The Stylist LA
It's an amazing thing to be twenty-five years old and have a successful business that blossomed out of your own original idea. Motivation, backed with a strong work ethic, and a head for business Emily McDonald who is the owner of The Stylist LA, started the company in 2009. The Stylist LA is a high-end dress borrowing service. Emily realized there was a niche market for her idea when she came across many women, as well as other students and friends, who wanted to dress a certain way, but did not want to buy a new outfit for every occasion. Originally from Oklahoma, Emily graduated from USC, worked in fashion & PR, saw an opportunity...and The Stylist LA was born.
I had an opportunity to sit down with Emily and ask her some questions:
First of all, I think your concept is brilliant, so how did you come up with it?
Thank you! Well when I was getting my undergrad degree at USC I was in a sorority and realized that girls wanted to wear $400 dress to every event, but didn’t have the means to purchase new dresses for each occasion. I saw that girls were constantly borrowing dresses from each other, but they weren’t always satisfied with the dresses that they had to choose from.
How do you attain clients? Do you advertise?
My clients come from all over LA. I would break down our customer base as 50% college girls 30% high school girls and 20% young professional women. We mostly get new customers through word of mouth referrals from our existing customers. We do advertise sometimes, but not a great deal. We rely mostly on our reputation and word of mouth.
How many employees/interns do you have working with you at any one time?
We typically have 3 to 5 interns working at any time. Usually one intern is the most hands-on and acts more as my assistant and the others work as much as their schedules permit. We also have numerous brand reps who help us create events for new and existing customers and help get the word out about our company to various markets.
What trends are your clients asking for currently?
Girls are loving bright short dresses. I have seen a great demand for newer contemporary lines that are being worn by celebrities. Brands such as: Pleasure Doing Business, Naven, and Parker. For a while the looser fitting dresses were more popular, but now the customers are gravitating towards shorter and tighter dresses.
Do you influence what your clients choose? Or do you let someone wear something even if you don’t think it’s right for them? How much do you give your input?
That’s a tough question. It completely depends on the customer. If the customer wants my opinion and is not as knowledgeable about fashion or styling, I will give suggestions. However, if the customer is confident in what they are choosing and they just have a different vision than I do, I usually don’t try to persuade them to go a different route. I always tell customers how I think the dress looks on them, and I'm usually pretty honest. I think it's important that the client trusts me and doesn’t feel like I will tell them anything just to make a sale.
What is a typical week like for The Stylist LA?
Every day and week are completely different. It depends on the time of year and what events are going on. Mondays are spent checking emails, making appointments for the week, photographing and putting up new dress pictures on my site, and basically mapping out the week. We typically do many events on Monday nights because that’s when sororities have their meetings (and therefore girls are all in one place). Tuesday-Thursday are usually a blur of meeting customers, picking up dresses, blogging, working on entering new markets, etc. Fridays we typically do our buying and meet last minute customers. We also tie up loose ends from the week on Fridays. Saturdays we try and give ourselves the day off, but sometimes there is a girl that needs a last minute dress. Sunday we try and get some administrative stuff done before the week begins.
What advice do you have for young girls about having a passion, following a dream, hardwork, etc?
There are a few different parts to this. First, I would say always follow your passion. Don’t take a career route that you think will result in the most money or the most notoriety. You need to love what you do so that you'll work hard and ultimately be successful at it. Second, work your butt off. Start from the bottom and work as hard as you possibly can, learning as much as possible along the way. It is impossible to get anywhere you want to be without hard work. Third, stay true to yourself. Along the way there will be people that want you to change yourself and/or your vision, but I believe it is important to stay true to what you believe. Many people have tried to suggest ways that I should change or ways that my concept should be different. Obviously, it is important to take constructive criticism to heart and learn from it, but never change beyond what you are comfortable with. You won’t be happy in the end.
Do you set goals for yourself in your business life, or do things just happen and then you deal with them as they come?
It’s a bit of both. I definitely sit down and put goals on paper for the year, for the month, and for the week. However, I am quickly learning that things will happen that I can't plan for. Every week is different; some weeks go way better than I plan for, and some are worse. I'm learning to take everything in stride, and I try not to get too caught up in things that may have an affect on my goals. However, I do think it is important to always check back in with my goals and make sure that the company is progressing in the way that it needs to.
I know you have a studio/office in downtown LA, so you get the best of beach and city life. What advantage does that give you in your business?
It gives me a great advantage. Having an office downtown allows me to be in the fashion district and close to all of the showrooms. It is also a central location and close to the USC campus. The beach is an amazing place to come home to, and it is a great place for me to meet with customers who live in the beach cities. It is also a convenient place for girls that go to LMU to come view dresses. I also just love the beach atmosphere. It is nice on weekends (or days I can work from home) to get a break from the craziness of downtown. It’s a good place to have some calm and get some peace of mind.
Where do you see your business in 5 years, what changes, developments, etc?
That’s a very good question and one that I think about often. Ideally I would love to continue to grow the business by reaching more customers (adding an on-line component) and greatly increasing our inventory of dresses. I want The Stylist LA to branch into more styling services; such as personal shopping. I'm starting to add jewelry and want to add even more accessories at some point. I'd like to someday branch into being more of a "lifestyle company" and write books, etc. for girls going from high school to college and from college to the working world. Overall I want a company that I feel good about and a life that I really enjoy. And in 5 years, I hope I am still living in Manhattan Beach, waking up to an ocean view, and still visiting the Starbucks on Manhattan Beach Blvd every morning.
Visit The Stylist LA website for more info.