Cindy McLaughlin, Style for Hire, Woman Entrepreneur
The Internet is truly changing the business platforms. We are seeing smaller businesses scale by joining forces to create something bigger as a whole. Style for Hire is one of those businesses. Cindy and her partner, Stacy London, are essentially rolling up the personal stylists around the country to create one unique place for anyone and everyone to find the right stylist for their needs. Making this particular niche more accessible for the everyday woman, or man.
Cindy grew up on a tree farm in Massachusetts. Mount Holyoke on one side and a farm on the other. Her father was a professor at the University and the tree farm, well, it was a way to have a lot of land by selling trees and it also creating a pretty idylic childhood.
Cindy went to Mt. Holyoke to go to college and after graduating moved to Denver where her sister was living. She has applied to get into the Peace Corp and was waiting for her application to be approved. Instead of sitting at home, she went out to Boulder to live with her sister. Although she was basically just waitressing to make some money she landed a receptionist job at Newpride. They noted her ability to get stuff done and asked her to oversee $300K that would be allocated to high risk juveniles who were trying to get back on their feet. It was really fulfilling but Peace Corp finally came through and the next stop was the Congo.
Cindy worked on water and sanitation systems in the Congo. Building latrines, capping water fresh water springs while doing health and community education on the side. After two years it was time to move back. She had enough of working in an area where inefficiency reigned. Friends told her that she should really spend time doing consulting work before jumping into something else. She picked up the phone and called McKinsey/Bain. The Tower Group was located in Needham, MA and they provided financial, research and consulting services for their clients. The HR guy said Cindy wasn't qualified for the job but should come in and talk to him anyone. She did and he really liked her and asked if she had any interest in being a right hand person to the President. Sure, why not. Very quickly Cindy started working on consulting projects for smart cards, micro processor chips in credit cards. A great experience but in those days everybody would tell you that if you didn't get a MBA you couldn't move forward.
Cindy went to Sloane Business School which for her was the absolutely right move. Growing up in a world of education and then working for the Peace Corps, she really didn't have a foundation for business skills. At Sloane she actually learned what economies of scale and ROI meant. For her, it was a great decision to get a MBA. By her third semester, one of her favorite strategy professors asked if she would be interested in building a web tools company to service the retail industry. It was December 1999. This was Cindy's first entry into the business side of fashion with a technology component. The company Store Front Media was funded and she joined in the fun. Then everything crashed.
It was too late to return to Sloane that semester so she went to work for a group of MIT astrophysicists that took huge retail data bases and applied analytical data to fashion forecasting. Oracle bought them out. She loved the idea of being able to take thousands of transactions and apply that technique to data mining. She returned to Sloane and became known as the fashion MBA technology student.
No surprises that Cindy got a job with Federated after graduating from Sloane. She worked on cross corporate tech platforms. Fascinating work but a political nightmare. After a year, she left to start a fashion company. She teamed up with a talented swimwear designer and started selling swimwear to high end companies such as Barneys. She was instrumental in building the company into a social brand as they did cool events at the fashion shows…and then, she got pregnant.
Her husband was being offered an amazing opportunity in SF, working for Google and they both decided it was the right move. Two kids later living in SF Cindy found herself doing some consulting work here and there but the truth is as much as she loved being a mom, she was bored and frustrated. She started to go on interviews and realized she had absolutely nothing to wear to them. Stacy London, an old friend, came to visit and took Cindy shopping. She is a genius in a store. She focused on exactly what she needed and how it could work in to other aspects of her life. It saved Cindy time, money and stress. That shopping experience starting the conversation about why this kind of service isn't readily available for the everyday woman. Wouldn't it be cool if we could build a network of personal stylists that bring this service to regular people in their home. That was the conversation where Style for Hire was born.
SF ended up being a great place to start a company. Cindy began doing biz development with potential retail customers. This type of business actually already exists in the Interior Design world. People hire decorators to help them figure out their needs, get discounts and in the end truly save the clients money. Style for Hire is doing the same thing. Clients will get special discounts from retailers that they are working with. They will also have training sessions for their stylists as well as their site will have all different types of stylists at different price points with difference senses of style so you can pick the one that works for you. Style for Hire is in essence an agency for professional stylists.
Cindy moved to DC with her family and it is there that the beta testing will begin.