Laurel & Wolf's Founder Says Being "Normal" Is the Opposite of Success
In honor of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s upcoming book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made ($13), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields. We last spoke with One Kings Lane co-founder and chairperson Susan Feldman. This week, it’s another interior-design maven filling a serious gap in the digital home décor market—meet Laurel & Wolf founder and CEO Leura Fine.
Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree Leura Fine is a young gun reimagining the business of interior design. As founder and CEO of leading online interior design service Laurel & Wolf, she serves as the ultimate digital décor liaison, connecting clients and designers through the company’s innovative digital platform and robust portfolio library, which boasts over 800 interior designers.
Fine hails from Alabama, where she grew up with an early passion for design. After launching her career at top design firm Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design, she started her own company, Leura Fine Interiors, in 2013, to be shortly followed by the launch of Laurel & Wolf.
Named one of Business Insider’s 25 Hot Los Angeles Startups to Watch, the young company ingeniously tapped into the burgeoning millennial market, disrupting the traditional interior design industry with its offering of accessible, affordable solutions through the convenience of digital media. In just under two years, it has scaled to include 50 employees and an ever-expanding network of designers and talent. We love Fine’s outside-the-box career approach and grounded, Southern work/life balance philosophy. In fact, her advice is zippy enough to have monogrammed on a tea towel.
“I’m the CEO of Laurel & Wolf, an online interior design service. I currently oversee a team of more than 60 employees and am involved in every facet of the business. I collaborate with my directors and executives to make sure we are working toward our quarterly corporate goals in addition to our long-term strategy. I also spend a large portion of my time on working with our investors, developing the culture of L&W, and with human resources and hiring.”
“People would be surprised to know that a large portion of my time is spent on interviewing and hiring. Finding the best people to work with you is the best way to build a great company, but it isn’t easy. It takes an enormous amount of hunting and meeting to find the best candidates for a role.”
“Black capris, a white ruffled button-up shirt, black ballet flats, and a long faux-pearl necklace. Apparently I confused my interview with an audition to be Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
“Oprah Winfrey. I think she would love what we are building and would have solid advice on how to stay focused on our long-term goals. I would also love to hear her stories about trying moments in her career and how she overcame them.”
“Social media is a great aggregator of things going on in the world. I’m always checking out what brands and influencers are posting. There are also a few blogs and media companies, in both the tech and design space, that I follow to get the latest and greatest.”
“In my first job, when I had mentally decided to quit, I let it affect my work. I was distracted, and I probably took too long to notify my employer. Especially when you are young, leaving a job can be very hard. The mature thing to do is to put in your notice and leave when it’s time, as opposed to staying around with only one foot in the door. It doesn’t do anyone any good to have a person on board who is only half focused on the job at hand.”
“When we hire at Laurel & Wolf, we look for people who are creative thinkers, optimists, empathetic, ambitious, and energetic.”
“Something red or leopard print. I always joke I’ll bring an actual leopard with me when we ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.”
“Passionate, energetic, and caring. Maybe exacting, as well.”
“Go to the beach. A long walk on the beach can solve just about any problem.”
“Be direct and honest. Let your company know and give them time to transition. There is no need to go around burning bridges.”
“I almost always eat lunch in the office. I am more productive that way. I never have time to prepare things in advance, so I order in every day. I love salads from Urth Caffé, chicken and veggies from Mauro’s, and sushi from Sugarfish.”
“Not asking for help. Sometimes entry-level employees wait too long to ask the right questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question, and learning is the best way to grow quickly.”
“Hermès, Leading Hotels of the World, Food52, Elle Decor, and Christian Louboutin. I am inspired by food, fashion, decor and travel. While most of these are luxury brands, I love how they also exhibit a sense of adventure and humor. Hermès and Louboutin especially do a great job of infusing fun into their brands.”
“I like to work out in the mornings. It energizes me for the day. I also moisturize twice daily. My Southern grandmother told me the secret to looking young is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Mornings and evenings are important for finding quiet time to answer emails, do research, or work on a new project. During the workday, it’s difficult for me to get the time and space to think through things, so having quiet time early and late is critical to my productivity.”
“Don’t worry about being ‘normal,’ because ‘normal’ ain’t nothing but a setting on a washing machine.”
“All things Laurel & Wolf! The business is growing super fast, and we are excited about every facet of what we are building.”
The Career Code by Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power ( $20 ) ($13)