This CEO's Nontraditional Path to Entrepreneurship Will Inspire You

Updated 09/07/19

In honor of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made ($12), 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 inspiring muse Kathryn Minshew. This week, a style maven is sharing how she turned a simple need into a brilliant business—meet Fitcode’s CEO and co-founder, Rian Buckley.

As you surely know well, the search for the perfect pair of jeans never ends. One might argue that the perfect fit is harder to find than a spouse. But as other millennials are busy swiping right, one determined 27-year-old is set to revolutionize the experience of shopping for denim online. Rian Buckley, CEO and co-founder of Fitcode, knows a thing or two about jeans.

After completing a degree in political science, she modeled internationally for major brands from Nordstrom to Tommy Bahama and experienced firsthand the frustration of an improper fit time and time again. The amount of pinning, altering, and photoshopping it took to make a pair of jeans look good on a model was staggering—and the returns on denim sales for major retailers was even higher.

A simple desire to solve her peers’ similar sartorial woes led to an idea. She founded Fitcode, a fashion data company that suggests your perfect jeans by focusing on fit, not size. It was a revelation. In two short years, the company raised $2.3 million in funding—and its fit quiz is rapidly becoming a go-to for finding the perfect pair of jeans. We sat down with Buckley to discuss all things career. Meet the fearless entrepreneur who is leading the denim revolution.

“It changes daily! At first I had my hands in all areas of the business, but as Fitcode has grown, I’ve learned to trust that what I’ve built can fly without me. I still remember walking by the first meeting that I wasn’t needed in. It was exhilarating to see my team taking initiative and sharing my passion for Fitcode. These days, I focus on building our partnerships and setting Fitcode’s overall vision and strategy. Because we’re all about serving consumers, I’m constantly asking myself Would I use this? If not, why? and adjusting the product accordingly.”

“My nontraditional path to becoming the CEO of a technology company. I graduated from the University of Washington with a political science degree, spent time in the Marshall Islands studying climate change’s effect on the coral reefs, and then traveled the world modeling. It was these experiences, not business school, that gave me the freedom to see the world in new ways—problems to be solved, not products to create.”

@rianannb

“I don’t remember what I wore to my first interview, but I do remember what I wore on my first day of work! I got a job in high school as a restaurant hostess and wore nylons for the first time, which my mom had always described as terribly uncomfortable. A few hours into the shift, I was in serious pain and wholeheartedly agreed with my mom: Nylons were terrible! Little did I know, my appendix was actually rupturing. But I haven’t worn a pair of nylons since.”

“My mother. I lost my mom to breast cancer in December and would love the chance to show her how far we’ve come and how much we have accomplished. My mom was as inspiring of a businesswoman as she was a mother. She was also a passionate feminist and believed that nothing was more powerful than when women came together and lifted each other up, so she would have been thrilled to see this community of women leaders.”

Courtesy of @juliengarman

“Nothing beats going straight to the source: I love hearing success stories from our users and feedback from our partners. Just like with denim, one size doesn’t fit all, so the ability to cater our product to the needs of our partners and users has been one of our greatest strengths.”

“I don’t live my life with regrets. Every slip up along the way has provided me with an opportunity to learn and refocus. It has served as a gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminder that nothing replaces hard work.”

Courtesy of @howdoyouwearthat

“Fitcode prides itself on its ability to be agile, so we look for people who are smart, scrappy, innovative, creative, and most importantly fun.”

“Jeans, of course! Nothing makes me feel more confident than a great pair of skinnies, booties, and a leather jacket.”

@rianannb

“I’d ask, but she’s too busy playing with my 115-pound dog! I think she mostly enjoys working for me because of him—I know where the real loyalty is!”

“I get outside. I pull a lot of energy and inspiration from nature, and there’s nothing like a hike in the mountains or a day at the beach to remind you how big the world is and how small your problems are. My husband is also a college football coach, so I’m never too far from a good pep talk. He’s quick to remind me that everyone wants to score the touchdown, but you don’t get to the end zone unless you work harder than everyone else yards one to 99.”

@rianannb

“Timing is everything, but like anything, go in with poise and decisiveness, and check your emotions at the door.”

“I’m a Niçoise salad junkie, and the best in Seattle just so happens to be in the same complex as our office. (A coincidence, I promise.) Le Grand, you’ve really nailed it!”

@margot53_3

Overthinking it. Don’t be so focused on doing things right that it hinders your ability to get things done. Your boss may have a different way of doing things, but that doesn’t make your way wrong. Own your process and your expertise.”

“Oh, there are too many to name! Instagram is my weakness: I can get into a deep, dark, but absolutely beautiful spiral of inspiring pictures and lifestyles.”

@melissapicken

“I start each morning with lemon water, a coffee, and a call to my sister, Michele, on the drive to work. I end each day with a hot bath, a glass of wine, and another call to my sister. The coffee certainly helps my productivity; I don’t know if the same can be said about my sis.”

“Just because it’s always been done one way doesn’t make it right.”

“We’re in the process of signing partnership agreements with some exciting household names in the fashion, retail, and denim industries—so check back with us soon for an update!”

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The Career Code by Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power $12
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