Ana Caracaleanu is one of the co-founders and the CEO of Luevo, the first pre-ordering platform for emerging fashion designers. Ana has a strong passion for technology and innovation and she finds great interest in helping emerging fashion talent find online success. Ana is a Social Media instructor at the George Brown College - School of Fashion Studies in Toronto, Canada as well as a mentor for young entrepreneurs launching a fashion inspired Summer Company.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
That's a great question. I think life experiences shape us into being who we are, more so than education or work experience. Indeed, many circumstances and life experiences turned me into the entrepreneur and the leader I am today. Born and raised in Romania (a former communist country), I've learned from a young age to be entrepreneurial. Each year, for my birthday, I would receive brand new clothes from my grandmother, and a season later, I would sell them for cash. My "gently used" business paid for me to go to summer camp in high school and paved the way for my current career.
I've learned that if I wanted success, then I need to take control of the situation at hand, find solutions and create value. Being the oldest sibling only enriched these beliefs over the years.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Luevo?
First of all I've learned the difference between a boss and a leader. I've learned that I love to work with those that give guidance, support and those that make themselves available to their employees. I really couldn't work with those that didn't help me grow as a professional, that didn't create any value for me. So I think that has been my greatest lesson, not only do I have to create value for our customers, but also for our employees. This is one of the reasons why we have great talent that wants to join us, even if we are still a very young start-up.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Luevo?
I think all startups go through many ups and downs during their first years, and given we've only been around for a little over one year, we had our fair share of experiences.
Our biggest success so far has been the great response we received from fashion weeks across the U.S. We decided to go with 10 fashion week events this year, and I know next year we could triple that based on the interest we received this year.
What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
I think most women are afraid to ask. Ask for help, ask for advice and ask for money. I think we are trying too hard to prove ourselves that we avoid taking the risk of being rejected.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
I learned that patience is the greatest virtue. Building a company is like running a marathon and not a sprint, so you better be prepared with lots of patience for the long-run! I've learned how to pace myself, how to cope with difficult situations, how to jump over hurdles and to slow down so I can enjoy the successes along the way.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Soon after I started my business I brought my life-partner onboard, and he is now also my business partner and co-founder. Our professional and personal lives could easily blend into each other, but we try to keep a straight line between the two.
For example, when we need to discuss business and we are not at the office (let's say on the weekend), we actually book time for a meeting. This way we know when we are in "business gear' versus "personal gear". As soon as the meeting is over or we walk away from our desks, we're a couple again. We can then hold hands and be all couple-y. Same goes for time off. Since we don't have real vacations anymore then our business trips serve for a double purpose. We just make sure we add a day or two to our trip so that we can do tourist-y things and enjoy our time off.
Finally, I've learned to be much more appreciative of the time that I get to spend with my other half, even if it's just a Netflix kinda evening spent together.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think women are still at disadvantage in the STEM industries (science- tech - engineering - math) For example, every time I am at a STEM event, I find myself in minority (usually less than 10% females are present). This situation usually leads to men making casual conversation, and sometimes too casual. These are events where I pitch the business or where I am looking to network for potential partnerships. In men-dominated fields, women still have to work harder to prove themselves, to make themselves heard, but I think that's OK, because of course we can do it.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has been key to my professional life. I don't think I could have made it to where I am today alone. Every leader, every entrepreneur needs a close network of mentors to rely on, and I am lucky to have met those that believe in me enough to give me their time when I need it.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I personally don't discriminate. I admire any leader (male or female) that show ambition, intuition, drive, creativity, and that "je ne sais quoi" that makes someone a leader. For example, I really admired Steve Jobs, even if many criticised his leadership skills. I believe he had the capacity of influencing others, and I strive to have that Jedi skill someday.
What do you want Luevo to accomplish in the next year?
Our goal is to have Luevo as the trusted e-commerce partner for all regional fashion week events in North America. We are becoming the go to online destination to shop for latest runway trends directly from independent designers, and our technology can help any designer better manage their demand for future collections. Imagine a place where you go and pre-order from designers that are showing LIVE at New York Fashion Week or Fashion Week San Diego, that is Luevo.