You Can Be Nice AND Successful: Here's How Fashion Entrepreneur Sarah Boyd Did it
We talked to the creative mind behind Simply Stylist about how she saw a need for a kind community within the fashion industry, and successfully built one from the ground up.
Who: Sarah Boyd
Where: Los Angeles, Chicago, NYC
By Day: Fashion PR pro and founder of the Simply Stylist fashion conference series, workshop, and digital media network for celebrity bloggers
By Night: New mom, classic style maven, lady boss, not a mean girl
Can you tell me about Simply Stylist, what it’s all about, and how it got started?
So I started it four years ago. My background is in fashion PR, and over the years I really saw a need for a community, and a really kind community – sometimes it can be a little cutthroat. [I was going into it] being the nice girl.
I wanted to create an avenue for men and women looking to get into the fashion and beauty industry, or people that are already in it looking to network, and create a really kind and warm place where they could make new relationships, get inspired by speakers and people that have really made it in their industry.
That’s how [Simply Stylist] was born 4 years ago, and [it's] a conference that we host. We started in LA and then expanded to Chicago and New York after year one. Each of them has between 400 and 700 attendees; all [girl bosses in the] fashion and beauty industry. It starts with a networking brunch, then we have a whole series of panels with top experts, entrepreneurs, and fashion designers; we have the full gamut of fashion and beauty experts on our panels. We have all different types of stylists, usually a big keynote speaker. Coming up at our next one is Tyra Banks.
So anyone that comes can really learn what it takes to make it in that specific industry. [Attendees can] get inspired, make new relationships, meet all these brands, get pampered, and then learn. It’s kind of all encompassing.
What inspires you the most?
When you’re sourcing experts and influencers for your conferences, the keynote speakers, anyone who’s going to be speaking in a panel, what drives that inspiration for you?
Definitely a good story. They need to have a really amazing path to success. They have to be nice. They can’t be a mean girl, we don’t want any of them! [laughing]
And, you know they have to have some sort of claim to fame or have a very successful blog or career path, that people are aware of who they are and look up to them. We look at their reach – to see if they have a good social reach if they can help bring new attendees that might not know about Simply Stylist. Those are the few [key] things we look at.
You went from a career in fashion PR to founding your own boutique agency, which the Simply Stylist conference then became such a key part of.
What was one of the proudest moments you’ve had so far in your career?
I feel like we have one all the time, it’s so exciting! Every year I do vision boards, and as hokey as that sounds, they actually do come true. Every time I put something out in the universe, it happens. I remember when I first started the company, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I would love to work with the Grove... but that will never happen!” but now they’re our biggest partner, so we do workshops there every month.
[We launched the] Simply Stylist sessions 2 years ago, as kind of an expansion of the breakout sessions at our conferences. Every month it’s a different topic, ranging from social media to blogging to styling to Photoshop, and it’s taught by an influencer in that field. I remember having them on my vision board, and having Topshop, and all of these brands, and now I can look back four years later and say I work with all of them! It’s really cool to get to look back and see your goals come to life, and your dreams come true…
And you know our speakers have really increased since when we started. Having Tyra Banks, that was a huge moment. Last year we had Alessandra Ambrosio as our keynote. We’ve had some really amazing speakers. [I’m] all about my vision boards, [and] it’s crazy, but it really works! You put your mind to something and then you do it. If you don’t know what your goal is, you’re never gonna hit it.
What’s the best thing you can do to stand out as an influencer or when looking to establish yourself as one?
Everyone says this, but be true to who you are. I can sniff it out a mile away. We work with so many influencers and different people, and I can tell who’s being fake; I have a pretty good judge of character, and I think a lot of people do. So, always being authentic, and separating yourself – and obviously being nice, and always being able to go out and network and cold call someone, or [say] “Hey, let’s grab coffee.”
That has probably gotten me most of my relationships… [just] reaching out like hey, I want to meet someone at this company; let me find them on Linkedin, let me shoot them an email, and let’s grab coffee! That leads to so many partnerships and different opportunities, as a business owner, as an influencer, and just in general. Collaboration is key, and that’s huge.
This is something that’s been on my mind personally – that everyday modern struggle of establishing yourself as a brand, and how to really figure out what your personal brand is.
Can you share your insight on that?
I guess I’m considered an influencer, but I don’t consider myself a blogger. I’m not that person!
You have to realize who you are, what you’re good at. I’m good at being behind the scenes, I’m good at hustling... at relationships and networking, all that kind of stuff. But I do not like taking photos of myself everyday for my Instagram. I would not want to be a blogger.
So I figured out what I’m good at and how I could make that a business. I commend all these bloggers that do it. It’s a hard job. [laughing]
I did ONE blog post in my life and it took me so long and I hated it! It was like, the worst experience, and so I give them major props. So you know you have to figure out what you’re good at; what makes sense; and are people gonna be interested in what you’re doing? And then go forward 100%.
Right. Don’t try to pretend to be something that you’re not, because eventually that’s gonna fall away from you.
Any career setbacks? How did you come back from that?
I think what is different about us from a lot of the other conferences out there is we’re not funded. We don’t have any investors. It’s all self-funded, so I think that’s a setback for us. We can’t go out and have this huge blowout conference and spend all this money unless we have the sponsors, so we’re always kind of in this Catch-22; like we wanna have this huge [event] but we don’t have the sponsorship… it’s always this seesaw balance.
But, the upside is, owning it fully – and not having to answer to investors.
How would you describe your style, and what are your suggestions on perfecting and creating one’s own signature style?
I would say I’m pretty casual, comfortable chic, I guess.
Especially now I’m a new mom, so I have to be ready to be on the go at all times. I’m always in flat boots and skinny jeans and a cute sweater. I’m pretty minimal in terms of accessories and all of that, but you know, I have my investment pieces; I’ve got my investment bag, and my shoes, kinda mix high and low.
That’s my personal style, and I think finding your signature style is [finding] what works for you. Again, I love skinny jeans, and that’s what I wear everyday. It’s [become] kind of my signature, so if you find something that works for you and your body style and your life, do it. I don’t really follow trends, I just know what I like. If it’s on trend, great. If it’s not, I don’t care.
Power outfit of choice? What outfit makes you feel most confident?
It would probably be a little black dress, my Manolos, and a YSL bag. [Just] do it up. With that, you can go into an investor meeting, you can meet with fashion bloggers; you can meet with anyone because it’s versatile and it can translate to really anything. You can’t go wrong in black, and it gives you that power position.
You could do it for a breakfast meeting, or happy hour, or dinner. It’s not that big of an investment; you invest in one outfit and use that as your go-to for all your important meetings.
How do you stay mindful when juggling your own digital media network, fashion conference series, AND motherhood?
I mean, it’s hard! It’s only 7 weeks, and [Ava is] like, this tiny little newborn that needs me, and balancing a business and having a nanny there all day with her is sad.
I just wanna be with her every second. But my business is my other baby, you know.
It’s just a million things being juggled all the time. I don’t think there’s ever a perfect balance. You’re [always] gonna feel guilty in one area. I’d say always be present in the moment you’re in. So when I’m at the office, I’m fully at the office, and when I’m at home, I’m fully with her. That’s kind of the best you can do, you can’t beat yourself up over it.
You just have to know when you have a kid, things are gonna scale back. It’s the inevitable. You can’t be super mom and super businesswoman. You just gotta scale back in all arenas.
At Livingly, we strive to “live life beautifully.” What does living beautifully mean to you?
I think waking up every day with a smile. Having people that you love surround you, and surrounding yourself in positivity. Being a positive person everyday.
Be sure to follow Simply Stylist on Facebook and Instagram – and if you're interested in celebrity bloggers, check out Simply Digital Network. Sarah's roster of fashion It-Girls in the digital space includes Jamie Chung, Catt Sadler, Alessandra Ambrosio, Shay Mitchell, Louise Roe, Olivia Culpo, and more.