Left to right: Sarah DeMarco and Nickole Raymond, co-founders of LDR Brands.
We’re excited to introduce our new series, A Seat at the Table, where you’ll get the opportunity to hear from dynamic women who work together at the same company. Their specific roles may be varied, but their message is the same: It’s time for more women to join them in shaping today’s business world. Grab a warm caffeinated beverage and take a seat as we introduce Sarah DeMarco and Nickole Raymond, the women of LDR Brands (pronounced lee-der). The glamorous line is designed specifically for the 24/7, modern professional female trailblazer. The brand’s marquee piece is the must-have new luxury handbag designed exclusively for laptops, the Porter. And, when you check out the luxe design, you’ll see why the I Want Her Job team is adding this to our apres tax refund shopping list.
Read on to learn how Nickole and Sarah launched their brand, what qualities they look for when expanding their team and what they wish every entrepreneur knew about starting a business.
What inspired you to launch LDR Brands?
Nickole: We were inspired to create a product that solved our personal need for better work/travel accessories. Originally it was our intent to only solve an issue for ourselves, but as the word of our project grew, we were encouraged to develop LDR into a full-scale brand.
Sarah: We knew that we each had issues with our computer bags while on the road for work, but the positive feedback we received from women when talking about the Porter bag during the development phase was amazing. We realized we were on to something and felt we had to keep exploring the idea more and turn it into a business with a product that others could buy!
When did you know it was the right time to make the jump to a sole career with LDR Brands?
Nickole: Sarah was the first to take the plunge and relocate from Los Angeles back to New York City. That was a huge step in our progression and really started the formal journey. I made the decision to jump into LDR full time relatively recently, coming off a string of successes. I don’t think there is such a thing as “perfect timing” but I listened to my gut and I’m not looking back!
Sarah: It’s funny how the decision to jump is more of a gut feeling than anything else. You just know that if you don’t go all-in and if you’re not putting all of your energy into your dream, then at some point you won’t see your full results realized. For some things, most things really, you can’t have a Plan B or just simply stick your toe in. You have to immerse yourself in it and live it. No one is going to care or take the time to grow LDR more than us. If Nickole and I were not willing to take the leap and believe, then how could we truly convince others to?
Prior to LDR Brands, how did you accomplish executive positions in the music and entertainment/sports industries?
Nickole: I grew up in the sports business through a wide variety of roles – event management, talent representation and business development. The key for me was experiencing the business from all sides to appreciate how it all works together synergistically. I was fortunate to have amazing mentors around me who constantly built me up for my next advancement opportunity. I think the key to moving up in competitive industries is a combination of earnest learning, surrounding yourself with solid people and working extremely hard.
Sarah: It took hard work, curiosity and a constant willingness to try. If someone asked me if I could help on a project, or in a certain situation, I would always say yes. If it fell outside of my typical area, then that was even better because it gave me the opportunity to see something work from a new angle and gain skills that I could add to my toolbox to use later. Being one of the first hires at a music label and management startup allowed me to wear different hats and jump in to fill gaps whenever I noticed there was an area that needed help. The best thing for my growth was being thrown into things and figuring out how to swim on the spot.
How did you manage your time in building a company at night while also working in such demanding careers?
Nickole: We are hard workers by nature, but this was different. It honestly didn’t feel like work at the time, but looking back on it now, we were definitely hustling on nights and weekends!
Sarah: Passion is an incredible driver, and the creative process is a special experience. To have a vision and watch it progress – sample by sample – helps keep you going. When we were in Los Angeles developing the bag and sourcing materials, it became a project that never left my mind. I would find myself constantly rearranging my schedule to make more time to focus on the bag. As they say, when there is a will, there is a way!
While building your careers, how have you maintained a work/life balance?
Nickole: I don’t believe in work/life balance, because it’s all “life” when you boil it down. Life comes in seasons, and sometimes you have to dedicate a large portion of your energy to something for that time period then move along. The tricky part is not getting bogged down in one of those particular seasons for too long.
Sarah: I’ve always been very careful when deciding what I want to spend my time and energy on. I want to wake up and know that what I am working on is meaningful and helpful to others. You have the choice to choose what you fill your days with and how you approach life.
I recently heard someone explain balancing work/life as having “two guests in a house,” which I really took to. For me, my work, my friends and my family are important pieces of my life to nurture, take care of, and make time for. I agree with Nickole – at the end of the day, everything is about your life.
What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
Nickole: Surround yourself with smart, capable people, and delegate areas of ownership to those team members. Then, let them get to work. The great leaders that I have worked with never end the learning process; they hold themselves accountable to a higher standard. Success is not an accident; it’s an intention.
Sarah: Work as a “we” – not an “I” – and always be listening. There are so many pieces to a process. You can never do everything yourself. I also think being approachable is important. People need to know that they can talk to you and that you will take the time to listen. There is room for all of us in every stage of our careers to grow. We all make mistakes, and sharing those mistakes with the team you are on and showing you are human, is so important for growth.
What do you look for in potential employees when expanding your teams?
Nickole: I have a team sports background and thus, I love building teams. There is nothing better than winning as a team and celebrating with everyone involved who helped make that success happen. I naturally look for independent thinkers with teamwork-oriented mentalities – that’s the winning combination for me.
Sarah: I look for people who have passion, drive and great attitudes. You need something to fuel you to get up in the morning, and you then need that extra something to inspire you to execute. There are uphill battles that need to be faced and worked through, and they will knock you over time and again. A great attitude will help get you through those times.
What is one thing you wish every entrepreneur knew about building a business?
Nickole: I knew that building a business would be hard work – and I was prepared for that – but I was shocked at the amount of operational and legal knowledge required to not only launch a business but evolve and sustain it. We are extremely fortunate that Sarah has a solid background in business management and operational excellence to consistently put LDR on the right path.
Sarah: Thanks, Nickole! I think it’s important to remember as an entrepreneur that it takes time. Sometimes it feels like a certain product comes out of nowhere and gains great success overnight. That is definitely not the case. Every road to success is a unique and long one. The best part is if you focus on each step, you will learn so much along the way. The journey really is the best part.
What new projects are you working on at LDR Brands that you can share?
Nickole: Our debut product, the LDR Porter, recently began shipping. On the heels of the success of that launch, we’ve actively developed several other products to round out the line for spring 2016.
Sarah: Nickole and I have traveled a lot lately to make sure we are using the best materials and picking out the best colors for our upcoming products. We’ve also talked to as many women as we can who spend hours traveling for work. Our goal is to get as much solid feedback on our products as possible. We’re really excited to share what’s next for LDR Brands soon! Stay tuned to our website and connect with us on our social channels.