What does your day-to-day job entail?
As the CEO of Laurel & Wolf, my days are full of meetings with L&W teams to discuss strategy, growth and goals, hiring initiatives, and more. Tactically, I spend a lot of my time working with our marketing and product teams. It is also my job to be the face of Laurel & Wolf. I meet with the press, work with our investors, attend conferences, and present to large potential partners. And then there is hiring. I personally interview every Laurel & Wolf candidate and spend a large portion of my time recruiting more senior hires. There is truly never a dull moment!
What was your path to get into this line of work and/or this specific job?
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial home and so I always knew I wanted to own my own business. To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever be the CEO of something this large though. It has been an incredible and challenging experience going from being a “CEO” of 3 where you are wearing a thousand hats to becoming more of a real CEO with an executive team, directors, and more. I had leadership roles in my prior career as a designer, but nothing that could prepare me for the kind of hypergrowth we have experienced. On the other hand, founding Laurel & Wolf was the result of my previous career as an interior designer. Understanding the design industry and what clients and designers are looking for has definitely given us a competitive edge.
Did you face any adversity or challenges getting into your job as a woman or for any other reasons?
I don’t believe I have faced different challenges from other entrepreneurs. I think that starting a business is hard no matter what. We all have our competitive advantages and areas where we aren’t as strong and you never know what biases people are going to have. You just have to learn to sell the business or pitch for the job in a way that works for the audience. It is always all about how you tell the story.
Your website says that you “believe that various background and points of view make L&W the best possible place to work.” Can you give advice on working in a diverse team?
It is incredibly important that you don’t hire people who all think and act alike. Diverse opinions and points of view lead to stronger ideas and execution. However, we do look for three core characteristics in all Laurel & Wolf employees and that is what binds us together as humans and as a team. All of us are people who care about people, we are creative thinkers, and we are innately optimistic. I always joke that if you ask a Laurel & Wolf employee how to build a bridge out of weeds and floss they will want to know how it is benefiting people, then come up with 1,001 different ways it can be done (once they’ve grilled you as to why it needs to be a bridge) and they will believe that even though it is important to identify the obstacles, they are confident that it can be done.
How did your education/work experience prepare you for this position?
From the time I was 13 through the end of college, I had dance rehearsals 7 days a week, I maintained great grades in highly academic environments (finished college early), held positions in organizations such as my sorority and charitable groups, and still found time for friends and family. Needless to say, I learned how to very effectively juggle in addition to never needing much sleep. My work experience in the design world taught me how to roll up my sleeves and get done what needed to be done, even under the craziest deadlines or circumstances. I had to manage a multitude of different types of relationships at any given time and stay calm under enormous pressure. All of these experiences were great training for what my job is today. However, I continue to learn, change, make mistakes, and grow. I know that my journey of hopefully becoming a truly great CEO is just starting.
What type of experiences were most valuable for your work today?
In my design career, I learned how to manage up and down, how to thrive even in the midst of chaos, and how to be a self-starter, but also work with a team. All of these lessons were critical in helping me become who I am today. I also learned a lot of what not to do. Making mistakes is a great way to prepare for a more challenging role.
What advice and tips do you have for budding women entrepreneurs?
Stay true to who you are as a person and as a woman. Leadership comes in many forms and we have the rare opportunity to shape and define how to lead. I’m always telling female entrepreneurs to embrace their executive selves and to go for it! Sometimes women worry too much about making sure something is done or perfect. Nothing will ever be done or perfect (ever) and big rewards require taking big chances.
What is your favorite aspect of your work?
Spending time with my team is my favorite aspect of my work. Laurel & Wolf is made up of a truly exceptional group of people and beyond being proud of the work that they do, I enjoy spending time with them. Even in the most intense of meetings, I feel we approach things with respect and a sense of humor. We look out for each other as we are all on this crazy journey together!
What is your favorite quote?
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Who is one of your role models and why?
Golda Meir, in my mind, was a true female hero. She was an exceptional leader and in a time and place where that was not only unheard of but nearly impossible. Golda was strong-willed, straight talking and dedicated her life and career to her nation and its people. She believed in her work deeply and as a result she created meaningful change.
Contributor: Megha Keshav