Life can take on a whole new meaning when you are ready to pass on the good to others. Adam Nugent and Kate Strong are joined by Courtney Brown. She is the founder and CEO of Cents of Style and Be Fulfilled, with the purpose of empowering women to lead bold and full lives. Together, they talk about the moment her hobby became a business, her life’s journey, and the importance of focusing on others to exude happiness, passion, and confidence to then be able to share it with the world!
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In this podcast excerpt, Courtney Brown, founder of the online clothing and jewelry store Cents of Style, shares why she started the business and how it has grown by bringing joy to women everywhere.
CB: I started Cents of Style 14 years ago. At the time, I was a brand new stay-at-home mom. I got into it, and then I thought, “There’s got to be more to this.” I kept wondering if I was missing something and wondering if I was the only person feeling this way. It wasn’t fulfilling me in the way that I thought it was going to. I needed a creative outlet for myself—something that I could put my stamp on that was mine. From that, Cents of Style was born. It’s an online %100 e-commerce fashion brand. I saw a hole in the market for affordable accessible fashion.
AN: Prior, as you were getting started, when you would buy clothes and shop for clothes, were you always, like, “I’ve got to find a deal.” Like you’re not going to pay full price for it, right?
CB: No, of course not, and I still don’t.
KS: I mean, why do you have to really? If you just wait like three weeks to a month, it’s on sale.
CB: It is. I love finding a deal. And it looks great and I didn’t have to spend a lot. That was absolutely my own personal ethos. And it was brought into my brand. Something outside of myself called me to begin Cents of Style. It employed myself, and it’s employed so many other women. We’ve touched millions of women’s lives based on this idea I had.
AN: You started it as a hobby, right? Was there a pivotal moment or you’re like, “Wait a minute. We could actually do something with this?”
CB: The first four years were a hobby. I never took a paycheck and got into lots of debt because we weren’t viable yet. We weren’t completely online yet. In the early 2000s, we were setting up boutiques and setting up in people’s homes. In 2011, we kind of made that shift. At that time, I was $50,000 in debt, and the business I created wasn’t scalable.
We then went 100 percent online. We started all over again. We got rid of stylists and focused on affiliate and influencer marketing. We made over $1 million in the first year. Outside of making sure I paid the debt to my mother, I saw the way women felt when they took a few minutes for themselves and put on a piece of jewelry that cost them $10 or a great pair of shoes. All of the sudden, they light up inside and feel great about themselves.