Earlier this week I shared part 1 of an interview with Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo, the 20-something founders of Of A Kind, a retail platform that collaborates with emerging designers on small batch exclusive designs for their e-commerce site. Each week find a new designer item along side stories that make you feel as if you know them – or at least wish you did! This behind the scenes authenticity only adds to a must have sensibility. Their latest edition, an uber-summery cool gingham tie from The Hill-Side sold out in one day. But no worries you can still check out past editions at http://www.ofakind.com. In part two of our interview these two share their experiences, the best advice they received and what they are working on now.
I know you both love fashion and have an eye for what’s next. Besides working with designers you love. What else do you love about starting your own business?
Claire: “I really cherish that every day is completely different. We go to a million offices. We meet all sorts of different people. One week we have a photo shoot, the next week we meet with investors and then we visit a designer’s studio.”
Erica: “We have the amazing opportunity to work with people who are passionate about doing their own thing. No one that we work with is just working for a paycheck.”
You’ve hit a lot of milestones since launching in August 2010 – what is one of your favorite highpoints or proudest moments during the process of starting Of A Kind?
Claire: “Meeting and working with entrepreneurs and people that I looked up to before we started Of A Kind. Now we talk to them and I think, ‘9 months ago it was my dream to talk to this person.’”
Erica: “I still remember the first time we sold something to someone we didn’t know. It was a huge adrenaline rush. And the first repeat customers. And the first time a press outlet got in touch with us not because we reached out to them but because people said, ‘you should talk to those of a kind girls.’”
You’ve had great advisors and mentors on your journey. What’s the best advice you received on starting a business?
Claire: “I was at a panel for women in tech and Jen Beckman, who started 20×200, really inspired me. She said she was never afraid to admit she didn’t know something. When she doesn’t know the answer, she calls three people and triangulates the solution. If people don’t call her back she keeps calling and calling until she gets three answers. If you don’t know it’s fine. Ask.”
Erica: “A woman who is close to me and a little older told me, ‘Do it now. Before you make enough money that you are comfortable. Before it becomes a lot scarier. Before you want to buy an apartment or have more life goals and feel like you are in a place where you need to move on them. Do it now because it is only going to get harder.’”
Can you tell me about the one mistake you made that you learned the most from?
Claire: “There wasn’t one mistake. I would say don’t dwell on mistakes. Learn from it and don’t do it again. It would be too time consuming to feel bad. There are so many mistakes when it comes to shipping and dealing with customers. Move on so the effects aren’t long-term.”
Erica: “The other thing that helped us avoid mistakes is that we are confident in our ignorance. We hired lawyers and accountants early on and we have been commended for bringing those components into our business when we did. That helped us avoid all sorts of mistakes that we would have made with bookkeeping an equity and god knows what else.”
What were your fears (if any) and how did you overcome them?
Claire: “Ask yourself, “What happens if we fail?” I know I will have invested less time and money than I did in college. The education and character building that comes from this is three times college and three times your therapy. You can’t pay for the kind of education you get. It’s incredible. I can’t imagine going back to a 9-5-office job where I’m executing someone else’s vision.”
On professional and personal goals …
Claire: “We have a lot of hopes for Of A Kind. Primarily, to build it as brand that is the place emerging designers want to be featured and where fashion enthusiasts come to find the next big thing in fashion.”
Erica: “On the personal front, we want to have a certain level of work life balance or at least being able to make the most of the time we’re not working. It’s important to feel connected to the outside world. That’s a struggle when you are launching a business.”
Claire: “One goal I have is to be an effective leader and good manager. It’s not something you think about when it’s just you and a partner. We both want to shift from managing ourselves and the business to developing management skills, It’s a really fun but frustrating challenge,”
Thank you Claire and Erica for sharing what you have learned …so far! I have the sense from talking to both Claire and Erica they do a great job of merging life and work into fun. But let’s keep the conversation going. Readers, entrepreneurs what have you learned from your experiences on how to make the most of your time outside of work and/or developing managerial skills?