIVELY’s mission and my own personal efforts. It’s extremely important to me to be able to help women build confidence, lead and change their dreams into goals. LIVELY is all about inclusivity and with our ambassador program, which we now have +65,000 ambassadors around the country, we have been able to create a community of smart and strong women who share stories and do the things they love with one another. A female founder that I look up to is Diane von Furstenberg because she has been able to defy gender stereotypes and establish herself in the fashion industry without having to sacrifice her role as a mother. Her fearless attitude and understanding of what today’s women need and want to have inspired me and my journey as a female entrepreneur in this industry.

 

we ask every founder we meet this question, because it’s usually a fun story! how did you come up with the name lively?

 

I created a persona of who I thought the customer should be—her name was Liv. In my mind, Liv was adventurous, free-spirited, friendly and outgoing. She was the kind of girl who you’d want to be friends with and who would always have your back. As I thought about different words that shared and described Liv’s personality, the word LIVELY came to mind. By definition, LIVELY means “full of life and energy, active and outgoing,” which describes the persona I had been envisioning!

 

so…need we say more? a huge thank you to michelle for a great conversation, and for being an inspirational female founder changing the conversation in the lingerie industry! all product photos are shoppable but be warned … your bra & undies drawer will never be the same. 

 

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