THE BLOG

Women in Business Q&A: Cristina de Basto, Founder of LibaStyle

02/19/2014 02:24 pm 14:24:24 | Updated Apr 21, 2014

Cristina de Basto founded LibaStyle in 2007. Her successful career as a sought-after decorator for yachts has taken her around the globe, where she has had the opportunity to source the world's most sophisticated and well-designed pieces. In addition to the best of American and European design, her finds originate from locations including Brazil, India, Nepal, Kenya, and Turkey among others. From witty table accessories to gorgeous jewelry, each piece has been selected by Cristina herself as the epitome of modern chic.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I believe you can only lead by example and this is what I strive for in my personal and business life. I never ask or expect from others what I cannot accomplish. That being said, I know I am very demanding when it comes to responsibilities, professionalism and work ethics. My mother is a very strong woman who taught me to always aim for excellence in whatever I try to do. I put a lot of energy into what I want to accomplish. I get 100% involved and I dedicate the best of me, and this is what I try to pass on to the ones closest to me, both at home and at work. I have always had a very strong support system and I try to make sure the ones around me, my family and the people I work with, feel the same support from me.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at LibaStyle?
My professional life led me to create LibaStyle in 2007. My work at De Basto Designs, the Yacht Design firm run by me and my husband, had taken us around the world sourcing materials, researching trends, designing and decorating the most sophisticated yachts of all sizes and flags. That treasure hunt, as I like to call it, inspired me to share those very unique, upscale findings with other markets. To make them available, conveniently at "one click away" was a very attractive idea to me. The idea of an online boutique came naturally to me, as it is how I shop for myself. However, I wanted to cover other areas besides décor, despite my interior design work at De Basto Designs. Fashion has always been a passion, so it had to be included. Then gifts and unique specialty items came along shaping this specialty boutique with carefully curated merchandise. Also, a definite MUST I always had in mind: impeccable, personal and fast customer service... and beautiful packaging. Isn't it great when you order something and you get that elegant and neatly wrapped package right at your door? It feels like white glove delivery.

Exclusivity, beauty, uniqueness are words that come naturally in the Yacht Design business. I want our customers, who shop at LibaStyle to have this same experience.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Although not the norm at the time, my mother worked full time while raising her four children, so that balance was instilled in me at an early age. When my own children were young, my main concern was quality of time versus quantity, and that is something I strive for daily.

Working with a spouse also requires a lot of balance. It's a lot of time spent together and the separation between personal and business life becomes a blurred line. We've learned that respect for each other's privacy and time is necessary. Although my husband and I spend all day together at the office, sometimes we do not even see each other there. So when we get home, there's a lot to talk about and catch up on. Unlike many others who work together, we do speak about business at home. For us, it's normal - it's part of our life and it's our passion.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at LibaStyle?
I love the curating side of the business. I truly enjoy finding something different, unique or simply beautiful, interesting or fun. I love fashion and I'm obsessed with accessories. You may be dressed in a completely designer outfit or just a pair of black pants and a white T-shirt, and the right bag, scarf or earrings can change everything. Selecting accessories for LibaStyle gives me great pleasure.

My buying trips are also another highlight. I travel a lot, for both LibaStyle and De Basto Designs, and it is something that I've come to enjoy as it gives me the opportunity to visit, reflect upon, and benefit from different and exciting parts of the world.

Both companies are very personable and customer oriented, so that requires a lot of me, which can be challenging at times. Combining both businesses, while being fully present and available is certainly the biggest challenge of all. Very often I feel my days are not long enough. Since I am late person, I am never in bed before midnight.

What advice can you offer individuals who are seeking a career in the retail industry?
Market research is important as is spending time learning about the industry, whether it's through experience or a mentor in the field. Gaining that knowledge and coupling it with a passion for what you're setting out to do, I feel, is what is most important.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think the biggest challenge for women in the workplace is juggling a personal life and career. I come from a family where the women, my mother and sisters, always had a career while raising their families. Fortunately, I work with my husband who has always respected my professional life and pushed me to reach for my dreams. Unfortunately, this is not always the norm. So many women get home after a long work day and tackle their home life- caring for a home and tending to their children, sometimes with very little help from their partners. Women still fall behind in compensation and certain opportunities. And there are still certain professional areas mostly dominated by men.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
You are always affected and influenced, formally or informally, by other people. Having someone, independent and detached from the situation or problems you're faced with is a big help. It can give you different perspectives, insights and points of view. Although I personally never had one individual who I would call my mentor, I would love to share ideas and exchange ideas with a mentor one day, as I still have a lot to learn.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire women who try to make a difference - whether in the business world, humanitarian field and/or in their personal life. Women who lead by example, who lead in impossible situations, who lead others through hardship. I admire Malala Yousafzai, who at a very young age stood up for her beliefs and the future of girls like her.

What are your hopes for the future of LibaStyle?
LibaStyle is a work in progress, it is constantly evolving. We want to keep expanding our customer base and strive for repeat customers, who serve as a testament to our effective customer service. Our goal is to build a strong loyalty program.

We would love for LibaStyle to be that "one stop shop" for the busy, modern and well informed consumer, where you can find anything from a simple, beautiful vase or fun hostess gift, to an elegant home décor piece or cool fashion - Something for your pet, something for you, or something well designed for your home.

LibaStyle is structured in 3 separate "boutiques" - LibaYou, featuring personal accessories, LibaHome, featuring home décor and accessories and LibaGifts, a mix of both. We also have plans to add another new "boutique" that will feature one-of-a-kind design and art. It will be a platform for new artists and custom designs that have been used to accessorize some of our yachts.