career Entrepreneur

Small Business Spotlight: Meet The Style Project

Thursday, July 28, 2016 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

Going out on your own takes a special kind of ambition and personality. When someone launches a creative business, they often take on more than just being a creative entrepreneur. They become their own marketing team, their own sales person, their own book keeper and the list goes on. Yet, ultimately they become their own boss and that is worth all the hard work and long hours to many.



Launching a creative business is no small feat. Launching a site and social media presence that combines a creative business is a special kind of beast. This month I am excited to feature The Style Project in our Small Business Spotlight column. This post is exciting to write for me, not just because I love the concept, but because the woman behind the brand used to be one of my students. It's amazing to see the students I once worked with evolving and maturing into amazing people creating amazing careers and lives for themselves.

Jessica Zimmerman, the creative powerhouse behind The Style Project was one of those students who had an amazing eye for style and who I knew would be doing amazing things. I am lucky that I get to say that about many of my students since so many are truly making a name for themselves in their industries! Jessica recently launched The Style Project - a personal style company that offers styling services for your home, events and wardrobe. She strives to make each project a custom fit to your own unique style and personality. At the heart of her business, she believes that style is the perfect opportunity to be creative and helps showcase a mood, a feeling and a moment.

I wanted to learn more about her company and what went into launching this endeavor, so she took the time to answer some questions for Halfstack. Keep reading for the full interview!


1. Jess, can you share a bit about yourself, your background and career history and what led you to launch The Style Project?


I know it sounds totally cliché but ever since I was a little girl I have always been intrigued by the creative world. From dressing up in my mom’s old dresses, to planning my sister’s birthday parties or by trying to convince my parents once again that I needed to paint my room, I have always enjoyed creatively expressing myself. After high school I went to two different small colleges but never felt like I truly belonged or fit in. That’s when I found the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg and pursued a degree in fashion marketing and management.

For once I finally clicked with people who had my same interests and I could express myself creatively through my work. After college I moved to Milwaukee, WI where my then boyfriend, now husband, lived. My first job out of college was at a marketing firm, my second at a major home retailer. I have always had an entrepreneur spirit and knew that there was always something more that I wanted to do that I could call my own. After working in the corporate world for almost 4 years I knew it was time to take the leap of faith that I had always dreamt about. That leap lead to the creation of The Style Project.

2. Can you give us the rundown on The Style Project and the idea behind your work and what to expect this upcoming year? 

The Style Project is a service based business that offers styling for your home, events and wardrobe. I primarily focus on intentional design and the execution of personalized touches for your home and events. I strive to make each project a custom fit to your own unique style and personality. I truly believe that style is the perfect opportunity to be creative and helps showcase a mood, a feeling and a moment. Together we will come up with beautiful ideas that are customized to match your style, all while adding in personal touches that make it something that is uniquely you. We have many exciting events, collaborations, room reveals and more coming up this year. I can’t wait for all of the exciting opportunities, the challenges and the relationships I hope to make along the way.

3. Can you share your journey through the corporate and into becoming an entrepreneur?

After college I worked in a few different corporate settings: the first being direct marketing and the second being in a leadership role at a major home retailor. I learned a lot during those years and not only grew within the company but also as a person. While I’m so thankful for the time that I had there I always knew there was something more that I wanted to do. The last 4 years in the corporate world allowed me to become who I wanted to be professionally and prioritize what was important to me. I have been thinking of starting my own business for years so I finally felt like the time was now or never.



4. What kind of services will you be offering through The Style Project and what has been your most exciting project to date?

We offer a wide range of styling services for home, events and wardrobe. Home styling can range from helping decorate for the season to a full room makeover. Event styling can range from a simple tablescape at an intimate event to a full wedding plan. Wardrobe styling can range from a single outfit for a special occasion to a full closet overhaul. I’m still in the “everything is exciting” phase but right now, I’m most excited to be working on a full wedding styling plan for next summer.


5. What has it been like organizing to launch this business; can you give our readers some insight to what the process was like?

It has definitely been a learning process and by no means do I have it all figured out. I began the process of starting The Style Project about 6 months prior to the official launch date. I was working full time at my previous job and working on The Style Project when I came home and on my days off. I left my previous job about a month prior to the launch of The Style Project as I knew if I didn’t put everything I could into it, it might not be successful. Although I like to focus on all of the fun and pretty things that correspond with The Style Project, the legal, financial, accounting, networking, marketing and social media upkeep that is needed to start and run a business such as this has proved to be challenging. I am quickly learning that running a business is a never ending learning process and that adapting to the times and the needs of the clients is essential to success.


6. Can you share a little insight to the concept, creation process and behind the scenes into how you prepare for your wardrobe, home and event styling?

I’m a huge perfectionist so going into this business I thought I had to have everything figured out in advance. In actuality, I’m having more fun learning about my clients and being creative “on the fly.” Honestly with each project and client being so different, I don’t have a set process of how I am going to get the work done. My only consistent process it to try my best to understand the needs and wants of the client. I then let my creative style take over. I make a ton of different lists for each job such as: brainstorming ideas, vendors to use, aesthetic, things to buy, pictures to take, questions to ask client and so on.



7. How has living in Milwaukee helped you as you have started running your own business?

Milwaukee is a great source of inspiration for me. I’m inspired each and every time I walk around the boutiques in the Historic Third Ward, the restaurants in the Milwaukee Public Market, the masterpieces in the Milwaukee Art Museum and the beauty of Lake Michigan. I also love that there are so many great networking events and workshops to be a part of that focus exclusively on small business owners. These events allow me to meet other entrepreneurs and creatives within our community that share the same passions as I do.

8. What inspires you to pursue running your own business and launching a brand from scratch?

Hands down the freedom! The freedom to be creative. The freedom of my own rules. The freedom of time. The freedom to work from home (or Starbucks). The freedom to skip out on work early to have a date night with my husband. All of this freedom has allowed me to finally feel like I can dive head first into everything I have ever wanted to do creatively. By launching The Style Project, I have created an opportunity to express myself though my work. I hope that within this creativity I am able to help others live their life, styled.

9. What kind of advice would you give fashion students or recent graduates looking to follow a similar path as you? What advice would you give 18 year old you?
 

Intern! Intern! Intern! I gained some of my best (and worst) experiences in college from internships. My internships were very hands-on which allowed me to practice the skills learned in college and apply them to the real world. I encourage active involvement in clubs, workshops, networking events, and other social settings as they will help you get ahead and build the foundational network needed to be successful. One of my biggest regrets was not traveling abroad in college. If you have the opportunity I urge you to do it and learn about a new culture, meet new people and have the chance to see the world. I think what I would tell my 18-year-old self is to trust your gut! Don’t do things because it’s what everyone else is doing or you think it’s the cool thing to do. Do what’s best for you.

10. Finally, where can our readers learn more about you and The Style Project?

You can find us at www.mkestyleproject.com. For more behind the scenes and sneak peaks follow us on Instagram and Facebook @mkestyleproject









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