Boss Lady: Supal Desai

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Today we chat with Supal Desai, a familiar face who has contributed to our blog (here and here) and who recently just launched her own company, C&É Consultancy. The London based firm provides businesses, brands and designers from the worlds of fashion, food and interiors with insight, strategies and much more. 

Supal Desia of C&E consultancy

Image courtesy of Sara Lejon Photography

1. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your career.
By day I specialize in the business environment in the Middle East and Central Asia, which includes things like conducting due diligence through international networks, monitoring political and regulatory developments and presenting my findings to senior decision-makers or players interested in making an investment in the region. I started traveling to the Middle East when I was in college to conduct field research and really enjoyed learning about the society and culture. Though I always wrote in journals, I wanted to document my experiences and share it with family and friends back home. These experiences included recipes, DIY projects, tips about travel and narratives about my experiences. When I moved to Washington, DC after college that’s when I started taking blogging seriously as I wanted to blend both my work in international affairs with my love for culture and adventure. To my surprise, people were interested in what I had to say! Soon after I continued backpacking and eventually started graduate school at the University of St. Andrews working towards a MA in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies. Studying something so dynamic on a campus full of people from all over the world, it enhanced my outlook and refined my opinions and style. I started C&É Consultancy because I believe combining a company’s business goals with design ambitions is important to strengthen a brand and my international experience can provide a unique perspective!

2. How did C&É Consultancy come to exist?
When I was at St. Andrews, I was reached out by a few major department stores based in London to do some concept design for windows. I was working alongside reputable brands in the fashion industry and was becoming more exposed to the design world. After moving to London and doing a bit of networking in the fashion world, companies and designers were reaching out to me because I was bringing a unique perspective, one that combined design with diplomacy and business ethics, which is what gave rise to C&É Consultancy! It marries both my worlds of business intelligence and management with design.

3. What draws you to the world of fashion, food and interiors?
Well, my mom with fashion. My mother is incredibly beautiful and has always loved quality clothes. She used to have long, dark hair that she braided and wore stunning floral frocks. I can confidently say that I share the same love for skirts, dresses and frocks! Also, growing up in an Indian household, I was spoiled with beautiful traditional clothes of silks and cottons and vibrant colors. When it comes to interiors, my parents bought a home when I was about 12 years old. It was a blank canvas, one that we were going to truly make our own by decorating each room and painting the walls! My parents took point in involving me in the entire process of designing. They consulted me on color selections, dining sets, chinaware, etc. It’s the fact that they had confidence in my choices. And when it comes to food, just about every narrative on c&é’s recipes is a personal story about how food has always brought my family together. I mean, even our home is centered around the kitchen island! I remember after submitting my dissertation at St. Andrews, I was home in Florida and we decided to grill out. The scene: my dad was trimming the meat as my mom mixed together a spice rub right next to him. My brother setting up the table outside and helping me put together the side dishes and dessert, but mostly taste testing everything. We’re a stream without a ripple when it comes to the kitchen. Everyone has a distinct, essential role and it’s something I cherish and love so much.

4. Where would you like to see C&É Consultancy go in the next 5 or 10 years?
I want C&É Consultancy’s philosophy to be something emerging designers and business owners prioritize. In 5 years, I imagine we will have a network of retained clients that entrust us to help them navigate critical business decisions. In 10 years, I hope we establish a strong enough impact in the design and boutique hospitality industry where it is natural for companies to outline business goals encompassing what we believe in at C&É Consultancy.

5. How do you balance business and pleasure?
That’s a really good question! I’m still trying to figure this out. In a world where social media dictates our lives (and my social media being so connected to the brand of my blog) it is incredibly difficult to emancipate myself from blog/business time. There are a few habits that help me unwind and enjoy myself: I never go on the internet when I’m in the tube. That 20-40 minutes without internet is pure freedom and I usually don’t even listen to music just so I can force myself to live in the present. I always wake up an hour before I’m supposed to and I write letters to readers, friends and family. I go rowing out on the River Thames once-a-week (if weather permits in London). Finally, I can never fall asleep without reading.

London Bridge

Image courtesy of Sara Lejon Photography

 6. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Travel, adventure, experiences, my past. I was fortunate enough to have parents that continued to push me to learn everything I possibly could. When I was younger my weeks were full of after-school activities like piano lessons, dance classes, language courses, sports and the like. Those skills defined my characteristics and open to new experiences, which is why culture through art, music, language, and literature drives my creativity. I take raw experiences and adapt them into relatable posts or projects for my readers and clients.

7. What advice would you have for those thinking about launching their own company?
Be ready for early mornings, long nights, and lots of caffeine! But really, it’s one of the best feelings in the world and if it is something you are truly passionate for, you will never work a day in your life. Be prepared. I drafted a business plan and went over it with my dad, until I constructed a business model that I was happy with. Defining a philosophy and outlining your goals will build a stronger brand and make the transition into being your own boss that much easier.

Just for fun…

behind the boss with supal desai

1. Estée Lauder Modern Muse | 2. Chanel Chance | 3. Roses et Reines | 4. Coffee | 5. Tea | 6. Favorite Editing Tool – Adobe Lightroom | 7. Vogue | 8. Business of Fashion

More on Supal

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

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Boss Lady: Dorie Golkin Smith and Emelyn Northway

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with the powerhouse duo behind Of Mercer, Dorie Golkin Smith and Emelyn Northway. Of Mercer is a modern retail brand dedicated to offering stylish and high quality women’s workwear at affordable prices. Boss Lady: Of Mercer Founders

1. Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your career. 
We met while getting our MBAs at Wharton, having both come from traditional business backgrounds. Dorie was a strategy consultant at Deloitte, where she focused on business issues including growth strategy development, customer transformation, and supply chain redesign. Emelyn began her career at Merrill Lynch as an investment banking analyst in the Gaming, Leisure and Transportation group. Afterwards, she spent two years as an Associate at Liberty Partners, a middle-market private equity firm in New York.

2. What prompted the two of you to start Of Mercer?
Our jobs prior to business school were the inspiration for starting Of Mercer. We were always going straight from work to dinner in the same clothes and were frustrated by how hard it was to find stylish AND well-made workwear that didn’t cost a fortune. So we created Of Mercer, a brand of high-quality, desk-to-dinner womenswear. Our clothes are made using the same luxury Italian fabrics and NYC factories as designer brands, but because we sell them directly to our customers online, we can offer them at half the price (dresses start at $140!)

Of Mercer Dresses

3. Describe a typical day.
That’s a pretty impossible question! Because we’re still a small team, we each wear a lot of hats. One day we’ll be on-location at a photo shoot and the next we’ll be meeting with the team at our NYC factory or planning our upcoming marketing campaigns. And pretty much every day you can count on us posting on Instagram or our many other social media accounts. It’s rewarding to be part of every aspect of the business, and it’s definitely never boring!

4. How do you balance business and friendship, without harming either one?
Because we spend so much time together, our conversations move very fluidly between personal and professional topics. One moment we’ll be discussing Emelyn’s upcoming wedding, then we’ll transition seamlessly to the theme of our next email campaign – it drives our friends a little crazy! Part of what makes us such great co-founders is the fact that we’re best friends – so it’s very important for us to nurture both aspects of our relationship.

5. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the business?
A lot of the decisions we make are based on the feedback we receive from customers – colors they love, styles that work on their body, etc. To best serve our customers we need to have an open communication channel. In a typical brick-and-mortar setting we’d be able to see how women interact with our clothes and why they made a purchase (or didn’t). Online it’s hard to see that. We try to have personal relationships with our customers as much as possible – we write notes for every package that goes out, and we answer emails and phone calls ourselves.

6. What is the brand’s most successful form of marketing?
Word of mouth! It makes us so happy when we hear from our customers who love their recent purchases, and it makes us even more ecstatic when they spread the love to the women in their lives. We have a lot of customers who were referred to us by their friends or that saw a colleague wearing one of our dresses at work. Getting a recommendation from a friend you trust is more powerful than any other form of marketing.

7. You’ve had pop-up shops and trunks shows, would you ever consider opening a physical store-front?
One of the biggest challenges we face as an e-commerce company is showing how high quality our pieces are – the fabrics are luxurious and the tailoring is impeccable, but that’s sometimes hard to see on a computer screen. When we do pop-up shops or trunk shows, people are able to look, touch, and try on, and they’re often struck by the quality. Because of that, we love doing in-person events, and hope to eventually open our own showroom or storefront.

Of Mercer Dress

8. Who would you love to see wearing Of Mercer?
Michelle Obama, Marissa Mayer, and Emma Watson. They’re all powerful, ambitious, and stylish women.

9. Where would you like to see Of Mercer in 5 years?
We are currently focused on expanding our product line. This year we will introduce separates into our collection – skirts, blouses, knitwear, and pants. From there we will continue to listen to our customers and grow into new product areas based on their feedback. We hope to open showrooms in major urban areas so that women can have personalized in-person shopping experiences. In five years, Of Mercer will be the go-to brand for ALL of your desk-to-anything needs!

10. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Make sure you’re passionate and truly believe in your idea. It’s even better if your idea is solving a person problem. This will be the fuel that propels you through the ups and downs. Build up a support network of peers and mentors who will celebrate your accomplishments with you, and be there to help you (perhaps with a bottle of wine) when you’re going through a down moment.

Just for fun…

boss lady must haves

1. NatureBox | 2. Phillip Lim Satchel | 3. Flavour App | 4. Riedel Wine Glass | 5. Benetint by Benefit | 6. Antigua Loafers | 7. Barry’s Bootcamp | 8. Diptyque Candle


– Cocktail of choice:

Dorie: Malbec
Emelyn: Same (i.e., we usually share the bottle)

– Favorite chick flick:
Dorie: Legally Blonde
Emelyn: Bridesmaids

– Best song to cure the blues:
Dorie: Walking on Sunshine, by Katrina & the Waves
Emelyn: Hold On, by Wilson Philips (see answer to question above)

More on OF MERCER

website | facebook | twitter | instagram | pinterest | google+

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Favorite Pinners

It’s no secret that Pinterest offers a visual wonderland of endless images. In addition, you’ll find life hacks, styling tips, DIYs and so much more. We especially love pinners who beautifully curate their boards featuring all sorts of different categories. Here are some of those favorites:

Levo League – we love them for their business tips on everything from time management to the importance of seeking a mentor.

levo league

Jessica Colalcua – the founder of Design Seeds is a never ending source of color inspiration. Along with her graphic designs as well.

jessica colaluca

Refinery29 – with the latest fashion styles and beauty trends, we could look at Refinery29’s boards all day long.

refinery29

The Beauty Department – want a new hair style or to try the latest beauty craze? Visit their boards for tips and tricks to mastering that hair and makeup.

the beauty dpt

The Every Girl – relatable content that features career advice and lovely stationary, The Every Girl has it all.

the every girl

The LSD – for the ultimate collection of fashion icon photos to interior home designs for every room, Lauren Santo Domingo does not disappoint.

the lsd

Love and Lemons – food never looked so beautiful and delicious! You’ll want to start creating things in the kitchen right away.

love and lemons

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Boss Lady: Meg Shackleton

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Meg Shackleton, the designer and founder of Margaret Elizabeth Jewelry. A firm believer that life is too short not to be doing what you love, Meg decided to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur. She left her job at Google and began designing jewelry.

Meg Shackleton of Margaret Elizabeth Jewelry

 

Tell us a little about yourself ​​and your company.
I’m the founder and designer of San Francisco based Margaret Elizabeth Jewelry. We make classic pieces for the modern woman and seek to bring out the vibrancy in everyone who wears our jewelry.

​​Were you nervous to leave Google and start your own business? ​ What was the pivotal moment that inspired you to make that leap?​
I was really nervous to leave Google! I was very comfortable there and enjoyed the company and my co-workers so much. It was definitely a major change in environment to go from a corporate setting to working on my own- and not getting a steady paycheck was certainly a huge difference! Once a few large retailers expressed interest in the line, I decided it was time to pursue Margaret Elizabeth full time. It’s been so much fun and so exciting- I haven’t looked back since!

Is it hard to balance designing ​the ​jewelry with the  ​every day ​business​ & marketing aspects​ of Margaret Elizabeth Jewelry?
It can definitely be challenging balancing the two sides of the business. Realistically, the ‘business/marketing’ aspects involved with running the company occupy much more of my time than designing does. That said, my team is so amazing and they do so much to keep the business running. Having a great team in place is allowing me to focus more on growing the line and designing new pieces.

margaret elizabeth jewelry

What is your brand’s most successful form of marketing?
Social Media! I think that sharing our pieces on social media allows people to visualize how they would wear them in their own wardrobes and how they can style the jewelry. Social media provides an extra lens that a simple website doesn’t.

​What inspires you​ ​and fuels your creativity?​
Travel! Every time I’m in a new place and encountering new cultures and people I get so inspired.

​What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
If you have an idea or product that you’re passionate about- go for it! Surround yourself with great advisers and talk to as many people as you can before you take the plunge.

Just for fun…

Who is a woman in business who inspires you?
I admire and look up to Diane Von Furstenberg so much. She’s a true boss lady!

What blogs do you love to read?
Love Garance Doré, Gadabout, Elements of Style, Piece of Toast, Sacramento Street, Glitter Guide, Everygirl…the list goes on and on!

Favorite piece in your jewelry collection?​
Our teardrop bangles!

 

More on Meg Shackleton
website | facebook | twitter | instagram 

(photo credit: bess friday)

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