This is hard work! Just because you have a good idea does not mean it’s going to be successful and you are going to make mistakes. You need to dedicate your life to it, especially early on, even if the lifestyle of the brand is about having fun. No one else is going to.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Blumenthal.
Erica Blumenthal is the Co-Founder of Yes Way Rosé, a contemporary wine and lifestyle brand bringing a fresh perspective to the old-school wine category. For almost six years prior, Blumenthal served as the “Browsing” column editor for The New York Times’ Styles Section, where she reported on emerging trends, designers and all-around newsworthy fashion items. She also held various editorial and fashion roles at prestigious publications including Esquire, NYLON, SPIN and Interview.
Blumenthal founded Yes Way Rosé in July 2013 with her childhood friend Nikki Huganir when they introduced a modern voice and aesthetic to classic French rosé. With the brand mission of making quality, accessible rosé that spreads joy as her guide, she oversees marketing, day-to-day business operations, and more. Blumenthal graduated with a degree in Fashion Business Administration from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2004. A new West Coast transplant, she currently resides in Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and grew up outside of Baltimore. I have three sisters, one of whom is a twin, so there was a lot of feminine energy in our household! As a kid I was into sports, modern dance, fashion, music, friends. My twin was not into fashion and I mostly picked out both of our clothes so I developed a bossy side in that department at a young age. Nikki, my co-founder and BFF, and I met in middle school and then we attended the same high school together. We always had an easy rapport and our friendship remains very strong today. Of course we’ve had many challenges, but we never took it to heart when people told us that being in business with a friend wouldn’t work.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I always wanted to work in fashion. During school at FIT I worked for the fashion designer Norma Kamali and then my first job after school was in the fashion department at Interview Magazine. Then I continued working as a fashion editor and writer until going full-time with Yes Way Rosé. For several years I wrote the Browsing column in the New York Times Styles section where I reported on new designers, trends, launches, really any and everything in the fashion space. While I always wanted to work in fashion I felt like I was hitting a wall with where to take my career. I couldn’t see what was next. Then we had the idea for Yes Way and it all became incredibly clear. Because I reported on new brands all the time and regularly met with entrepreneurs I knew that we had something very unique and special that wasn’t being done. My experience combined with Nikki’s, who worked for brands and fashion magazines as a graphic designer and art director proved invaluable for creating a brand.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting your business? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The early years were pretty high stakes and intense so mistakes weren’t that funny, sadly! One mistake we made was believing that every mistake was the end of the world. With experience and perspective we’ve learned that it’s not the case. Nikki and I have a two-factor authentication system of signing off on everything to avoid big mistakes.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I always like to keep a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth nearby. It helps me to remember how to create space, how to be aware of my thoughts, stay calm, and see the bigger picture.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
All challenges are opportunities. This was said to me during a time when we had a partnership that wasn’t working out and we were working to take the brand to the next level. We were weighed down by the anxiety of trying to stay afloat, disappointed because of a failed relationship, and just in need of a new perspective. It helped me to realize that not everything is going to work out exactly how I envision and I need to take a step back, think creatively, and not worry so much.
How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
This is a very hard thing to define and I think it should be. A true lifestyle brand created and popularized a lifestyle with the brand and everything they do embodies it. The products are manifestations of the lifestyle. There’s not a clear path to creating a lifestyle brand, but it certainly cannot be forced and not every brand should strive to be one. For the first couple of years of Yes Way Rosé we couldn’t easily articulate what we were building. We were just moving forward organically, creating something that didn’t exist and was true to our vision. Then we were interviewed for a story and the writer mentioned us being a lifestyle brand. We fell out of our chairs! That was the first time we ever considered what we were doing was lifestyle.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
The benefits of creating an authentic lifestyle brand is that you can build a deeply passionate and strong community and there are unlimited ways to grow and collaborate. Supreme making lipstick with Pat McGrath last year is an example. It has nothing to do with skateboarding and yet it makes perfect sense. Anyone can make the connection and the case that the product should exist. It doesn’t work that way for every brand.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
I think Patagonia is the ultimate. The brand has infinite appeal. A person with a slight interest in the outdoors, which is pretty much all people, can want and buy a piece and it’s cool. You don’t need to be a pro rock climber to wear it. Their values-first commitment to the environment and environmental justice is incredibly inspirational. Although the scale of what they are doing would be hard for many to replicate, dedicating time and resources to learning about, supporting, and promoting values intrinsic to a brand can happen in ways big and small. Going the extra mile is something anyone can do.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
All I can advise is to do something very unique, outside of the box, and ahead of its time.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I think it’s a mistake to enter the market in several categories at once. Do one category well and build a strong foundation. Nike started with running shoes. Amazon started with books. You can have an idea of how big your brand can be and the myriad of categories you can enter without doing it all at once.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
- Research the market and ask yourself all of the questions. Is what you are doing untapped? Does it have a clear identity? Longevity? Who is it for?
- Research how successful brands got their start. Read Shoe Dog, for example. Understand there isn’t one way to bring the idea to life.
- Map out a sort of plan. There needs to be a short and long term vision and it starts with the creator. What do you need to get it off the ground? What help will you need? Having a grand vision is important too. You should be able to visualize the big picture with a lifestyle brand even if it’s abstract at first.
- Protect your idea. File the appropriate trademarks and talk to a lawyer to make sure you are all set up properly.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- Not everyone is going to get it at first or take you seriously and don’t let that deter you. Some people will and you want to be a visionary ahead of the curve. A lot of people in our lives, family and friends included, did not understand or even believe in our vision early on.
- It takes time. We worked other jobs for several years after introducing the brand. Be patient and keep building.
- Be yourself and don’t try to appeal to everyone because it’s not possible! Authenticity is king and the right people will find you. We are a modern rosé brand and don’t come from wine backgrounds. That doesn’t always appeal to the ultra-traditional.
- This is hard work! Just because you have a good idea does not mean it’s going to be successful and you are going to make mistakes. You need to dedicate your life to it, especially early on, even if the lifestyle of the brand is about having fun. No one else is going to.
- Aim to be a successful lifestyle brand and not a billion dollar business. A true lifestyle brand has longevity. It’s not about flipping fast.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A movement of spending less time in front of computers and screens and more time in nature, with loved ones, reading, talking, thinking, learning, dancing, creating.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Stacey Abrams for all of the obvious reasons. She takes being an entrepreneur and creator to a whole other profound level.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.