Hatch Tribe Hero | Emma McIlroy - Wildfang
If you don’t know Emma McIlroy by name, you might know her awesome Wild Feminist design...or you should!
Earlier this year, Forever 21 started printing tees with a bold slogan: WILD FEMINIST. After a huge backlash, the international clothing giant pulled the design. Why? Because sometimes the little guy—or girl, in this case—does win. Wildfang, the tomboy-style lifestyle brand that McIlroy co-founded with Julia Parsley in Portland, Ore. in 2013, pioneered that design. Not only that, the fledgling lifestyle brand also donated proceeds from their Wild tees to charity—over $25,000. It’s no wonder that Wildfang won 20k followers within a week of launching and has since garnered accolades in Vogue, The Guardian and The New York Times (just to name a few). Now, McIlroy's online store and in-house brand are collaborating with Ilana Glazer of Broad City and or Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens. Wild Feminists, indeed.
We are thrilled that between precious time with her fiance and being an A-1 badass boss, McIlroy took time to give the Tribe tips on how to be INTENSE.
What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
It’s probably how much you get to learn and how fast you learn. It’s like a degree every year. I love learning about different functions and solving new problems — it gets pretty addictive
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
It came after spending 9 months interviewing customers. We saw how badly they wanted this thing to exist, how badly they wanted to be able to express themselves and we shared their pain. We wanted to do it ourselves because we wanted it done right.
What personality trait are you most proud of?
People tend to call me ridiculous. I am fairly proud of that. I have a very silly side that comes out with people who know me best. I’m certain I get it from my dad. Often at home I can be found signing to the cat, or dancing with the dog. I make no excuses.
In one word characterize your life as an entrepreneur. #TallOrder
What sacrifices have you made to be a successful entrepreneur?
You sacrifice a lot as a founder. I’ve sacrificed relationships, friendships, my health at times - both physical and mental, my 401k, my best friend. Start up will take everything if you let it. It’s been a humbling experience for me and I’m working hard to learn how to have clear boundaries. I think it’s toxic when people talk about working 100hrs weeks every week - I’ve done it, it’s not an achievement, it’s a sickness
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Nothing. I think she’s rad. She should just keep doing what she is doing and following her heart. Plus she wouldn’t have listened to me anyways
How do you handle fear?
I’ve found a few things that help. Firstly my partner. She’s amazing. She listens and helps me think through problems and always makes me feel supported. That’s huge. Secondly my faith. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s a huge part of me and I feel very protected and loved through that. Thirdly, just trying to breathe and exercise. Exercise really helps expel the excess energy going into fear.
Name an entrepreneur past or present you admire, and tell us why.
It’s prob cliched but I’ve always looked up to Richard Branson. He is successful, but he also wears his heart on his sleeve. He is passionate, he is honest and he really cares. He is 100% customer centric and cares about the work he produces and he isn’t afraid to fail. Hopefully someday I can buy him a beer.
In your opinion, what does it take to be a great boss?
It’s not one thing. It’s a ton of things. I believe in transparency at all times — I always try to give people context for decisions and bring them into the process if I can. Consistency is also a big one — making sure you are creating fair, consistent processes across the board. The last one, maybe the biggest, is empathy. Just try to walk in your employee’s shoes for a second. I find that transparency, consistency and empathy are prob the biggest parts of people management
When you’re not working, what is your favorite way to spend your free time?
With my fiancé Sarah. I don’t see her as much as I’d like, so I’m super protective of the time we do get together. She’s my best friend and the person I have the most fun with.
About Emma McIlroy:
Emma McIlroy is CEO and CMO at Wildfang—the home of the modern tomboy—an online and offline retailer serving up over 50 brands, including its own private label line. When Wildfang.com launched in March 2013 20k+ girls joined the family in just 30 days, and since then it's been featured in The Guardian, New York Times, Vice, Cool Hunting, Refinery 29 and Vogue. Emma herself has over 10 years experience in brand & product marketing at two world-class brands: Nike and Barclays. A self-confessed brand marketing nerd, Emma graduated with a 1st Class Honors degree from Emmanuel College, Cambridge and has a healthy obsession for sports, Simpsons and irish whiskey.
Connect with Emma and Wildfang:
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