Laura Adamson, Founder, Style Outside the Box: Straight Out of College Into Entrepreneur Magazine

Laura Adamson is the founder of Style Outside the Box, the first shopping site where an elite style council juries and selects every product to meet their standards, so customers never have to worry about the quality or uniqueness of the products.

Style Outside the Box is a website solely for exclusive independent designers who stand behind every one-of-a-kind product made and sold.

Laura graduated from Penn State University in May 2010 and immediately landed job as a Web Manager for a clothing company in NYC. When the company invested in a few independent designer shops in Manhattan, Laura took on a new role and was soon managing three of them.

When she got the chance to work with some amazing young up-and-coming designers, she became captivated by their talent and energy and decided it was time to share their products with the world. After a few months she quit her job in the city moved to Lancaster PA to start building Style Outside the Box.

Since launching the site has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, Time Out New York and just recently our products were featured at NY Fashion Week

We spoke to Laura about the excitement of seeing her very first customers; her New York and London Fashion Week plans; and why she is haunted by marketing!

TNW: How did you come up with Style Outside the Box and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?

I came up with Style Outside the Box while I was managing three Independent Designer Pop Up Shops in New York City in 2010. I really enjoyed working with the designers and on top of that I loved to see how happy the customers were with their products.

After running three very successful Pop Up Shops I knew I had to take this shopping concept further and introduce more people to these wonderful designers and their amazing products.  After months of researching shopping sites, independent designers and online discussion boards, I decided it was time to introduce the world to a whole new shopping experience. I quit what I thought was my “dream job” in January and started Style Outside the Box a month after.

TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?

What makes Style Outside the Box different is our special exclusive (invite-only) selling platform.  Our elite style team juries every designer and their products before inviting them to sell with us. We jury their products on a scale of uniqueness, originality and quality before adding them to our shopping site. We have strict policies not only to keep our site exclusive but these are the types of products our customers are looking for. We also have a very strict allotment available within each of our categories so our shoppers will never feel bombarded with either too many products or too many designers.

TNW: Who were your first customers and how hard was it to attract them?

Our first customers came from our online social media platforms and it was the most exciting day of my life!

When I started the business in February 2011 I never even imagined building a Facebook or Twitter page until I launched the site. Looking back, this was a BIG mistake since I overlooked these (now I can say) very powerful marketing tools. I launched my social media platforms one month before launching the site, and before I even had a homepage I already had potential customers already following me.

Every day I updated the status featuring all of the wonderful designers/products that were coming, and the anticipation I built through social media actually brought customers to my site the very first day of launch! This was such a fantastic eye-opening experience for me and from there I realized how important social media was to my company.  Currently our business uses these strong social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin and our online communities are growing daily. We not only find customers through these platforms but designers who want to sell on our site and be apart of our online community.

TNW: What lessons have you taken from your success & or/ failures?

I had no idea what I was getting myself into after taking the leap of starting my own business, but I knew that I had to be open-minded to every opportunity that came across my desk.

I have been faced with some failures and made some wrong decisions but at the end of the day I have learned from them and have become a stronger businesswoman because of them. 

I believe as long as we learn from our mistakes then there is no reason why we can’t grow from them.

TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?

Growing and building a team is an on-going process and it has been one of the most difficult steps for me. It’s hard and very rare to find someone that is just as passionate and committed as you are. I look for someone that finds the job exciting, able to grow with the company, hard working, passionate, committed and someone who can see a future within the business. To help the business grow and succeed we all need to be on the same page, challenging and maintaining our company and individual goals.

TNW: Who are your customers and partners now?

Our customers are mostly women in their late 30’s to mid 50’s whom all love to buy unique, and sometimes one of a kind products. Our most popular selling category is our jewelry as we have some beautiful- one of a kind pieces that our customers just go crazy over! Our customers are the types of people that are looking for something special for that upcoming birthday party, house-warming gift or even for a special occasion. What’s a wonderful thing is our team stands behind every one of our designers on Style Outside the Box, as we know they are quality products made by passionate people.

TNW: Do you believe it is better to find customers then funding or vice versa?

Since I was fresh out of college I didn’t have much income to put towards the company and my parents certainly didn’t think a loan from the bank would be a good path. In the beginning they were even skeptical about my idea, so I really had to make a goal for myself and no matter what-stick to it! I sat down one day and came up with the goal of 30 designers before launch. At the time each designer paid me $150 (for three consecutive selling months).

It took some time and lots of dedication but I finally reached my goal and launched the site with 30 designers. Now we are working with 200 and growing designers from all around the globe.

TNW: Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?

All the time! I am constantly thinking about Style Outside the Box and the directions we want to take. I constantly have an eye on competition as well as the online market. It is very important for not only me but for my success of the business to always be one step ahead of the industry.

The biggest aspect that comes to mind and that always haunts me is marketing. Marketing is key.

I already know we have some amazing products but I constantly need to be thinking of creative ways to bring the right people to my site. This all comes down to the right marketing techniques and tools, for example our team has been working with Pinterest which is becoming a global social media phenomenon.

TNW: What is one lesson about leadership you learned from a boss or mentor?

One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my mentor is how important it is to train and really listen to your employees.  Being a good leader starts with building a solid ground which comes from training.

TNW: What is next for your company?

The sky is the limit right now and we continue to grow everyday. The most important thing is to stay different and stand out from the rest of the competition, which is why we take great pride in our press and marketing opportunities. We are looking into participating in NY Fashion Week again in September and we also would love to be apart of London Fashion week as well! We will continue to add more designers and more products to our site and meet our customer’s demands and wants. On top of it all we will continue to build a solid team and grow a strong online brand.

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