Carol Han, Partner, is a digital strategist, brand consultant, and writer who spent eight years as a fashion editor at industry-leading publications such as Lucky, ELLE, and ELLE.com, leading to an Executive Fashion Director role at fashion and lifestyle site StyleCaster, where she created the content strategy from the ground up. Seeing a growing need for brands to tell and spread their stories online, she and partner Alexandra Weiss launched CA Creative, focusing on bringing brands to life in the digital space.
Alexandra Weiss, Partner, is a creative advisor and marketing expert who came out of Ralph Lauren's global marketing division, where she worked on a vast array of initiatives from international development to internal website development. Following her time there, she and partner Carol Han launched CA Creative, focusing on working with clients to identify and reach target consumers, develop strategies that best reach them, and expand fan reach and acquisition.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Carol Han: My mother is the strongest woman I know--she started a business on her own when I was growing up and I watched how hard she worked to make it successful. I thank the heavens every day that I inherited a fraction of her work ethic and moxie.
Alex Weiss: My father has always been an important influence in my life. Witnessing him start, grow, and manage successful businesses taught me what it means to be ambitious and hardworking. He instilled in me the entrepreneurial spirit, and taught me to set goals, embrace obstacles, and strive for what I believe in.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the co-founding partners of CA Creative Online?
CH: I spent eight years as a fashion editor at places at ELLE magazine, ELLE.com, and StyleCaster, so I cut my teeth in the editorial world working with and for some of the best people in the business. Those years taught me to be exacting and particular to a fault, and to care deeply about the work I put out.
AW: I have had an eclectic career path in which I assisted in the editorial department of The New York Times T Magazine, worked in the operations division of a small hedge fund, and was part of the global marketing team at Ralph Lauren. All of these experiences were invaluable and enabled me to learn best practices and acquire the knowledge necessary to succeed in the creative, financial, and marketing fields. Although my previous jobs were all extremely different, they each taught me the importance of problem solving, multi-tasking and, above all, having a positive attitude.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
CH: It's a constant balancing act that is always evolving, but I put a big focus on making time every day to do things I enjoy separate from work. I go to yoga five times a week (I put the classes in my calendar and treat them as though they were client meetings, so I show up no matter what), cook, play the piano, carve out time for friends, and of course, spend a huge chunk of time with my dog.
AW: The key to maintaining a successful work/life balance is to value both work and life equally. Running a business means there is a never-ending list of things to get done, but I make sure to carve out the time to focus on the meaningful activities and relationships in my life. I find taking care of myself both mentally and physically outside of the office allows me to have the stamina to do my job successfully.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at CA Creative Online?
CH: The highlights have all come with the amazing clients we've had the pleasure to work with from Day One. When you're working with brands like EDITION Hotels, Club Monaco, Smartwater, IPPOLITA, Robert Rodriguez, and more, it's easy to stay excited and immersed in what you do. For example, diving into the hospitality world with EDITION Hotels and crafting and executing their social strategy from the ground up has been an incredible learning experience-- the business of hotels is such an interesting one. As far as challenges go, we've been fortunate in that we've been able to build a seriously fantastic team, but that comes with a lot of trial and error. Your team is everything, and gathering the right people to work with day in and day out comes with a lot of time and effort.
What advice can you offer women seeking to establish their own business?
CH: Plan ahead as much as you can--develop a solid business plan with financial projections that are as accurate as you can possibly make them. And then just go for it. There will be mistakes made, that is for certain. Being an entrepreneur is a practice in rapid-fire decision-making. You're the one calling most of the shots, and with that responsibility comes a hefty amount of risk. Know that every mistake you make is a learning experience, and the ultimate reward that comes with experience is wisdom. Learn from your mistakes, and then let them go.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
CH: I think women, more than men, tend to be hesitant about asking for exactly what they want for fear of coming off as abrasive and demanding, which can be a real detriment for obvious reasons.
AW: Equality; equality in compensation, equality in advancement, and most of all equality in the perception of talent, skill and ability. While we have made advances, we still lag in these areas.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
AW: I admire Sheryl Sandberg's passion and dedication. It's always inspiring to see women stand up for what they believe in. While some construe her views as too extreme, I think her book and movement are breathing new life into issues that women have been dealing with in the workplace for decades. Hopefully by igniting these conversations, she will be able to bring about some positive changes.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
CH: Mentorship has been everything. When I was in college, I did several internships at places like Interview magazine (where I got to work directly with Ingrid Sischy--an amazing experience), Harper's Bazaar, and W magazine. Diving into the publishing and fashion industries like that was the best thing I've ever done--it introduced me to some of the most talented, hardworking women I've ever known, and it instilled a rock solid work ethic in me.
AW: I have been extremely fortunate in having had a strong group of mentors in both my personal and professional life. Starting with my family and extending to educational and business professionals, my career has been guided by a group of talented individuals who not only possessed the expertise I needed, but also had a genuine interest in my success. My recommendation on this subject is to be proactive in seeking advice. It's not going to come to you. In doing so, you will come across people who will help set you in the right direction.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
AW: I am inspired by other new female entrepreneurs, such as Haley Barna and Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox and Jessica Herrin of Stella & Dot who were able to turn their start-ups into extremely successful businesses. I admire the tenacity, dedication and passion that these female leaders have shown throughout their careers.
I also admire and look up to women like, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Sheryl Sandberg who, having achieved great success, devote their time and assets to giving back and fighting to improve the world.
What are your hopes for the future of CA Creative?
CH: To keep building CA Creative into the premiere thought leader in the digital agency world. We're young, agile, and ambitious, with the smartest, most hardworking team I have ever come across. There's truly no limit.
AW: I hope CA Creative continues to grow and thrive as an agency that is known for developing and executing creative and innovative strategies in the digital space. It's important to me that CA Creative continues to be a collaborative workplace, where employees are inspired and empowered to produce fresh and exciting work.