Sharon Haver, Founder, FocusOnStyle: Bringing Celebrity Fashion Tips to Everyday Women
The NextWomen September Food & Fashion Theme.
Sharon Haver founded FocusOnStyle, an independently operated online fashion, beauty and style magazine, in 1999. FocusOnStyle is a guide to can-do chic, offering fashion tips, beauty hints, and shopping advice from fashion expert Sharon and her team of contributing experts.
Prior to founding FocusOnStyle, Sharon had an expansive career in New York, working as a photography fashion stylist, columnist, contributing editor, lecturer and on-air television/radio fashion expert.
Sharon first revealed her fashion insider tips through her successful advice column, “Sharon Haver’s FOCUS ON STYLE” which began as a worldwide syndicated and newswire weekly column distributed to over 400 daily newspapers and other media, before launching her own online magazine.
Sharon has been starring as herself in her own Macy’s national television commercials as the fashion guru and fashion spokesperson in the store’s autumn advertising and marketing campaign
Launched recently, Sharon also hosts the Focus on Style- Talk Radio with Brad Boles of the The Real Housewives of New York City for a weekly live and uncensored take on fashion, beauty, style, home decor, and gossip.
We spoke to Sharon about bringing celebrity fashion to everyday women; the joys of running a self-funded company; and how she deals with misogynists (which made us laugh out loud!)
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for FocusOnStyle.com and then arrive at the decision to turn your dream into a reality?
SH: FocusOnStyle.com evolved out of being a natural extension of my career as a New York fashion stylist and then syndicated fashion advice columnist with Scripps Howard News Service. The idea to present insider expert tips and tricks to the everyday woman began when I was a working stylist. I was amazed and dumbfounded how most women - at the time - thought that they could never look at gorgeous or pulled together as a model or an actress in a photograph.
Everyday women had no idea of the behind-the-scenes hours that went into creating the illusion of perfection for that final photograph.
I pitched a Q & A fashion column that delivered "friend in the business," can-do chic tips to Scripps Howard, and they agreed! Sharon Haver's Focus on Style, the column, headlined the SHNS fashion section to 400 newspapers each week.
Several years later, I became pregnant with my son and decided that the newspaper column needed to evolve to allow my to spend time with my new family. It soon took shape as FocusOnStyle.com and allowed me the flexibility to be a mom and run my business on MY schedule. That was back in 1999 when launching an independently owned web site was not as commonplace as it is today.
TNW: What makes FocusOnStyle.com different from competitors?
SH: First off, the site is an organic extension of my professional experience. Our contributors and editors all are working experts in their field- even our art director came from a print background- he designs by hand not code.
FocusOnStyle’s focus is to provide valuable content with actionable fashion advice to the reader. I'm kind of old school in the sense that the site is about providing a service to the reader. it's about YOU not me. For me, being a stylist was a behind the scenes job. If the look were executed correctly, you would never know I was there as the result was organic to the individual's personal style, or to the editorial, advertisement or brand that it was for. Great styling, weather commercial, editorial, or personal should appear effortless.
FocusOnStyle conveys the tips, tricks, and nuances that make that happen with takeaway style tips.
TNW: What is your top tip for balancing motherhood with a career?
Elastic work hours! Have an informal list of what you need to accomplish that day and realize that most tasks will get done; just not at the exact time you thought they would.
TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?
SH: For me, writing is akin to Method Acting. You need to live the role rather than report on it to be authentic. Therefore, FocusOnStyle Contributors are working experts in their fields. Blogging has made it so easy for someone who is a hobbyist or fan to find her voice and that's what is wonderful about the web now- there really is a niche for everybody. But those niches are getting crowded and therefore creating a lot of noise.
Personal style bloggers start to realize that there is a lot of work behind making their posts become a business and get bored and move on. The public gets bored and goes on to the next flavor of the week. There really isn't that much substance out there as fashion is looked at as entertainment rather than a form of empowerment and a tool to self-confidence. It's partly because many fashion and shopping sites are founded by marketers and fashion fans rather than industry professionals.
My contributors and I REALLY care about how a woman can gain self-confidence, poise and power in her look that day—it goes beyond having the “it” bag of the moment.
TNW: If you hadn’t chosen entrepreneurship, what alternative career path might you have pursued?
SH: That's easy, Law! I have enough credits under my belt to have seriously given law school some thought but at the time didn't see the "creativity" in negotiation. I've been in fashion for way over 20 years but I have a degree in Marketing with a minor in Law and some Abnormal Psych thrown in for good measure... I guess that makes me pretty well rounded for understanding the craziness of business, or at least be fascinated to dig deeper than face value.
TNW: Briefly describe your history in raising investment for your company
SH: I haven't. It's all my money based on hard work that's invested! I earn it and I invest it. The company choices are my own. In once sense it's a gamble, but it is also incredibly freeing to have the luxury to make decisions based on your gut. It keeps the business lean and mean rather than inflated with a coterie of excess people and excess meetings. I like to be independent and get to the point.
TNW: Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
SH: Don't be fooled by what seems easy from the success of others. There is a lot of hard work-- probably far more hours devoted to all aspects of your business than if you worked for someone else.
As an entrepreneur you don't perform one task, but need to have a pretty good idea of how everything works to be successful. You must be multi-dimensional. I thrive on diving in and getting my hands dirty. That's not for everyone but imperative in running a small company.
TNW: Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?
SH: Yup, far more than I would like. I either wake up with a genius idea for a story in the most perfect words that I instantly forget as soon as I try to get up and write it down.
I wish that Apple would have a Siri to take notes on my sleeping brain activity... along with those important thoughts that also come when taking a shower.
Then, on the flip side, there's the lack of integrity of web developers who don't deliver as promised or work to spec that has kept me up for what probably adds up to wasted months of my life. Instead of Aliens vs. Predators, there's Developers vs. Contractors (I've simultaneously gone through several major renovation projects in the last few years)— it’s the double feature horror story. However, when you FINALLY get the right tech team to count on, the results are well worth it.
TNW: What is one lesson you would like to pass on to other women leaders?
SH: I grew up with the Feminist Movement and never thought there was something that I couldn't do because I was a woman with the exception of being a sperm donor, ha. I never settle for sitting back and withholding my opinion, particularly in business.
But as much as the world has evolved and decades have passed there still are plenty of misogynists out there who have a difficult time taking direction from a woman. Dump them. It's not your job to enlighten every schnook with a limp handshake.
It takes you away from your purpose, which is far more important for your personal success in life. Work with people who respect themselves, therefore they will respect you, regardless of your sex.
TNW: What is next for your company?
SH: There are a several projects, including products, and a book in the works that are an extension of the FocusOnStyle.com platform my personal brand as a style mentor to bring actionable stylist advice closer to my reader to empower her to get on with her life and make the most of what she's got with accessible and gorgeous can-do chic.
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