I Want Your Job: Susan Feldman, Cofounder Of One Kings Lane
Welcome to “I Want Your Job,” Elite Daily’s new series that inspires females to go after their professional and personal dreams. We’ve teamed up with the most inspiring Millennial women who’ve made a name for themselves doing everything from tech design to owning a restaurant to bring you a taste of what being a Boss Lady in every industry really looks like.
These women never gave up on their dreams, never let a man tell them “no” and aren’t backing down for anybody. If you want her job, here’s how to get it.
Most of my apartment inspiration lies on the floor around me: magazine clippings of colors, loveseats and dressers, prints and textures from lookbooks that heed a warning for the upcoming year’s biggest trends.
And if they’re not physically in front of me, they’re eyeing me from my computer screen, carts half-full of different fabrics and designs, wall hangings and fixtures, about 16 different couch styles, two chaises so in disagreement with each other it’s clear my personal style has undergone quite an awakening recently.
My grandparents’ vintage crushed gold velvet armchairs and an eccentric, deep purple lamp look down on me, lovingly, as I try to will the rest of my living room into colorful, midcentury existence.
Decorating an apartment is no short order. But that’s where One Kings Lane comes in. The chic, savvy and sophisticated online mecca for home décor was founded in 2009 after cofounder Susan Feldman was looking to outfit her LA home and noticed a gaping whole in home décor market.
Together, Feldman and Alison Pincus tag-teamed on the entrepreneurial venture that would soon become one of the most sought-after destinations on the web.
Built on the belief that it was possible to combine inspirational and aspirational goods, furniture and home décor elements with price points that matched, One Kings Lane emerged – even in the throes of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – as the company-sourced one-stop-shop for all your décor needs.
Elite Daily caught up with Susan while she was in New York at their downtown digs (which, conveniently, overlook one of Jay Z and Beyoncé’s apartments) and got a bird’s eye view at what it takes to be the reigning queen of the home industry.
Stepping foot into the stunning offices where Feldman and her team perform their magic is everything we hoped it’d be – and still, somehow, so much more. If you’ve browsed One Kings Lane, you know that the site has a penchant for gorgeous trinkets, timeless pieces and eclectic finds, and all of that was pleasantly reflected in the office’s styling.
As she gives us the tour of the offices – every single photo you see on the site is shot in house! – we’re curious to hear about Susan’s start in the business.
“After moving to Los Angeles, I saw an opportunity to improve online retail in the home space. At the time I was passionate about decorating my house and while I found great pieces in local boutiques and design shops, I found that online sites were lacking unique and interesting home décor products.” The solution was simple: create a space that unified those two facets of home décor with the shopper’s need for clarity, price and color.
Together with Pincus, the daring twosome trudged forward – and never looked back.
“When we started One Kings Lane, Ali and I had a very clear vision of what we wanted to do from the very beginning. We moved quickly and did a good job executing our idea and bringing the brand to life,” she says, and their thorough execution is staring back at us as we round every corner, touch every surface, “ooh” and “ahh” at every striking tablescape.
And while the idea of women staying up late and utilizing every spare minute to decorate their homes might feel reminiscent of what our grandmothers did during the 50s while their husbands headed off to work, trust us when we tell you it’s not. Anyone can decorate a home; anyone can desire to make a space prettier or livelier or more in-tune with his or her personality.
The home space isn’t strictly a female-dominated industry. Men are interested and excited, too.
Speaking of men, Feldman shares that it was her husband, Bob, who pushed her to take a leap of faith during the early days, when One Kings Lane was still just a dream. “My husband, Bob, was the one who really encouraged me to do it.
I was so obsessed with the idea of starting this business – it was all I thought about or talked about. He encouraged me to take that leap and helped me realize if I didn’t go for it, I would never find out if it truly was a great idea. He was right, and we quickly realized this was an idea that resonated with millions of people.”
Luckily, he wasn’t the only one that stood behind Feldman, egging her on: “I have been fortunate in my life to have had people support me and my dreams. One Kings Lane is the perfect example of this.”
As chief merchandising officer, Susan’s role requires lots of travel. She’s literally responsible for searching high and low for exciting and unique pieces – the type that will stop guests in their tracks, curious where on earth you found such an eclectic tchotchke.
Because it’s her responsibility to find these trinkets no matter where they’re hiding, Feldman has traveled to some of the most picturesque locations and you can bet she’s still pitching herself over the experience. “I’ve been to India, Morocco, Turkey, Peru, China, Brussels, Paris, London and Italy with some of the best designers in the industry – it has been an incredible opportunity!”
Traveling the world may be a really big incentive, but Feldman actually says that one of the biggest advantages of this career – and this industry – is being a woman. “The majority of our shoppers are women who, just like me, are passionate about decorating their homes. I feel this has helped me understand how to serve our customers in the best way possible.
In just five years, they’ve more than served their customer base in the best way possible. As we’re shepherded through room after gorgeous room fit to burst with décor elements (we were tempted to pocket a few, but we didn’t; don’t worry), one of the things that jumped out at us was the electricity of the OKL offices.
Susan, and her army of eager, enthusiastic and excited employees, recognize what their users want and they know the best ways to give it to them. It’s a beautifully candid relationship, one that takes places totally online: They know their customers, they trust their customers, they respect their customers. And it’s evident in every sale they unveil.
Every day, One Kings Lane launches a series of new, exclusive sales on the hottest products from all over the home market. Lasting roughly 72 hours, consumers are encouraged to shop early – and often – to ensure that they get the top-brand, vintage and designer duds they’ve been searching for.
And now you can even shop a number of One Kings Lanes’ proprietary lines. (They’re just as jaw-dropping as everything else you’ll find on the site.)
It seems like a lot of moving parts – and a lot splendid gear – but the trick, Susan says, is all the in approach. One rule of thumb that’s helped her get to where she is? “Stay focused and keep it simple. It is easy to get distracted by lots of opportunities. I have found that no matter what you do, you will always have a limited amount of time and resources, so double down on your vision and use those precious resources wisely.”
It’s a nod to the type of work ethic that ensures you focus on what matters and don’t waste time worrying about everything else.
Whether she’s working from LA, in the NYC offices or traveling the world in search of amazing trinkets and treats to share with home décor aficionados, the day-to-day run of OKL definitely keeps this Boss Lady on her toes. But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t stopping to smell the flowers.
As we were drooling over spring 2015 bedding samples, Susan shared that she is touched by the success of the OKL brand every day. When someone recognizes their work, or gets excited about a purchase, Susan says that it makes what she and her staff do day in and day out come full circle.
It doesn’t hurt that working with a team as talented as hers is pretty pinch-worthy, too. “[The people at One Kings Lane] are the most passionate and inspiring group of individuals that I’ve had the good fortune to work with.
After a few hours with Susan and an insider peek at just how the magic happens, we ask Susan what it’s like to be a woman in her shoes, standing at the helm of a major company that inspires, delights and outfits so many lives (and homes). We’re curious if it’s tough to balance the dynamic day-to-day that OKL is known for with her personal life, but she shrugs it off.
She tells us, simply and clearly, like it’s the rule she’s been following for her life all along, “Find a balance between your career and your family.” It’s what’s worked — so far — for her.
And what she says next makes us want to hang here forever. It comes down to choices, Susan says, talking about whether or not women can “have it all” in this day and age. (And whether women even want it all.)
“Whether you’re a woman or a man, I think everyone has to make choices.
“Certain things are more important at different stages of your life and career. I think one just needs to be honest with themselves about what to prioritize every step along the way.” It’s thoughtful, earnest and uncomplicated advice, the type that we’ve come to expect after spending a day alongside the maven at One Kings Lane.
If there is one thing that we’ve internalized, it’s the fact that Susan is consistent, forthcoming and a deep, great listener. It’s like somewhere, deep down, she holds a compass that sets forth the pace of the world and she knows, intuitively, at what pace to move.
Before we go, we’re dying to hear what advice she would give to girls looking to live her life one day, who are dreaming up floor and furniture plans, constantly tortured by the flow of big spaces and whether a moment or vignette approach to décor is best.
Calm, cool and collected as ever (something we’re still trying to wrap our heads around), Susan quips, “Opportunities can come to you in many ways. Try to be open so you can recognize good opportunities as they’re presented.”
With that, we’re keeping our eyes peeled.
More jobs you’ll want to steal: