Vancouver finds itself in a constant battle to shake off the reputation of being one of the worst dressed cities in the world. A local entrepreneur thinks otherwise and is working to change that with something she calls “your online personal stylist” – meet Jessica Karalash from KurateStyle.
Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
I am Jessica Karalash, the founder and editor of KurateStyle – your online personal stylist.
KurateStyle is an online personal styling platform for men and women. It is a destination where people find their personal style and create a look they love.
KurateStyle began from a desire to help people feel empowered and be the best version of themselves, and out of my love of fashion and tech.
There is nothing like seeing my clients light up with confidence when they find a personal style they love. Whatever stage of life they are in – whether it’s a new job or becoming parents, it’s amazing to see how their wardrobe can really change how they feel about themselves and the confidence it gives them – it is truly life-changing.
I’ve always loved fashion and helping friends choose outfits – and seeing them light up. As a young girl growing up on the prairies, I also used to draw dresses and mountains, ocean, castles and beaches (I had a vivid imagination). Now I live in Vancouver, surrounded by mountains and ocean and have a fashion-tech company – it’s truly all a dream come true.
What makes you stand out from competitors and how do you plan to further differentiate down the road?
What makes KurateStyle different is that as it is the luxury of having a personal stylist, conveniently online. Clients receive one-on-one, very personal service that is completely customized and tailored to their needs, lifestyle, budget and goals. We analyze every aspect of their lives, and build them a beautifully curated and customized style package that is uniquely and only for them – that is completely different from anything on the market.
KurateStyle will continue to build the highly personalized service and structure for clients and innovate new products for them. We are building additional services and offerings, and looking into the mobile app space as well.
I’ve recently been featured in Vanity Fair’s International Best Dress List, as the winner for the month of May, and I am competing for the Grand Winner of the User’s Choice. This has created a name for KurateStyle in fashion space.
How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of KurateStyle?
It has played a very big role. I started getting involved in the startup community a few years ago, and there are so many amazing resources – Launch Academy, Growlab, Invoke, etc. for events and connections. I’m lucky to have many friends now in the startup and tech world now, who are always willing to go for coffee or help me by making introductions, offer advice and share their knowledge.
I’m also involved in an organization based in New York – Girls Raising, and I am the Chapter Lead in Vancouver. We provide community events and an online platform to help women-founded tech companies raise seed capital. This community has been amazing for KurateStyle.
It’s also been really great to see other fashion-tech startups here in Vancouver, who are collaborative, helpful and supportive. In particular the guys and gals at Wantering have been amazing, as have connections at Indochino, StylePixi, Verlico and Sidebuy, just to name a few.
There is also a scene of Vancouver fashion bloggers and stylists who have been really supportive and collaborative in helping share the KurateStyle story. We also meet to share ideas, resources and offer advice to each other. It’s really amazing.
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
The core problem we are solving is giving clients self-confidence. We transform people’s style, and show them exactly what to buy, wear and curate their wardrobe, that is completely specific to them.
The main value we provide to our clients is the style transformation, and the self-confidence they get from knowing exactly what to buy to create their style. They no longer doubt themselves, or have indecision with shopping. They know themselves, their style goals and how to create their perfect look – for their lifestyle.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 4 years, but it’s always been in my blood. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and a self-starter. From working in finance and marketing, to fashion, I’ve always taken on additional roles and created new opportunities.
The biggest challenge I’ve overcome is the fear of rejection. There will always be someone who is going to say “No” to you. But you have to realize it’s not always about you. Sometimes it’s the timing is not right, or there is another external factor. You can always try again, or try a different option. There is always another option.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
Currently, Sophia Amoruso of NastyGal is really big inspiration. She started NastyGal as an ebay store, and grew it into a multi-million dollar online retailer.
Nasty Gal is constantly innovating in social media – they developed a devoted online following of young women on social media, and quickly grew with revenues increasing from $223,000 in 2008 to almost $23 million in 2011 – all before Sophia was 30. Sophia grew NastyGal into one of the fastest growing companies in the online fashion space – without taking outside investment (until she raised $49M in total in 2012 in two rounds of funding).
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
From the fashion-tech side in Vancouver, Meredith Powell from U Can’t Buy Cool and The Next Big Thing would be amazing to work with. Her experience and drive is inspiring, and she is extremely intelligent and articulate. And the team from Wantering who are so talented and focused, would be a dream to work with.
Coco Rocha (who is from Vancouver) would be amazing to collaborate with. The work she has done in the fashion industry is amazing, both in modeling and philanthropy and rights.
If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
Don’t worry so much about what other people think. And don’t overanalyze.
Although, these are double-sided, as I’ve always worried about others and their feelings, which has also contributed to my success.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
Morning rituals are big for me. I get up at 6, start the morning with a green juice or shake and coffee, and go for run, head to the gym and/or swim. This is huge for the focus and clarity I need for the rest of day.
Getting out of my comfort zone is a great habit. I love routine, and scheduling brings me freedom. But it’s also great to get out of my comfort zone and dare to act on some crazy ideas.
As for resources – I love reading tech news – TechCrunch is a great source, as is The Business of Fashion. I also have a list of books I would highly recommend, and I’m happy to share that long list in an email to anyone that wants it. I just read Hooked – which I highly recommend if you are building a website or app of ANY kind.
If I am going to a new city, I always check Meetups as well. It’s a great place to find events and networks – both at home in Vancouver and away.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Just do it. Don’t wait. Whatever fear is holding you back – face it and push past it.
And competition is great – it helps validate your idea and motivates you.
*End of interview*
I have had the pleasure of seeing Jessica rock things the last year as we shared a mentor and had a lot of the same connections in the rising Vancouver tech space. Jessica is also capitalizing on a trend that I believe in, which, is the idea of personalized curation and giving people the one on one personal attention we all know people want. Of course the challenge is to do that at scale so let’s see how Jessica grows the platform over time. For all you ladies looking to get advise into how to jump into tech, I can’t find a better person to connect with than Jessica!
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.