Meet Caroline from the Luxelet! Female Entrepreneur of the Month (FEM) for June!
Today’s blog features Caroline Flanagan, CEO and founder of Luxelet, an e-commerce luxury outlet. She may be tiny, but she is a force of nature when it comes to doing what she does best- shopping! Caroline travels all around the U.S. to flag down designer deals from brands like Gucci, Prada, Chanel, and David Yurman. Within two business days, you can have a new pair of sparkly Manolos, purchased at a magical price, delivered right to your doorstep.
As a female entrepreneur and MBA student, I wanted to share Caroline’s story to inspire other women thinking about taking the plunge and starting their own businesses. Tune into my next IG live on July 17th for the next episode of FEM (female entrepreneur of the month).
On Wednesday, June 19th, around 12pm in Chicago, Caroline and I had the chance to chat over a cup of coffee. I learned her story, why she decided to start Luxelet, and where she sees the future of her company.
Caroline, there are so many places we can begin, but let’s kick off with a little bit about where you are from? What were you like growing up?
I am originally from Indiana, born and raised. I attended high school at Culver Academy in Culver, IN, a boarding school which was only about an hour from my hometown. For college I attended DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, but I always stayed within the state. My parents are retired and moved out of Indiana, on to warmer weather, but Indiana will always be home!
I come from a pretty small family it’s just my brother, my parents and me. Growing up, I was very into riding horses. I had my own horse, so I spent most of my time at the barn taking care of him; it actually taught me a lot about responsibility from a young age.
I was very shy; my dad used to tease me about not being able to order my own food from the McDonalds drive thru, that’s how shy I was. My best friend Jill and I were the kind of girls who thought boys had cooties and played with dolls until we were way too old, but I’m sure our parents appreciated it.
What were you doing before Luxelet? Did you like your previous work?
I moved to Chicago the week after I graduated college for a job in sales with Groupon. It was very important to me to graduate with a job, so I did. I actually only stayed for about 6 months before I was offered a sales assistant position with Time Inc. working for GOLF magazine and Sports Illustrated. I had interned for PEOPLE Magazine in college which was owned by the same company. So, that’s how I ended up working there, and I absolutely loved it. I worked for Time Inc. for about seven years, holding different positions all within advertising sales. I learned so much and worked for so many amazing people who had been in the industry for so long, and I feel very fortunate for the experience I had. I left because Time Inc was being acquired by another publishing company in early 2018, so a lot of things changed. I was also planning my wedding, which took place last October, and I decided to focus on that instead. I also always knew advertising sales wasn’t my forever job, so it was the push I needed to figure out what my forever job looked like. After I got married and put all of the wedding planning behind me, I was able to focus and The Luxelet was born about three months later!
Had you always known you wanted to work in the fashion industry?
Absolutely not! I love everything about fashion; it’s something I’ve always been drawn to. I feel like I have a pretty good natural sense of style. Putting together looks is truly one of my favorite things to do. Whether it’s for a vacation or wedding, I LOVE envisioning a look and then bringing it to life. It’s so funny though, because I don’t necessarily feel like I work in the fashion industry. I feel like I just combined my professional background in sales with something I’ve always loved, and this is what came out of it; it’s amazing, but to say I’m working in the fashion industry just makes it seem so legitimate which is crazy, in a good way.
Who is your inspiration? Who did you get your work ethic from?
I come from a long line of family businesses. On both my mom and dad’s side, many of my grandparents and great-grandparents started businesses of some sort. I watched my dad take over one of them and become very successful. He went on to serve as a U.S. Congressman in the early 2000s. I watched both of my parents run his political campaign over and over again, because a term is only two years. It felt like we were constantly on the campaign trail. I also watched him serve in office so those things all played a huge role in my life and taught me so much about how to run a business but most importantly how to treat people. Because starting a business was such a normal thing in my own family, it always seemed, for lack of a better word, attainable. I feel like some people think you need to be special or lucky to start a business, and that’s absolutely not true. You just have to work hard and listen to your customers are saying, that’s it. So I feel very fortunate that I learned those things from a very young age.
What is the hardest part of your job?
I wouldn’t say any part of my job is hard. I keep telling people who ask me how my new job is going that it still doesn’t feel like work! The biggest difference I think between this job and what I was doing before is there isn’t an off switch. In the corporate world, if I send an email to someone at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon, I probably won’t get a response until Monday morning. But in this world of social media, there is no off time. Since it doesn’t feel like work, it’s not a big deal, but it’s definitely an adjustment!
Where do you see Luxelet a year from now? 5 years from now?
Oh my gosh I have so many big dreams for this company. In general, I want it to grow! I want to build a team; I want to develop my services and expand, not just nationally but internationally. There are so many things I could go on and on about. Already, I’ve had so many amazing people reach out to me with great opportunities. I’m hosting an event in Chicago on July 31 from 6-8 pm at the Rebecca Minkoff store on Oak Street, so if you’re in Chicago definitely come because I’d love to meet you. I just hired an incredible intern who started last week. There are a few other things I’m working on so it’s all very exciting.
What have you learned about business since starting your own company?
I am completely blown away by the support I’ve received. Truthfully, I sit and think about it all the time. Just how much trust people put into me is incredible because it really drives me to be the best version of myself that I can be. I want to give my customers the same things, plus more, that they are giving me. I really work hard to be as informational and dedicated as I can be.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their own company?
Just go for it. Make yourself uncomfortable. I am a big accountability person, so the second I put something out in the universe I feel like I have to go through with it. I just started telling my friends and family about my company and that’s really what drove me. So, my advice would be to find what will drive you and then make yourself uncomfortable, and do it. You won’t regret it.
What is the most memorable moment in your career thus far?
I think my first shopping trip in general, because I had no idea what I was doing so the whole experience was just so new. I partnered with this incredible influencer Lindsi Lane, who touted to all her followers to come shop with me on my first day. It was so amazing, but it was, truthfully, a little overwhelming at first. Thank goodness I had my girlfriend Jen there because she really stepped in. We got it all under control and now it almost feels like second nature.
What’s your favorite thing to do in your downtime?
Just spending time with my family and friends. My husband and I are big foodies, and not like fancy restaurant foodies. We just like to eat good food, which is one of the reasons we love Chicago so much. I’m also lucky because he’s almost as much of a Bravo TV fan as I am, so a typical night is usually spent eating deep dish pizza and catching up on reality TV.
If you could only shop one designer for the rest of your life, who would it be?
Honestly this is a really hard question because there are SO many designers I truly love and could wear every single day. But if we are living in an ultimate fantasy world, I would have to say Chanel…not only because I feel like it’s the obvious answer for most people, but because it’s the one designer that really reflects my personality. That sounds silly and I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes right now, but it’s classic and very girly with a definite edge to it. I don’t think I’m alone on that either, which is probably the reason it is so popular and sought after.
Are you hiring (asking for a friend)?
Right now I am not hiring full time, but if you are interested in an internship now or down the line, please send a resume to firstname.lastname@example.org! When I am looking to expand my team, I would love to have great candidates in mind.
Thank you to everyone that tuned for my first live episode of FEM on my instagram!
If you are a female entrepreneur and want to be featured for the work you’re doing, please DM me; I look forward to sharing your story!