Startup Challenge: What's The ROI Of Style?

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  Fashion fanatic Sarah Pollack Boyd has long understood the magic behind how trends are born. But how could she prove the ROI of taste and insider relationships to potential customers? 

By Sarah Pollack Boyd (Founder, Simply Stylist)

Years before Bravo's The Rachel Zoe Project, I realized that stylists were the driving force behind trends. They would pass along tips and tell their celebrity clients what to wear which, in turn, would end up in magazines, get produced by clothing lines, and sold in stores across the world. This is how a trend was born.

With the rise of reality TV and the transparency of today's culture, I saw the desire among consumers to really see inside this process and learn about trends directly from fashion trendsetters. People now realize that most celebrities don't dress themselves, and consumers want to know more about the people behind it all.

I took this concept to the market on a large scale in March 2012 in Los Angeles. I filled my fashion panel with top fashion tastemakers such as Catt Sadler of E! News, Katie Holmes’ personal stylist Jeanne Yang, fashion blogger Shea Marie of Cheyenne Meets Chanel, Refinery 29’s editor Brenna Egan, Kym & Alexis McClay who are the designers of Naven, and style expert Jamie Krell. I added a networking lunch for attendees to meet like-minded friends and offered designer brands to shop from after learning the season’s must-have trends from the panel, cocktails, and a DJ. Then, I used my relationships from 9+ years in PR to promote the event. We sold out.

The ROI of Taste

But while the public clearly loved the idea, convincing brands and sponsors of the value of these events was a bigger challenge. How could I explain the ROI? Since networking and relationship building doesn't have a black and white return, it's difficult to give hard numbers to brands. While most brands at my events get to sell to shoppers, the most valuable part is being able to meet with top style and beauty tastemakers. The return on having a great meeting with a style or beauty expert could mean having your product on The Today Show, used by Jessica Alba or shot in Marie Claire magazine. The marketing team already understands the value of this, but final approval to participate in my events normally goes through the CFO.

To overcome this hurdle, I added in case studies and quotes from previous participants. I also added press placements and sales that occurred directly from previous events brands participated in. By adding these case studies, recap reports and recap videos, brands were much more comfortable committing to the event. I learned that I need hard numbers to prove to brands what the potential ROI will be. 

What's Next?

The more events I do, the more brands begin to commit. So what's next? For 2013, I am adding a Beauty Panel in addition to the Fashion Panel and am expanding to more cities, bringing Simply Stylist events to Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and New York. We’ve also been working hard on our blog, trying to bring our readers some of the best industry experts we can to give a ‘behind the scenes’ look into the fashion and beauty industries. At Simply Stylist, we also handle the PR and management for various style and beauty experts since it goes hand in hand with our business model. There are so many brands looking to work with celebrities, bloggers, and stylists; Simply Stylist is an avenue to reach them.

About the guest blogger: Sarah Pollack Boyd is the founder and 'dot connector' at Simply Stylist. A fashion merchandising graduate, Sarah discovered an unmet need in the industry to connect stylists with brands, leading her to launch PR, events and brand collaboration agency Simply, Inc. in 2009. Shortly after, Sarah came up with the idea for Simply Stylist: a company that would not only connect stylists with brands, but also help grow the careers of these individuals. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahpollack.