& Carly Zakin
New York, NY
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... no routine-friendly news.
What if you could have the most important news headlines delivered in concentrated form to your inbox every morning? You can, thanks to theSkimm: a daily newsletter that tells you what you need to know, with one quick scroll as you brush your teeth. Find out how Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin left their roles at NBC News to create a product that makes it easier to be smarter (for over one million users and counting).
On Carly: Dress, Elizabeth and James; On Danielle: Blazer, Theory; Romper, Shoshanna; Cuff, Stanmore
How does theSkimm differ from other news sources?
There are a lot of really good news sources out there, but we did see a void in the marketplace for news that fit in with the daily routines of our friends. As former NBC News producers, our job was to know what was going on in the world. Our friends, who are smart and have great jobs, would know everything about their own industries. We wanted to create a news source that made you feel confident walking into any conversation no matter what industry you’re in, and delivered in a way that fits in with your routine. So we looked at what we do first thing in the morning: alarm goes off, roll over, check emails from friends and family. And that's how we started.
What gave you the final push to leave your previous careers?
Nothing can prepare you for the transition to run your own company. You have to dive in and see what happens. We loved our old jobs and co-workers, so it was very hard to leave. But we both wanted to learn the business side of media and saw this void in the market that we knew we could fix. Over time, it became clear that there was never going to be a “right” time to do this. But we were both at a life stage where it wasn’t going to get easier — we were 25 with no families to support and the only real responsibility was paying rent. We just had to trust our gut and take the leap.
There will never be a perfect time to start.
Blazer, Theory; Romper, Shoshanna; Bag, Loeffler Randall; Ear cuff, Jules Smith
What have been some of your most challenging moments?
Hiring a team has been challenging. We started theSkimm from our couch so it's been a very personal experience seeing it grow into a company of 15. We didn't have a lot of management experience before this, so learning how to be bosses for the first time was definitely a learning curve. The first two years we had a singular focus: to grow the newsletter and make it the best product it could be. As our audience and team have grown, we've had more opportunities which is amazing. But it gets tougher to maintain that focus, and you have to keep growing. Sometimes there are days when it seems that the problems in front of you are just too hard to deal with. But we’re also lucky enough to get reader feedback every day that encourages us to go on and get over it.
You’ve just had your 3rd birthday. How important is it to reflect on what you’ve achieved, as well as what your goals are?
The first year we made the mistake of not reflecting or celebrating at all. We were too focused on growing our company. But you have to take time to enjoy the highs as a team. We now celebrate whenever we hit a subscriber milestone. It's something we put into place to make sure we take time out.
Bag, ZAC Zac Posen
Have you experienced a camaraderie between women in the entrepreneurial realm?
It’s hard for anyone to start a company, period. Especially if you're starting one for the first time. We had no clue what we were doing for a while, so “Fake it ‘til you make it" is something we had to get really good at. But we focused on what we did know how to do: tell stories and tell them to this audience. We asked a lot of questions about what we didn't know.
We were lucky enough to have had amazing entrepreneurs and mentors give us their time. That saved us from a lot of missteps and helped to dig us out of holes. A lot of those people happened to be women, who made the time to hear us out and pitch in when we needed their help — even though they are really busy themselves. We feel very lucky for that.
Bag, ZAC Zac Posen; Dress, Elizabeth and James
What have you learned about yourselves throughout this process?
So much. We've learned that we have to trust our intuition and that it never lies, although we sometimes wish it did. We've learned that sometimes you have to take risks, and that they're never comfortable. And that we are now business women. We weren't before we started this and are very proud to be able to say that now.
How has your style evolved as your business has?
Since we did work from our apartment for a long time, getting dressed for meetings became a big deal. We needed to display confidence in what we were building. It was also fun for us — a five-minute break from all of the work and stress to think about how to put forward an image with an outfit. What you wear can be a big confidence booster. From color to heel height, feeling comfortable with yourself gives you an edge.
Our moms always told us to dress for the job you want. And now we have it, so we better look like it.
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