I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Warner, 2016 Baltimore Innovation Award “Technologist of the Year” nominee and creator of “Style Trail” a beauty app. He’s been featured in Technically, Afrotech and Black Enterprise. With over 10 years of technology and design experience as a creative consultant; he serves as the director of professional development with AIGA Baltimore.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am the CEO and Founder of StyleTrail, an online marketplace that helps beauty establishment owners monetize from their empty work space(s) and provide professional work environments to barbers, hair stylists, and other beauty professionals. My nomination for “Technologist of the Year” was for a Trivia Mobile App I launched called “Rebond”. During that same year I was named the Design Chair for AIGA Baltimore. I was later promoted to Director of Professional Development where I help identify mentors and mentees, recruit talent, and create art & design related events. Also, I have 10 year’s experience as a UX/UI designer and Front-end Developer. Recently, I was certified as an IBM Design Thinking Co-Creator and Facilitator.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I don’t know if this is a funny story, but the need peaked my interest and caused me to create a company to resolve the need. Haha! I noticed the all too familiar “Help Wanted” sign in front of my barbers’ window. After returning a few weeks later, I noticed that the sign was still there. As a natural problem-solver, I was determined to find a more effective way to help fill these empty stations with licensed stylists and increase the barbershop owner’s revenue and productivity.
Through research I learned, there are nearly one million people employed in the beauty industry. Unlike other industries, beauty professionals are very nomadic. Due to this inconsistency, it has become increasingly difficult to not only find, but retain quality beauticians and salon owners are often left with vacant work stations. I surveyed local businesses in the area and found that most have at least 1 unoccupied work station in their facility. I want to bring a sense of community and business back to the beauty industry.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
My personal experience and insight from seeing the need firsthand. I believe that salons and barbershops are the heart of the community. They provide a safe space for people to come together to discuss world events, network, build friendships and leave feeling good about themselves. StyleTrail is determined to help these businesses within the beauty industry stay fully staffed with great people. By offering online booking, a variety of beauty services, and business development tools, StyleTrail is already setting ourselves apart from the competition. I can’t tell you too much of my master plan, then I’d have to kill you. Ha!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
I’m totally focused on building StyleTrail and its brand at the moment.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I would suggest allowing your employees to complete tasks with little to no instruction. This will help them to develop their skills, for you to gain trust in their ability to work independently and to feel confident in delegating work to them. I don’t think anyone likes to be micromanaged and you don’t always have time to do that.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Well, I’m originally from Philadelphia and a Philly native I admire is Will Smith. He once said, “To allow someone to be what they want to be and not what you expect them to be is love.” My mother did exactly that by allowing me to follow my own path and become the man that I am today. Today she is my inspiration for continuing on my journey as an entrepreneur.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As the Director of Professional development for AIGA Baltimore, I am lucky enough to mentor some incredibly talented individuals. I have a responsibility to the creative community to groom them into the next generation of creative leaders. We have a conference in Baltimore each year that is nicknamed “Ink & Pixels” that is geared towards professional development for creative students.
One year I volunteered to review students design portfolios to give them direct feedback on how to improve as designers and individuals. This was a great feeling and the very reason why I joined the board in the first place.
Having 10 years in the creative field has led me to take on a leadership role. Which I did not feel ready for at first, since I know it means doing more design strategy than actual design work. However, working with AIGA Baltimore allows me to keep my creative side by working on marketing campaigns for design conferences, generating new ideas, and being around creative individuals.
My personal mission is to help show how design touches everything and how it can change lives because it has changed mine tremendously!
Can you share the top five lessons that you have learned from your experience as a “Black Man In Tech”?
- Surrender your problems to God. — Believing in a higher power and relying on the strength that comes from that has helped me on my toughest days in life.
- Build relationships with the right people. — I have lent my expertise/services to people for free and it can put you in a spot for people to take advantage of you. Don’t lend more then what they have to offer.
- Stay grounded and humble. — Keep people around you that will be completely honest with you about you!
- Have empathy for those that do not understand your mission. — Don’t get discouraged if people do not understand you or why you do what you do.
- Delegate to your team. — If you have a team that is inexperienced the best way to help them grow is to give them a task and allow them to make mistakes.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” I chose this quote because I’ve learned that making mistakes as I go along is part of the process and not beat myself up. I understand that as a black man in Tech, I’m not afforded the opportunity to make the same mistakes as others, so this pushes me to work harder and retain the lesson I learned.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Gary Vaynerchuk, because he seems like a relentless person. I would love to sit in a meeting and brainstorm different ideas with him.