Ep. 1: The Backstory + 5 Biz Tips for Startups
It's the moment you've all been waiting for! The LCo Podcast is happening people! In this first episode, we meet Kristen Forgione, Creator + Principal Designer (and now podcast host!) of THE LifeStyled COMPANY Design Firm and Retail Shop. Kristen started this podcast from a place of, “how can I help?” and as a way to better connect with all of you!
After 10 years in career fields from finance to hospitality, it was her stint in Los Angeles fashion school, that reignited her childhood passion for all things color + design. Now calling Arizona home, LCo has lead the west coast design market for the last six years, with clients nationwide, a design studio, retail shop and a team of desert loving designers and support staff.
In this first episode, Kristen dives right in giving listeners a behind the scenes look into her journey so far, the “death of the moment,” five biz tips for startups and SO much more! Listening on the go? No worries! We took notes for you. Let’s get to it!
LCo was established in 2012 after a wild ride that took Kristen from Arizona to California and back again. With talent and timing on her side, Kristen grew a one woman side hustle into a multi-million dollar company in just six years.
Kristen was born in San Diego, and grew up loving and excelling in all things creative. When it came time for college, there wasn’t a school in AZ that offered a design program other than architecture at the time. After a brief conversation with her parents and discussing potentially going to school to study dance (a lifelong hobby she had), Kristen’s dad suggested studying business instead and before ya know it, Kristen enrolled in Arizona State University for a business degree! Kristen ended up staying for two years doing more boozing and bartending than studying, and eventually dropped out (she wouldn’t change a thing because it’s part of her story and why she’s where she is now). Her boyfriend at the time was from the Los Angeles area, wanted to move back to California and Kristen saw an opportunity knocking. She packed her bags, moved with him to LA and finally got the chance to pursue a degree in fashion. She enrolled in fashion school at SMC and instantly fell in love. “Fashion school for me was everything I wanted my college experience to be, but never had,” says Kristen. Not only was she excelling in school, but she was also taking advantage of the LA lifestyle and put her bartending skills back to work doing bottle service at a swanky LA club. Time passed by and Kristen began missing her family and home in Arizona, and it started to become obvious that her time in LA, as amazing as it was, was coming to a close. This beautiful year of her life reignited her passion and confidence that she would definitely be involved in a creative career in her lifetime.
She finished one semester of fashion school, was back at home and back at square one at age 23 trying to figure out how to make something out of all of her creative skills and experience thus far. With the support of her parents and best friends, Kristen picked herself up and jumped back into life in Arizona. One of Kristen’s friends worked in events at a high end resort in town, and was looking for someone to take over her job as she moved on to a new opportunity. With Kristen’s arsenal of experience in the service industry, she landed the job and soon took over as the lobby bar event coordinator. This opportunity not only launched her career BUT she also met her husband, Vince. They went on a pseudo date, talked at a neighborhood dive bar until 2 AM and it’s safe to say, the rest is history. They moved in together within two weeks, were engaged within two months and headed back to California (this time Orange County) when Vince got a promotion with their company, and really started their lives together. Kristen and Vince got married within a year and then got pregnant six months after that with their first daughter, Harper Rose.
After a year years in California, life brought them back to Arizona and Kristen went back to her corporate job, this time doing both weddings and events. This opportunity gave her the chance to create, further develop her skills and establish herself as a young professional. Kristen and Vince would be back in Arizona for a short two years before THE LifeStyled COMPANY was born. In 2011, Kristen started an Etsy shop selling printables, and around the same time, Kristen and Vince bought their first house, which prompted her to also start a blog, called THE LifeStyled COMPANY. The blog was intended to be a way for her to document and share their renovation, DIY projects and designing on a budget. At the time, Pinterest was brand new and Instagram didn’t yet exist, so Facebook was THE THING and only way to be social on the internet. Kristen would get regular inquiries from friends, family and strangers asking if she could style their home, so in an effort to see if she could really make a career out of her passion, she decided to host a contest on Facebook where she would give away free styling sessions.
Kristen put out the contest on Facebook, got 20 entries and was blown away at how many people were interested! She picked three winners, got each project professionally photographed (which was huge!), got great feedback and continued to write. Kristen always had an idea of what she wanted her future to be, and things were coming together! It was about six months from the very first blog post and the time that Kristen quit her corporate job to jump into THE LifeStyled COMPANY full-time. While that may sound really fast and sunshine and rainbows, it was really working two full-time jobs, which most people tend to do when starting their own business.
Word was catching on and after Kristen had a couple tv segments, her and Vince really sat down and figured out what they could cut out so she could leave her corporate job once and for all. They saved $20,000 before she quit after 1 year of lean expenses, not adding additional money to their savings or 401k, and no travel. Kristen gave her corporate job a month’s notice and hit the ground running. When it comes to leaving a job, she advises to leave on the VERY best of terms. Kristen was open enough with her company on her goals and intentions so that if in a year the entrepreneurial route didn’t work out, she could go back. “Life is hopefully very long,” Kristen says, “but it’s a small world and you never want to burn any bridges or leave in a sour way.”
Kristen didn’t take any time off during her transition, and didn’t allow herself the flexibility that many people think comes with being an entrepreneur. With new gigs come new titles, and Kristen was adamant about calling herself an interior stylist at the time, not a designer. The reason? She hadn’t actually designed anything yet - she was taking what was already made and rearranging it in a way that was visually appealing. She was specific about that title because she was self taught, a two-time college dropout, didn’t want to be offensive to those who had letters after their names and felt it was important for her to earn her stripes. Right at first, Kristen was still working from home doing events, weddings and parties. THE LifeStyled COMPANY name made perfect sense because Kristen was styling all aspects of your life and when she started, she was offering services in all of those areas too. Fast forward a year of doing the hustle, she started to realize that she couldn’t keep changing her hat that many times a day and eventually retired from weddings to dive head first into doing interiors full time. Things began snowballing and after two years of working from home, Kristen moved into her first office space and hired her first employee after realizing the intern route wasn’t the way to go (more on that later).
Needless to say, Kristen knows a thing or two about starting a business! As more and more episodes get released, you’ll begin to learn even more about all that it took for her to build LCo into the successful and noteworthy company it is today!
5 BIZ TIPS FOR STARTUPS
IDENTIFY YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE EARLY
As an entrepreneur, Kristen says that if she would have listened to everyone and more than just a few trusted people, she doesn’t know if she’d be in the same spot today. It takes a lot of guts, confidence and come to Jesus conversations with yourself AND your circle of influence to start a business. Everyone has an opinion - decide who in your world matters and whose opinion you’re willing to take with you into the next phase of your business journey.
THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE IN TWO PHASES: THE NOW FUTURE (NOW) + THE FUTURE, FUTURE (2-5 YEARS), AND BE WILLING TO PIVOT ALWAYS
To Kristen, success came because she was never so committed to what she wanted personally that she couldn’t see what else was happening right in front of her. 98% of business owners hold on for too long., and when you hold on too long you lose the ability to make decisions. Leave your peripherals open enough that you are committed enough to keep going, jump in and be wise, but not so committed that you miss everything else that’s happening and you can’t pivot. It’s important to remember that pivoting is different than abandoning ship. A major pivot point in business for Kristen came when she stopped thinking about herself and started serving others. This changed things for her employees and changed everything for her as a boss, business owner, entrepreneur and member of community.
PUT THE TASKS AND ACTIONS THAT ARE REVENUE DRIVING FOR YOUR BUSINESS AT THE TOP OF YOUR DAILY LIST
Something that worked for Kristen is following the 70/30 rule. Spend 70% of your time doing the revenue driving and most rewarding tasks, and 30% doing everything else. Because she did this, it allowed her to get out of the minutia of the everyday and get more clients, do better projects and frankly, do cooler sh*t. Following this rule will allow you to operate and see what you should and should not be dedicating your time to.
KEEP YOUR EXPENSES LOW FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN
Can you design your own business cards and website? Do it. Do your research and find different cost options for things like printing, etc. Try to keep as many things in house as you can and DO NOT fall victim to business subscriptions that many people think are necessities. Do things the old fashioned way using excel spreadsheets, and don’t buy things that you don’t need yet.
BRING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF INTO YOUR BUSINESS IN A PROFESSIONAL WAY AS EARLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, AND THEN TALK ABOUT IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Go as deep as you can to identify and figure out two things: who your authentic self is AND why you’re different. Why is your business different? How does your service offering and experience for your clients differ from others in your industry? Is your aesthetic different? Is your location different? TALK ABOUT IT. Find your tribe. Find the people that are speaking the same language as you. This will also help distinguish your unique value proposition without even trying.
The Brexley - The DEATHLY good Airbnb in Scottsdale! We had our Podcast launch party here and so if you saw the pics, you know it’s good!