Lauren Katzberg, TheStylisted

Founders: Lauren Katzberg and Julia Carmona
Company Description: Online platform that allows women to book in-home hair styling and makeup appointments from a network of vetted beauty professionals.
Company Site
Date of interview: October 2014

Laura Katzberg, TheStylisted

Lauren Katzberg, TheStylisted
Art by: Meghann Rosales of Nails Yall and Jug Wine

Lauren Katzberg is part of the co-founding duo at TheStylisted.

After graduating from college, she went the management consulting route for a few years. She hadn’t really considered business school, but after lunch with a friend (who was talking about a friend of a friend), she became interested in business school and how it could help her start her own business.

She left NYC and came to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where she met her co-founder, Julia, learned more about entrepreneurship, uncovered mentors and networks –  and by the time they graduated in June 2013, TheStylisted launched. Of course, that’s the easy, breezy, beautiful version of their hard work.

On the idea and getting to launch:

The idea materialized after a wedding weekend make-up session that went all wrong for Lauren. It wasn’t a unique problem for Lauren only – it’s a challenge that even I (a woman who does not wear makeup regularly because I just can’t figure it out) was nodding my head to. Lauren came back and talked to Julia who helped further develop the idea since she had experience with stylists interested in freelancing but unable to market themselves and get clients outside of their salons.

While in school, they started a proof of concept by using their personal networks of stylists, friends and family and manually connecting them. Their results showed that people were legitimately interested and in need of this type of marketplace. They decided to use their summer internship to get more experience –  Lauren and Julia went to work for Contently and Bucketfeet where they got front row seats and hands-on experience working with technology platforms, marketplace businesses, venture-backed companies and fast-paced startup environments.

Looking back on that summer, Lauren says that their experiences help them “know that we’re not crazy, and that we’ll get through it”.

On technology:

Neither Lauren or Julia had any development experience.

“That was our number one challenge initially and a really common challenge for those who don’t have technical co-founders. We tried to use the Booth network to help us, but to be completely honest it didn’t really help. Developers are in low supply everywhere. It’s hard to get a predominantly male pool of developers to get passionate about your idea when it’s so female focused.”

So what did they do to bridge the gap? While interning at Contently, Lauren met David Goldberg, CTO and Co-Founder of Contently. Since Contently wasn’t hiring developers at the time, he would send over promising resumes that he received. With his input and access to good developer resumes, they were able to get their MVP out at low cost and recently bring on a full-time developer to help take their site to the next level.

On corporate to start-up:

“The anxiety of having your own business is crazy. But I was really anxious at my old job too – so much work, so much travel and no sleep.”

“I sleep better now than I slept then.”

“You make your own schedule. My time was never my own as a management consultant and now my time is my business and I’m working on something I’m really passionate about. I don’t have weekends, but I’m not living for the weekends anymore either. Now I enjoy everyday – they’re all workdays, but they’re all enjoyable.”

 On having the perfect co-founder:

“We’ve been told our biggest asset is our dynamic.”

“We split our responsibilities – they fall so naturally into place. To have somebody take half of the load – and their half is so different from your half – and you completely know that they’re so much better at that half then you could ever be and you trust them to handle it in a way that you wish you could handle it. That’s how I feel about Julia. I could never imagine doing this alone.”

“When you’re starting off – it’s like a game of chicken between you and your co-founder. If you’re willing to do that, then I am too!”

On her most memorable day:

After pausing to think about this, Lauren lands on a moment that isn’t tied to investments or clients, but one that reflects the passion and dynamic of her team. They threw a launch party that didn’t really get the attendance they hoped for and were feeling doubtful that the expense of the party was worth it.

“At the end of the night after all the guests had left – it was just me, Julia, our developer, intern and publicist. The restaurant was bringing us champagne to congratulate us and everyone was toasting and saying it was the best job they’d ever had. It was such a moment to realize that this was something you created and it allowed four people to love what they do everyday, to feel fulfilled, and challenged. And it brought together a group of people who really liked each other. It made that party worth it.”

On what ‘they’ don’t tell you:

“The biggest challenge, and something people don’t talk about enough is that you have to ask for so many favors from your friends and family. I’m not talking about just getting money – you have to ask people for introductions, to help you with things, to review things you don’t understand. It is all uncomfortable. Starting your business is so uncomfortable. You are constantly explaining your idea and 90% of the people don’t get it and they think you’re stupid for doing it. You have to get comfortable explaining it, selling it and then asking people to do something as a result of the conversation. You have to get over that so quickly. When you don’t have a lot of experience or money, you are getting by on the kindness of other people. You have to get really good at it and get comfortable with it and swallow your pride.”

“If someone had told me that your main job was asking for favors, I wouldn’t have thought it was a good fit for me. It’s good they didn’t tell me. I’ve learned from Julia on how to put yourself out there and tactfully ask for help.”

TheStylisted plans to grow to 21 cities in the next 4 years and wants to hire people to be on the ground in each city.  Also, I got a stylist recommendation on my way out.

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