Melinda: From Finance To Fashion
"I always had this desire to do something that I was really, really passionate about."
Melinda, co-CEO of Scanlan Theodore Americas, partnered with her childhood friend, Sarah, to launch the coveted Australian fashion and accessories label in the United States in the summer of 2017. Together, they did what most of us only dream of doing, leaving behind their stable careers to pursue their passion.
It took a lot of hard work and sweat equity to get where they are today, now with two stunning stores in New York and an amazing team of women. From organizing trunk shows, crafting sales and marketing strategies and still making sure to spend quality time with family, we got the chance to sit down and get to know one of the "trailblazhers", Melinda, shine light on her entrepreneurial journey.
Q: How did YOU AND your business partner, SARAH, meet?
Sarah and I grew up together. We were both born in Melbourne and have known each other since we were 15. We went to high school near each other, had similar circles of girlfriends and skiied together! We were both in the finance industry and have always shared a lot in common.
Q: How many years were you in your respective jobs before the idea to launch Scanlan Theodore in the U.S. came to fruition?
I had been working for twelve to fourteen years in investment banking and asset management. I switched from banking to asset management when I moved from Australia to New York.
Q: How did you hear about Scanlan Theodore?
We both grew up wearing the brand. I still have a piece in my rotation from 15 years ago! While at university, we wouldn’t buy as much, buying only one piece a season. As we started working and evolved into a more professional environment, we started buying suits for work and crepe knit and it’s just gone on from there. By the time I moved to New York, my wardrobe was exclusively Scanlan Theodore!
Q: When you were working in finance in New York, how often were women commenting on your outfits?
The compliments were overwhelming! Women in the office bathrooms would come up to me asking “Where is all this stuff from that you wear?”
Q: How did you transition from a stable career in finance to a new venture in the fashion world?
I am not a fashionista! It took us a while. Sarah approached Gary Theodore a few years ago and asked me to be involved. We wanted to be business partners and so set up a joint venture structure and spent time getting to know Gary.
Q: Did you have ambitions to leave the finance world prior to the Scanlan Theodore venture?
I’ve always wanted to start my own business. Looking back at my sentiment, I was quite naive and had no idea what starting my own business was like. I always had this desire to do something that I was really, really passionate about. To start your own business, you have to just believe in what you’re doing in a way that drives you every single day even when things go wrong, and things can go wrong every single day.
Q: How has your work life balance changed?
The balance is a struggle because you're juggling demands. I have intense mommy guilt. There is more of a balance in the sense that I am my own boss so I can manage my life but it never goes away. We are also responsible for a team that need to feel stimulated and motivated. What's important to us is creating a fantastic work environment.
Q: Is there an equivalent feeling in being a co-CEO versus when you closed a deal/won a mandate in investment banking/asset management?
There is so much more elation involved with this. When I think about what is a win, it's hearing the way women talk about the product. Just hearing that sort of feedback, you’ll be shocked at how motivational that is. Our livelihood now is based around women loving and buying our product. To hear women being really passionate about what we provide is the biggest win.
Q: What do you look for in talent that you bring on to the team?
The main thing is passion for what they do. You can’t do or sell something that you don’t truly believe in. Our philosophy is not to micromanage people. We provide high level direction and provide them the resources/training needed. So far it’s worked really well!
Q: How do you and Sarah work together?
Sarah is very strong at sales and marketing and likely to lead that work stream as we evolve. I’m a bit more operations and HR-focused. Having a business partner to count on and who has the same work ethic is very important. When you’re having a down day, you just ring your business partner. You balance and support each other. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else. Even at times when you have a different idea on something, you’re so financially intertwined that there’s no personality involved and you decide together what is the best for the business. There are no egos at the table because we both have everything at stake.
Q: How has being business partners changed your friendship?
We speak 50 times a day! We do take time out for our friendship sometimes, maybe once a week because otherwise it’s all business. It makes you closer. Your business partner becomes your lifeline.
Q: If you were to give advice to young entrepreneurs wanting to take a similar plunge, what would would you say?
If you have an idea that you are truly passionate about, you have to just take the leap and give it a go. You need to look at the downside and work out how long you can give it a go for. If you can live with your downside and you’re passionate about what it is that you’re about to do, then just go for it. If you can live with your worst case scenario, then take the leap because there’ll be a million reasons not to. Waking up every morning feeling passionate and excited about what I do far outweighs the emotional and financial stress.
Melinda, thank you so much for taking the time to share your entrepreneurial journey with us. We are so motivated by your energy and drive and wish you all the success!
To learn more about Scanlan Theodore please visit the site or swing by their stores in NYC!