Every so often I come across someone who makes me literally stop everything and just allow myself to be inspired with all that they do. My latest inspiration comes from none other than THE Erika Brechtel. Erika is an award winning brand stylist who has worked with some incredible brands in the interior design, lifestyle, fashion, food and health industries. To say that she is a POWER HOUSE would be an understatement, I mean just check out her client list! I am extremely honored today to chat with Erika and give you guys a peak into her life.
Was becoming a brand stylist something you've always been interested in or was there another career path?
I majored in Art History and initially wanted to be a museum curator or work in a gallery. But I interned for an interior designer my senior year at UCLA, and ended up loving it so much I went to FIDM for interior design after receiving my B.A. I worked in that industry for four years until the internet bubble became too large to ignore. I realized that whether it's 3D or 2D design, it's still design, and you're still working to create a look and feel that is right and unique for each client (and ultimately help them succeed!).
You have worked with so many amazing brands! Which one would you say you have enjoyed the most?
That is a tough question! I am very fortunate that at this point in my career, I get to pick the clients I want to work with, and from the initial phone conversation, I can tell for the most part if we're a good fit. I really love working with entrepreneurs that have a clear vision of where they want to take their brand. I have so much respect for all of the clients that I collaborate with and it fulfills me to make each and every one of them ecstatic with the final product!
We know you're a busy woman! If we were to open up your calendar, what would a typical day look like for you?
...like not enough hours in the day (as it is for everyone these days!). After I get my daughter to school at 8:30am, I'm back at my desk for emails in the morning and checking in with my assistant. I typically try to only schedule 1-2 projects for myself a day -- or administrative/marketing time -- so I can really concentrate and give my very best to those tasks. Often I have to turn my email and phone off for a few hours! If I can, I try to squeeze in gym time before or after work hours at least three times a week.
I have been in love with your brand for awhile now! What was the inspiration behind designing the Erika Brechtel brand?
Switching from smallshopstudio.com to erikabrechtel.com allowed me to infuse my own personal brand style into my new website and identity. It's been evolving for years (as is natural!) but now I really try to remain true to what that means for me. I'm not trying to please everyone -- I know what I like, so it's easy to get excited when I'm inspired and share that with my readers and clients. If they like what they see, then we're a good fit! (And I hope that it's clear I am all about a femme rocker chic vibe a la Kate Moss, Kelly Wearstler and Emmanuelle Alt -- my three muses!)
You're a mommy too! How do you balance a growing business and family?
Luckily we have childcare options that allow me to work full-time! But dinner, homework, bath & story time is very precious to me. My daughter is the light of my life, and she makes me stop and appreciate just the wonderful little moments of silliness and daily life. But once she's asleep, I am typically back at my computer. I have an iMac in my office, but in order to feel like I'm not chained to my desk 24/7, I got a laptop to work on at night for blogging and volunteer work in front of the TV. I know, I'm kinda lying to myself, but it helps me feel "balanced" nonetheless!
What initially led you down the path to entrepreneurship? Share some of your journey with us!
After working as an in-house Art Director for an international corporation, I got married, and we moved to New York so my husband could attend grad school. Like all women in their 20's who move to Manhattan, you have big dreams in the big city! But I was already getting clients on my own, and the jobs I was interviewing for were rather one-dimensional. I decided to try to make it on my own, and am going on 12 years next month!
What tools or apps do you use to get through your work day?
(Does coffee count as a tool?) I would feel completely lost without my Outlook mailbox and calendar -- they serve as my to-do lists on a daily basis. As a designer, I use Photoshop, Illustrator, and often InDesign every day. As a business owner, I have to use social media apps and obviously Instagram, twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are basic. I love VSCOcam for photo filters! Also Dropbox and Google Docs for sharing files., and Spotify and Soundcloud to provide the tunes by which to work away. (EDM is by far my fave work music!)
What advice would you give a young woman who currently wants to take the leap into entrepreneurship?
One regret I have is that I did not take any business classes, so my processes are probably not the most efficient. (I have to say however that I just acquired a new assistant in the past few weeks and she has been instrumental in streamlining my life!) The administrative and marketing parts of the job (read: unbillable hours) take up more time than you would ever guess, so the more efficient you are, the more you can spend on precious billable hours.
Also: set goals and work towards those goals -- you have to put it out there. For example, I wanted to get my house published, so I decorated it, got it photographed, and it's been a steamroller since. I did the same this past year when I decided I wanted to go to Art Basel and Miami Swim Week to gain new clientele. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities!
New brands pop up daily! What do you believe it takes to build a great brand and successful business?
It's all about brand recognition and upholding your brand standard: a consistent voice, quality photography, and reinforcement again and again and again. You have to believe in your brand, where it comes from, what it means, who it's speaking to, and where it's going. You have love it and live it. The initial investment in creating a brand you love will help you succeed not only at the start, but all along the journey.
Where do you see the Erika Brechtel brand in five years?
I'm actually hoping to continue to expand to international markets! I've worked with brands in Australia, Japan, Italy and Canada but I hope that I can grow that client base. Additionally, I'd like to continue to work with fashion, decor, lifestyle and luxury brands since it's what I know and love! Lastly, I'd like to continue to develop my own brand -- evolve, inform and inspire!