From side hustle to dream job: How one woman started a following documenting celebrity closets – CNBC

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Leadership

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Stylist and entrepreneur Stephanie Mark says she would have never guessed that by her twenties, she would be at the helm of her own media company.

Called Coveteur, the site is popular with affluent American and millennials around the world who invest in luxury lifestyles and has amassed a social following of over three million people across its channels. Think of it like Vogue’s younger, indie cousin.

Spend five minutes browsing the site and notice that while it has traditional magazine verticals, like beauty, fashion and wellness, Coveteur’s spotlight is on the how-to’s and behind-the-scenes looks at style and culture.

Stephanie Mark, co-founder Coveteur

Along with cofounder and photographer Jake Rosenberg, Mark styles the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Bobbi Brown and the Kardashians. But unlike the defunct MTV show “Cribs,” Mark pioneered profiles of “the unsung heroes of fashion,” the talents you don’t see on the red carpet. For instance, she’s given the internet an exclusive look at the closets of Beyonce’s stylist, Madonna’s hat designer, a former member of Andy Warhol’s studio and Kanye West’s barber.

The project began when Mark was 26 years old, documenting the private homes and closets of celebrities, business leaders and street style icons with two peers about six years ago.

In 2012, Grammy award-winning artist Drake, Toronto-based investor BrandProject and a few friends and family raised $500,000 in Coveteur’s one and only round of seed investment.

Coveteur is also bringing on beauty mogul Bobbi Brown, supermodel Cindy Crawford and renowned designer Prabal Gurung as its advisors in growing the company.

In addition to blogging, Coveteur worked on creating branded and native content for big brands a few years before Instagram came around. Their firsts clients included Chanel, Coach and Dior.

Today, the company’s main sources of revenue include branded content, video, media and advertising.

Two years ago, Coveteur brought on tech entrepreneur Warren Webster, a former Patch, AOL and Goop executive, as its CEO. The decision marked a significant move for the company, allowing it to move headquarters from Toronto to New York and grow its team to 30 employees.

“Being able to have a vision, bring it to life and also make it profitable not only for yourself for other people as well is very rewarding and surreal,” Mark says.

Mark grew up loving fashion and gained a passion for business watching her grandparents work at a store they owned. After getting her undergraduate degree in history and costume design in Canada, Mark moved to New York to study fashion marketing at Parsons, the New School for Design.

She was asked to move back to Toronto for a marketing job but quickly became frustrated with the lack of leadership, feeling “uninspired and unmotivated” as a result of being unable to “sink her teeth into new projects.”

“I found frustration in a hierarchy where you’re the new one so, therefore, your opinion doesn’t matter as much as someone who’s been there for five years or 10 years,” Mark says. “I still carry that with me and try to make sure that Coveteur is the opposite of that.”

It was during this time she met Rosenberg and third co-founder Erin Kleinberg (no longer with Coveteur) on set for a photoshoot.

“We ended up toying with the idea of Coveteur and seeing what we could do online as a passion project because I was so unhappy where I was,” says Mark.

The three enjoyed their creative and collaborative work and continued doing side gigs together.

“We honestly didn’t launch this with any real business initiatives in mind,” Mark says. But after being approached by clients and understanding they could monetize their side gig, they decided to commit to it full time.

One of Mark’s notable visits was to Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, her studio home of 25 years, for an exclusive final shoot as Winfrey cleaned out her wardrobe ahead of the studio closing.

“It was insane, honestly. It was so surreal. When she came in I was like, ‘Am I having an out of body experience?'” Mark says.

Mark says she had no previous connections to many of the big names she interviewed when they started their website. Instead, she praises cold-emailing and networking for helping her make the connections her team started forming in the industry.

“People I would think I would be nervous about, like Reese Witherspoon, I’m not so nervous with. But Arianna Huffington?” Mark says. “Super nervous.” That likely has something to do with the fact that Mark says Huffington is a huge inspiration to her and looks up to how she grew the Huffington Post.

As a young business owner, Marks says Huffington has taught her the importance of always getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself.

“Everyone’s always go, go, go on their phones 24 hours a day, you can never not respond to an e-mail,” Mark says. “But I think hearing someone really successful stress the importance of maybe slowing down a little bit was also really nice.”

To this point, Mark adds that “being a girl boss is great,” especially with “everyone supporting each other and rallying around that movement.” However, she says it’s also important to note that it’s “not Instagram worthy all the time.”

“I think it’s easy especially with Instagram and social media for everyone to look like they’re living their best life all the time,” Mark says. “But running a company and being responsible for people is a big responsibility.”

Part of that includes navigating difficult situations, like defining company culture or raising money. Mark says it’s equally important to acknowledge your accomplishments along the way as well.

For those looking to turn their own passion projects into their full-time job, Mark says the most important and difficult part is to “just do it and start trying.”

“If you just do it, you’re already way ahead of everyone else who is still just talking about their idea,” she says. “I really think just getting out there and putting the effort into trying is about 80 percent of it all.”

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