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5 Reasons Rachel Zoe and Hillary Kerr Are Badass Entrepreneurs: SXSW 2018

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Rachel Zoe, 46, and Hillary Kerr, 37, lead the way in early adoption and innovation in the fashion industry.  So, it’s no surprise that South by Southwest asked them to speak on the topic “Adaptability in Fashion’s Changing Landscape” in Austin, Texas for the 2018 conference. Coincidentally, Austin is where Rachel Zoe got her first big break thanks to Tommy Hilfiger.

Rachel is best known for her reality show “The Rachel Zoe Project” on Bravo TV. She’s since moved into fashion and accessories design, written books, and started a seasonal subscription box called “Box of Style.” Millions of fans follower her social media feeds.

Hillary Kerr is the co-founder of fashion site WhoWhatWear.com, home décor site MyDomaine.com, and beauty site Byrdie.com. The Who What Wear brand launched a new clothing line at 800 Target stores and on Target.com.

It’s easy to be dazzled (not bedazzled) by their stylish entrance: Rachel’s white sequin pantsuit (!) and Hillary’s floral kimono framing her “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt. Glam and empowerment abounding. Yet, the conversation prevailed as the winning ensemble because these two ladies are friends IRL. The conversation flowed naturally, with genuine laughter and sentimental stories.

By the discussion’s end, I found 5 reasons that Rachel Zoe and Hillary Kerr are badass business leaders. Not just in fashion, and not just as women. We are talking about two power houses who exemplify that success doesn’t have to come at the expense of your values or passions.

Here is my short list of 5 reasons for respecting and cheering on these entrepreneurs:

Pitch Your Passion, Not Yourself

Rachel originally fell in love with “Style with Elsa Klensch,” CNN’s weekly fashion and design show that ran from 1980 to 2001.  Rachel wanted to be like Elsa: “I wanted to show the brilliance of the designers and what happens behind the scenes.  After talking with the producers, it ended up being the Rachel Zoe Project.” The show premiered in 2008 on Bravo TV and focused on Rachel’s adventures styling celebrities for the red carpet. It was hard to get people to participate, because this type of behind-the-scenes look at the red carpet hadn’t been done before. The first episode is on Youtube.

Sweat the Small Stuff… But…

Don’t micromanage.  Hillary says she sweats the small stuff. So does Rachel.  They are both Virgos, who are known for paying attention to detail to the point of getting stuck.  “I definitely obsess over every little thing.  I mostly try to keep it internal. Mostly,” says Rachel.  She’s worked on stepping back and letting her team do their thing. “We do believe you should be in the office most of the time. If we have a meeting, you should be there.” Rachel’s business took it a step further when employees (and herself) had babies. She opened an office nursery, which at one point had six babies crawling about. Women didn’t have to choose between being a parent and a meeting– she could do both. Other business owners could stand to learn from this!

Screwups are Learning Opportunities

“I learn the most from when I screw up,” claims Hillary.  Rachel tells the story of her client’s leather pants splitting up the middle during an on-stage performance because she made a bad decision on materials.  Being a detail-oriented woman, she leaves little to chance now.  Her new Sunday morning Instagram show “Real Life With Rachel Zoe” won a Glossy Award for best use of Instagram by a publisher.  She had 40 shorts in the can before people knew it was launching so she could refine what she was doing first. Her Oscar’s party episode had over 519K likes.

Partner With People Who Stick Around

In this case, Rachel’s husband Rodger Berman is her partner in life and in business. Rodger is Rachel’s media maven, explaining a lot of media ins and outs to her as “a better way to communicate.” When Hillary asked how she handles living and working with her husband, Rachel so eloquently states: “What we always say… ‘Work is hard, life is hard. Everything around us is hard. WE are easy.'” She adds that she’d rather bicker with someone who loves her forever than someone who might walk out the door. Hillary’s business partner is Katherine Power; together they launched Clique Media,  co-authored two books, and weathered a recession that toppled many brands.  A business partner may not love you forever, but certainly sticking through the tough times is the key to success.

Stay Clear and On Message

Rachel’s many media outlets are all on target with one mission: “I just want to teach women how to look like their best selves and be their best selves.” Rachel has gone from our televisions, to our mobile phones, to our front doors in an effort to give every woman access to her style aesthetics and skills.  She’s expanding her clothing line to offer plus sizes. She leads the way in faux fur trends (something long considered a faux pas in the high fashion industry). She integrates shiny and sexy into every project and is elated when she sees her clothing “in the wild.” Best of all, Rachel is unapologetic for doing her own thing and opening up to new ways of reaching women.

Who knows what these two women will do next?  Whatever it is, we know Rachel Zoe and Hillary Kerr be will dressed for the occasion.

About The Author

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Thea Wood


Thea Wood is the co-publisher of SheSpark.com and a certified image consultant from Austin, TX.  She wrote the upcoming e-book The Intentional Makeover  and co-authored the book Socially Smart & Savvy. Thea shares styling advice at TheaWood.com, helping women create a signature style that says who they are and where they’re going.


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