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Between e-commerce, blogs, apps, and the vast world of social media, fashion is as much about technology these days as it is about style. In a new series, we sit down with some of the many women who are killing it in the fashion-tech industry and find out how they're kicking ass in their careers. Their worst mistakes, their best advice... it's all here. This is Ladies Who Launch.
Editorialist founders Stefania Allen and Kate Davidson Hudson. Photo courtesy of Editorialist
Kate Davidson Hudson and Stefania Allen had what most people would consider dream jobs in the fashion industry. They worked together at Harper's Bazaar before moving on to become accessories editors at other high-profile glossies: Stef at Town & Country and Kate at Elle. But about a year ago, they gave notice and left the magazine world to launch their own start up, an online magazine/e-commerce hybrid with a focus on luxury accessories called Editorialist.
Since its launch four months ago, the site has been featured on just about every major fashion blog and magazine and has quadrupled both traffic and the number of vendors featured—a testament to the founders' ability to spot a hole in the market and then own it. Here's what they have to say about cutting the corporate cord, good stress, and laughing until you cry.
Racked: How do you determine when to leave an amazing, secure job with a large company to do your own thing?
Kate: You just have a feeling that there's something more and there's an opportunity there. It was so clear to us. But that doesn't mean it was easy to cut the cord.
Racked: Is there anything you miss about working for a giant company?
Stef: There were certainly perks. Not having to worry about expenses. Not having to pay bills. There's a lot of worry and trust that goes into your own business. It's the best stress that I've ever had, but you're constantly thinking and you can't turn it off. I can say I've probably never worked harder in my life, and it's not necessarily hours in an office. Even though we are at the office late, it's more that your brain never shuts off, because you're constantly thinking of ways that you can improve the business, what's the right path, what's not, and managing a staff. In our jobs we've always managed people below us, but it's so different when it's your business and your money and your team.
Kate: Having your own business pushes you. Some days I'm like, 'I don't know if I can do this.'
Stef: You definitely have your good days and your bad days.
Racked: How do you deal with your bad days?
Stef: I think that Kate and I have found the right formula. We laugh. A lot. I can honestly say I have never laughed so much in my life than I have in the last six months. Sometimes to the point that we're crying out of laughter.
Kate: You're terrified, and you're scared, you're tired, and upset, but you love it. Everytime that you have a little breakthrough, that's enough energy to get you through the next hurdle.
Stef: On the bad days, we look at each other and we just remind each other that we're doing this because we love it. We have to just take it for what it is, and the next day will be a better day.
Racked: How much of a difference does it make to do this with a partner?
Stef: For me personally, it makes the biggest difference. You have your moments where you disagree, but I think those are healthy moments. If you agreed on everything, it wouldn't be a solid partnership. We learned that the hard way when we first got into a disagreement. We really had no idea how to react towards one another in the situation, but I think we only grew from it. I'm so blessed that Kate and I were together at Elle before, so we knew what the dynamic would be like working together. You don't want to go into business without knowing how you work together.
Racked: What advice would you give to someone who's interested in transitioning from a career in print media to one online?
Kate: A lot of the entry points remain the same. If you can intern at a place where you really have a vested interest, that's the best way to get your foot in the door, the best way to learn the production cycle from the ground floor up.
Racked: Are there some basic skills that help the transition process?
Stef: We've been teaching all of our interns how to code, which I think is such a huge asset that they might never have considered. Most of the people that we are hiring for intern jobs are more the "fashion girl" type, but why not let that segway into tech developing? I think that's going to be a huge asset for them. It's super important to have that under your belt.
Racked: Has it been a challenge to learn the business side of editorial and e-commerce in addition to the creative side?
Stef: It's a totally different thing. You don't really know the minutia that goes into it! That's been such a fun learning curve. I can honestly say i've never learned so much in my life as I have in the last few months. In terms of fundraising and having investors, that has been a completely different realm for Kate and me. Neither of us went to business school, but we took some courses. You do pick it up quickly. You have one meeting with one of these guys and it certainly sets the tone for the rest. You do your homework after that.
Kate: Research is key. You can never be too informed. You should know the questions that they're going to ask when you go in there, and know the answers.
Stef: You should know your business inside and out. I know that seems like an obvious thing, but it's not. There are certain questions about your business that you don't even think of.
Racked: How do you dress for investor meetings? Do you tone it down to be relatable, or amp it up to demonstrate your product?
Kate: I personally think when you sit across from a sixty year old man who's been CEO at a company for the last thirty years, he's not going to understand the amazing Altuzarra fringe jacket you just got straight off the runway. For us, it really shouldn't be about the clothes in those meetings. It should be about the brand and about the next steps and smart business decisions. Make it less about you. You have to understand your audience.
Racked: Both of you are in the process of starting families [Kate has a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter and Stef is seven months pregnant]. What is it like to do that and launch a start-up at the same time?
Kate: I had my daughter a little over a year before the launch. She was just getting into that phase where she's more engaged and realizes when I'm not there. It's the most challenging part of the entire thing, I think—finding that balance and coming to terms with that balance, whatever it is.
Stef: Until I'm doing it, I don't know how it will work. I do think it will make make me a better mother in the long run, that I do have my own business and that I am working. I feel like I'll be fulfilled in that way. Just in the cab ride over here, Kate and I were saying that our personalities probably wouldn't be happy if we didn't have both. But that's not for everybody. It's totally a personal thing.
Racked: What's the best career advice you'd give?
Stef: Be flexible, and be confident in your decisions. Take every loss and the wins as they come. It's okay to make mistakes—being flexible is half of it. Kate and I said from day one, let's just do our dream scenario business and see what happens. We're still in our dream scenario.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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