DC Style Factory founder Rosana Vollmerhausen infuses her signature cool into a wide range of looks for her clients. Whether she’s getting someone glammed up in a couture gown for an evening gala or styling someone in a satin bomber jacket for a pop-diva’s concert or giving someone’s closet a complete overhaul–Rosana delivers the most elegant looks in the most down to earth way. She is so warm, friendly, peppy and bubbly–you’d find it hard to believe that she’s spent time in the carpool line at her children’s school this morning, driven for miles and miles from her home in Maryland to a couture boutique in Tyson’s Corner to pull looks for a client, has dropped off the looks to her client in D.C. and is now at a local news station to appear on live television for a segment where she’s styled several models to showcase the hottest trends for Spring. I was fortunate enough to have been invited by Rosana to appear on one of her segments. I am both inspired and in awe of this woman! She recently co-founded The Stylist Studio with Lani Inlander of Real Life Style (featured in last week’s Mompreneur Spotlight). And I’m delighted to share my interview: 20 Questions with Rosanna Vollmerhausen of DC Style Factory.
1. How would you describe your job? I am the owner and chief stylist of DC Style Factory — one of the top personal styling companies in the DC metro area. We style hundreds of men and women in the DMV and beyond. Our team’s job is to provide ease to people’s lives through strategic, streamlined and stylish wardrobes.
2. What part of your job might surprise people? That it takes muscles – literally! We do a lot of hauling of racks, bags, hangers, boxes. We are on our feet nonstop. By the end of a day with clients, I fall into bed and am asleep within seconds.
3. What did you wear to your very first job interview? My first job interview was with the World Bank, and I wore an Ann Taylor suit. My first suit out of college!
4. What are the 3 qualities you look for when hiring someone? What I looked for two years ago and what I look for now are very different. I used to look for stylists and staff that had a passion, knowledge and interest in fashion and style. That is still a plus, but today, I look for a strong customer service background (people skills), strong organizational skills (project management), strong verbal and written communication skills, and experience in an professional environment (familiarity with office technology and software). The people skills are at the top of the heap. I told our Stylist Studio trainees this past winter, “I can always coach you up on personal styling and fashion, but you have to love people.” That one-on-one connection is more difficult to teach. I need anyone who joins our team to be able to hit the ground running.
5. What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired? Listen to ‘90s hip-hop!
6. What are your top 3 entrepreneurial tips?
Embrace the numbers. Keep track of your costs, income, etc. even if you are not making much at first. Know what you will owe in taxes at the end of the year. You don’t have an employer anymore who is withholding taxes.
Be consistent. If you deliver your product or service consistently, uniformly, and with excellence, people will come to rely on it.
Know everything. I don’t expect anyone else to know more than I do about my business. My assistants, interns and stylists have all been instrumental in moving DC Style Factory forward, but I still haul those bags of clothes. It’s important for me to be connected to every aspect of my business – even if I am delegating many projects and responsibilities to staff.
7. How did you get your idea or concept for the business? I wish I could say I had this big “ah-ha!” moment, but it was more recognizing an opportunity and running with it. There were two major events that lead to DC Style Factory. The first was opening my boutique almost 14 years ago! A friend wanted to sublet a small commercial space in Dupont Circle. My business partner and I jumped on the chance to start our own business. My entry into the world of style and fashion was through retail. The second was Stacy London. I had sold my share of the boutique and had gone back to freelance writing. A few customers from the boutique approached me about personal shopping. I said “yes” even though I had no clue what I was doing. I started with that handful of clients, and worked with any friends and family that would let me into their closets! I was still figuring out what my little business was going to look like when Stacy London happened. I joined her Style for Hire company, trained with her and learned from her. That was a turning point for DC Style Factory. I found purpose.
8. What was your mission at the outset? To elevate people’s confidence and provide ease to their lives.
9. How many employees? Three stylists, including myself, and one stylist assistant. We also usually have an intern at any given time.
10. How do you advertise your business? We rely on local and national press writing about us; referral business from past clients; events; and social media.
11. What are your company’s goals for 2017? Add to our styling team.
Add new services to better help our clients, including a subscription shopping service.
Strengthen and grow our brand name through continued top-notch styling and service.
12. What is unique about your business? Personal styling is so new. It didn’t exist until the 1990s, and it’s still not listed in the Census Bureau! In the beginning it really was something for celebrities or the very wealthy. I saw an opportunity in the DC market to serve professional men and women just like myself. I wanted to position personal styling not as a luxury, but as part of anyone’s self-care routine. Working with one of your wardrobe with us is akin to getting your hair cut, getting your nails done, or getting your teeth cleaned. I have seen not just my business grow, but the industry as a whole, which is very exciting. That is how Lani Inlander and I came up with the idea for The Stylist Studio!
13. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be? Don’t say no in the beginning. Don’t think you are too good for an opportunity; you’re not. Work hard. Be humble.
14. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? A writer, and I became one! I was a journalist before I was a personal stylist.
15. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it? Opening a boutique. We were a men’s and women’s boutique featuring emerging designers. We carried Rag & Bone when it was just men’s jeans; Victoria Beckham when she had her denim line with those sparkly crowns on the back pockets; and Band of Outsiders when it was a small line of men’s oxfords and skinny ties. I loved that you could not find these brands anywhere else in the city. It was exciting and totally outside the box for D.C.
16. What do you wish you knew before you started your first business? I was young and impulsive. I didn’t know the first thing about running a retail business. I wasn’t comfortable with the “not fun” side of it all, which is crunching numbers, inventory, and profit and loss. When you are young and uncomfortable with something…what do you do? You pretend it’s not there. I am a stickler now. I run reports every week to see where we are. I know what we owe, what we are paying, and what we are earning. I project and set goals for the company, for myself and for our stylists. I know this back-end work is what will keep us moving forward. It helps me make decisions on how much to grow, how to reinvest in the company, what staff we can afford, etc. I don’t have investors pumping millions of dollars into DC Style Factory so growth is slow and methodical.
What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had? That yelling at your staff doesn’t make people want to work harder.
16. What’s your best hiring tip/secret? If someone busts out a notebook to take notes during an interview, hire them. No one takes notes anymore! Also take your time. I hired quickly in the past and sometimes it worked out. Other times it did not. But, I wasn’t strategic enough. As a result, I ended spending way too many hours training staff on basic skills they should have already had in their back pocket. Take your time to make sure the person you are hiring meets the criteria you set.
How do you use social media? To promote our styling work and services. We post pictures of our clients’ looks with expert styling tips; before/after closet work; and behind-the-scenes stylist vignettes.
18. What was the best piece of advice you ever got? My mom used to give me the best advice. Do what you love; the money will come. Oh and I love this one: If you are dating a man who does not get along with his mother…run.
19. What do you think is the most important innovation of your lifetime thus far? The iphone, of course.
20. What are your favorite restaurants in the DC area & why? DC Noodles on 14th Street for its Thai fusion noodles and relaxed, hip urban vibe. We host our company holiday parties and style events here. Rasika in Penn Quarter, Washington, DC for the crispy spinach and lentils. Stomping Ground in Del Ray for coffee, great wifi, biscuits and the harissa chicken salad. Republic in Takoma Park for brunches and the best kids’ menu in the DC area. Mannequin Pis in Olney, Md. for flavorful Belgian mussels. Can’t be beat!
Rosana lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her three kids and her husband. For more information on her styling services and business, visit www.dcstylefactory.com