Welcome to BYOB: Be Your Own Boss, a feature series highlighting the stylish self-starters we love.
In today’s world of instant gratification and overnight fame, it’s rare that you’ll find someone who is detail-oriented enough to work on a product for years before launching it for public consumption – but that’s exactly what Chicago-based entreprenuer Farissa Knox did.
Farissa is no stranger to starting a company from the ground up, but her most recent venture, a fashion-focused social media platform, is new territory for her. What R U Wearing is a space for what Farissa describes as a specific “conversation” about personal style. I caught up with Farissa at her office to talk about the challenges that come with starting a digital company, her vision WRUW’s future and her completely relatable penchant for people-watching on public transportation.
Statement Scene: First of all, give me a bit of background. What were you doing before starting What R U Wearing?
Farissa Knox: My degree is in Communications and Marketing and when I finished school I was selling advertising. I did that for a number of years before the company I was working with went bankrupt. I’m from New York but they had moved me out here to Chicago with my then boyfriend, now husband.
I decided I didn’t want to just sit and wait with this bankrupt company and see who would come buy us or if I had to just find a job – so I decided to text a couple of my clients and see if they would keep using me if I kept servicing them from my house. They said yes; that was 2008 when I started my own company – it’s called RLM Media and we’re a media buying company. I think that was the spark that got me started in terms of being an entrepreneur and starting companies.
My passion has always been style and fashion, dressing up and really letting your outfit reflect how you feel that day. A couple of years after starting RLM, I decided ‘why isn’t there a web site that you can go to and see what everyone is wearing that day?’ Back then there weren’t so many personal style blogs; it was more like the Perez Hiltons of the world. You could see what Beyonce was wearing that day – that’s cool but it isn’t really attainable. I don’t have Beyoncé’s money or Beyonce’s stylist or any of those things. That’s really where the conception happened. I decided to put a site together where I could have people adding to it. I want to see what girls in Paris are wearing, what girls in New York are wearing; what girls in LA are wearing. Ohio, all over the place. I can just use that as inspiration. This was before Instagram was even alive. Twitter was just getting off the ground and Facebook was the place where everyone was.
SS: What was the process of getting started like?
FK: Being self-funded, it took me some time to get it off the ground and then get it to look attractive enough for people to use. Now people aren’t on their laptops posting pictures on Facebook, they’re on their phones. Now we’re at the place where we have our app, we have our site, we have really cool functions on both. We’re in a perfect spot right now to just let as many people know that we exist.
SS: When Twitter and Instagram came up were you thrown for a loop? Did you feel like you needed to do something different?
FK: It did influence the structure and the functionality of the site. It allowed me to structure the site in a way that users are able to like posts and comment and do all the things that we’re used to doing on social media. The difference is we’re having a specific conversation on what you’re wearing. On Facebook people are posting about everything, but with What R U Wearing we’re having a conversation about style and we’re saying ‘please join in.’