If you’ve ever tried Stylisted, you know that the concept is as innovative as it is fabulous, the service is unparalleled, and is currently taking the market by storm as a result. It should be no surprise then, that the women behind Stylisted are not just professional and business savvy, but passionate and ambitious dream-followers who would stop at nothing to ensure their crazy idea turned into a reality.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Carmona and Lauren Katzberg, the women behind Stylisted, to pick their brains about starting their own company, their journey to success and beyond. If you’re looking for some career inspiration to start your week off, look no further than Julia’s and Lauren’s insights about never giving up on your dreams.
1) Can you tell us a little bit more about Stylisted?
Stylisted is a platform that allows women to book on-location hair & makeup appointments from a network of vetted freelance professionals at salon prices.
While the on-location market is heating up, Stylisted continues to be the only marketplace for stylist services, allowing the client to hand-pick her stylist so she can find the best professional for her unique needs.
2) What was the inspiration behind Stylisted? How did you come up with it?
Stylisted was born from a personal pain point. As women of a particular age, the wedding invitations were piling up and we often wanted (sometimes needed) the help of a skilled makeup artist or hairstylist to go beyond our normal beauty routine, but understanding who was available and who was really talented proved to be a challenge. Unable to endure one more makeup counter experience gone wrong, we decided to build a solution!
3) What were your earlier career moves that prepared you to launch your own company?
Julia: I began my career in public relations at NARS Cosmetics before gaining startup experiences with brands such as Warby Parker and Bucketfeet.
Lauren: I began my career as a management consultant in New York, working with a top global cosmetic brand throughout my time there. I got my feet wet in the startup world at Contently in NYC before pursuing Stylisted.
4) What were some obstacles early on? How did you overcome them?
We had a very technology-dependent business idea (to build an online marketplace for the beauty industry), and zero technical experience between the two of us. Our business school professors taught us early on that the best way to test an idea or business concept is to just do it… so we did! We created a Facebook page & made a Power Point deck with our stylists’ photos & bios that we circulated to friends and friends of friends who were getting married or attending school formals. It was a minimum viable product at its finest.
Pitching a female focused beauty business at Chicago Booth was also rather challenging. Most men didn’t think women had a need for our services beyond their wedding day. We had to figure out a way to communicate the potential for our business and we did this through data—quantifying the marketplace and shaping a compelling story through the numbers.
5) What was the most difficult aspect of creating your own company?
Julia: Taking the risk to forgo a steady paycheck and secure career path was quite challenging. In business school, we watched our friends recruiting for jobs and accepting these fantastic offers—meanwhile, we were deciding to graduate and focus 100% on Stylisted, forgoing salaries, benefits, and signing bonuses to follow a passion. It’s a huge risk!
6) What specific steps did you take in order to grow your company into what it is today? Were there any major growing pains along the way?
Lauren: There are always growing pains. When you’re a first-time entrepreneur – at every stage – you’re doing something you’ve likely never done before, from building a product to fundraising. The best thing you can do is meet with as many people as you can and find the smart people in your extended network who can help. Share your vision early and often, be upfront about your deficiencies, and find people who have experience handling whatever the challenge of the day may be.
7) Now that you have successfully launched your own business- what are some tips you would give to women trying to start their own?
Julia: Find a co-founder whom you would follow through the gates of hell. I can’t imagine doing this alone and I happen to think my co-founder is one of the smartest women I know. We have a tremendous amount of respect for one another and the roles we each play in the company, which is absolutely key.
Lauren: Don’t be afraid to ask for help (often). As first-time entrepreneurs, we had so much to learn (we still do!) and it took an army to get us where we are today. Sometimes it feels like you’re constantly asking for favors, but what you’ll find is that the entrepreneurial community is incredibly helpful & supportive, and people will bend over backwards for you and not expect anything in return… except maybe a thank you note.
8) What does a “day in the life” look like for you?
Julia: This has very recently changed. We used to be roommates so a day in the life was pretty much: wake up, open laptops, start working…until we went to sleep, with coffee & food scattered throughout… and maybe a workout class. Nowadays, we’re a bit more balanced.
I wakeup around 7am and answer a first round of emails, before grabbing coffee & breakfast and heading into the office. When we worked from home, most days we wore workout gear (in hopes that we’d make it to the gym)—but now we have to get dressed and do our hair, so that’s a fun change! No two days in the office are the same. Some days it’s back-to-back meetings, other days we’re all pretty heads-down on our laptops. I tend to go a little stir crazy between 5 and 6 and need to change up my scenery. On a good day, I’ll get a spin or barre class in and then head home. Other evenings we’ll have an event and I don’t get home until 8:30 or 9. Ideally, I’ll cook dinner and watch Wendy Williams, and then I’ll put in another couple of hours before heading to bed.
Lauren: I wake up around 7am and make myself coffee and breakfast every morning. I read and organize all of my emails before heading out, but won’t touch my phone during the bus ride into the office. Instead I read a (hopefully) good book and get my mind right. Every day in the office is different – sometimes I have my headphones in and won’t speak to anyone outside of my team. Other days, I’m bouncing from meeting to meeting all over Chicago. I keep workout clothes at my desk because I know if I don’t go to the gym right from work I’ll never make it. And I always try to get into bed by 10:30pm because I am useless when I’m tired.
9) What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Julia: “Be your own boss.” I can’t say that’s great advice for everyone, but it was for me.
Lauren: Starting a business or taking a pay cut to follow a passion is certainly a risk, but challenging yourself and constantly learning is the greatest hedge of all.
10) What is your favorite part of your job? And your least favorite?
Favorite Part: We get to work with these incredibly talented hairstylists & makeup artists and help them grow their freelance business. Our entire business model is built with an entrepreneurial spirit. Their success is our success and that keeps me going most days.
Least Favorite Part: We have some VERY early wakeups. If a woman on the east coast is getting a blowout at 6am, we’re up at 4am ensuring her stylist is en route & the appointment is set to run smoothly.
11) How often do you get your hair and makeup done? What are your personal favorite looks?
Julia: It depends on the season. During wedding season, it seemed like I was getting something done once a week. Now, I tend to book once a month. Unfortunately, we still have to pay for the services—and on a startup salary, we need to book conservatively. I love a bronze glow and tons of lashes. When I get my hair done, I usually ask for volume since most days my hair is pretty flat or in a ponytail.
12) I am obsessed with your Instagram (to put it lightly), what initiatives do you take in order to make sure you are always staying on top of the trends with your hair, makeup, social media, etc.?
Thank you! We recognized early on that our business is in a very visual industry and social media could be a great tool for us. We also recognized that we are not the beauty experts, we are the women in need of help! With that said, we hired a Director of Community Outreach, Isabella, who is a true beauty authority. She has a passion for all things beauty- from products to latest trends- and we thank our lucky stars that she’s a member of the team!
13) What advice do you have for women trying to follow their own dreams?
Start right away. There’s never going to be an ideal time so just take the leap. Not everyone can quit their job and take such a huge risk, but if it’s a dream and a passion, set aside a handful of hours each morning or after work to begin working on whatever it might be.
14) What’s next for you? And Stylisted?
We’re launching a new app in a matter of days! It’ll be much sleeker and easier to use than our current app. We also have an aggressive rollout plan for the next few years so we’re excited to continue adding markets and expanding Stylisted!