Interview with Kristin Marquet, Founder of Creative Development Agency, TheBeautyLyst & FemFounder
Estee: Most people don’t come as far as dreaming of founding a business. You have successfully built up THREE! Please tell us briefly about your agency, FemFounder & TheBeautyLyst.com (formerly The Haute Rebel).
Kristin: FemFounder resulted from female entrepreneurs asking for help with social media, PR strategy, and other marketing questions. We started off with a high level blog – and here I am with hundreds of female founder interviews on the blog, over 40,000 people on the email list who came primarily through Pinterest and instagram. Additionally, we set up the Femfounder guide (called The Profitable Founder: How to Find the Right Clients, Keep Your Pipeline Full, and Create a Business You Love) that ranges between $20 and $100 and includes the framework for building a successful business for entrepreneurs who don’t want to commit to hiring an agency or consultancy full time. I am also working on turning The Profitable Founder a book, which will be published later this year).
The Beauty Lyst – formerly THR (The Haute Rebel) – is an integrated e-commerce platform for all things related to clean beauty. We received more than 12,000 responses to our directional survey. It seemed clear that people wanted a single place to go to for authority on overall healthy beauty recommendations and lifestyle tips. We are rebranding to offer that service to our users. The site will include product reviews of that nature from fully lifestyle to clean natural organic beauty. My fellow entrepreneur, advisor, and partner, Tayelor Kennedy, is a celebrity makeup and wellness expert. We are excited about revamping this model to create a platform that matches beauty products to your traits (skin type, hair) and needs. We generate revenue by taking a percentage of the sale and from editorial sponsorships.
Creative Development Agency is my bread and butter. My team is small – five altogether but we are like family. We also work with contractors for design, copywriting, and more. Our client base ranges from 15 to 30 client projects depending on the time of the year. We service all brands from startups and Fortune 500 companies and everything in between. What makes us unique from all of the other creative agencies out there is the analytics component that we offer our e-com clients.
We started 10 years ago and our goal is to stay nimble. Some of my favorite clients are just fantastic: they are beauty e-commerce services, family businesses, and beauty companies. I am always improving my analytical skills and am currently attending a course at MIT in machine learning, data science, and advanced programming.
More recently, I joined the board and I am in the process of becoming a partner of the women’s boutique modeling agency, Debut Model Management. Mark Moore, the founder and CEO of the agency, and I have known one another for many years. We met through some industry professionals when I was a fashion model (many years ago) and he was working in marketing for a large fashion house. We’ve stayed in touch throughout the years and have finally decided to partner on this incredible project. It’s really exciting.
Estee: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to young women interested in entrepreneurship?
Kristin: Entrepreneurs – aspiring, new, or established – should understand how data science relates to marketing so they can anticipate trends, optimize sales cycles, and improve the overall user experience. For instance, having some knowledge of R Programming can help any entrepreneur predict what content has the potential to go viral, analyze customer data, and so much more.
Additionally, create a product or service for a viable market – and you will have a sustainable business – I didn’t figure that out a year into business – you need to give people what they want. It’s all about supply and demand – It’s that simple.
Estee: So Kristin, what is your secret to successful multitasking?
Kristin: Honestly, I hate to be that person, but I really can’t focus on more than one thing at a time! In terms of getting things done – I stick to a very strict schedule and keep a notepad near me all the time. I make sure everything on my to-do list gets done by the end of the day. There is nothing as rewarding as crossing tasks off my list. Yes, I guess that means I am a linear thinker.
In terms of the way I think, I focus in on the issue at hand. When I am addressing an issue within one of my businesses – I look at that one issue and don’t worry about any background noise. If there is an issue with one of my sites, I will address the site; billing or client relationships – will deal with those issues separately. Problem solving works when you tackle one problem at a time. Although all my businesses stem from CDA and are indirectly related, I look at them as three different entities – that keeps my scales balanced.
Estee: Tell us a bit about your background and about the steps that led you to where you are today.
Kristin: I grew up in central New Jersey near the beach. My upbringing was just like any other suburban child. I attended Catholic high school: while it was interesting, was not exactly what I wanted. My dad went to Catholic school, so he thought it would be good for us. I have an older sister who is three years older than I am. We were close growing up and we still maintain a close relationship today.
After college and my first round of graduate school, I worked as a consultant for Meridian Consulting Group and then the financial crisis happened. The entire Northeast office was shut down – and I and my colleagues were left to our own devices. It wasn’t an easy time: I had a lot of bills including a mortgage, car payment, and student loans. That was when I decided not to go for another corporate job but to pursue my own business. While it was grueling to work a 80+ hours a week to go from freelancer to full service agency, I never looked back. When I turned 30, I decided to go back to school to pursue another master’s degree from New York University.
Estee: How do you deal with uncertainty?
Kristin: Every entrepreneur goes through periods of uncertainty. We have times in our business when income can ebb and flow, that’s the reality of being an entrepreneur, and even more so when you’re in a service-based business. The one thing I always think about is the long term. While one month’s revenue might be down 50% and the next month it might be up 30%, ultimately, this is the lifestyle I want – I want to be in charge of my own schedule and the projects in which we work on.
I have friends who work in corporate America who hate it. They always say “Kristin, you’re living the dream,” and my response is “No. That’s not necessarily true! The grass is always greener on the other side.”
I tried corporate America and just couldn’t find the passion to make it work and stay. Therefore, it is worth the pain to go through the ups and downs for me. Everybody has problems – for me it is looking forward, planning – figuring out how to get through the tough times. There was a point in time when I was thinking about med school (back when I was a freshman in college) and then law school (right after college) – and I am glad I didn’t, because I look at my husband who is a partner in the law firm, and his problems seem so much bigger than the ones I have. I am glad I made the choice to start my own business. Of course, I might have done things a bit differently if I could turn back time, but I am luck lucky to be where I am financially and career wise.
Estee: Tell us about how the industry evolved in the time you’ve worked in it.
Kristin: When I started in PR in 2005, email pitching wasn’t really an acceptable form of communication – you had to pick up the phone or send a fax to submit a pitch. MySpace had just launched then. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram were not around. Social media influencers were non-existent; PR and Influencer marketing companies grown so much – hard to decipher where one ends and the other one begins
What separates one PR person from the next are the relationships she has. Media publications change, so it’s important to develop positive relationships with more senior partners. Lower level contacts are great, but it is also important to have higher level industry contacts to leverage for power.
influencer marketing companies are carving out a new niche in the market. Some of them will survive, but I believe that the whole influencer industry will shift a couple of times in the next three to five years. Based on how quickly technology changes, the current model is not sustainable.