When Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey first connected, it was immediately apparent that they'd make successful business partners. Though Decker, an accomplished model and actress best known for her appearances in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and Casey, a dedicated journalist and former news anchor, were friends long before they went into business together, they constantly challenged one another intellectually.
"Both of us love a good debate," Decker tells Fairygodboss. "And, frankly, we fought well."
At the 2018 BlogHer two-day summit hosted by SheKnows Media, Decker spoke to the audience of nearly 1,500 female content creators and entrepreneurs about the importantce of knowing how to fight well. It's the key to not only a fruitful business relationship, but also a personal relationship, she says.
"We trust that we each approach work with integrity and tenacity," Decker explains. "From a logistical standpoint, we both have media/entertainment backgrounds, so the idea of being able to build something ourselves, and have more control over our work environment was very appealing."
Together, Decker and Casey launched the personal wardrobe app, Finery, in 2017. Users sign up with their emails and the app combs through past online shopping receipts and collects new ones to see anything they've purchased. As for items that aren't bought online, users can simply search for the items they already own online and add them to their virtual wardrobe via a Finery plugin extension, or they can upload photos of older pieces that may not have a digitial footprint. Then Finery builds an online wardrobe for them and helps to create various looks based on the clothes they already have in their closets.
"Whitney and I were looking at the things in our life that took up the most space — literal space and metaphorical space — and we kept coming back to our clothing," Decker says. "Why are we spending so much money (women will spend less on their education) and time (10 years shopping and getting ready) on stuff that we forget we own? It was wasteful and frankly embarrassing. We thought if there was a way to utilize our stuff better, to breathe life into our lesser-worn clothing pieces, how much time and money could that save women?"
While the app has grown tremendously popular already, with any business, there are learning curves. For Decker and Casey, starting a business together has taught them the importance of knowing how to disagree, constructively and productively. But there's a caveat — fighting well can be incredibly beneficial, Decker says, but only when both partners want the same thing for their company. If partners have different goals, fighting can be detrimental, she warns.
"Everyone talks about finding someone who is your opposite and, while I can see the benefit of that (you do need someone who can make up for your weaknesses and vice versa), I think it's more important to find someone who has the same vision for the company — same vision for best case scenario and worst case scenario," she explains. "People will always have different approaches to work, but if you are working toward a common goal that's perfectly okay."
For the Finery founders, an ongoing debate surrounds the rate of their growth. Fortunately, they both have common goals for the company, but they do find themselves talking through how fast they're comfortable growing while still tweaking their relatively new product.
"Of course, any platform seeks to grow as quickly as possible, and we are so excited that so many women want to be a part of our Finery community, but we are still a young company," Decker says. "We need time to iterate, test and fix. When you're new, it's hard to scale back on growth and work on the product, and it's equally challenging to lean into that growth and funnel people into a less-than-ideal product."
Decker says that she and Casey tend to meet in the middle, which helps them to focus on both their growth and their product. That said, every duo needs to decide for themselves what solution works best for their business.
As for women interested in going into business ventures with their own friends, Decker says to evaluate the friendship and know how to set boundaries first.
"Take an assessment of your life and relationship," she advises. "What are the worst days you've had as friends, and how did you get through them? Who can take on more work initially? Is one business partner going to be doing the heavy lifting while the other is still working at her side job? I've had friends get into sticky situations because they go in thinking they have to split a company 50/50 when maybe one can commit all their time and another can't. Create those boundaries early. Set expectations for yourself and each other very early, and hold each other accountable to those expectations."
While expectations are critical, however, boundaries should be set, as well — especially as they can easily blur. She and Casey often find themselves on the phone at 11 p.m. talking business. While she doesn't find their late-night calls necessarily harmful, she does acknowledge that "when your friend-friend is your work-friend, it becomes a little challenging to find that work-life balance."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.