Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chelsea Moylan: Owner at anomie

Going into business for yourself is no easy feat, especially as a woman. Challenges present themselves at each step, causing most to bow out of the entrepreneurial game. But not Chelsea Moylan. A love for independent designers and a knowledge of the fashion business (with help in part from her super successful blog & YouTube channel) led to anomie  — the chic e-shop that she later turned into a brick and mortar in San Francisco. The best part? You actually know where/by whom each piece was made, giving each purchase a personal connection. Read on for the scoop on how Chelsea launched anomie, her plans for its future, and the behind the scenes dish on the world of beauty vlogging.

I first discovered you via your realer-than-real YouTube channel. How did you first get into that?

I started making YouTube videos a few weeks before beginning grad school at Penn. I’d had a whole summer off after completing my undergrad and became completely sucked into the world of beauty. Even though makeup and skincare were always interests I’d had, I never had anyone to share it with and was completely unaware that tutorials, favorites, outfit videos, etc… existed on YouTube. The second I found beauty box videos, I was completely hooked. I loved watching the videos, making them, and making friends with like-minded people. I remember being so nervous to make my first video, my August 2011 Birchbox, and trying to find a place in my apartment to film it. It’s pretty funny to look back on now. It ended up getting picked up and featured on Birchbox’s blog and I was SO excited/mortified.

Beauty Gurus are beginning to catch some slack for being fake and giving dishonest opinions. Your channel is always no BS. What are your opinions on where vlogging/blogging are headed?

First of all, thank you. My number #1 goal is to be as authentic as possible. I have always gravitated towards watching people I wanted to be friends with, genuinely liked, and most importantly, trusted. I can very easily be turned off when I feel product pushing, click bait, or just flat out desperation for material to keep page views churning. I’d *hope* that blogging/vlogging wasn’t going in that direction, but so many people are seeing it as a career and naturally have to keep generating income. Not to say there aren’t some serious quality career bloggers out there, because there are ones I LOVE, respect, and trust.

There is a HUGE tween market that companies, agencies, and “content creators” are starting to tap into. If someone is comfortable gearing their content towards a younger demographic, they can be incredibly successful on YouTube. We’re talking MILLIONS of subscribers. I’ve seen the transition to tween material happen a lot – it brings success and more than enough new subscribers to offset the alienated older demographics. I feel like this happens less in the more diverse blogging world and YouTube has played catch up to the c/o, sponsorship, paid post backlash that happened in blogging a while back. As a career blogger, one must walk a fine line between being true to readers and being business minded. I’d hope that people who have incredible influence due to their “following” would be conscious of this at all times, but that’s not always the case. I’m just going to end it there – I could talk about this all day. I’m trained as a sociologist, so I can never turn that part of my brain off. I feel like this is all one giant participant observer ethnographic study for me, really. If I were to ever get my PhD, without a doubt, it would be on the YouTube phenomenon.

Okay, so just this January you opened an amazing online shop, anomie, in which you sell products from independent designers. What made you take the brave leap of faith required to become an entrepreneur?

I have always been obsessed with retail. My cousins and I used to play “Pac Sun,” where I laid out all my incredibly cool Roxy t-shirts and would ring them up on the computer. Owning my own store was always a deep down desire, but I struggled a lot with the idea that that was not my fullest potential in life. I studied criminal justice and sociology and really had set myself up to devote my time to social work and helping others. But after I finished grad school, I ended up getting skin cancer and it totally changed my perspective. I decided that I should follow my dreams, no matter how frivolous they might seem to others, and anomie was born.

The entire time I’ve spent blogging and making videos on YouTube gave me the confidence to know that people respect my taste and opinions on fashion, beauty, and home d├ęcor. Because of this, I knew I had the foundation to build a really strong retail business. My dad started his own businesses when I was a child, so I was raised in the small business environment. I’ve been able to reach out to him for LOTS of advice and have the cushion of starting the business small, while still working a full-time job, and letting it grow without the fear of wondering where my overpriced San Francisco rent will come next. It means I’m insanely busy, but I feel incredibly fulfilled.

Did you find it difficult to get people to sell with you at first, or did you leverage relationships from your blog and YouTube channel?

I already cringe over some of my first pitches to brands and designers. I am not formally trained in the fashion world, so my lingo needs a little help. I had some mock ups of the site as I was building it, so I was able to share those and show the aesthetic leanings of the store. Thankfully, smaller brands are always looking to get their product out there and our styles aligned if I was reaching out to them, so I didn’t run into too many rejections off the bat. But there were a couple. If I was really set on carrying the brand and they seemed iffy about it – I would pull out the “Hey I also make YouTube videos focused on fashion for like 30K people, so I plan on wearing these items and your brand will get exposure!” The desperation seeps out of that sentence. I only did that a couple of times in the very beginning. I actually don’t think of my YouTube or blog as a professional product, it’s a total hobby for me, so I don’t like to throw it around as a representation of my work. Thankfully now, the store has taken on a life of its own and it’s to the point that people are now reaching out to me!

What pieces in the shop do you think are essentials for any working girl's wardrobe?

I’m very into sleek, understated jewelry at the moment. “Simple, but well made” is the mantra I keep repeating to myself. I essentially live in my giantLION Bar Studs, Minoux Tiny Bar Necklace, and Maslo Jewelry Large Elements Necklace. Depending on if I want a dainty ring or a minimal metal cuff, I will oscillate between my Claire Kinder Studio Pip Ring or my giantLION cuff rings. I get the most mileage out of those pieces in day-to-day life – they come in various metals (copper, 14k gold, sterling silver, brass, etc…), so I just switch them out to match the outfit.

But… any working girl needs to balance out the work with a little fun – so a curved hem skirt from bird apparel is a must for a night out. Dress it up with heels, dress it down with Docs. It’s versatile, comfortable, and affordable ($40).

Where do you see anomie headed in the next few months?

Such an exciting question for me – I think about this every day. I’m in the process of renovating and moving into a little studio space because my 900 sq. ft. apartment (and co-habitating boyfriend) cannot handle the business taking up the living room anymore. In the next six months I plan to have hosted a few pop ups throughout Marin and San Francisco, collab with designers on exclusive pieces, and expand our product selection (clothing in particular is being built out right now!).

Where do I hope to be in a few years? A brick and mortar location in San Francisco. That’s my dream.

What advice do you have for other women looking to launch a successful e-commerce site all on their own?

Do it! Start small. Get organized. Research anything and everything. Have a plan. Have a backup plan. Start saving. Get the permits, business licenses, and paperwork in to the right places. I spent a year strategizing and preparing myself for the launch; so get ready to devote days, weeks, and months to your new business before you even see a dime come in. Oh, and figuring out your taxes sucks so much more. Have fun with that.

It’s a lot of work, but so much fun. The excitement I used to feel from shopping for myself is nothing compared to the excitement I feel when I buy for the store, make a sale (even after so many, it never gets old!), or see a picture or tweet of someone loving their purchase.