From stylist to fashion designer to reality star and best-selling author, Rachel Zoe’s career has pivoted more times than a cat has lives. Made famous the world over thanks to the Bravo reality show The Rachel Zoe Project, the fashion icon is passionate about living a life of style.
Her successful business ventures include The Zoe Report, a chain of salons under the DreamDry moniker, plus her own ready to wear fashion line. With 2.7 million Instagram followers under her belt, to say Zoe is an influencer, is an understatement.
Speaking at a keynote at Suiteworld in Las Vegas, Zoe explains everything she does is motivated by passion.
“Everything I’ve done has always been driven by passion. [When I was a stylist] I loved what I was doing more than anything,” she says.
When it came time to transition from solo operator to a full-scale business, Zoe believes this passion stood her in good stead.
“That is most important when you’re starting a business. Understand what are your core beliefs.”
She says when she first left behind a career as an editor to begin working as a stylist – it was never meant to be a business.
“I just wanted more connectivity to people,” she explains.
Yet Zoe’s flair for fashion was unmistakable and soon she was dressing the rich and famous in her version of Bo-Ho chic. Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan and Mischa Barton were huge fans of Zoe’s style. Thanks to her uncanny knack for being able to get her clients on the pages of Us, more celebrity clientele soon followed.
Then The Rachel Zoe Project came along delivering multiple opportunities for the savvy Zoe. She leveraged her newfound fame to push out a book and launch a clothing line. When the internet and social media finally exploded, Zoe was there to ride the wave. Zoe understood there was finally a way she could have that ‘connection” with her customers that she craved.
“When social media came around, I was so excited by It. I jumped on it and tried to figure it out,” she says.
Not that the journey has been all smooth sailing.
“There have been so many challenges. Everything I’ve learned along the way – mistakes included – have helped me be stronger.”
She acknowledges that challenges are often the growing pains that come with actual business growth.
“We tend to have people in one role doing 50 things and the lines get blurred and crossed. But as we’ve grown, we have learnt to really define roles in the company.”
One lesson she learned early on was to surround herself with an enthusiastic and focused team.
“People are very different,” she muses. “My experience has been the way we approach business today is so different to when I started. I started a business where I work hard, love what I do and hire people that have skills in what I was weakest at.
“My father always said ‘fill the voids’. Surround yourself with people that are not just great but have different skillsets to you. You don’t want someone that comes in and is just looking at the clock. You want people who want to be there and are excited by what they are doing.”
She suggests social media has been the biggest game-changer for her brand and businesses.
“I think social media has been the most instrumental and high impact. Starting off I feared I didn’t understand it. But ultimately, I think if you don’t play you really suffer. It’s crossed all aspects of the industry: fashion, content, commerce. The fact I can directly interact with my customers… To immediately impact something and use your voice to impact…” she trails off.
Her advice to business owners is to embrace agility.
“It’s scary and amazing, in the same breath. You have to be nimble,” she says.
She suggests utilising processes and systems are essential to any business success.
“Process is the most important thing as you’re growing a business, and defining rules within a company are vital. Because of NetSuite I get to focus on the thing I love – being creative. It makes it so much easier for the business to be streamlined.”
She says as her business ventures have grown it has been challenging to be involved across all levels. Yet insists she remains true to her credo of ‘live your best life’.
“That’s the challenge that happens when you grow. Sometimes you get a little further away from the things that excited you.”
The most important advice she has for business owners is to “really recognise and know what your strengths and weaknesses are”.
“I don’t believe any CEO can be amazing at every single thing. Be collaborative and work as a team. I think you really grow that way…”
[The author was a guest of Netsuite at Suiteworld Las Vegas]