Chelsea is the co-founder and “chief bag lady” of SMITH & STARR, makers of the first-ever hydration handbag line. SMITH & STARR has been featured on Bustle, ClassPass, Mental Floss, Reader’s Digest, theSkimm, Women Catalysts and others.
Chelsea is a seasoned and driven storyteller, connector and project manager with nearly a decade of agency and in-house brand marketing and communications experience. Prior to founding SMITH & STARR, Chelsea led communications efforts for an array of consumer technology brands including OpenTable, Autodesk, Twitter and Foursquare.
Chelsea and her co-founder Fallyn met in New York City in 2011 working part-time for LivingSocial’s Adventures department - leading outdoor excursions such as whitewater rafting, ice climbing, ziplining and wine tasting. The two started SMITH & STARR in 2015 after Fallyn took to Facebook to air her frustration about always looking like she was going on a hike just to stay hydrated. Chelsea not only liked the post, but told Fallyn that they should team up to create the solution. The two met for coffee at Maxfield’s House of Caffeine in San Francisco the next day and the idea for The Conway was born.
How did you get to where you are today?
Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. Every idea starts with a problem. Ours came in January of 2015 when Fallyn took to Facebook to air her frustration about always looking like she was going on a hike just to stay hydrated. I not only “liked” the idea, but told Fallyn to remove the post and that she should try to create it. We ended up meeting for coffee the next day and the idea for The Conway was born. We simply wanted to create a fashionable solution to dehydration for ourselves and our friends. From our first coffee to to running our e-commerce shop today, we’re also focusing on baby steps vs. the finish line. We try to tackle elements one at a time while keep our vision and mission in mind.
Given neither of us started with fashion / design backgrounds, we look at our business as an opportunity to always learn. Luckily in San Francisco, there are so many resources, organizations and people willing to help. Many of the most pivotal moments of the journey have been the encouragement and willingness from other entrepreneurs to provide us advice and the big and small wins you have with happy customers (whether it's seeing them rock The Conway on social media or a sweet thank you note during holiday gifting season).
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
The toughest obstacle from me to overcome continues to be confidence in myself. We have so much confidence and passion for our idea, but as an entrepreneur your job is changing each and every day, you’re tasked with constantly learning and challenging yourself. Becoming more comfortable in this constant state of flux can be a challenge. It’s helpful to take the time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished as that typically will help you be more confident about the next challenge and obstacle ahead.
What’s the key to staying focused and motivated?
SMITH & STARR just turned one - so we feel like there’s still so much to do, so motivation and focus hasn’t been too much of a challenge. I’ve always been quite the to-do list maker, but I’ve found that truly setting asite half day sessions for planning and goal setting really make a huge difference in laying a solid foundation for your business.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Get comfortable asking for help. SMITH & STARR would not be where it is today if we didn’t admit to ourselves and others what we didn’t know and what we were willing to learn. Stay curious, ask for help and get ready to learn a ton.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
Running your own business affects every aspect of your life, so as you set forth on this new challenge take the time to set up your own priorities and work guidelines, so you can maintain your personal self care throughout the journey. You do the best work when you're your best self - think through how you have that balance.
How do we get more women leaders?
We get more women leaders by building each other up and being a part of communities that support, empower and inspire one another. We’re all capable of greatness - we just have to let it radiate out into the world. I’m so thankful for many communities in San Francisco that helping one another. I’m extremely active in The Assembly and Women Catalysts and always willing to meet for a chat, especially over coffee.