As the former editor-in-chief at the now shuttered Lucky fashion mag, Brandon Holley quickly learned which shopping advice was the most valuable. When she left in 2013, Brandon was inspired to bring that styling know-how to a whole new digital platform. Enter Everywear. It launched in beta earlier this year and connects women with fashion editors (for free!) to help them build outfits and make smart shopping decisions based on what's hanging in their closets.
We caught up with Brandon to hear about her inspiring - and intimidating! - crossover into the tech industry, what it's like to manage a company that's #BUILTBYGIRLS in an industry populated by men, and why you should always believe in yourself.
CAMBIO: What inspired you to launch Everywear?
BRANDON HOLLEY: We are a software platform that allows women to make decisions when shopping online with an expert beside her. Our goal is to rethink ecommerce from the shopper's point of view to help her find new pieces of clothing that pair with the things she already owns. We initially launched as an app, but we decided that the idea to allow women to make more informed decisions about what she wants was a larger idea than another app in the App Store. Rather than try and compare ourselves to "personal styling apps" we saw a bigger opportunity going straight to the consumer via large retailers. We have shown incredible results just by listening what she wants.
Being a woman in the tech industry feels like, at times, being a woman on Wall Street in the '80s, i.e. very outnumbered gender-wise. There's a lot of male testosterone out there right now. I've never felt this before. Fashion magazines are largely run by women - even if the corporations that own them are run by men - so going into a field where the entire vertical from founders, to developers, to investors, to the media journalists who cover it are mostly men, well, it's been a weird trip for me to say the least. Even in my own company, where the executives are 75 percent male except for the sole woman CEO (me), I have to prove myself every day. And you know what? I make good decisions. I run my company as I've run magazines and websites and that is with compassion for the people I work with and a business gut that gets us where we need to be without wasting any time, I'm pretty direct in business decisions but I also really believe you serve those who you work with, and for me, that's the right combination. All the women I know who run companies are similar and I think more women getting into tech is a good thing for the industry in general.
What does #BUILTBYGIRLS mean to you?
I truly believe that women-run businesses are very valuable. Take e-commerce. it's basically all built on the Amazon model, which is great for shopping for things: cables, cameras, books, supplies. But women shop in a very emotional way for clothes and advanced behavioral targeting doesn't really work for them. I always ask people why we retarget women on the things they didn't buy? Why do those shoes keep showing up on my Facebook page? I didn't buy them - I don't want them - make it stop! Why don't we retarget women in smarter ways? I believe bringing a woman's perspective to ecommerce specifically will always prove to be a good idea.
How did you transfer your fashion experience into the entirely new tech world?
Print, digital, whatever. The medium doesn't really matter to me. Running a tech company is much like running a fashion magazine (without the clothing allowance and personal driver). I've always cared about what my readers wanted. Sometimes I think these days, editors risk being too into their "own brand" and when you think about yourself too much, you forget about the reader/the consumer. And now more than ever, that's what a business owner needs to think about. Are you solving a problem? Are you relevant? Who cares what you are wearing if your business isn't resonating with readers or consumers or followers. There's a fail in online shopping and that is it's a paradox of choice - my solution is to listen to what women want and to help them make the right decision so that they feel good about their purchase. Great personal style is not some secret, it's a code that is easy to crack, just like learning how to play tennis, you just might need a little help with your swing, that's where Everywear comes in.
What career advice would you give girls?
Get an internship and work really hard. Work harder than everyone else, be smarter, read everything, find a great mentor, be competitive with everyone in the room and believe that your ideas are just as good, or better, than anyone else's - because they just might be.