Inspiration comes in many forms. For today's young professional woman, we are incredibly lucky to have so many other females to learn from, aspire to, and model after. Some of the best are the women who have created something that makes other women feel confident, strong and happy. For me, there are four women in particular who I admire and appreciate both professionally and personally.
Alli Webb, founder of Drybar.
The stats: Five years ago, Alli was providing at home blow dry services to clients in Brentwood, CA, simply through referrals. When she realized that there was a high demand for this kind of hair care, she accepted a $250,000 loan from her brother, now business partner, and opened Drybar. I have read that in that first day alone, the Brentwood salon booked over 1,000 appointments and in its first year, generated over one million dollars. Alli, her brother, and her husband, who is creative director, have employed over 300,000 people and are rapidly expanding. They have also formed a partnership with Sephora to sell their proprietary hair care products including a blow drier, curling iron, shampoo and conditioner.
The experience: My first Drybar experience was before seeing a concert with friends. I walked into the bright studio on Sunset Boulevard, and was greeted with a smile and the offer for something to drink. I opted for a glass of champagne and it came to me in a yellow flute with a fresh strawberry on the rim. The stylist asked me which look I wanted, and took me back to wash my hair. While my hair was being done, I had the option of reading a fashion magazine, watching the movie they were playing, or talking with the stylist while enjoying my champagne (which they offered to refill every time it got low). I opted for the magazines. When she was finished, she made certain I was happy with the end result, walked me to the front and hugged me goodbye. All of this pampering and incredible customer service is only $40, and totally worth it.
The admiration: For several reasons, I admire Alli Webb. First, I love that her brother and husband are her business partner and creative director. Second, during my first visit to Drybar, I Instagrammed a photo from the studio, and she "liked" it, and commented on it, rather than not engaging. Finally, Alli frequents each of the salons to visit with her teams and customers and is known for her wit and "girl power" sentiments.
Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, SoulCycle.
The stats: In 2006, Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice met in New York City and were determined to find an alternative to the fitness routines that felt like work. Combining inspirational coaching with high-energy music, the pair designed a workout that benefits the mind and body. SoulCycle trains world-class instructors to teach their proprietary method which engages and empowers riders in a way that leaves them mentally and physically stronger than when they arrived.
The first studio was opened on the Upper West Side and in 2012 they made their way to California, opening the first west coast studio in West Hollywood. Today, SoulCycle has opened 25 locations nationwide, with plans to open 50-60 studios worldwide by 2015.
The experience: When you walk into any SoulCycle, you are welcomed with big smiles, and a staff who is prepared to make the experience as smooth as possible whether it's your first time there, or you've been many times. They ask how you are, if you need anything for the class (shoes, water, help with a locker or setting up your bike, etc.) and tell you to "have a great ride." When you walk into the studio for class, there is staff available to make sure the room has everything they need before the instructor begins class. Three to five minutes before class is scheduled to start, the instructor comes in and turns on their music and gives their introduction. Each instructor is different, but in some fashion they all ask if anyone has any injuries they should be aware of, if it's anyone's first time riding, and then they explain what the ride will be like and encourage riders to go at their own pace. Most rides are 45 minutes, but there is a survivor class that is an hour. When the ride is over, you're asked to stay for a brief stretch and each class ends with an encouraging mantra or testament. When you leave the studio, you're again greeted by staff who asks how the ride was, and helps to ensure everyone is happy and taken care of.
The admiration: The thing that really sticks out to me about Julie and Elizabeth is that they live in New York but have been in CA for all seven studio openings, riding in the opening day classes, taking photos with the riders, answering their questions, offering words of encouragement, and making you feel like they're your best girlfriend. Additionally, for instructors to work at SoulCycle, they are required to go through the SoulCycle training program, which ensures that every class emulates their vision, which is unlike other studios I've experienced.
Sara Blakely, Spanx.
The stats: Sara tells the story of buying a pair of expensive white pants and finding frustration in not being able to wear them because any sort of undergarment she tried on under them was noticeable or uncomfortable. Because of this experience, she thought to cut the feet out of a pair of pantyhose and noticed a huge difference. With this idea, she was able to meet with a Neiman Marcus buyer in Texas who she showed the difference in how the pants looked with and without Spanx. She then did the same with Bergdorff's, Saks and Bloomingdales, and today she has a $250 million brand.
The experience: I am not very comfortable in tight clothes, so it is rare that I wear them. I found a black dress at a boutique in LA and after returning to the store to try it on three times, I caved and bought it. When I tried it on before an event, I felt a little "lumpy" and bummed out because I wasn't totally confident in it. I texted a girlfriend who told me she'd come over and tell me what she thought. With her, she brought Spanx for me to try. I put them on under the dress, and literally felt entirely different about the way the dress fit. Those little Spanx provided a huge uptick in confidence and I felt great in the dress all night.
The admiration: What I think is the coolest thing about Sara's brand is that she has never formally paid for advertising. She truly believes in the power of word of mouth, which is so brave and humble. She also hired close friends to serve as her PR team, none of them having experience, because she trusted them and wanted people she trusted on her team.
Because of these women, I am not only inspired to succeed and aspire in my career, I am also offered opportunities through their brands to feel good, to look good, and to enjoy life.