Chelsa Crowley & Julie Fredrickson

CEO and Co-Founders, Stowaway Cosmetics

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 08, 2015

Discussion

Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
Hi - I'm Julie Fredrickson, cofounder of Stowaway Cosmetics. I'm a third time startup founder (one successfully exited, one deadpooled and the third one Stowaway is doing OK!). I'm delighted to be here-- ask me anything! Seriously anything. I like to swear and nothing offends me. & Hello! I'm Chelsa Crowley, cofounder of Stowaway Cosmetics. I began my career as a makeup artist before working in-house with big beauty brands on product education and editorial. I can talk all day about branding and, of course, makeup! I'm delighted to be here-- ask me anything!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@almostmedia & @chelsa Thanks so much for joining us today! During your career to date, what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Flip side - what's the worst?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@ems_hodge oh man great question! So best advice (not that anyone ever gave it to me in particular) is to NEVER be embarrassed. Doing stupid stuff is the first step on the path to getting something right. On the flip side probably to take a few years and have a "real" job before becoming an entrepreneur.
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@ems_hodge Best advice (and i now give it often to others) is to know what you are bad at, it's half that battle IMHO. Knowing what you're good at is easy but taking that step and admitting that you are bad at something will push you so much further in your career. Also, who cares if you're bad at something in particular, you can always hire around it :)
Phil Nguyen@p_ngu · The Daily Water Cooler + Vettery
Thanks @almostmedia and @chelsa for taking the time! Just wanted to say that my fiancee just tried out your products for the first time this last weekend (at STORY in Chelsea) and loves them. The concept of "right sizing" traditionally expensive/personal products makes a ton of sense to me. What's the key to battling huge incumbent players, especially in the consumer cosmetics industry that's dominated by a few companies with deep pockets and marketing $$?
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@p_ngu Awesome! I was manning that Story event so maybe I was the one helping your fiancee (tell her thx for the support!). Honestly, Julie and I sent out to make women's lives easier by pairing down the size, the choice, and making a great product so she knows she doesn't have to think about it because we already did. I know from being in-house at these large incumbents that they do not think about their customers. They are driven to create more and more products to continue getting their sales since its almost impossible to finish a product so newness is huge in beauty. Besides, these incumbents don't even know who their end customers are -- their retail partners do (think about it: Sephora knows more about me than any brand that I purchase from -- that is crazy!)
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@chelsa @p_ngu yeah replying to that it is fascinating how deeply entrenched these major conglomerates are in their outdated business models. 70% of the industry is consolidated into 10 conglomerates. They are all publicly traded and they really need to maintain their existing profit centers which are full size overpriced products they wholesale. So in some sense we aren't really competing with them because they cant' compete with us. To deliver a right sized product direct to their consumer at a reasonable price would require a major retrenchment of their business model. Classic innovators dilemma right?
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Julie and Chelsa! What's been the most surprising thing that's happened to you in your entrepreneurial career?
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@rrhoover first and foremost, having a crazy idea and others believing in you (ie. friends, family, and of course investors) is a pretty magical thing
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@chelsa @rrhoover oh man that is so true. It is kind of magical the momentum that grows as you go from huh could we do this, to huh we are doing this, to huh someone sees the major opportunity we do and want to fund it for the upside, to a couple hundred people that are not our friends bought this to WHOA THOUSANDS OF WOMEN ARE BUYING SHIT to oh wow we can really scale this beast!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Thanks for doing this! What are your favourite books :)
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@bentossell ha....well lately Julie and I have read (and re-read) Ben Horowitz's The Hard Thing About Hard Things :)
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@chelsa @bentossell to be clear, I don't think that is my favorite book...i sadly haven't picked up my kindle since I started the Stowaway journey!
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@chelsa @bentossell I actually HATED Hard Things because I found it really fucking cloying that he used the feminine pronoun all the way through it because lets be real they ain't funding that many women. There are no REAL women heros in that book. They are bit players and wives. That said it's a fucking terrific book, I read it and I cried and I really resonated as I'm so a wartime get shit done CEO. . But for me the shit I read is science fiction. And I read a ton of it. Honestly a huge chunk of my motivation for Stowaway comes from wanting to make women's lives easier. Because if I can add in just two minutes to a woman's day so she can do what she wants she could very well be the person that changes the world. I want to be off this rock. I want to go to Mars. I want a space elevator. I want to live in the Belt! (I'm tearing through The Expense right now so that's why I'm obsessed). I love William Gibson, Charles Stross and Neal Stephenson.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@bentossell it is all going to be fine? Also IT IS NOT AT ALL FINE THIS IS REALLLLLLLY FUCKING HARD. And get more sleep. Go to the gym. Wear sunscreen? The usual.
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@bentossell being embarrassed isn't the worse thing in the world which ties into (and though its easier said than done) don't care about what others think of you.
Bryan Takata@btakata · Director, e-BI.com, China Mfg Services
How important is packaging when you are not bricks and mortar? Do you have to work even harder because the box opening experience is more important?
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@btakata its 100000000000x more important. Making something that you have to sell visually online and showcasing what you need to get across to your consumer is a really hard thing to do. For us, we want to show that we are a luxury, premium product and that we don't follow the rules of the beauty industry (who cares about shiny black or pink ugly packaging?! we are not barbie dolls). Women have taste and want beautiful products that doesn't make them feel like teenagers pulling out of their handbags to use in public. Luckily we nailed the packaging (not to toot our own horns or anything) because we have received 2 awards on it so far -- and we're not even a year old yet...ok, ok, tooting our horn just a little bit.
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@almostmedia @chelsa Thanks for taking the time for a LIVE Chat! How do you approach the mobile ecommerce space - do a significant amount of customers buy from Stowaway on their mobile phones?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@lukasfittl so our mobile purchasing is a work in progress (though we do the usual responsive think mobile yadayada) but as we move into being a service that women rely on for replenishment I expect mobile to take on a huge significance for us as our mission is to make women's lives easier.
Arpit Gupta@arpitgupta · Product Manager
@almostmedia what are some good conferences/events that you have attended and recommend the producthunt community to attend?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@arpitgupta I am really excited about a retail conference I'm attending in May called ShopTalk (http://www.shoptalk.com/) as I think its going to really cover the future of retail in a broad way. That said in my early days @paddycosgrave's F.ounders was really transformative for me. Say what you will be about Web Summit but I think he does a good job even though I'm on his ass constantly about having more women involved and visible. I also love love love @Jason's work with LAUNCH. Scale was super valuable to me as I learned a ton and I think people learned some neat tricks of the trade from me.
Arpit Gupta@arpitgupta · Product Manager
@almostmedia What are your top worries/challenges related to Stowaway cosmetics?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@arpitgupta I don't really worry about the existing conglomerates. They are slow and the second they validate the market by coming in (think Mcdonalds trying to do premium coffee skyrocketing Starbuck's value) we have a lot of room to maneuver. To be brutally honest I worry about finding the right venture partners to continue our growth. This is a problem women are intimately familiar with but men not as much. And finding a partner (though we currently have amazing investors like Metamorphic, Gary V, Jason Calacanis) that really sees our vision and see the upside is going to take careful diligence and work as we need someone really is willing to dig into the problem and get excited by it and wants to take this journey with us because its a huge market that is being underserved. There are so few multibillion dollar markets left to be disrupted by technology (Gag on that word but you take my meaning) and cosmetics is one of them. So someone that is like DAMN that's a problem worth solving and if we rock it out we are going to make money money money.
Patrick M. Hodgdon@patrickh · Storytelling & Go-To Market Strategy 💡🚀📈
If you could only follow 5 people on Twitter in 2016, who would you choose?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@patrickh @AdamBain man! holy shit did he surprise the crap out of me by getting me to advertise right before Black Friday. What a badass.
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@patrickh if I could only follow 5 people on twitter the platform would cease to serve me in how I use it so I would probably just delete it :)
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
Oh also guys BUY OUR STUFF! Just for you guys keeping open our buy a gift, get a free gift HAVE AT IT https://stowawaycosmetics.com/en...
Patrick M. Hodgdon@patrickh · Storytelling & Go-To Market Strategy 💡🚀📈
@almostmedia @chelsa whats been the worst/toughest day on your journey for your co-founder relationship? How did you work through it?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@patrickh Well it REALLY helps that @chelsa and I have virtually no skills overlap. Having a great partner that you really trust that just knows their shit COLD I think is the glue that holds together founding teams. Like if @chelsa tells me that we have to make a particular product decision I'm not going to question it (I mean I might ask to better understand it) but her depth of knowledge is so deep in her area that I know I can rely on her.
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@patrickh Awe, @almostmedia, thats some serious co-founder love. Thanks :) (I second everything Julie said btw) I will also note that she and I don't always see eye to eye but we respect each others strengths -- and weaknesses. It helps that even some of the smaller things that we may not see perfectly eye to eye on, we are 100% aligned when it comes to the core of the brand. That is what really keeps us strong as co-founders.
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@chelsa @patrickh yeah that is some TRUTH. We are 100% aligned on the mission of the company which is to make women's lives easier. The strategies and tactics we choose might not always align (and often don't so we discuss them out and learn from each other). You have to really care about the big stuff and be aligned there. Everything else is just details.
Patrick M. Hodgdon@patrickh · Storytelling & Go-To Market Strategy 💡🚀📈
@almostmedia what's been the most interesting thing you've learned about Stowaway from a customer while doing customer service?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@patrickh you've been noticing on Twitter how obsessed I am with livechat and customer service. So I've been surprised at how we are really replacing very high end makeup for women because we are a more convenient brand. They usually only have a couple of question and they are ready to roll because it is such a pain point for most women. I am also always surprised to learn how they found us (often through their friends or influential bloggers) as it really is the power of word of mouth.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) funniest - stories welcome 😁
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@ems_hodge real talk the most challenging has been poverty. The privilege I have to be able to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams is incredible. But I've never really had a comfortable cushion of savings to operate from (even though I have sold a company) because I keep putting it back into new ventures. I think to be an entrepreneur you really need to be willing to work for something greater than your own comfort and safety. So it's always a challenge for me to overcome natural tendencies like sunk cost and lost aversion because I do tend to live on the financial edge in order to have as much control over my own destiny
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
Hi! What are the most important beauty trends 2016? :)
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@colazionearoma obviously the right-sizing of products! Heh but no really a focus on portability, health and lifestyle fit are going to be major. So says Rachel Zoe http://thezoereport.com/beauty/w...
Perry Nelson@perryst · Founder, Nicely Noted
Hey! Are you all focused on selling direct to consumer or do you plan to be / are you available through traditional retail channels? (beyond Story)
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@perryst so I think it is important to note that direct to consumer can mean a lot of things but in its purest form it means the customer gets the product from the brand. So specialty retail is a bit out of favor but lets remember they have great margin structure too. Back in the day brands like Ann Taylor were the great retailers of our time. So for me being direct to consumer is about controlling the customer experience and preserving our margins. So we are open to our own stores and even in marketing partnerships that in other avenues would look more ilke traditional retail. The goal is to give the best possible customer experience (right sized makeup that is half the size & half the price) through a direct connection to the brand. The future of retail is the end of wholesale and that goes both ways right. Brands can sell direct but retailers also want their own house brands. And the middle of those two trends is finding marketing stories to have people that are retailers partner effectively with brands without all the wholesale nonsense.
Patrick M. Hodgdon@patrickh · Storytelling & Go-To Market Strategy 💡🚀📈
What are the advantages or disadvantages to being an NYC based startup?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@patrickh I don't think Stowaway could really be based in San Francisco to be honest as well as in NYC. We need to be around both our supply chain and frankly our customers. Being in NYC allows us to be exposed to all types of fascinating modern working professional women (and baller moms) in finance, in law, in publishing, in fashion. And this is probably unfair but San Francisco just doesn't have as many women for us to reach as in NYC.
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@patrickh these days, who cares where you live, right? its so easy to hop on a flight and get where you need to go especially when I've got my Stowaway. Actually, I'm sure there are advantages and disadvantages but I personally have not felt them where it matters thus far in our journey. I do enjoy the NY startup community however.
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hi, Julie and Chelsa! Thanks for being here for the AMA. Any advice for a first time entrepreneur? What was the growth strategy for Stoaway cosmetics?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@neeeharika DONT DO IT! OH my god it is a thousand times harder than you think it is going to be. And Stowaway is my third startup. It is the hardest thing you will ever do. You will work your hardest, pull from the depths of your being to achieve something, and then it still won't be good enough. And then you need to be the best you've ever been again and again and again and then 100% better than you were last month. Even though it took everything you had to be just that good. And of course all of the fun things that come with being a woman compound that effect (I get mansplained the funniest shit) so just be aware that you are going to have to be 20-50% better than the average male founder just as a cost of doing business. Which is fine. Because you will want to do it because you will want to fucking well show them that comments like "Well we wouldn't want to lower our standards" are mad bullshittery because our standards are higher than theirs. That said making something of your own. And seeing it make customers happy. Is the best feeling in the entire world and I wouldn't ever ever ever trade it. I'm miserably every fucking day in the micro sense but I'm so happy in the macro sense and that is what really counts.
Patrick M. Hodgdon@patrickh · Storytelling & Go-To Market Strategy 💡🚀📈
@almostmedia @neeeharika This is screaming to be expanded into a @Medium post!!!
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@neeeharika on the bright side of @almostmedia's Debbie Downer comment -- find a good co-founder. Trust me. It doesn't matter how many great people you surround yourself with to give you advice on the daily, your cofounder becomes the only person who REALLY gets it. Who is also in the same trenches with you with the same pressures and understandings. Julie is 1000x correct, its so much harder than you think but that much more rewarding so don't let her discourage you. Just know, there are the things you know that you know and the things you don't know that you don't know -- those things will surface.....often.
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@chelsa @neeeharika OMG right? SO I've heard you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. So make sure those people are amazing!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Who are some of your mentors in business? What have you learned from them?
Chelsa Crowley@chelsa · Co-Founder, CCO Stowaway Cosmetics
@ems_hodge great question....and hard since I feel like i have many mentors but not just in business but in life (mostly they are my friends and people i surround myself with who inspire me daily to not only be better at business and my job but in life). Also, this sounds terrible but some old bosses have been mentors but not in the way you think....they have more taught me how not to treat people, how I would one day run my company, and having an open mind to everyone's suggestions instead of the corporate "my way or the high way" mentality.
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
I've been deeply privileged to have amazing mentors. @BrianSugar of PopSugar fame gave me the space to grow into my entrepreneurial britches. I love that many like I love my own father. I owe him EVERYTHING. Like I'm tearing up just thinking about it. He also gave me who I call my startup granddad (as he mentored Brian) Don Hutchison who I can get on the phone with any ol day and he makes everything seem more manageable. I've also been able to work with the incredible Christine Beauchamp who is just the biggest baddass in retail and I would go over a cliff for her. Gillian Munson formerly of Allen and Co and now the CFO of XO Group is one of the best thinkers and kindest people I know. And then MT Carney is the best branding genius in the world and every single second in her presence makes me a better person.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@chelsa @ems_hodge from your experience in the 'My way or the highway scenario' what do you think is one the most important thing that you've implemented into Stowaways company culture to make for a creative and inclusive place to work?
Julie Fredrickson@almostmedia · CEO & Co-Founder Stowaway
@ems_hodge so I've never really experienced it because my only time in corporate I had the real luck of working at Ann Taylor for Christine Beauchamp who just trusted me to do my thing. That said at Stowaway we are collaborative because I really do think anyone can have the insight that moves us forward. You always have a to have someone that decides something once and for all though and we do like to leave that to the person that knows the functional area best