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Rockets Of Awesome: Rachel Blumenthal On What Drives Success

People

You could call Rachel Blumenthal’s entrepreneurial start a “lucky one,” – even she calls it a happy accident – but it was as self-earned as it was serendipitous. At the time, she was working in New York City for luxury fashion and beauty brand, Yves Saint Laurent, which had her interacting regularly with magazine editors and stylists. One of her creative outlets was designing jewelry for herself, and one day she wore one of her own rings into the office that caught the attention of her colleagues.


“Some of the editors that I worked with at Lucky Magazine decided to feature me as a designer," she recalls on SWAAY’s podcast, Entrepreneurs En vogue.

"I don't think I appreciated what could come of it, but about a month later, Daily Candy called, and this was back in 2003 when Daily Candy was the only game in town. I didn't have a website, so I had a couple days, basically, to go figure out how to at least have some semblance of a domain. I did that, and we had buyers and editors and customers that wanted more of this brand that literally didn't exist.”

That nonexistent brand quickly became Rachel Leigh jewelry, which would go on to be sold in 500 stores worldwide, including Henri Bendel and Shopbop, over the course of the next eight years. In 2012, she licensed the brand to Glamhouse, took a year to transition her team, and then began working on a new venture called Cricket’s Circle, an online shopping destination for expectant moms.

This shift was primarily prompted by Blumenthal’s desire to challenge herself, the ever-changing retail scene of the late 2000s, and an entrepreneurial thirst.

“Once you’re an entrepreneur, and once you run your own business, it’s really hard to imagine ever working for somebody in a sort of traditional capacity again.”

“I think I had absolutely been bitten by that entrepreneurial bug, and was really sort of fascinated and excited by many of the early startups that were gaining a lot of traction in the market,” she explains.

The idea for Cricket’s Circle was born out of Blumenthal’s own needs as a new mother who was overwhelmed by a saturated market. The website served as a personal product recommendation engine that did the business vetting for consumers, and served as a springboard for her latest entrepreneurial project, Rockets of Awesome.

“We were able to prove out that we knew how to build a brand that resonated and spoke to this generation of parents,” says Blumenthal. She explains that, based on feedback from the community, they kept hearing the same thing: that shopping for items like car seats and strollers were momentary moments of stress, but that an ongoing pain point was the issue of children outgrowing, wearing and tearing through their clothing.

Rockets of Awesome, dubbed a “parent life hack,” solves that problem. It’s a subscription box that delivers eight to 12 carefully curated children’s clothing items to your doorstep every quarter. Subscribers can also purchase individual items through the website. The business was given $7 million dollars in seed money by investors, and has thrived since it was launched.

Through these ventures, Blumenthal has two primary takeaways for what drives success.

“The first is how critically important it is to have a very defined vision for what you want to build, and the problem you want to solve, and be confident in that vision."

“Everyone is going to have opinions along the way, and ideas for you, and it’s really important not to get distracted from what that north star is.”

The second critical point is building a relationship with your customers, which, when boiled down, is all about your branding.

“I think that brand is hard for some people to understand; sometimes it feels frivolous, or that it’s just about a logo, but it’s not,” says Blumenthal. “Brand is what makes a business, a product, an experience seem memorable. It’s what really pulls at the heartstrings. Building a brand that is authentic to the founding team, and has a very defined vision and point of view, is hypercritical to building lifelong value in a business.”

In addition to Rachel Leigh, Cricket’s Circle, and Rockets of Awesome, Blumenthal serves as an advisor to Warby Parker, which was co-founded by her husband, Neil. Clearly, she has an uncanny ability to pinpoint a gap in the market and solve the problem while gaining the trust of consumers.

Moral of the story: a fortuitous event may help you “get discovered,” but you must work furiously to achieve the kind of success Blumenthal has earned. After all, one ring does not simply turn into three nationally acclaimed businesses.

Learn more about Blumenthal’s ventures, and business philosophy, on the podcast.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.