MYDOMAINE: How did you meet and come up with the idea for Above the Glass?
HEATHER SERDEN: We met probably between the fifth and seventh grade. So Above the Glass was something I was working on, and I needed someone to help execute the editorial site. My background is in finance, and Danielle is a small-business owner with an editorial background.
DANIELLE YADEGAR: I was a fashion editor at Cosmopolitan. And then I started my own (jewelry) business.
HS: I wasn’t sitting there thinking I want to start a business. I actually met Katherine Power in 2011 when [Who What Wear was] thinking about taking on institutional investment. The COO at the time learned that I could do financial modeling, so she hired me to build a story with numbers to present to potential investors. There was a huge learning curve. I learned so much about digital businesses. And then I did the same thing with a few other businesses on a consulting basis and for my master’s thesis. I realized that there was a lot of uncertainty or fear around the business and financial aspects of starting up. I had the knowledge and the background to help these female founders. Then I had this experience. I was in the workplace and didn’t really believe sexism was real. I thought the playing field was level. But when you get older, employers start looking at you differently. They think, “Oh this person is on the mommy track.” And I was like, wait a minute, I need to go do my own thing. I know how to do it. There are a bunch of women who don’t know how to do it, so that’s going to be my business.
MD: So once you realized what you were meant to do, how did you pursue it?
HS: I quit my job a little over a year ago and starting to build the company. But I had a very masculine name and focused on making the company a gender-neutral thing even though the whole inspiration to do it was because I experienced sexism in the workplace. But then I realized it wasn’t gender neutral. I was doing it because I had a personal need and other women had this personal need. There was a lack of knowledge and a lack of community. You know there was the boys’-club mentality. I thought we needed to start creating our own networks as women. We needed to start empowering ourselves and empowering each other. Our mission to help and empower women makes this more than a business tool. It’s something we believe in and that we need.
MD: How did you build a team of advisers?
HS: You start at square zero. Then you start asking for favors.
DY: Well, first you have an idea. Then you start asking for favors way before you’re ready. You want to talk to people early and get them on board. You could wait forever and never be ready. You also don’t want to burn out your contacts. Always know your ask before requesting a meeting. So our rule is, before we ask anyone to take a meeting, we want to know what our ideal outcome is. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time; we don’t want to waste our time. If you can’t answer the question How can I help you? when you meet with someone, you’ve wasted your time.
HS: You want to find advisers who believe in your business 100%. They should want it to exist almost as much as you do.
MD: You both seem to meet and exceed every goal you set. How do you do it?
DY: Write things down. Make goals for yourself. You will execute so much more and so much better when you know what you’re asking for and what you need to accomplish. We’re constantly talking about our goals, reiterating why we set them and how we’re going to accomplish them.
MD: How are you tapping into your desired audience?
DY: We built Above the Glass for female entrepreneurs. We built the product hoping these women would come [to the platform]. We’re speaking to all of these entrepreneurs, and they’re seeing it. If they’ve done it, they’re thinking I wish this existed, and if they haven’t, we’re hearing We need this. So there is this synergy that’s naturally taking place.
MD: What’s been the most surprising thing that’s happened to you thus far on your entrepreneurial journey?
HS: We’ve been pretty shocked by how overwhelmingly nice and giving other women have been. For example, we were supposed to do an apartment swap with a woman in New York. Last minute she didn’t end up coming to L.A. but figured out other arrangements so we could still use her home. She was so generous because she wants Above the Glass to exist and she was willing to do anything in her power to help it become a reality.
MD: When you’re just starting out, what is most important to remember?
HS You have to remember everyone has advice. Everyone has an opinion.
DY: You have to hear everything but know what to take. Make sure that you stay true to your voice. You go through different iterations where you are listening to different people. But at the end of the day, you have to stay true to your mission.
HS: When you’re starting a business, it’s so easy to be insecure about what you’re doing because it’s your first time doing what you’re doing. Everything is new. We’re making very educated guesses, but no one has experience launching this exact business.
DY: Also remember to exert self-control. We have one chance, so even if we want to rush to do something, we have to take a deep breath and really think about it. There are two mind-sets: the Silicon Valley mind-set, where you rush to do everything as quickly as possible, then there is the slow and steady approach. We strike a balance.
MD: What’s your advice for MyDomaine readers who want to start a business?
DY: Find a partner whose skills complement your weaknesses. I started a jewelry business before this, and having Heather as my partner, this endeavor is 100 times more rewarding. We’re both very good at knowing and owning our own strengths and our weaknesses.
HS: Start a business where your work and life are one in the same. If you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you’re going to be working on it 24/7. And always spend the time and resources to create and sign founders’ agreements before building a business with your partner. You want to sort out all of the details, expectations, and contingency plans before the business gets going.
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We love talking about work/life balance. For Serden and Yadegar, Above the Glass is both their work and their personal life. Do you agree with the idea that if you’re doing what you’re passionate about, you’re going to be working on it 24/7? Share with us in the comments.