Leandra Medine — who calls herself the “Man Repeller” for her bold clothing choices — is not your typical entrepreneur.
For one, she’s only 27. For another, she’s a fashion blogger. And, before launching her namesake site in 2010, she had no business experience whatsoever.
Now, though, she’s responsible for a burgeoning lifestyle brand: her site racks up 10.3 million monthly pageviews and has 2.2 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while she also runs two podcasts and even has a popular book under her belt.
Medine heads up a team of a dozen writers, artists, and social media gurus who create and distribute their content to a plugged-in, fashion-conscious millennial audience. She’s also snagged a series of lucrative brand collaborations with big names like the Sunglass Hut, Fossil, NARS, and Estée Lauder.
Here are the three biggest lessons she says she’s learned in her unexpected role as a founder.
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1. Get over yourself.
“Nobody cares about your problems, just the solutions you can provide,” Medine told Business Insider. When you’re a leader, it doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day; it matters that you can help your team have a great day.
For Medine, whose passion is writing, this means she’s had to move her blogging to the backseat while she prioritizes being an executive. She now spends only 10-15% of her time writing, devoting the rest of her days to managerial tasks and goal-setting. As with many startups in a growth phase, recruitment is a top priority — even if it’s not her favorite thing to do.
She spends about two hours “trolling on LinkedIn” daily, she says. Other tasks? Checking out office spaces, keeping the team on schedule, and managing external collaborations.
2. Fake it until you make it.
Medine, who grew up in New York City and studied journalism at the New School, did not have any prior business or management experience when she started Man Repeller. Everything she’s picked up has been learned on the fly.
So what does it take to effectively “fake it?” Confidence in your own position — and in what only you can contribute.
Although Medine says her biggest challenge has been learning to become a good manager, her passion for what she’s created has kept her at it.
“I don’t actually think anyone else is better qualified to do this job,” she says. That kind of certainty in the power of her contributions has helped fuel the company’s growth while keeping her squarely at the helm.
3. Take your ego out of it.
For Medine, objectivity is key. At the end of the day, what she builds isn’t all about her personally; it’s about what her team is capable of producing — and about adapting to and facilitating their needs.
“I started Man Repeller because I wanted to write,” she told Business Insider. “I didn’t start Man Repeller because I wanted to be a founder.”
Since she started her business not as a CEO with an idea, but instead as a creative looking for an outlet for her voice, she’s been able to take a different tack than the traditional founder type. The site, the content, and the approach have constantly changed as she keeps seeking new venues for her vision without settling into one specific path for her product.
Not that it’s easy: writers have egos, too, of course. But the Man Repeller doesn’t shy away from a challenge.