Name: Sara Sugarman-Brenner / Age: 32 / Current Company: Lulu & Georgia / Title: CEO/Founder / Years in Business: 3 / Education: BA in English & Psychology from Tulane University
What was your first job after school? When I graduated college, I wanted to work in magazines and went to work for Hearst Publications in their circulation department. The circulation department creates those annoying inserts that fall out of the magazine when you flip through. I thought it would merge my interests in marketing and editorial, but it turned out to be a lot of Excel spreadsheets. The great thing about a first job is that you find out what you like and don’t like. I quickly moved into editorial at Shop Etc., which was a shopping magazine similar to Lucky. One of my jobs was to answer reader questions about shopping and fashion. I loved it and realized how much I enjoyed interfacing with customers and helping them with their purchases.
When did you start Lulu & Georgia and why? I started Lulu & Georgia in 2012, but my family has been in the design industry since 1955. My grandfather, Lou (“Lulu”), founded my family’s business (a to-the-trade custom rug company). My dad, Georgia (“Georgia”) is now president of the company. Their knowledge of the industry and passion for design inspired me. I wanted to take what I learned and create a more modern and accessible line, somewhere my friends could shop.
You offer such a wide variety of products, how do you decide what to include in your shop? Our goal is to curate the site with inspiring, modern and original pieces. We pay attention to what our followers love, but are also true to the brand and try and create new looks that aren’t available elsewhere.
Did you always know you wanted to be your own boss and open up a shop? Owning my own business wasn’t always a goal. I was an English and Psychology major and wanted to work in magazines, but I think I’m also very entrepreneurial. I have always had confidence in my ability to create and lead.
You are a busy lady! Being the CEO of Lulu & Georgia and the Vice President of your family business, what does an average day look like for you? Totally! And I have a 6-month old baby, Vivian, so being busy has a whole new meaning now. There is no average day but I make sure to establish some routines. My morning always begins with some quiet one-on-one time with Vivian and then coffee with my husband. No matter how crazy our schedule gets, we always make time to sit and have coffee together. Work hours are packed with meetings, emails and conference calls, and a break to take my dog, Dolly, for a walk. She is our hardest working employee! I like to be home to put Vivian to bed and then usually get back on the computer to catch up on emails.
What has been the most surprising thing you have learned about yourself through opening your own business? Resilience. We’ve grown rapidly and with that growth comes many obstacles and difficult choices. I’ve taken on more and more, and when I thought I couldn’t be busier, I got busier. I’ve been able roll with the punches and trust in myself that I’ll always make it work.
What was the best investment you made during your first year of business? I’ve always invested in technology. As an online business, the website is our storefront. I need to make sure it’s beautiful, user friendly, and that the backend operations run smoothly. It’s always a work-in-progress but a very necessary investment.
For someone looking to grow and expand their team, what piece of advice would you give them? Take it slow and be really thoughtful about your hires. I look for passionate people I can really learn from who understand our brand mission.
Have you ever considered opening a brick and mortar? I wouldn’t rule out the possibility, but I’m an avid online shopper myself. As a working mom, I don’t have time to go to a store and do all my shopping. And doesn’t shopping in your pajamas sound so much better? I think there are a lot of people out there like me, and I like being able to service the entire country and not just one city or one neighborhood.
Currently shopping for: I buy clothes for Vivian almost every day! I know she’ll grow out of them in weeks but dressing her up brings me way too much joy. I can’t resist.
Currently reading: Motherhood Without Guilt by Debra Rosenberg
Currently dreaming of: A family trip to Italy.
Currently eating: The chicken liver toast from Animal.
Photography by: Monica Wang Photography