Name: Julia Carmona & Lauren Katzberg
Business: TheStylisted, a service that provides at-home hair styling and makeup
Industry: Health & Beauty
Location: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Reason for starting: Lauren and I met at the University of Chicago Booth. We were both working towards our MBA’s with concentrations in Entrepreneurship. In the winter quarter of our first year, we were inspired by a professor’s insistence that entrepreneurs should start a business based on what they know – whether it’s an area of expertise or a personal pain point- and for us, TheStylisted is both.
Lauren and I share a beauty background. I had worked in Public Relations for Nars Cosmetics and Lauren had consulted on over a dozen projects with one of the largest global beauty brands. More importantly, TheStylisted was born from our mutual frustration. We often wanted the help of a professional makeup artist or hairstylist to go beyond our normal beauty routine for special events (we are at the age where weddings come once a month), but figuring out who was available, who was nearby, and who was actually talented proved challenging. Too often, we would rush to a cosmetic counter before an event, buy products we didn’t need, end up disappointed with a face full of clown makeup just to wash it off and show up late to the event (not a great idea when the bride is half way down the aisle and you’re sneaking in the back). We wanted to use our frustration and experience to create a platform that would allow women like us to hire hairstylists and makeup artists when and where they needed them.
How do you define success? Success is allowing all women, no matter how busy and preoccupied they are, to look and feel their best when it matters. We want to make it easy for women to secure a trusted expert, when and where they need them, at a price they are comfortable with. Just the other day, a client of ours – a busy Chicago woman balancing work and family –threw her husband a birthday party and shared in her appointment review that it was the first time she had received more compliments on her hair than her food. To us, that’s success.
Biggest Success: Taking what we had learned from our first 6 months of business in Chicago, we were able to expand to New York City and launch the site in less than a month. We get emails, from women across the country, asking when we’ll be in their city, and we’re excited to continue to grow and introduce TheStylisted to more markets.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our top challenge is that as a two-person team working to provide the best customer experience for both our clients and our stylists, across two different cities, we are a bit resource constrained. With limited time and money, we have come to rely heavily on our network of supporters. We have learned the art of asking for favors, and the importance of putting yourself out there even when it can be uncomfortable.
We have both sacrificed stability and a paycheck to make TheStylisted happen. Three years ago, prior to business school, we were earning healthy salaries and self-funding our Manhattan lifestyles. We have had to scale back significantly – each doing a stint in our parents’ homes to conserve cash – but it’s helped us be bold in our commitment to seeing our business succeed.
Who is your most important role model? Our role models are our entrepreneurial mothers. We each grew up influenced by women who took the risk and started their own business. My mother, launched a health care consulting firm, and Lauren’s mother ran an event planning business. Creating something from nothing, and flexing our leadership skills seemed natural, as this was what we were surrounded by growing up. I have looked to my mother for guidance throughout this entire process. While I know she’s there to deliver a pep talk on our toughest days, she’s also the first person to share her honest opinion, stepping out of the mother role and communicating with us as a seasoned entrepreneur. It is inspiring to see our mother’s wearing many hats. Running a tech-beauty business has its challenges, as we’re in a field dominated by men, yet our business revolves around the needs of women. We’re producing a product that’s very feminine, and we want to connect with our clients on a personal level, but we also need to successfully navigate the tech landscape and command the respect of a boardroom. It’s a delicate balance, but we have these two women in our lives who remind us it can be done each day.
Edited by The Story Exchange