For this Maker Story, we’re in for quite a treat – of the trendy variety, in fact. We were lucky to get some time with Stephanie McClean the Founder & CEO of Trendy Treat. Trendy is an online women’s fashion retailer featuring Stephanie’s self-designed private label in addition to up-and-coming designers from all over the world. Every product Trendy sells is ethically produced, so don’t let high fashion fool you; there’s a mission here too. Read-on to hear Stephanie’s story of trial, error and success.
Tell us the story of how you got started.
Trendy Treat is a combination of my passion for fashion & travel. After law & grad school, the entrepreneurial bug bit hard, and I was committed to creating my own business. Working with Columbia University’s Entrepreneurship Coaching Program, I tested a few business ideas and this Trendy Treat was the one that proved most viable, so I ran with it.
What is your role?
CEO & Designer. I’m a sole founder and work heavily with freelancers and outside agencies; so ultimately, I do most of the heavy lifting. The site has a private label, made to measure clothing line, Mogul In The Making, I do all the designing and oversee the manufacturing for that. I also do Trendy Treat’s merchandising and spend a significant amount of time finding new talent to carry. I’ve outsourced social media, but just can’t seem to stay away from Twitter & Instagram. So essentially, I’m doing a little bit of everything.
What was your first job?
Worked as on-air talent for a Television Station, Hype TV, the Caribbean equivalent of MTV. It was a fun job, covering parties and interviewing musicians, not a bad first gig at all.
What are 3 words to describe your brand?
Ethical, Luxurious and Worldly
What do you do when you are not working?
Watch copious amounts of Dateline & Law and Order. Dateline’s Keith Morrison is my main squeeze at this point. I’ve been so focused on my business; I’ve neglected my social life. I tend to binge work and then if I take a trip for business, factor in some fun then.
Last year, I was traveling almost every 6 weeks, Dubai, South Africa, Europe, The Caribbean and a few other stops in between, so I’d work like crazy before and then do really amazing things while traveling to create some balance. Table Mountain, Dessert Safari’s and other unforgettable experiences so I can have something to remember during the binge work periods.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
A lawyer! The principal of my elementary school spoke it into being when I was holding a mediation session in the lunch room at the ripe old age of 3 or 4. I’ve always been an advocate for something or someone and have a family that celebrates having an opinion. I did the law school tango, finished and [now] do some real estate work on the side. The legal issues surrounding fashion resonate with me, and I just may have a future in Fashion Law in this lifetime.
What was your big break?
Still waiting for it : )
What is your best selling product?
The Mogul In The Making Custom Fit pieces. Think women love the idea of being able to get a garment made to their measurements at an affordable price point. It’s ethically manufactured, so it resonates with customers that they are doing something good and giving back, its conscious glamour.
What is your favorite product? Why?
ZAAF Collection Avalo Petite Weekender, for two reasons, the product and the purpose. I am a huge fan of anything in this world that has a dual purpose. The Avalo Petite Weekender can function as a handbag and as a travel bag. For women who travel a lot, you usually come back with more than you left with, this bag is the perfect way to get an extra carryon bag without any hassle from the airlines. It’s also perfect for a large everyday bag and has a removable strap, for day to day wear.
I also love the brand. ZAAF was conceptualized by Abai Schulze, who has an inspiring story of personal strength and reliance. The quality of the product is exceptional, created by artisans in Ethiopia, the leather is supple and the finishes are top notch. It’s an excellent investment pieces that can last for years. Consider myself to be African at heart and believe in the regions potential as a global fashion powerhouse. So providing a platform to bring ZAAF and other African products to the global stage is near to my heart.
Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What are you touching?
My garment rack which is filled with samples & fabric swatches for the new collection, need to get cracking on that.
If you could eat lunch with any person (from history or currently alive) who would it be?
Oprah, she’s made great strides in business. As a young African American business woman, she’s a tremendous symbol of what is possible. I’d love an opportunity to learn how she grew her brands and has been able to maintain her prowess during the years.
Other than your own, what are your favorite brands in your sector?
H&M is my go to big box retailer. While Trendy Treat is an ant in comparison to H&M in the retail sector, they give me something to strive towards. From a business perspective, their commitment to innovation and ethical fashion is admirable. They tend to be leaders in the space, doing high/lo collaborations with designers like Versace and Jimmy Choo. Even though Trendy Treat is significantly smaller, I strive to be an innovator committed to ethical fashion, like H&M.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Who gave it to you?
When things go wrong, don’t go wrong with them, pearls of wisdom from my Father. The fashion industry can be filled with high strung people with a penchant for the dramatics. In business, as in life, invariably, something doesn’t go as planned at some point. I’ve been able to hold on to that to help stay focused on resolving the issue when there is a problem.
If you could try any job for a day what would you try?
A pilot, I took lessons for a private pilot license a while back. Flying is so exhilarating. I love travelling and always thought it was cool to be able to have a job that allows you to see the world.
What have been the hardest parts of getting to where you are now?
The learning curve! I picked a sector that I hadn’t had significant experience in. Trial by fire has been an excellent but sometimes painful teacher. Getting acquainted with failure is something most entrepreneurs can relate to.
Launching a business is a massive undertaking, don’t think there is anybody under the sun that is exceptional at every single piece of it. You may shine at customer service and be not so awesome at operations for example. At a certain point I just accepted that certain things would be a home run and others not so much. I take the ‘not so much’s’ as lessons and try to make them closer to being home runs in the future.
If someone were to make a movie of your life, who would you hope would play you?
Julia Roberts. Think our personalities are very similar.
Thanks to Stephanie for a look inside. We’re big fans and appreciate her sharing!