In today’s web-friendly world, it’s easy to think that that people have always embraced digital content and commerce. But when we decided to start our first website — WhoWhatWear.com — back in October 2006, the fashion, entertainment, and publishing industries’ attitudes were decidedly different, and completely looked down on us for leaving the print magazine world.
It’s funny to write this, but websites — even one featuring our professionally produced, high-quality content — were considered deeply uncool and unworthy of consideration.
Despite having the “right” work history (we were former fashion magazine editors), and having some key connections (with celebrities, editors, and publicists), no one really wanted to work with us. Publicists didn’t want their celebrity clients to be in our original photo shoots. Brands would ignore us when we reached out with coverage requests or fact-checking queries. Advertisers were afraid of being online, and even more reluctant to let us create their digital campaigns for them. It was a nightmare.
For the first time in our professional lives, we were outsiders, and it was humbling. We realized that we had to educate everyone about what we were creating, and prove that it was a worthy endeavor, over and over again. And this went on for years.
To be frank: there were many days (and sleepless nights) when the whole thing just felt daunting. Having to prove yourself over and over and over again is exhausting, and it was difficult to see the colleagues we’d left behind in print thrive while we struggled. Had we made the right choice? Was digital really the future? (Happily, you know how this turned out.)
But here’s the thing: seeing closed doors everywhere we turned had an effect on us. Specifically, it forced us to be incredibly scrappy and resourceful – two qualities necessary for success at any company and any stage of your career.
Resistance forces you to examine whether or not you believe in what you’re doing and your company’s mission. We knew that there was a whitespace for inspiring style content with a side of contextualized commerce in the digital space. It was so incredibly clear to us—in part because we wanted it ourselves, as consumers!—and that certainty allowed us to ignore the naysayers and focus on the product itself.
We leaned in, embraced the challenge, and focused on finding the right solutions for every obstacle in our way. Over the years, this idea — that there’s truly a way to solve any problem — is one of the most powerful lessons we’ve learned. It’s a truth that has guided our work, shaped our company, and helped inspire our new book, The Career Code, which shares our must-know rules for creating your very best career.