By Melissa Repko The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Amber Venz Box, founder of "RewardStyle." The fashion tech startup allows fashion bloggers, also called influencers, to make money by tracking the traffic and sales they drive to retailers' websites.
The Dallas Morning News
Amber Venz Box's first fashion business was making and selling homemade jewelry in college. Now she's the president of Dallas-based RewardStyle, a startup that's grown to a staff of about 200 people, boasts a network of about 10,000 bloggers and has offices in New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, London and SÃo Paulo.
RewardStyle was born five years ago when Venz Box was working as a personal shopper and writing a fashion blog. She started the blog as a way to attract clients but realized they were consulting her blog instead of hiring her for in-person shopping and styling advice. She discussed the problem with Baxter Box, then her boyfriend and now her husband, who co-founded the fashion tech startup with her.
RewardStyle developed technology that allows fashion bloggers, also called influencers, to make money by tracking the traffic and sales they drive to retailers' websites. The startup works with brands including Nordstrom and Sephora, and for some, it's the top driver of web traffic to their site.
Another service, called LiketoKnow.it, makes it easier for people to find shoes, clothes or home decor. If a shopper likes a photo on Instagram, they'll get an email about where they can buy the item. LiketoKnow.it, which launched in 2014, is on track to drive over $155 million in retail sales this year, Venz Box said.
Last year, RewardStyle raised $15 million in new financing, led by New York-based Maverick Capital Ventures, that valued the company at $290 million. The startup has used the funding to expand internationally.
Venz Box recently spoke about RewardStyle's growth at its two-story office in the Centrum on Oak Lawn Avenue. Her answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Question: What inspired RewardStyle? How did you get interested in fashion?
Answer: Growing up, whenever we had baby sitters, my mom would give them a craft. We would either cook something or paint or use Froot Loops to make a necklace. We were always doing something crafty. We didn't spend a lot of time watching television at our home, so we always had to entertain ourselves.
My earliest memory of having interest in fashion was when my mom used to get People magazine, and I'd flip through People magazine. They used to have pages from red carpet things or certain parties with celebrities. I remember tearing out pieces of those and the dresses I liked. Both of my grandmothers were seamstresses -- not by trade, but they were very good at it -- so they both taught me how to sew. Whenever I would go stay with them, we would always be making something, and usually something I found in a magazine and wanted to reproduce. By middle school, I was using a hot glue gun to "stitch" things together.
Question: What has it been like to work with your spouse? You've really started a family business.
Answer: Yes, we have -- which everyone warns you against. We started RewardStyle a little bit by accident.
We had been dating for 2 1/2 years at the time we started RewardStyle. ... It was very rocky early on, especially as we had no space. We were sharing desks, so every single call, every single everything, he's sitting there watching you and monitoring you. And I was like, "Aaagh!" By late 2012, I was able to move into a separate room in the office. Just getting off the same desk was amazing for us.
If I was to give advice to anybody, it would be: Set boundaries. Work in separate rooms. We also started setting boundaries around our relationship and time at work. For example, in the car on the way to and from work, you can talk about business, but once you get out of the car at home, you can't anymore. That's been a good thing. We've done some other stuff, too, like now we are taking off one Friday a month to have a date day, to spend time together and go do something that's not focused on work.
Question: I'd imagine there have been offers to move elsewhere. Why are you committed to Dallas?
Answer: First and foremost, Baxter and I were born here and raised here, so our families are here and that's important to us. Texas is a very business-friendly state, so by staying here, we've been able to attract people even from all over the world. It's less expensive to live here and less expensive to do work here, so we are able to invest more of what we earn into more people and grow our business that way. I don't know how realistic this office would be in New York or San Francisco.
Question: What is the role of the international offices?
Answer: Every office has to be localized. There's so many nuances, and fashion is an industry that's very nuanced anyway. ... Having people on the ground, in the time zone, who are speaking the local, native language is important. People who work at these places are natives, and they understand, they have relationships. It's unfortunately not something that we can just manage from Dallas and be where we want to be. -- Amber Venz Box Age: 29 Hometown: Grew up in Garland and Highland Park, Lives in University Park Education: Bachelor's degree in corporate communications and public affairs at Southern Methodist University Family: Married to Baxter Box, co-founder and CEO of RewardStyle, and mother of 10-month-old daughter, Birdie, and two rottweilers, Bear and Luca