Another week, another #GirlBoss. I'm excited to introduce you to this week's #GirlBoss, Emily McDonald, founder of The Stylist LA. The Stylist LA is a Los Angeles-based designer dress rental company that allows you to rent designer dresses (or rompers) for a fraction of the retail price. They also provided wardrobes for some of the most recent “The Bachelor” contestants. Keep reading to what Emily had to say...
Name: Emily McDonald
Founder & President at The Stylist LA
Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from University of Southern California
Professional Designation Degree in Product Development from FIDM
What was your first job out of college?
I had a ton of internships and part time jobs while in College and at FIDM. But my first full time job was as assistant to the COO of Yaya Aflalo, a high-end women’s line. I helped with production domestically and internationally. It was a great first job. I worked in the warehouse in Vernon and got to see the full process of how garments are designed, produced and then sold.
Tell us more about The Stylist LA.
The Stylist LA is a designer rental company based in LA. We have a showroom in LA and an e-commerce site that ships nationwide. We allow women to rent dresses for a fraction of the retail price for 5 or ten days at a time.
What inspired you to start The Stylist LA?
I always knew I wanted to start my own company. Originally I thought I would have my own women’s clothing boutique, however when I was in college at USC and forced to write a business plan for my entrepreneurship class my mind changed. I saw how saturated the market for women’s boutiques was and how expensive a store was to start. I began looking around for other potential ideas. At that time I was interning at a fashion PR firm and saw how celebrities (or their stylists) would basically check out clothes for events and return them afterwards. I was also in a sorority at USC and saw how often girls wanted new dresses, but didn’t want to buy them. They were also extremely conscious of being photographed in the same dress twice on social media. All of these things came together to inspire the idea of starting a dress rental company.
What are some of your favorite clothing brands?
For The Stylist LA I have a few favorites, but one that I always love is Jet Set Diaries. I love the versatility of the brand. They make everything from rompers (my faves) to evening gowns. I LOVE the ethereal vibe of this brand. I appreciate that it is boho, but not so boho I feel like I should be frolicking in a field.
What advice would you give others thinking about starting their own business?
Ahh so much advice, it is hard to pick just one thing. You really have to have the dedication and passion for it. It is a marathon not a sprint and you have to be ready to make sacrifices and keep on working when things aren’t going your way. You have to be ready for the ups and downs and be able to continue working through them without losing your mind.
What was your biggest fear in starting your own business?
One of the scariest things about starting your own company is really putting yourself out there. You have to produce a product or service and just hope that people will receive it well. You work as hard as you can to produce something incredible, but at the end of the day you are at the mercy of your customers. Starting a company is an incredibly vulnerable time, especially when you start it by yourself, without a business partner. It was scary at the beginning, trying to push the company forward without traction or positive customer feedback to fall back on.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is absolutely no typical day. My days depend on what is going on that day, whether we have a photo shoot, whether we go to market to pick out new styles or whether I have meetings with designers or other entrepreneurs. I almost always start the day with an early morning workout to clear my head and get ready for the day. Then comes coffee. I usually work from home in the mornings, returning emails, on calls and getting organized. Then I head into the showroom and check in with the girls there. I say hi to clients that are in there, if it is a photo shoot day I meet with our model and photographer and get started on that. Sometimes I have lunch meetings out of the office (usually down the street at Zinque, a Stylist LA obsession.) Then I spend the rest of the day working on a number of things. I work on budgets, check in on how sales are doing, help with customer service on the website, plan our social media, work on business development and more. In the last year I have shifted from meeting with most clients to doing more of the business back-end stuff. Hiring the girls that work in the showroom has freed up my time to work on growing the business, rather than meeting every client that comes in.
I’ve noticed on Instagram that you started dressing The Bachelor girls. How did that come about? And how has that helped your business?
It’s a funny story actually. I reached out to the final 3 girls from Ben’s season via Instagram and Lauren Bushnell responded. We didn’t know that she won at the time, but she knew that she did and that she would need a lot of dresses for the press tour once the finale aired. She reached back out to us and said she wanted to come in. When she came in, we immediately hit it off and ended up becoming friends. We then dressed her for her press tour and have been involved with a couple of other projects with her since then. Becca lives next door to one of our favorite clients, so that’s how we got connected with her for the women tell all. We dressed her for that episode in this amazing gold sequin romper. She posted such an incredible Instagram pic from the evening, that ended up trending as the #1 most popular picture on the hashtag #womentellall. Then through Becca we met JoJo and got to do a photoshoot with her as well.
It has helped the business tremendously. For starters, most of our target market watches The Bachelor and pays attention to what the girls wear. It has really helped us gain exposure with new potential clients all over the US. Our e-commerce sales have grown immensely since dressing the girls and so has our Instagram following.
What is one piece of clothing you think every woman should own?
That’s a tough question! Can I pick more than one?! I think having a great pair of black and nude heels is extremely important. You can wear almost anything with one or the other. After that I would say, a good fitting pair of jeans, and the perfect fitting t-shirt or tank top in multiple colors.
What’s your most proud moment since launching The Stylist LA?
My proudest moment so far was dressing Lauren for her media tour with Ben. That was an incredible moment for us. We sent her with outfits to wear for each appearance, but we weren’t 100 % sure she would wear them. I got to watch all of it happen live. First, I saw her on Jimmy Kimmel in our dress. Then the next day it was GMA in our dress, then Kelly & Michael in another one of our dresses. It was really fun to follow along and watch her change into each of our pieces and wear them for each event. It was really cool to see how excited people were about her wearing our stuff. It was a great accomplishment for the business and a very proud moment for myself.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Not to be so scared or worried about things working out. I used to get very caught up in what would happen in the future with the business, if I was working as hard as I could, if the business was where it needed to be. I would tell myself to calm down, work my butt off and let it be. Worrying does nothing positive!
I’m sure The Stylist LA gets compared to Rent the Runway. What makes you different?
Yes, Rent the Runway is our main competition so we are compared to them frequently. We offer a similar service, but we are different in many ways. Our designers and dresses embody more of a younger, West Coast style than RTR. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service and a much more hands on experience than RTR does. We focus on quality over quantity and really want each of our customers to have an excellent experience. We will do almost anything to ensure that they do.
If you could have drinks with four women who would it be?
Jessica Herrin founder of Stella and Dot (I just finished reading her book and she is so intelligent and inspiring.), Oprah, Beyonce and Martha Stewart.
What's the best fashion advice you've ever received?
Just to be yourself and make sure you are comfortable in what you are wearing. How you feel in an outfit totally affects how you present yourself!
What’s next for The Stylist LA? Any collaborations?
There is A LOT in store. We will be opening a pop up in another city this fall and will be launching a really fun campaign to make it happen. Stay tuned….the city and campaign will be announced soon!
Make sure to tune into next week's #GIRLBOSS interview series!