MEET LAUREN CONRAD
"When a portion of your life is highlighted in the media, people have difficulty seeing the rest. In my case, becoming a designer wasn’t always the central focus of Laguna Beach and The Hills but it’s been my lifelong dream.
Many of you are probably wondering why you should take a person like me seriously as an entrepreneur. For me, it’s pretty clear: I run two clothing lines, two web sites and a book franchise on top of directly managing my brand and endorsement deals. I’ve made a career out of allowing cameras to capture my personal life but that doesn’t make me “just another reality star” looking to start a clothing line. People often forget that I am a person who was documented for more than six years while pursuing a dream to make it in the fashion industry. The friends, the drama, the adventures, unfolded around that.
Sharing my life publicly has given me the opportunity to pursue my ambitions while providing brand recognition, consumer trust and personal resonance. But a successful enterprise can’t just run on fame. Like any businesswoman, I think about long-term business plans, social media, brand strategy and how best to connect with my fans. Though I’m in the early stages of being a fashion entrepreneur, I’ve quickly learned a thing or two about staying true to my brand, creating my own path and turning setbacks into windows of opportunity.
Protect Your Brand
Understanding and safeguarding your brand is invaluable. My situation is unusual because I am my brand and every decision I make affects it. Case in point: When I first started working with Kohl’s I knew was teaming up with a well-oiled machine—Kohl’s knows their customer and they know what she likes. Because of this, I was designing a clothing line within certain parameters, stifling the creative process. It became frustrating.
For example, I like to wear a lot of chiffon, which is a sheer, lightweight fabric. I wanted to design a couple of chiffon blouses, but Kohl’s research said that customers wouldn’t buy a see-through top. We had the option to line the top with a non-transparent fabric, but that would have increased costs and gone over the target price point. Instead of accepting that the customer might not understand how to wear the piece, we decided we would educate her. We made tags with styling tips that read, “I love lightweight tops. I layer mine over a camisole and pair it with jeans.” Our solution ensured the clothing would perform well in stores while staying congruent with my brand. I asked Kohl’s to trust my knowledge about my fans and they were ultimately open to hearing my point of view. Their emphasis on collaboration has made for a great, healthy partnership.
When it comes to brand integrity, I’ve also learned that you don’t have to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Be selective. If I decided tomorrow that I wanted to become a singer simply because I could, it wouldn’t make any sense and people would have trouble supporting it. Be honest with yourself and stay true to your interests—your fans will follow and will respect you for sticking to your guns.
Staying in touch with my fans, the people whom my businesses cater to, is integral to what I do. I like to use social media as a way of reaching out and maintaining relationships. Whether it’s a Twitpic of a dinner I’ve made (yes, I do cook!) or a blog about affordable ways to decorate your apartment, I share my ever-growing list of interests online.
After recognizing the power of social media, I launched two websites just a few months ago: LaurenConrad.com and TheBeautyDepartment.com. LaurenConrad.com is a fully functioning social networking community where people can create their own profile pages, participate in the forums, make friends with like-minded tastemakers and stay up-to-date on my musings with my daily blog. It’s a place where I can directly connect with my fans and reach out to a formerly scattered online audience (spread across Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in just one place. Connectivity is key—everything I post on my website is syndicated to Facebook and Twitter and vice versa.
I have been fortunate enough to spend time speaking to thousands of my fans through book tours and personal appearances. Here, I get the chance to meet the young ladies who purchase pieces from my clothing line with their hard-earned paychecks and ask for my books for Christmas. It is during these encounters that they ask: “Where did you get that nail polish?” or “What size curling iron do you use?” After being barraged by so many of these fashion and beauty questions, it made sense to develop TheBeautyDepartment.com and build out LaurenConrad.com to serve as a communication platform.
Through these sites, I am able to present potential business partners with web analytics that show what my fans are interested in and how we could potentially channel that momentum into successful products and partnerships. Web data is valuable and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned recently is that information is a passport to success.
When I was told that MTV would not be moving forward with a show surrounding the development of my clothing line, Paper Crown, I was disappointed. MTV said the show wasn’t the right fit for their audience and in retrospect, I realize all of the pieces didn’t fit together as nicely as I had hoped. Due to the nature of the fashion industry, most people were reluctant to allow cameras into their work place and many thought the show cheapened the brand because of the stigma attached to reality shows. I was also concerned that what might be entertaining on television may not be perceived as good business sense.
When it was decided we would not be moving forward with the project, we were faced with the challenge of providing our own publicity for Paper Crown in a short amount of time. We got the word out through various social media channels, in addition to a cover we booked with Lucky Magazine, which featured Paper Crown pieces for the cover shot. Sales for our first season were beyond our expectations and we landed an account with Nordstrom. Even though the TV show failed to materialize, we were able to transform the setback into a marketing success and an opportunity to establish credibility.
Being a young businesswoman is a challenge, especially when you’re an alumna of the vacuous world of reality fantasy. I am proud of the fact that I have parlayed what could have been a fleeting reality career into viable business ventures. Over the next few months, I look forward to sharing my experiences and discoveries with you from the perspective of a young, modern entrepreneur."
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