DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
I am Rosana Vollmerhausen, the founder and chief stylist of DC Style Factory. We are a full-service personal styling company based in the DC area. We audit closets, shop with and for clients, help define personal style, and make life easier for hundreds of men and women each year. We also produce style workshops, give style talks, host area fashion events, and provide pro style advice that appears in local media (Bethesda Magazine, The Washingtonian, The Washington Post, NPR, WJLA News Channel 8).
RV: We believe personal is for everyone regardless of age, size or budget. If key wardrobe pieces make sense for who and where you are, a put- together and polished personal style is accessible to anyone who wants it. I am married with three kids ages 11, 8 and 5. I have a middle schooler and a kindergartner this year, which is definitely keeping me on my toes!
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
RV: Funemployed is making a living doing what you love. You wake up excited each day for the possibilities. It’s work – the hardest and most all-consuming work of your life – but it’s not drudgery.
RV: My path to this career was not straight or narrow. I started my “grown up” life as a reporter and then an editor. I ended up at Fannie Mae developing content for the company website…before the housing marking went haywire. it was in those office cubicles that a plan was hatched to open a boutique. My business partner and I were young and had no clue how to run a business, which is why I think we jumped in head-first. Ignorance is bliss!
RV: We owned our boutique for several years and the economy tanked. I sold my share and went back to writing and editing. During that time, I had a customer from the boutique contact me. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in shopping for her. The seed was planted. I styled her and pretty much anyone else who would let me. My friends and family were extremely patient and generous with their time!
RV: My little business was just that – a little business with a handful of clients that were mostly my friends.Then Stacy London entered the picture. A friend of mine was working with Stacy on a new personal styling company she was launching in the DC area. I had the golden opportunity to work for and train with Stacy. Working with her helped cement my business and styling philosophy. I grew as a personal stylist and so did my business.
RV: I never actually thought I would have a job that perfectly suited me until I started my career as a personal stylist. What other job would allow me to combine my love of fashion with my intense need for neatness and organization? I can’t do anything else ever again!
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
RV: It’s a tie between my mother and my husband. My mom was the first person who encouraged me to do what I love. It’s amazing how our career paths have been nearly identical. She started life out in a “stable” career as an accountant. In her 40s, she took a leap and opened her own bakery. Baking had always been a passion of hers and she poured her heart and soul into that business. I grew up seeing that it’s never too late to find your passion.
RV: My husband has been my biggest cheerleader in starting, running and growing DC Style Factory. If you are going to embark on a life where you are running your own business, your partner can’t just be a source of inspiration or a cheerleader, though. That person has to be on board with your career choice because it’s not a regular 9-5 job. There are often strange hours. My husband works a full-time job, but he does so much more than a 50/50 split with our family responsibilities. Without that sort of partnership, DC Style Factory, as it exists today, would not be possible. On top of that, he is my go-to for business and employee management advice!
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
RV: Working as a reporter and playing the piano as a child. Being a reporter taught me how to communicate through writing. I can’t stress enough how important that is in any line of work, but especially as an entrepreneur. You have to be able to communicate your mission, message and services in a professional and persuasive manner.
RV: And the piano! I was having coffee with a friend the other day and she said that playing the piano as a kid taught her how to perform in front of audiences. A light-bulb went off for me. My piano lessons, tests and recitals as a kid were nerve-wracking and intense. I was forced at a young age to practice religiously and perform perfectly. Scared or not, I had to take a deep breath and get out there. That has served me well to this day.The performance training I got as a kid is what has given me the courage to produce style workshops, appear in TV segments, and give style talks despite being horribly fearful of public speaking.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
RV: My clients. People always think it’s about beautiful clothes and shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I am a total style and fashion geek. But, at the end of the day, it’s about the people I get to work with. It’s the mother who had a double mastectomy and none of her clothing fits anymore. It’s the young attorney up for partner at her law firm who needs to KILL it in her interview suit. It’s a divorced dad who is embarking on a new life — dating. It’s the new retiree who is now free from the confines of her formal office — but now isn’t sure what she needs for this next stage in life.
RV: I text and talk with my clients constantly. They send me outfit pictures throughout the day with messages like, “I feel AMAZING!” and “I didn’t know I could feel this confident walking into a meeting.” That is what inspires me more than anything.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
RV: Balance is being ok with the fact that things are never balanced. Logistically, I have learned to delegate to an assistant. I am also fortunate to have childcare with an amazing nanny and local grandparents. But I run a business. There is always a list a mile long of things I need to do.
RV: But, honestly, there is no true balance. Life is busy. There are times I am kicking ass at work and then there are times I am kicking ass at home. They usually are never happening at the same time! I remember reading an interview with Susan Tynan, the founder of Framebridge — a startup that is revolutionizing the picture-framing business. She was asked that same question – about balancing motherhood and her business. She said she had to make peace with the fact that she would not be her children’s primary caregiver. Yes, she is undeniably their mother, but their day-to-day care would not be her job if she was going to take this business to the place she wanted it to go. I loved the truth in her response.
RV: I still toggle back and forth between wanting to be the primary caregiver for my kids and wanting to devote every minute of every day to my business. But, I realize that this is the nature of who I am and where I am in life. For me, there is no other way to do it and that is my balance. (DCF: You have to do what is best for you and ultimately your family and only you know what that is #NoGuilt).
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
RV: Sleep! I have sacrificed countless hours of sleep! (DCF: Oh how I miss sleep!!).
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
RV: When I started DC Style Factory, people thought it was “cute.” Over the years, have developed a process and services that have tangible benefits, takeaways and value. The clothes are cute, but the business is not.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
RV: Don’t compare yourself to others. (DCF: PREACH!)
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
RV: My first business – the boutique. I was so young and green. I had no idea what I was doing and made many mistakes. The biggest mistake I made was letting the numbers intimidate me. I was not comfortable learning and understanding my inventory, pricing, profit and loss.
RV: When I started DC Style Factory, I knew that was one thing I wanted to do differently right from the beginning. I kept records and ran reports regularly, even when I had just a handful of clients.
RV: Despite those mistakes with my boutique, I know that if it had not been for those years, I wouldn’t have DC Style Factory today. That business was my FIT and MBA rolled into one!
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
RV: When my tween asked me for style advice! (DCF: Mom for the win!!)
DCF: What’s next?
RV: At the beginning of this year, we launched a new website and brand video. Since we launched, we have seen our bookings increase by nearly 20 percent. Our services are well-developed, streamlined and standardized. I am taking time this quarter to put that all into writing; I am developing a standardized policies, procedures and best practices manual for DC Style Factory. It’s been a long time coming! (DCF: I’ve learned to stop fighting the organizing!! Color coding and standardizing is my friend).
RV: I also hired a new assistant recently and am looking forward to eventually adding more stylists to our team — even outside the DC area. In the new year, I am partnering with another local stylist for a 2-day intensive and interactive training program for personal stylists. The possibilities for this business are infinite, and that’s what is thrilling about being an entrepreneur.