HEY GIRL is dedicated to conversations between women about all the stuff that goes on in your head and your world—giving you insight and perspective into how other women deal with the same stuff you do.
Maggie, Jac, Max, and Loddie are three-quarters of the crew behind AYR, the luxe-minimal brand that launched online in 2014. They make cool-girl essentials, but describe themselves as anything but. ‘AYR is a smart women’s brand,’ Winter says. ‘We started this company because we think there’s a smart, new woman out there, and we think there’s a smarter way of reaching her.’
Maggie: Start ups are the new corporate America. Our job environment has morphed so much over the last decade or so, and for the most part we come from an era that is familiar to the three of us. But we have a millennial in our midst! So how have our roles and responsibilities changed as we see this environmental shift? We live and breathe this everyday, but perhaps it’s worth a second look. How did you find us, Loddie? Why AYR?
Loddie: I was in my senior year at college. I saw an article online about AYR and got really excited—the idea of edited, effortless essentials mirrored my closet and how I shop. I emailed you my resume and here we are, two years later.
Maggie: I remember reading that email—it felt very familiar. You were an art history student at the University of Michigan, and ten years ago, that had been me. We spoke on the phone, and then you chatted with the rest of the team—
Loddie: Face timed the team.
Maggie: Face timed the team, yes—ha. We brought you on as an intern, and you’ve since made yourself a completely indispensable core member of our founding team.
Max: Loddie for president.
Maggie: Yeah. 2020. You’re not going to be old enough.
Max: I’d vote for you.
Maggie: When you joined, there was a six person team, right?
Loddie: Nine including me.
Max: Now, we’re seven.
Maggie: I’m curious to hear what that experience was like for you— we’ve all worked in the industry for over a decade, but now we’re in a start up environment. When you joined, did you think that we were crazy?
Loddie: No way. I was in awe of you guys—you had all taken on so many different roles. What about your first jobs? How do you think my experience is different from yours?
Max: My dad always said, if you don’t want your boss’s job, you’re in the wrong line of work. I think there was a mentality back when we were starting out, that as a newcomer, you were there to assist. If you had a great boss, you were lucky enough to learn from them, but otherwise you were there to make sure that they could do their job. You had to work really hard to gain any sort of experience from the people above you, and I think it’s a much more collaborative way of working now—in that your peers are also able to teach you things, not just your bosses. We’re all learning from each other, and also from what other people are doing in the industry.
Jac: My first job felt similar… you were learning, but it was very much about assisting your bosses. There wasn’t a lot of education around the bigger picture of the business, or what you were actually contributing to. I don’t think I really understood that until I was in the tail end of my second job. I think that’s what’s unique about working a start up. You’re very involved in the top line, the important conversations, and know why we’re all here doing what we’re doing.
Maggie: You have a lot more exposure to a lot of different parts of the business. I don’t know if it’s just the scale or the size, or if there’s been a generational shift, but it definitely feels more collaborative.
Max: I think it’s a generational shift, to look at the holistic picture and how your role plays into that, but to also think, what else can I do? How else can I contribute?
Maggie: I also think that we work in an industry that’s changing very rapidly.
Loddie: It’s an industry climate change.
Maggie: It’s evolving every day, and I think there’s more value placed on what we can learn from younger team members and younger consumers. It’s not just about moving forward as part of an established hierarchy where you graduate from one box to another—
Jac: —Where the years go by, and you climb the ladder, and it’s all very expected.
Maggie: Younger companies can be nimble and adapt quicker. And having somebody like Loddie on the team gives us access to a different voice.. and if we don’t listen to it, then we’re no different from bigger, older companies.
Max: I think the industry shift is so apparent, and doing business the way it’s always been done doesn’t work anymore. You sort of throw the ladder out, but you throw out the playbook too. And because the industry is evolving so rapidly, having somebody of your generation on board has been transformative for us. Particularly because we all came from big companies. Going from corporate culture to start up culture has been a big adjustment. It must be such a different way to learn about business, starting from scratch.
Loddie: I think it also has to do with the fact that we’re much smarter consumers now—whether you’re y'all’s age or my age, everyone is shopping differently. When I was in college, I was looking to brands like AYR, Reformation and Everlane, because I felt like I had a relationship with them. I think that that’s where brands are going, and it’s much more important to be plugged into those intuitive needs of the consumer. Having a small team means you can adapt—you’re not not stuck in this crazy hierarchy where it takes so much time to get anything done.
Max: I think there’s also something to be gleaned from women empowering each other which in the workplace—something that’s very new to our generation.
Loddie: So not Devil Wears Prada.
Max: There’s something great about us bolstering each other up and perpetuating each other’s success. We are our consumer. In prior companies I’ve worked for, you’re forced to stand behind a product that you don’t necessarily understand. Or can’t relate to. I think that we’re all in this because it’s something we really believe in.
Maggie: Yeah, we very much live and breath the brand and what we’re creating. Like you said, Loddie, you were attracted and interested in approaching AYR because it spoke to how you put yourself together—it aligned with your value system in a way. People’s value systems are changing. There’s too much stuff out there in the world. It’s about picking the right things. It’s about having a cleaner, more balanced wardrobe.
Jac: … and life.
Max: Mm-hmm and life, yup.
Maggie: One of the first things Jac talked about in the early days of AYR was wanting to create a place where people enjoy coming to work—a collaborative place where people can bring different perspectives and ideas. Which I think is different from when we first started our careers, 10 or 12 years ago. Did you guys have the experience of …
Max: Learning the ropes?
Maggie: … and learning when to speak and when not to speak. I got that wrong all of the time. Almost like I wasn’t allowed an opinion.
Jac: Or allowed to participate. I think there was a sense of not being included in the participation.
Max: Yeah, until you’re a certain level and at that point, then you can run things. Then you can have an opinion.
Maggie: Which I understand the value of. It is very important to have experience…
Jac: Of course, but it nullifies your contribution as an employee. I think that was a barrier to feeling like you were actually contributing. Just executing somebody else’s direct.
Maggie: It becomes a riddle. The only way to get experience is to be given accountability, responsibility, and the chance. The only way to learn is if you actually take on the responsibility. It truly is the only way to learn.
Jac: Otherwise you’re just going through the motions. If you own it and you have a dedication, then it feels more real to me.
Max: And you learn from your mistakes, also.
Jac: What were your biggest learnings from previous jobs? Anything that sticks out?
Maggie: I will never forget—I was 25 and working on a kid’s line. It was a great job with a lot of responsibility. I completely forgot to place our order for girls sweaters for holiday quarter, which is the biggest selling time of the year for girls sweaters. I remember being like, “Oh shit. What do I do? I messed up.” I didn’t want to go to my boss until I had a solution, instead of just going to them with the problem. I haven’t forgotten to place a P.O. since then. Luckily, it all worked out. The girls sweaters got into stores. That’s where having good partners matter, because we had a great production partner and she made it happen. Max, remember when you got a haircut?
Max: Oh yeah. I was waiting on a package that was being picked up for an editorial in Australian Vogue, and at that point I don’t think I really understood the urgency behind PR. My bosses said, “Hey, can you hang out and wait for the messenger? They’re going to pick up this important package for Australian Vogue.” Which of course didn’t occur to me when I had to be upstairs for my 6:30pm haircut. When the messenger came and I wasn’t downstairs to deliver the package, needless to say, nobody was very pleased. We missed the story, and it was a big feature. That was definitely a learning experience.
Maggie: Really good fun. What about you, Jac?
Jac: A learning moment.. there’s a few here. In the beginning I didn’t really understand top-stitch. A top-stitch is basically the thread that holds the garments together. You pick colors as close to the grain of the cloth as possible, to match. My boss had asked me to match the top-stitch, and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how to match a top-stitch to this thing.’ I picked something randomly, and the results were hideous. The jacket was green and the top-stitch was like dark purple or something. I went with the darkest color thinking, ‘That makes sense right?’ It didn’t (laughter). When you’re young, it’s tough because you want to be efficient. Efficiency is important, but accuracy is more important. You learn those lessons one time only.
Maggie: Accuracy, accountability, and then the other one I think about a lot is, anticipation. Someone once said to me, “Your job is to anticipate what your boss needs before they need it.” Whether it’s your boss, your partners, your team or your business.
Jac: Yes—always being prepared for what the customer is going to want. I also think own personality and character traits have helped to create the brand. I’ve always been a big fan of beauty and practicality.
Loddie: I think practicality speaks to our mission as a brand, but also in the day-to-day of the job. You know how ‘perfectionsim’ is the worst answer you can give in an interview when asked about your greatest weakness?
Maggie: It’s true (laughter). It’s true.
Loddie: It’s the worse thing to say …
Maggie: No, I know exactly what you mean.
Loddie: I will never forget—I worked on a Tumblr or Pinterest board or something for probably at least a week. Everyone wanted me to publish this Pinterest board that no one was going to see.
Maggie: Meanwhile here you are, how many, a year and a half later and you’ve launched a website in 30 days. You know, nuts, bolts, it’s pretty amazing.
Max: Yeah, you learn to appreciate your perfectionism.
Maggie: I remember having a conversation with you once Loddie… you came to me about 4 months into your full-time role at AYR. You were like, “I’m having trouble prioritizing stuff.” I remember telling you that the workload doesn’t decrease, you just get better at dealing with it.
Max: It’s true—the amount of projects that you own now, in the same time that you’re launching a website, and helping us design a new office space, and—
Loddie: — creating another Pinterest board.
Max: … and teaching us how to deliver customer service on a new platform. I think you also had the flu also (laughing).
Maggie: The learning curve is very steep, and it’s amazing how quickly you’re able to expand and adapt and take on more and more. If you continue at this rate, you’ll be running this place in about 6 months.
Max: That’s what I said, Loddie for President.
Loddie: No way! I’ve learned all of this from you guys. It’s amazing how much you guys have evolved with the brand also.
Maggie: Partially because at least twice a day I think to myself, what would Loddie do in this situation?‘ I think it’s very cool that the brand is truly turning into a combination of every person who touches it.
Jac: I think the coolest thing about working at a start-up is that if you want something to get done, you do it.
Max: You have to do it yourself.
Maggie: If you put enough people together who know how to do different things, you’ve got magic.
Loddie: I’d love to hear about how your day-to-day lives have changed since starting AYR.. any sacrifices that you’ve made, or important lessons you’ve learned.
Jac: The game changer for me has been loving coming to work everyday, loving the people that you work with, and loving the product that you work with.
Max: Yeah, that’s true. I think that the things that you give up as work becomes life. Life is not something that just happens after 5:30pm when you leave the office (ha, let’s be honest, 8:30). Life becomes very much about building something, and about people that you’re building it with. It’s about the place you go to everyday, not just afterhours. It’s something that becomes very consuming. In the best possible way.
Jac: It’s definitely not a 9 to 5. It’s 24/7 each week. It’s also not about having a really defined work vs life, and I love that, I much prefer it. It’s our company and we’re building it together. It makes me feel very dedicated in a completely and utterly different way.
Maggie: Yeah, we’re not going to do work in the morning, we’re going to do life.
Loddie: Also, the things I find most challenging are also what I find most motivating. You’re learning so much, which is ultimately the point of being alive …
Maggie: To have these experiences. You have so many of them when you’re building something new and cool with wonderful people. It’s like the best adventure of all time.
Jac: That also means that they’re are plenty of times where you have no clue how to solve a problem …
Max: You’re going into uncharted territory, literally.
Jac: … and you learn by doing it. Then you know for next time. And being in charge of your decisions and the end result of the product really forces you to take ownership.
Maggie: I mean, you’re two years out of school and you’re the manager of a brand. You make independent decisions all day that people that see. That’s amazing and has to feel fun and rewarding.
Loddie: Well it’s a little scary.
Maggie: I was going to say a little scary sometimes (laughing).
Jac: Could you imagine taking another job now?
Max: No, no, Loddie. Not an option!