Yael Cohen Braun &
Los Angeles, CA
Just like Rent the Runway’s co-founders, there are a ton of women who have leapt into the uncharted, often-insane world of entrepreneurship. We’re inviting these risk-takers to be part of a community we’re calling “The Real Runway:” a collection of voices to motivate and inspire your own runway, whatever that may be.
It all started with... a diagnosis.
Yael Cohen Braun and Julie Greenbaum are the co-founders of Fuck Cancer: a charity dedicated to early detection, prevention and support for those affected by cancer. Prior to their joint venture, Yael and Julie had been operating as separate entities with a shared name and mission. When Yael’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, Yael founded Fuck Cancer to promote education around early detection. In 2010, Julie founded F*ck Cancer in honor of her mother who passed away from ovarian cancer, focusing on large scale fundraising events for cancer research. In 2014, Yael and and Julie merged their organizations for the sake of their community — creating a bigger, better army for the fight against cancer.
Studs, Elizabeth and James; Rings, Gorjana; Cuff, Eddie Borgo; Bag, Loeffler Randall; Dress, nha khanh
You recently joined forces. How has the adjustment been for both of you?
Yael: An adjustment period is natural — you’re used to doing things your way. It’s similar to a marriage, in that it’s totally worth it and so much better than being on your own, but it takes time to figure out how to work best with one another. There were a few moments of finding our footing, but ultimately I think it went as smoothly as it could have, considering we’re two really strong-willed females!
Julie: Even with those obstacles we would encounter, we were able to learn from one another. That’s been something that I’ve really enjoyed — being guided in a way that may not have come naturally when I worked on my own.
Dress, Waverly Grey; Jacket, Rebecca Minkoff; Top, Waverly Grey
What are some of the advantages of having a partner that you’ve experienced thus far?
Julie: We were focusing on different things before we merged, and now we have this new joint approach. It’s so beneficial to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to feel like you’re part of a team — that you’re connected in this goal of wanting to make the biggest impact that you can.
Yael: I definitely echo that — the best thing about having a partner is having a partner. It sounds so simple, but both of us started this alone. We each built our businesses with incredible teams, but it’s so great to have your passion reawakened with fresh blood. After 5 years, you’re still just as passionate about the cause, but some things go on autopilot because you’ve done them for so long. So that spark has been re-ignited — not only to do this bigger but to also do it better.
Clutch, Opening Ceremony; Sunglasses, Balenciaga
In the same way that a partnership should compliment strengths and weaknesses, how important is it to hire people who do the same?
Yael: It’s incredibly important. Our team is epic and have given us more support than we could have ever imagined. People who are not only educated and experienced in what they do, but crazy passionate, fun, empathetic — everything you could ever want from a team. One of the most important things you can do is to pick your team wisely, because that’s ultimately who you’re reaching your vision with. What you’re building is not only a reflection of you and your founders, but everyone who’s dedicated their time to it. We’ve been really lucky in that sense.
How important is it to receive constructive criticism in entrepreneurship?
Julie: It’s a crucial part of reaching a better place as an individual. Having worked alone for so many years, accepting criticism without getting defensive was difficult for me. But I recognize it as a really important tool for growth and am working on getting better at hearing it.
Yael: I came from a different perspective in that I was very used to constructive criticism. I remember coming home with a math test which I had scored 98% on, which was a big deal because math was not my strongest subject. My dad was like, ‘Congrats! I’m so proud of you!’ And in the same breath said, ‘Wheres the other 2%?’ We were very supported but also pushed. In a team or partnership, you have to be wary of settling into complacency.
Your tenacity increases with every mistake and every success. It comes from pouring your blood, sweat and tears into what you’re doing. That process of developing a thick skin allows you to deal with situations moving forward with a little more confidence and comfort.
- Julie Greenbaum
How does attitude play a role in your approach to business?
Julie: As a kid I had a terrible attitude — I would pout in my cubby at preschool. At a parent-teacher interview, my teacher asked, ‘What can we do to make your daughter happy?’ My parents replied, ‘It’s not your job to make our daughter happy, it’s her job to make herself happy.’ And that was something my mother instilled in me and my siblings growing up. It’s been a huge help, because ultimately your happiness and success are based on your attitude: no-one can control that but you.
How does style factor into what you do each day?
Yael: We dress in a way that’s authentic to us, and are both pretty casual yet respectable. Most importantly, we dress in a way that doesn’t distract from the true value of what we’re trying to do.
Jacket, Rebecca Minkoff; Top, Waverly Grey
What’s a valuable lesson you’ve learned that might help other entrepreneurs?
Yael: Putting the needs of your community above your own is huge. You need to be willing to sacrifice your personal ego for the sake of reaching your goal, which is much easier said than done. Compromising your personal vision in order to do what’s best for the community is always the right decision even though it may be the hardest. You also need to effectively assess the needs of your community. It’s easy to confuse what you think your community needs, rather than what they actually need. How can you really listen to your audience? How can you find out what they need now and what they’re going to need in future so you can build intuitively for them?
You have to check your ego at the door, care less about yourself and your personal desires, and find a common goal to focus on with your partner and team. Yael and I got to that point by choosing to make the greatest possible difference in the cancer space, and making that our mission.
- Julie Greenbaum
How do you set boundaries in a business that you’re so personally invested in?
Yael: You have to start by defining what those boundaries are. For us, those boundaries are different to a typical company, because we have an emotionally charged community. They’re coming to us for support, information and education at a really difficult time. Beyond that, our team is there for personal reasons also — they’ve each been affected by cancer in some way, shape or form.
When it comes down to it, it’s not about us, it’s about our community. Our users are there because it’s quite possibly the worst day of their lives, and it’s our job to make their day easier. We have to put aside our bad day, our ego and our baggage in order to serve that person.
- Yael Cohen Braun
For the month of October, Rent the Runway have partnered with Fuck Cancer. Promo: 20% off first time order. $10 of every new order placed in the month of October will be donated to the FCancer charity.
Promo Code: FCANCER20
New customers only
Valid thru 10/31
Photographed by Bridget Fleming September 2015