In her many editorial roles at Conde Nast and the like, Elise Loehnen learned the rules: Make every word important, make every piece nuanced and make sure not to repeat yourself. At goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's natural health brand, she's learning to break the rules — not of writing, but writ large. She's asking her readers to rethink what they know about the world and wellness.
Now goop's chief content officer, Loehnen says she loves her work because she's able to "push thought-provoking content into the mainstream" while scaling an increasingly influential brand. She remembers days sitting in Paltrow's barn and now, she's the member of a massive team. Still, she says one of her greatest accomplishments is helping the company keep its brand intact. As much of goop's influence comes from its ability to be like none else, we can't help but agree that's a massive feat.
We spoke to Loehnen about her journey to CCO, the connections between leadership and company culture, and the mistakes women make when trying to grow an influential career. She also shared how she spends her free time, who inspires her and how she'd spend her money if she won the lottery. Sadly, the answer wasn't a run down of goop's coolest products.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Elise Loehnen
Chief Content Officer, goop
Greater Los Angeles area
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
I spent my formative years at Conde Nast, specifically at Lucky Magazine when it was a much-mocked start-up at the company. (It went on to become the fasting growing title in CN's history.) It was there that I learned about the importance of every word and how to make something as frivolous-seeming as a bag guide full of nuance and revelation.
I left for a brief stint at Time Out New York, where I launched a new 14-page weekly section called Seek — a great exercise in losing the preciousness of a monthly! — before returning to Lucky to edit their global shopping guides, which was a dream. I eventually moved to Conde Nast Traveler to be the Editorial Projects Director before taking an offer I couldn't refuse to move to LA and editorialize a big comparison shopping site. I knew I needed to learn about the internet if I wanted to have a career, and I'm so grateful I made the plunge. I was one of only a small handful of creatives at the company, which was dominated by engineers, digital product people and hardcore SEMs. It forced me to look at the internet and business at scale, and to temper my instinct that my visual preferences would trump from a UX and conversion perspective.
A few years later, I met Gwyneth while working on a project for Tracy Anderson (I co-write books on the side, when I have time). I joined her and goop when she relocated to Los Angeles from London. There were just a few of us working out of a barn in her backyard, and now there are 200+ employees and a global footprint.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
Scaling a company and a team is hard, but I believe we've done it at goop while keeping the brand and the culture intact! We take just as much care now despite our growth; it would have been all too easy to just let it slide.
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
I think every leader, at some point, needs to make the transition from being an individual contributor to a manager. It's really hard, as my instinct (and I don't think I'm alone) is to hold on tight to the areas where I know I can add a lot of value... i.e., as an individual contributor where I can tally up every word I've published. But you don't create room for the people you lead if you don't step aside and cede some ground, even if that might mean that you are bringing up a team of people who can ultimately replace you. I don't think you're doing your job, and creating a healthy company, if you're not doing exactly that. I try to make myself obsolete.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
Kim France! She was my first mentor. She is a brilliant writer, hilarious and lovingly tough — she really taught me rigor, that every word counts and that repetition is lazy. (And that you can make up your own words if all other language fails.)
What do you do when you're not working?
I try to workout at least a few times a week and be present for my two little boys! I also like to cook.
If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
"Secret of My Success."
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
A ranch in my home state of Montana! (With horses!)
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Don't expect God to reach down and train the spotlight on you. It doesn't work like that. You need to create momentum in your own life, and then the universe will conspire to open doors and put opportunities in your path. It's not a passive endeavor. With grace, you've got to go, go, go and put your faith that when you get the flywheel going, good things will come.
Why do you love where you work?
I think we get to start important conversations and push thought-provoking content into the mainstream.