“Inexperience Is An Asset” 5 Tips For Female Founders With Keemia Ferasat CEO Of Style Salute
I had the pleasure of interviewing Keemia Ferasat, the founder and CEO of Style Salute, a mission-driven digital media company focused on the positive power of women that now attracts 140 thousand unique visitors a month, across the web, mobile, social and video. Ferasat founded Style Salute with the goal of building a destination to inspire and encourage women to feel, see, and own their power.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve loved “creating” since I was a little girl and in high school, I fell in love with style, not just fashion style but the idea of personal style.
I graduated from the University of Southern California and almost immediately launched KEEMIA, a women’s ready-to-wear line. By our second year, we were selling in over 50 boutiques across the US and abroad, as well as with online retailers such as revolveclothing.com. KEEMIA was featured in leading publications such as ELLE, Vogue, Marie Claire, Brides, Daily Candy, InTouch, and Lucky, and more. It was incredible, but I started to feel an itch to start something new, something that helped shape women’s lives for the better, though I didn’t know what I wanted it to be yet. I exited KEEMIA in 2012 and took some time to figure it out.
During that time, I entered a graduate program in communication and media with an emphasis in new media technologies, and I became completely obsessed with new media and was thirsty every day to understand the business of media better. At the same time, everything was going digital, including the traditional print publications that had featured KEEMIA. But in many ways, even though so much was changing in media, women’s media publications (which are in essence a reflection of women today) were still very much the same as they were 10–20 years ago. They were still focused almost exclusively on fashion and beauty.
The media landscape lacked a voice for the modern woman —
one that addresses other daily issues women face, such as pay disparity, mental and physical wellbeing, home ownership, and career advancement, in addition to fashion and lifestyle. There was this delta and this gap between women craving content that helps them navigate their everyday problems and media companies helping guide them. And so, I launched Style Salute in January 2017 as a new voice in the media market, one that inspires and encourages women with the tools to lead smarter, more stylish and confident lives.
Our goal is to provide thought-provoking content that leans into the confidence, creativity and ambition of the female millennial woman. As Style Salute’s CEO and founder, it’s my goal and my personal mission to create content and experiences that inspire women, express progressive ideas, and celebrate individuality through an inclusive vision of what style and beauty looks like and what stories are worth telling.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
It has been incredible to watch Style Salute grow, and the success we have seen is in huge thanks to a wonderfully supportive community of readers. I didn’t know just how many people would take interest in our site when we launched; I just knew there were like-minded people who agreed there should be a revamp of how women’s interests are positioned in the media. I was in for a surprise.
I first felt it at our launch party. The site had been live for a month, and the party was meant to just be a small gathering of friends and family at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. But, the online invitation was public and, as soon as the event began, I saw a hundred people in line. I found it incredibly liberating from a creator perspective to be able to create content and publish it that quickly and have it reach and touch so many women. It was a truly humbling experience, and it gave me and my team the confidence to move forward.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When Style Salute first launched, women’s media was still largely dedicated to fashion, beauty and celebrity, with other verticals — such as news, politics, money and career — only being found in niche or mainstream media titles. And, even though Style Salute was set up with focus on style, we started to see real success thanks to our unique approach to women’s content.
Style Salute’s unique offering is we aim to cater to a wide and diverse range of women’s interests, including the best career advice, tips, and lessons from female leaders across a variety of industries. This is probably the most important and the most powerful generation of women that has ever existed, and we women care about much more than just fashion and beauty. Accordingly, Style Salute aims to create motivational content in a variety of verticals through the lens of personal style.
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?
I was most influenced by my remarkable parents. My father immigrated to The U.S. from Iran in the 1960s and founded a transportation company that is now celebrating 43 years in business. My mother, the first fierce female role model in my life, also started a successful business while raising three young children. My parents’ unwavering faith in me, and the example they have set has been the foundation for everything I have achieved.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Here at Style Salute, we’re all about the positive power of women and in giving back to our community. I regularly mentor young entrepreneurs as they develop their unique business idea and make plans to finance their passion project. I know they do not have funds to hire a consultant and sometimes just need an experienced friend who can walk them through their options.
In terms of the giving back, I can see that Style Salute is having a true effect on women’s lives. So often I hear stories and I get tweets from our community members who, because of us, decided to ask for a raise or take on a creative hobby and were able to better manage how they went about doing it thanks to our content.
There is no greater reward than feeling like you’re changing lives for the better.
And at risk of overselling Style Salute, you could say that everything we do is meant to bring goodness to the world. We have a certified yoga instructor and meditation expert (also a full-time lawyer) who writes our articles on mindfulness because we believe emotional and mental wellbeing is key to pursuing all the other goals in our lives; we also have a financial expert who writes our articles on how to make the most of the money you make and take control of your finances. And, Style Salute’s mission of empowering women will ultimately bring goodness to the entire world.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Inexperience is an asset.
Inexperience can, ironically, be an extraordinary asset to an entrepreneur. When I launched my first company, I did not know the first thing about merchandising or sales. In fact, I started my KEEMIA because I had coincidentally made my own dresses growing up and, by happenstance, lent the dresses to a fashion show. Following the fashion show, buyers from prestigious boutiques asked if I was taking orders for the following season. At the time, I did not know the first thing about pattern-making or size grading. I just nodded and said, “yes, of course.” If I had known, I may not have accepted their orders. Yes, it was an uphill battle to deliver on that first order, but I learned a lot and was far more prepared the next time the orders came in.
2) Don’t be afraid to fail; you will fail.
The best founders and CEOs deal with setbacks. As Elon Musk says, “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough.” I wish I had known this early in my career and wasn’t so hard on myself.
To be honest, I think I fail literally every week. In the world of startups, nothing is ever perfect. For ever 4 triumphs, there is 1 failure. Everything you’re trying to do never completely works. Even if it’s not a personal failure, I always take accountability for my team because after all it is my company.
I’ve learned to stay focused on all the things that aren’t failing; to celebrate the wins. The new growth. The new partnerships. The new recruits. And I’ve learned not to let fear of failure keep me from trying something new or taking a risk. Every failure has taught me something else about how to succeed, and the way I see it as long as we are learning from our failures, we’re consistently getting better and smarter at our business, which drives us to innovate more.
3) Focus on long term goals.
When building a business, you should focus on long-term goals/ After all, the short-and medium-term goals are usually already set in stone and being acted upon. Setting long terms goal is a strategy that will allow you to get good at sensing change and will enable you to create more opportunities for smarter strategic moves. For example, Style Salute launched in January 2017, however, it has been a long-term goal of ours to translate the SHOP/Style Salute section of our site into a mobile app and to work directly with our best performing retail partners. With this goal in mind, we have strategically built out the shopping pages on the website and we know what goals and objectives to focus on.
4) Know your audience well, inside and out.
Nobody likes to be type-casted. Know your audience intimately. Know their daily routines, their desires, what they spend money on, and what turns them off. Know them so well that you will be predict what they want next.
5) Pick something you’re passionate about
It sounds so cliché, but picking something you’re passionate about is everything. You have to personally be driven by the mission of your company and what you’re doing. As an entrepreneur, we live our work and, and it’s important to have a mission and personal purpose that can serve as your motivations through the triumphs and setbacks.
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 see this.
This is a tough one. There are so many people I would love to meet! But, if I have to choose one person today, it would be Arianna Huffington. For me, meeting Arianna Huffington wouldn’t be just about learning from her success, it would be hearing more about her personal stories and set backs and what she learned from them. She spoke at my college graduation and I remember sitting in my seat, under the scorching sun at the University of Southern California thinking, I want to be like her.