One Kings Lane’s Co-Founder Says This Is What You Need to Get Hired
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 kicking off 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 Susan Miller, the matriarch of astrology. This week, another pioneer by the same name is divulging her career prowess—meet One Kings Lane co-founder and chairperson Susan Feldman.
It was 2007, just on the brink of the U.S. financial crisis, and Susan Feldman had just uprooted her life in New York City, where she had lived in tight quarters for all her adult life while rapidly climbing the corporate ladder at Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne. The financial landscape looked grim, but Feldman was busy looking towards greener pastures: a move across the country to a spacious family home in Los Angeles. Little did she know that the move would inspire a business plan where others only saw insolvency.
Let’s pause and think for a moment about how you would have gone about decorating a new home in a new city in 2007. Remember: no scrolling through Instagram for inspiration, no hopping on Pinterest to conceptualize décor ideas, and certainly no jumping on flash-sale sites to shop for deals. (Truly sounds like a different world, doesn’t it?) Seven years ago, you might have ripped pages out of a magazine, looked up home décor stores on Google, printed out directions from MapQuest (unless you had a first-generation iPhone), and drove to the store.
In 2007, Feldman was a visionary. She knew that in the rapidly changing world of ecommerce, there had to be a better way to decorate. After all, she was in the thick of it herself. After a fortuitous networking blind date gone right, she met her co-founder, Alison Pincus, and launched a then strictly bootstrapped version of One Kings Lane, the world’s first home décor flash-sale site.
Through an undying passion for tech and design, a fierce startup mentality, and visionary leadership, Feldman paved the way for online décor shopping and transformed the way we decorate. One Kings Lane is no longer just a flash-sale site but a cornerstone destination for all things décor. Feldman’s undying efforts to keep the company constantly evolving have broken ground for the many innovations of this multifaceted platform—from the brand’s magazine-quality style guide, incredible catalog of vintage pieces and exclusive designer collections, to its newly opened physical décor studios in New York (and very soon San Francisco).
Want to dig into the mind of a woman who built a multimillion-dollar empire during some the worst financial years of the U.S. economy? Supercharge your career with top tips from this leader’s undying work ethic and cardinal expertise.
“As co-founder, I get to be involved in many different parts of the business, and my role has evolved with our brand since we launched seven years ago. Today, I provide strategic oversight to the business as a whole, but my primary focus is making sure that One Kings Lane continues to creatively innovate. I am always making sure that we are constantly thinking of our customers’ needs and making the right decisions for her. This means that I am constantly working on special projects that help us deliver a great experience.”
“Even though we have the best team of merchants in the business, I still go to many of the trade shows to meet with the vendors and help select product for One Kings Lane. Because we are known for our unique and fresh product assortment, I feel it is important to see as much of the product firsthand as possible.”
“I don’t remember exactly what I wore to my first job interview, but I do remember the suit I wore when I was interviewing for jobs in business school. The look back then was navy suits with ivory silk shirts with bows—think Working Girl. Everyone looked the same. I wanted to wear something that would be unique but still appropriate. I found this really pretty gray-green suit that had style. It was different in a good way.”
“Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. Howard has built one of the greatest retail brands in the world. After reading his last book Onward, I was struck by how many of his experiences resonated with my journey at One Kings Lane. If I had the opportunity, I would love to talk to him about how he thinks about brands and how to keep them fresh and exciting to the customers.”
“For many reasons, I stayed at one company for 15 years. It was a great run, and I loved being there, but I wish I had taken a little time to look closer at other opportunities that were available.”
“Passion, intelligence, a self-starter, a good sense of humor, and a good listener.”
“I think feeling powerful is all about feeling good. Select an outfit that makes you think to yourself, I look awesome today, when you look in the mirror. For me, that often means classic with a twist, and always some sort of heel. I have a custom-made black blazer from Martin Greenfield that makes me feel like a million bucks. Depending on the meeting, the season, or my mood, I can add pretty much anything to make it work. The finishing touch to feeling powerful is good hair.”
“I actually don’t have an assistant. Since we started, no one at One Kings Lane has had an assistant, and it just has stayed that way. We are a team that knows how to get things done. If I did have an assistant, I think they would say I was passionate, driven, and fun to work with.”
“I go to [SoulCycle instructor] Angela’s class at SoulCycle in West Hollywood. I never have met anyone who is such an incredible motivator. I know I can count on her to demand the most physically from me, and at the same time inspire me. It works every time.”
“The best way to leave is to never burn any bridges. It’s a small world, and you just never know where you might end up and who might be there. You should make sure to be honest, and feedback is always appreciated. You should also make sure to give enough notice, so you don’t leave your employer in a tough situation.”
“Whether I eat in or go out, my go-to lunch is a salad with some sort of protein. I love making my own, but I also find the kale salad with chicken at The Soho House hits the spot everytime!”
“I think that too often, entry-level employees will not take advantage of opportunities that are presented to them. If a project is not part of their job description, they may not do it. You should always be flexible—these opportunities are often a great way to expand one’s skill-set and even advance a career.
“At the leadership level, I think some executives believe that sugar-coating things is more productive than being transparent. At the end of the day, being transparent will build strong, and more trusting relationships with your team.”
“@OneKingsLane, of course—I think our social media team does a great job, and has created a strong voice. I am inspired by what they do.
“@ElanaFrankel, the VP of creative at One Kings Lane. Elana has an unique point of view, and I love to see what inspires her every day.
“@MiguelFloresVianna for gorgeous interiors.
“@CNTraveler: I am an avid traveler. Condé Nast Traveler always inspires me to think about new destinations.
“@WorldofLabs: I can’t help myself—it’s great comic relief!”
“I am a very early riser. I always set an alarm, but I never need it because I automatically wake up around 5:30 a.m. I may have been a rooster in a former life. I get up, quickly check my emails, and work out first thing. I find that some sort of exercise helps me clear my head and organize my day.
“At night, if I am home early, I try to cook dinner. I find cooking is a great way to wind down from the day. It also means that I can catch up with Bob, my adorable husband.”
“My dad told me that I could do whatever I wanted, as long as I was passionate about it. When you are passionate, you do a better job and succeed. I see this every day at One Kings Lane. The first thing we look for when hiring are individuals that are passionate about what we do at One Kings Lane. If somehow someone that isn’t passionate is hired—which doesn’t happen very often—they are vetted out very quickly and usually don’t last very long. Find a career that you love and are passionate about; it will make a difference.”
“There are so many things happening at One Kings Lane that I am excited about. If I had to pick one, it would be The Studio at One Kings Lane—our showroom in New York where we have brought our brand to life. It’s really cool to see a brand that was born and built online come to life—for both our team, and our customers! We built The Studio to be a destination where our customers can come and touch, feel, see, and shop. The best thing about The Studio is that we have a staff of very talented designers who are there to help with design projects, no matter how big or small. On May 12, we will be opening our second Studio in San Francisco.”
Which inspiring woman would you like us to feature next?