We turn to them for everything. From teaching us how to get a dreamy braid perfect for the office or date night to finding new products to add to our makeup essentials, we can always count on our favorite fashion and beauty vloggers to keep us styling. But have you ever wondered how these top digital content creators grow their fan base and score big time deals? Most likely, they’re working with StyleHaul, the largest collective of fashion and beauty YouTubers, which was founded by CEO Stephanie Horbaczewski back when YouTube was in its infancy. And in a total #girlboss move, she has already grown it to a business worth more than $200 million (uh, cha-ching). So we had to catch up with Stephanie to talk all things fashion, beauty, blogging and business. Read on for all details of our convo.
B+C: What were some of your first gigs and what led you to founding StyleHaul?
SH: Since early on in my career, fashion has always been one of my biggest passions. One of my first roles was at the New York fashion start-up Hanley and is what ignited my entrepreneurial spirit. From there I moved on to become the director of marketing for Saks Fifth Avenue. I always knew I wanted to go back to being an entrepreneur, but I was ready for an experience that would help build out a skill set I could only get from a larger organization like Saks. After reading an article about Ashton Kutcher’s belief in the growing role of digital video, I had an “aha” moment and realized that fashion, video and branding were at a crossroads, and that there was a huge opportunity to create something new in the marketplace—and it was out of this that the idea and vision for StyleHaul was born. StyleHaul became the perfect intersection between my passions and my desire to start my own company and transform a new industry.
The opportunity I saw was the growing potential power and influence that user-generated content, specifically video and social networks, could have — and what that meant for brands wanting to connect and engage with new audiences. To answer that need, in 2011, we founded StyleHaul with the vision of translating the fashion editorial space, at scale, to digital, social and multi-platform trends.
B+C: Give us the elevator pitch for StyleHaul. What does your role as founder and CEO encompass?
SH: StyleHaul got its start in 2011, as the go-to, largest global digital fashion and beauty network on YouTube with style how-tos and beauty review videos starring and produced by a network of millennial influencers, gaining nearly 2,000 creators in 41 countries in two short years. The explosive growth continued, and now we’ve grown to more than 6,500+ creators across 86 countries with a community of over 500 million on six social platforms!
B+C: Why style? Of all the digital creators and bloggers out there, what drew you to the fashion and beauty industry?
SH: Fashion has always been a personal passion for me, and after experiencing the power that these women had in changing that industry, I knew I had to be a part of what was happening. There was a clear void in fashion and beauty with digital content — it was obvious to me there was a need from brands, but no solution in place yet — and I believed StyleHaul could help be that solution.
The thing about fashion is that it’s always evolving; it is an expression of who we are as individuals, and I love the excitement, energy and creativity of the industry. I love seeing our creators find new ways to express their voice and connect with people through the different platforms.
B+C: How did you anticipate the success that YouTube was going to experience and the popularity it was going to have in its infancy?
SH: I saw the growing trend toward social storytelling, and the way people were discovering content was changing. The younger generations were no longer responding to traditional advertising or celebrities — they were exploring and discovering on social platforms like YouTube, and responding to the new relatable digital influencers. I recognized how valuable this global conversation could be for brands — and took a chance! And, as platforms like Instagram and Snapchat have exploded over the past few years, we continue to see the value in this type of authentic conversation, and the power of the relationship between the creator and their fans.
B+C: Talk to us a little bit about influencers and the future of content creators. What’s next?
SH: In the early stages of this industry, brands were only engaging with the mega-star creators to develop content. Partly due to familiarity and partly because that was all that was realistic. I now call this aspect of content, “the rock.” This rock dropped into the digital puddle is still incredibly important, but the next evolution means engaging the smaller and mid-tier creators in the ripples of conversation that offer better results than “the rock” alone.
Just as digital content has increased, it is no longer enough to just have one creator make one video — things needed to evolve. Today, StyleHaul puts together multi-dimensional programs with a much larger group of creators across multiple platforms.
B+C: Who was your first client and what was that initial relationship like?
SH: One of the first brands we worked with was Maybelline. Maybelline is a proven leader in the space of digital content, and from very early on, they not only embraced our vision, but pushed the boundaries of the role that content could play in their larger plans. Due to their belief, we were able to work with them on developing an incredibly innovative global program that, to this day, is still one of the campaigns I am most proud of.
B+C: You founded a company when you were pretty young. Did you feel like your age was a help or a hindrance early on?
SH: In this space, I don’t think age worked against me — it was such a new and developing arena that active participation was the key to getting attention from creators, brands and investors. That said, I was playing out of my comfort zone and made sure to experience every day that passed.
Luckily, I had parents who from very early on encouraged me and responded to any doubts I had with “why can’t you?” I often tell my team that being an entrepreneur involves being a little delusional and believing you can when all that is rational speaks to the contrary. I am very grateful for such amazing parents.
Now, looking at my network, we have everything from teenage creators to creators married with kids — who no matter their age, were brave enough to do amazing things, and in doing so, created genuine connections, and that’s inspiration for me every day to go after what I want.
B+C: What advice has been your guiding light throughout your career?
SH: You need more than a mentor. In addition to someone who inspires you, like any great athlete, you need a coach and a hitting partner. People who are on the ground improving your skills every day. Finding those people was crucial for my career.
B+C: Finally, we have to ask: favorite YouTube video of all-time?
SH: I could never pick just one! Truly. I watch new content on a daily basis and am amazed at how inspiring, creative and impactful the videos that creators in this space make. I can tell you that I have been incredibly moved by how honest DulceCandy, BubzBeauty and Alexa Losey are willing to be with their community and that the creativity of Joey Graceffa and WendysLookBook have helped evolve the opportunities available in the space, and that makes me very proud. But that’s what makes Stylehaul so amazing — seeing people find connections and content that touches them.
Do you have a favorite fashion or beauty YouTuber? Tell us by tweeting @BritandCo!
(Photos via Stylehaul)