Nearly four years ago, Brenna Lyden was a freshman in college majoring in apparel and was in the market for a walking, talking resume. Enter Chic Street Style: a platform for showcasing her personal style aesthetic. It was during this time running the fashion blog and styling company that Brenna realized there wasn’t a huge market for personal styling services in her Midwest town, but with her blog, she could communicate outside her geographical borders and connect with style-seekers around the globe.
Now, operating a Skype-based styling business, Brenna has created a new and convenient way for women to receive a styling consultation between jam-packed schedules. And that’s just her side job! Find out where she gets her inspiration, what her “get successful” advice is and how she recommends pulling together that perfect first day of work outfit.
“Be completely obsessive about your dream. Let it consume you. Write it down. Imagine what it would be like to achieve it — and then do that!”
What does a day in your life entail? How do you organize your day?
I have a Type A personality with the creativity of someone who’s a Type B, so I organize my tasks with lists (daily, weekly and monthly) an oversized calendar with Post-it Notes and the Post-it PopNotes app.
When I wake up in the morning, I’m “on” and start my day with a mandatory coffee. I then answer what seems like endless emails from sponsors and clients, develop blog shoot concepts with my fiancé, Zach, and aim to prepare my social posts before 9 a.m. Then, I work my 9-to-5 job as a merchant-in-training at Nordstrom. It’s a program that will put me in the buying office in a few months. Once I’m off my “day job” at the department store, I shoot a look for the blog, style clients, answer comments from my followers (something that’s very important to me!) and begin editing photos and creating content. Most days include a meeting or two with one of my interns to develop new concepts and review stats.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned about business from starting and operating your own?
Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so you could say it’s somewhat ingrained in me. I knew from the beginning that to be an entrepreneur, it takes sleepless nights, social sacrifices and an unprecedented discipline and determination to make it happen. It’s a constant learning curve. I never sit back and think, “Goodness, I have it all figured out.” I simply don’t. My followers, my clients and the fashion industry all are rapidly changing and I’m constantly trying to make styling, shopping and my blog more convenient and covetable for both my followers and clients alike.
Much of your business is conducted via Skype. How does this influence the way you work?
I currently live in Seattle, but before moving here, I was a Midwesterner and I had a hard time finding a market for people who had the resources and desire for personal styling services. Skype was the key to opening my services to an entirely new — and relatively untouched — market full of people of all ages in different places who wanted to receive personal style advice in the comfort of their own living room. Skype allows me to have clients in Greece, Australia, Canada and England. Because I have no commute, I can be flexible and provide services that are much more affordable than traditional styling fees.
What is a landmark moment in your career so far that you’re proud of?
I remember the exact moment my blog reached one million views. It happened while I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I remember jumping up and down, celebrating with my mom over Skype and telling her that I'd done it.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I only have 24 hours in a day and there’s so much to do. I'd be lying if I said that working a day job and running a blog and styling company is effortless. It isn't always easy, but it’s always worth it. I also think a lot about barriers like language and time zones in terms of how it affects my clients and the service they receive. I'm very excited for Skype to roll out even more languages on Skype Translator so I can test my services in non-English speaking countries.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Yes, it’s always a struggle. My no-fail tactic is to lean on my fiancé. He always knows my breaking point and makes me set down my laptop before I reach it. He’ll make creating content fun, like going on a motorcycle road trip to take blog pictures and social content. I don't know how I could do it all without him.
Are there any magazines, books, or TV shows that influence your work?
I like to reference attainable magazines, such as InStyle, to come up with content ideas, but most of my inspiration comes from online. Other bloggers, Pinterest, Street Style and my clients are the ones who inspire me and make my work better.
What’s your favorite outfit in your wardrobe?
It’s hard to say. I challenge myself to never wear the same outfit twice. This isn’t because I constantly shop, but because I want to develop my skills in creative and versatile styling; taking the same pieces and styling them over and over again in infinite ways. My favorite looks, however, tend to involve lipstick, a chunky knit, leather and fabulous shoes!
What would you suggest as the perfect first day of work outfit?
You’ll want to wear something that can be layered to be either dressier or more casual. Each work environment is different, so you don’t want to find yourself at either extreme. My recommendation is a conservative silhouette with a great blowout and accessories that make the outfit feel more like you. A classic shirtdress, pumps and a blazer will always serve you well. And if you happen to arrive at your new office and the vibe is more casual, simply take off the blazer. You also can always use Skype to get a second opinion from a fabulous friend the night before your first day.
What advice do you have for someone who is interested in personal styling?
First and foremost, dress yourself well. You’d be amazed by how many people don’t understand the fundamentals of fit, the magic of tailoring or flattering dressing strategies for themselves before they dress others. Next, learn about other body types. I’ve dressed men and women, ages 18 to 65, from 4’10” to 6’5” and sizes 00 to 16. Finally, create a portfolio of your work; whether it’s a personal style blog, a Facebook page with “Before” and “After” photos or an arsenal of raving testimonials (or all three!). Create a way to show your services are worth it. Also, try starting off with an online style service, like StylingOn, where the platform is already established and eager for your styling. Find your niche and become the best in that specific area — petite, plus-size, affordable shopping, closet organizing, work wardrobes, etc.
What is your best advice for being successful?
Be completely obsessive about your dream. Let it consume you. Write it down. Imagine what it would be like to achieve it — and then do that! Find a mentor to guide you and give you constructive criticism that you might not hear from anyone else. Be ready to take risks and realize that hearing “no” only brings you one step closer to hearing “yes.” Be relentless in the pursuit of whatever fulfills you, in the most meaningful way.