Explore and Build

In partnership with StyleBee

Anna Santeramo - Founder & CEO of StyleBee

Photography : @salaam_ali

Photography : @salaam_ali

When I was little, I didn’t know what I could be when I grew up. My small Italian town didn’t have any engineers, journalists, psychologists—nothing. Because I didn’t see people in these professions, I didn’t know they existed. I knew things about myself, though. I knew I was creative and knew I wanted to build something. Most of all, I knew I wanted to escape my small town.

I went to Rome for college, where I studied Law and Economics, and for the first time, I thought the thing I wanted to build was a company. In school, I was intrigued by the psychological aspects of marketing—the way you try to build and deliver upon consumer expectations. After graduating from college and spending some time in London, I moved to New York, and although I still dreamed of building my own company, I wanted stability.

I got a job as a corporate lawyer and found stability…and hated it. It was a prestigious firm, but the work itself was repetitive and boring. It was also hard, as a woman, working there because it felt like my work was constantly being monitored.

A friend recommended a law firm in Los Angeles, so I moved. I took a job as a corporate lawyer, and while the work environment was better than in New York, the work was still boring. The firm well-staffed and highly specialized: working as a lawyer there meant getting really good at one thing and nothing else. I felt stifled. I couldn’t explore, or create, or experiment.

Working at the firm was helpful, though. I met other modern, working women and thought: how are these women keeping up with work, self-care, and looking put together? I realized that retailers were based on an antiquated understanding of gender roles, one that said women could shop during the day. All the women I knew worked, though, and by the time our workday was done, all the stores were closed. Because I was surrounded by modern, working women, I saw a need for more accessible beauty products and came up with my startup company, StyleBee.  

Startup life is crazy. I work sixteen-hour days and am constantly trying to weigh all the options about how to make it the best possible business. However, my job allows me to be exploratory and creative. I’m no longer stifled. And more than that, I’m satisfied.

If I had to offer advice to a young woman, I’d tell them to learn from my mistakes: avoid the large businesses that’ll ask you to specialize in one thing and instead, find a small company where you can learn what you’re good at and what you love. I’ve finally found satisfaction in my work life. If I’d heard this advice, though, I would have found it faster.

Written by Josiah Nelson

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