Lauren is the Cofounder and CEO of TheStylisted. She began her career as a management consultant in New York, working with a top global cosmetic brand throughout her time there. She got her feet wet in the startup world at Contently before pursuing her own business. Lauren met her cofounder, Julia, in 2011 while getting her MBA at the University of Chicago Booth.
Julia is the Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer of TheStylisted. She began her career in public relations at NARS Cosmetics before gaining startup experiences with brands such as Warby Parker and Bucketfeet. In 2013, Julia graduated from the University of Chicago Booth with her MBA.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
JC: I knew from an early age that I wanted to start a business. At 8 years old, I emptied my bedroom and sold all of my toys for an entire summer. I made a killing-- and then donated every last penny to the Free Willy Foundation.
When I began working after college, I was still certain I wanted to follow an entrepreneurial path. The companies I worked for, and bosses along the way, were all quite diverse and allowed me to experience a complete range of leadership styles, noting what techniques I found most effective.
Personally, I've never liked having my hand held so I strive to encourage trust and creativity. Each person should feel like she has ownership of her work and the freedom to succeed. Of course, regular communication and honest feedback is important to that process.
LK: I've worked with so many different kinds of people and this has really allowed me to be more sensitive to others' needs and working styles. I've also learned a lot from having some not-so-effective bosses in the past. Navigating poor leadership can be a real burden, so I try to lead in a way that frees everyone up to do their thing. I never want to be a roadblock.
How did your previous employment experience aided your position at TheStylisted?
Our previous employment experience is really what encouraged us to create TheStylisted and to work together. We both have backgrounds in beauty, which allowed us to build credibility in the space. We also share startup experience, having worked with some of the most creative and exciting new companies (Contently, Warby Parker). This experience allowed us to understand what we were getting ourselves into, and we've borrowed a lot from these startups to create a unique company culture of our own.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at the Stylisted?
JC: From the client side, we get to help busy women look and feel their best when it matters most, whether it's a wedding or a work event. We're eliminating the hassle of the entire beauty prep experience.
From the stylist side, we are allowing these men and women to build their own small business. Helping them market themselves and create an online presence. We're building a network of entrepreneurs.
With limited resources and a small team, there are always new challenges emerging. I think the biggest challenge has been staying small and focused. While our plates are quite full with New York and Chicago, we are still hungry and we need to remind ourselves to concentrate on what already exists before biting off more than we can chew.
LK: When you start a company with little experience and even less money, you rely heavily on the generosity of your supporters. Our biggest challenge early on was putting ourselves out there again and again to find and win our supporters. Our company was conceived while we were at The University of Chicago so we found ourselves pitching to audiences dominated by quant-rooted men - not exactly our target demographic. We worked hard to find ways to connect with our audience, allowing men and women alike to understand our business and our value. Once we had our supporters, we had to get comfortable asking for favors - something that we both hated doing. The art of asking for favors is something that every cofounder must learn.
How has technology and social media changed the beauty industry?
Technology and social media have made experimenting with beauty much easier, but it can all be a bit overwhelming. There are so many products and how-to videos out there, and trends are constantly changing. What excites us most is the ability to use technology in a way that cuts through the clutter and eliminates much of the trial and error. We've introduced transparency into the pool of talent, allowing clients to see complete profiles and reviews online before they commit to an individual stylist.
In our opinion, in-home services paired with technology is the beauty industry dream team. Not only is the booking and payment process seamless, but you don't need to leave your home, hire a babysitter, or worry about traffic to get styled.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Well, the line has completely blurred so we rarely feel like we are juggling the two. We're not only business partners, but we're also roommates and friends. While some might view that as unhealthy, it helps us stay sane. We are both equally committed to the business and each other's happiness. It certainly helps that we love what we do and we have fun working together.
To stay sane, we book workouts that we'll have to pay to cancel (nothing gets us going like a financial incentive). We are no strangers to happy hour, and we respect one another's holidays and hot dates- meaning one of us will be the point person if the other has something big on the calendar.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
JC: It's been said before, but I think many women expect recognition and the proper compensation for a job well done, but it just doesn't happen unless you ask for it. I think many women have a hard time with that (especially compared to men). It comes down to knowing your value and finding the ability to communicate this in the workplace.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
JC: Anything that fires up women to go after what they want, I'm all for.
LK: I only recently read Lean In and a light bulb went off for me. I keep hearing how bleak the outlook is for female run businesses seeking funding. When it comes to critical first-year funding, women received about 80% less capital than men according to 2012 research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation. Lean In discusses how women often have to work harder to prove themselves because while men are promoted based on potential, women are promoted based on past accomplishments. I certainly believe this is true, and it explains why it's been so hard for women seeking seed funding. In it's first year, a company with first-time cofounders has little more than potential and a prayer. To be evaluated purely based on track record can be detrimental.
Like any other inequality it can only be addressed through awareness and education, and that's exactly what Sheryl Sandberg has given us. The conversation needs to be had.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It would be easy for us to get blinded by our own vision, but our mentors have provided a steady stream of new perspectives and gut checks. Surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you and who are wiling to share their experience and expertise is incredibly valuable. Sometimes we don't want to hear it, but we are always better off for it.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
No surprise here - we are big fans of other female cofounding duos. The women of Birchbox and The Skimm have recognized that their dynamic is one of their biggest assets. We're tired of men inquiring about the strength of our relationship and warning us that the good times won't last. Women are capable of creating high-performing, stable partnerships in order to achieve their goals. It's happening. Get used to it.