The following interview is part of a class assignment for Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure at SMU, Meadows School of the Arts. Each interview has been
conducted and created by students for this course, which celebrates those heroes in our communities. Heroism, for the purpose of this course and assignment is described as:
- Service of something larger than oneself.
- A willingness to sacrifice in the name of service.
Author: SMU student Lexie Hammesfahr
The following interview is with Amber Venz.
What led you to create RewardStyle?
the blog to supplement my personal shopping business; however, I quickly learned that by using VENZedits as my personal style diary, my clients no longer needed to book appointments with me- they could see what to wear, how to style it and where to buy it all from my blog. I had cut myself out of my own business.
I realized that I needed to monetize my blog so I started reaching out to brands, attending fashion weeks and blogging conferences and signing up for any platform that promised to make me a dollar (most of which were highly technical and difficult for me to understand and manage). I had spreadsheets of brand contacts, pricing sheets, payments due…it all became an administrative nightmare.
My co-founder, Baxter Box, saw how complicated it was for me to monetize my blog. He asked me to describe the ideal situation for how style bloggers to monetize their content and rewardStyle was born.
What were some obstacles you encountered as you developed the company?
People. It takes a long time to find the right people to build a team. Also, as an independent, creative person, I found it challenging to managing a growing staff.
Did you have any mentors?
My first mentor was my dad. Growing up, he always taught me that if I wanted to have a flexible and comfortable lifestyle that I would need to own my own business. My dad started his business more than 25 years ago so he has a lot of experience in growing a business and managing people. He continues to educate himself with classes and reading material and he always shares good books and articles with me.
My second mentor was my co-founder, Baxter Box. Baxter and I started rewardStyle while he was earning his MBA from SMU and I feel like I went through school with him. We constantly talked about business and strategy. He has a different talent and skill set than me so I continue to learn from watching him in the business environment.
My third mentor is my team. rewardStyle is made up of highly talented and ambitious executives and inspiring, cheerful and dedicated employees and I learn from all of them on a daily basis. The rewardStyle team is comprised of nearly 10 nationalities and I enjoy learning the cultural nuances of their regions.
What was the scariest/most rewarding parts of creating RewardStyle?
It is hard to choose just one rewarding part of creating rewardStyle. It is empowering to know that we have helped hundreds of style bloggers to quit their jobs and blog full-time. We have definitely fueled the democratization of style publishing. I am also in awe that a handful of twenty-somethings can disrupt an industry the way that we have (the average age of a rewardStyle employee is ~25).
Did you have any reservations about starting your own company?
I did not have any reservations about starting rewardStyle for a few reasons:
1. I was my own customer (a style blogger) and I believed in the concept 100%. We were solving a problem.
2. I was also a baby (22-years-old), living at home (thanks for the bed, Dad).
3. I had nothing to lose- no money and no full-time job (I was self-employed at the time. rewardStyle was not my first business venture).
4. My co-founder was incredibly brilliant in every area where I was lacking.
What three pieces of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are entering the market after graduation?
1. Get experience: work on all sides of your business of interest. For me that meant retail, wholesale, designing, publishing, styling…You have to understand what all of the players are after to be able to win the game.
2. Build relationships: Everything in life is about relationships- even more so after college. Maintain your reputation and keep up with your contacts (I use LinkedIn).
3. Do your research: Stay abreast of industry news and trends. Read at least one industry publication each day.