Fashion And Technology Meet in a Thriving Business

For as long as she can remember, Stephanie Horbaczewski ’96 has loved fashion and beauty. As a teenager, she tore pages out of magazines to inspire her personal style. At Nobles, she was able to express herself sartorially while still adhering to the school’s conservative dress code. Today, her closet is home to a wide array of handbags, jewelry and shoes—150 pairs of shoes to be exact—and she has established relationships with thousands of fashion gurus from around the world. Horbaczewski is co-founder and CEO of StyleHaul, the first and largest global online video network for fashion and beauty on YouTube.

The 3-year-old company, which is based in Los Angeles but recently opened its second office in New York, has 3,600 video creators in 61 countries. Video subjects include makeup and hair tutorials, fashion trends, do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, and fitness and nutrition tips, among others. The statistics for the network are staggering: 3,700 channels, 394,000 videos, 10 billion views and more than 100 million subscribers.

Shifting Ground

So how can a company this young thrive this quickly? Horbaczewski, who holds a master’s degree in business and a law degree from Suffolk University, was former regional director of marketing at Saks Fifth Avenue. She runs her company with the philosophy that “the ground is moving underneath you.” With technology, user trends change rapidly. The challenge is staying ahead—something she learned at Saks.

“The way people are using [the Internet] to interact is obviously changing hourly, forget by the day,” says Horbaczewski.

Her company expanded from a team of five in 2010 to 40 people today, including an employee in London, managing and recruiting in Europe. She has enlisted beauty gurus from around the world, who have become YouTube celebrities and trendsetters because of their relationships with StyleHaul.

But rapid success begets challenges. When Horbaczewski started the company, there were no business models in fashion and beauty similar to her vision. “We had to explain and build something that has never existed before,” she says. In addition, the company’s platform was built on top of another young company, YouTube, which at that time was only 5 years old. Today, with more people familiar with the business model, educating advertisers and partners isn’t the main obstacle; Horbaczewski says the challenge is being consistent.

“The ecosystem is moving faster than you can as an individual company or creator,” she says. “The challenge now is speed and focus. There are so many opportunities and so many directions to pursue.”

The Personal Touch

The video-sharing site and other social media platforms have made it possible for vloggers to share their passion or talent and expand their audience—something that was impossible before the advent of YouTube eight years ago.

Trending now is nail art. One of StyleHaul’s creators, cutepolish, has the largest nail art video channel in the world, with more than a million subscribers and about 200 million views. The channel grows by the day, and the level of engagement is constant. 

“You’ll see that every time she posts a video, she gets back hundreds of responses over the next few days from people who have seen the tutorial,” says Horbaczewski. 

Big Influence

Horbaczewski has expanded her network to include many ethnic backgrounds and styles. She has creators who offer beauty tutorials for African American and Asian audiences, and a network called StyleHaul Mundo for Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking viewers.

Those on StyleHaul’s network also market products. For example, when cutepolish features a brand of nail art tattoo or nail polish, her fans purchase them. Similarly, every time a popular fashion vlogger wears an outfit or an accessory in a video, or reviews a beauty product, hundreds and thousands of viewers buy it. This influence provides a new paradigm for brand advertisements.

StyleHaul is a resource for partnered vloggers. The network exposes and amplifies its content creators’ success. The company offers financial investment, marketing advice, production or search-engine-optimization training, and provides important analytical data.

The Business Model

StyleHaul compensates vloggers based on their success. More views equal more revenue and compensation is contingent on seasonality and content topic.

Horbaczewski and her team are highly focused on the sales and marketing side. Advertisement sales and large-company partnerships fuel the company’s growth. StyleHaul has worked with Macy’s, Sephora, Old Navy, Gap, Maybelline and others to launch marketing campaigns. 

The business world is recognizing StyleHaul’s impact. Horbaczewski was named one of “10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2013” by Inc. magazine, and she was on Fast Company’s list of the “Most Creative People 2013.”

Next up for StyleHaul is the continuation of global expansion. “We’re going to bring some of the traditional entertainment that we all see into a format on YouTube,” Horbaczewski says—all of which will ensure that StyleHaul is sitting pretty for years to come.

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Fashion And Technology Meet in a Thriving Business