Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why marketing?

Marketing is all about storytelling. It’s where creativity and strategy meet.

To me, a company’s brand is among its most treasured assets. Too often, companies dilute the sanctity of their brand to reach more consumers in search of higher profits. Marketers are the guardians of brand, we are the champions of legacy. I love this element. I love the romance of history, of backstory, of origin. Marketers have the unique opportunity to translate a brand's story to reach everyday people in ways that are meaningful. 

Of course marketing isn’t all about this romance. It’s also about strategy. It's about understanding who the customer is on the most basic level and then reaching that person in a way that is natural to them. It's much easier than it sounds, of course, but I enjoy a challenge.  
One of the reasons I decided to get an MBA is to make an official switch from marketing in the architecture industry to the retail world. Through working on Fancy French Cologne, I found that retail marketing was a space where innovation is truly valued. The architecture industry on the other hand is much more rooted in the old way of doing things, much slower (understandably) to adapt to new forms of reaching clients. Perhaps because the old ways still work. In contrast, retail consumers by nature want to see the novel. They want to be delighted. They dare us to impress them.

I couldn't ask for a more fulfilling challenge.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Business School Attire: Dressed for a Job Interview

Job Interview Outfit

Full disclosure: I'm supposed to be studying statistics and can't seem to find the motivation. Sorry Professor E!

So instead of studying I pulled together an example of something I might wear to a job interview...depending on the company of course. I think this look is somewhat conservative with so many dark colors, but it's still very polished and represents my personal sense of style.

A lot of websites and guidance counselors will tell you not to stand out. Don't wear jewelry, lipstick or color -- that sort of thing. I tend to disagree with all of this advice. I have never lived my life in a way to blend in, and I don't intend to start now! But I understand the sentiment. I think the underlying premise of all that advice is that you shouldn't look like you're going out to da club -- you should look professional.

I think as long as you look polished and appropriate for the type of company, there's no reason to hide your personality! There's absolutely nothing wrong with someone thinking of you as the well-dressed candidate, especially if it sets you apart from the sea of boring suits that are vying for the same position.

What do you guys think of this outfit? Does it come across as professional to you? Does the lack of blazer make you think it's too casual? I'm still struggling with the whole blazer thing...


PS click on the photo to see the origin of the items in the collage

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Business School Attire: Dressed for Classes

Back to (Grad) School

Hi guys! I took a few minutes to put together an example of a look I'd wear for class days now that I'm in business school. I didn't really have to adapt my wardrobe at all since most of us aren't too worried about looking business-y in class. We're just there to absorb knowledge from our professors and get through the many to-do's of our day.

I plan to do a lot more of these posts to share how I have been dressing (or plan to dress) for various events related to business school. Let me know if you have any questions/thoughts/ideas about how to approach dressing for certain events. I feel like I overcomplicate this stuff sometimes, but I guess that's the whole point of this blog!


Zara peter pan collar dress / Topshop shoes / Topshop black satchel bag / Karen Walker Eyewear sunglasses / Tom Ford plum lipstick / Butter London gold nail polish

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Major Misconception

I had an interesting experience last night that I've been mulling over today and I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Short story: a few of my classmates and I were at a bar griping about one of our assignments when a guy playing pool near us interjected, "are you guys grad students too?" We assumed he'd overheard something he could relate to and wanted to contribute to our grousing. So we invited him into our conversation, asked what he was studying (political science) and told him we were MBA students. As soon as he heard this, he started ranting angrily about what douchebags we are and how pathetic our choice of study is. He even went so far as to ask what our program is ranked, scoffing at UC Davis' "low ranking". (Actually it's top 40, and why would you make fun of the university that you are also attending?!) Anyway, we were a bit shell-shocked and eventually just shut him out of our conversation.

Of course none of us really care what this psycho thinks about our life choices, but it got me thinking. What would cause someone that knows nothing about any of us jump to so many conclusions about our character? Obviously there is a misconception out there about what business school is and the type of people that choose to pursue an MBA. I will be the first to admit that I had my own set of misconceptions about MBA students, even after I'd decided to attend business school. For one, I thought everyone in my classes would be exactly the same: type A, aggressive, competitive. I imagined myself struggling to conform to some pervasive corporate culture that we would all be groomed for. I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG.

Here is what I have learned: MBAs want to innovate and to effect positive social, environmental and economic change. We are ambitious and goal-oriented, but also humble and grounded. We want to make the world a better place. Of course, that means something different for everyone, but I have yet to meet anyone whose sole objective from the program is to get filthy rich. Maybe it's unique to the program I'm in, I can't speak to what it's like at Harvard or Stanford. What I do know is that my classmates come from such varied backgrounds that there is no such thing as a typical MBA student in our class. I've already learned so much through this diversity -- and we've only been in school for 2 weeks!

Classmates, what do you guys think? Did you have misperceptions that have been shattered? Let me know what you think! I'd also love to hear what any of you non-MBAs out there think of us :)

I have more to add on this topic in terms of my personal goals and how I feel about business as a mechanism for empowerment, but I'll save it for another time. I also promise to write more about b-school fashion soon, promise!!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Class is in Session

Classes have begun and my first quarter as an MBA student is in full swing! In fact, I'm writing this from a Starbucks in Woodland where some of my lovely classmates and I have met up to study. (Yes, I'm already slacking, but only for a few minutes!)
So now that I know the lay of the land, there are a few things I wish I had done differently with my summer. One in particular is that I wish I hadn't been so worried about preparing for school! I spent a lot of time fretting over my lack of quantitative skills and experience with Excel. I signed up for additional pre-MBA prep classes online to help compensate for these shortcomings, and frankly I didn't need to. This quarter is all about fundamentals: accounting, microeconomics, statistics, and so on. But everyone is from such different backgrounds that our professors don't assume any prior knowledge of the material. Not that I have delusions that any of my classes will be easy, but the extra prep classes didn't really give me much of an edge.
So, my advice to you if you are reading this as a recently admitted MBA student some time in the future: forget studying in the summer! Spend extra time with your friends and family, take that trip to Hawaii, be lazy and watch all of RHOBH. Do whatever you want, just don't study! You'll be hitting the books for the next two years, take a deep breath and enjoy summer while you still can.
All that said, it feels really great to be a student again and couldn't be happier about my decision to go back to school. I consider myself a lifelong learner so it's nice to be in an official learning environment. For the next two years, it's my job just to learn things.
More updates to come, stay tuned!
 Image via Zara

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sonoma is for lovers

Sean and our families recently spent an afternoon in Sonoma to look into some details for our wedding (I promise this will not turn into a wedding blog!) and had the chance to check out a few wineries while we were there. I snapped a few photos and thought I'd share some of them here. Our first stop was Jacuzzi Vineyards, which has the loveliest backyard area. It would be so much fun to have a picnic back there next time! My favorite was the fountain (pictured below) that someone had cleverly "decorated."
Next we visited Ram's Gate Winery--what an amazing space! It felt more like a hip boutique hotel in LA than a Sonoma winery. Rather than the rustic d├ęcor that is so pervasive at wineries, the spaces at Ram's Gate were designed with an edgy modern aesthetic in mind, which actually created a rather exclusive ambiance. I loved the views in the outdoor spaces, but can already picture myself enjoying one of the three indoor-outdoor fireplaces on a cold day this Fall.
Lastly, we visited the winery where we'll be getting married next Fall -- Viansa Winery. Here are just a few photos from Viansa. You'll have to wait till after the big day to see more details...
That's it for this little update, there will be another post soon on how my first week of school is going. Thanks as always for reading!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Business School Attire: Scholastic Style

Have I mentioned yet how much I have been enjoying the weather in Davis? I hate to harp on such a trivial topic, but the freedom I've felt from the death-grip of black tights has been tremendous! I think you have to live in San Francisco to truly appreciate why it's such a big deal, but let's just say there's nothing like wearing a dress bare-legged from morning to night when you're used to covering 90% of your skin in layers of warm clothes from November-August. I was even bare-legged on Saturday when it rained! FREEDOM, I SAY!!

Above are a few street style photos from around the web that I really like as transitional summer-to-fall outfits. I'm not sure what the business school dress code will be like, but I'd copy each of these looks if I had time to actually go shopping :) For now, I am stuck browsing all the pretty things online. Be sure to check out my Back to School board on Pinterest to see these shots and more!


PS school starts so soon! I'm so excited...I'm so...scared...
PPS anyone? anyone? :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

ON A MISSION: The Perfect Bag

I don't know about you guys, but I feel like I'm constantly on a mission to find "The Perfect ________." Whether it's an all-weather coat for the perma-winter that looms over San Francisco, or a vintage accessory for my living room, I feel like my yearning can sometimes turn me into quite the Captain Ahab. Last year it was booties, which not only had to be black and sufficiently mod / Chelsea-style, but also had to have a precise toe shape (not too pointy, not too round), the perfect heel height, just the right amount of shine or texture in the leather, and so on. I bought and returned a few pairs, finally settling on a relatively inexpensive studded bootie from Zara. In past pursuits, such as "The Great Rust Colored Scarf Hunt of 2010," I gave up entirely after an unsuccessful winter.

I was quite sated with my Chelsea boots until the school year began creeping up, which brought on a new batch of obsessions, the most urgent of which is to find "The Perfect Bag." I have looked high and low, strongly considering a wide range of options from brands like Clare Vivier, Kate Spade, Madewell, Orla Kiely, and yes, for a brief moment of complete insanity I really did consider rewarding myself with that lovely Proenza Schouler tote. For one reason or another, I haven't really been sold yet--namely because the bag needs to be as functional (biking to school with laptop in tow) as it is cute. I'm also generally annoyed at how heavily branded so many bags are (Michael Kors, I'm looking at you). My philosophy with anything I wear (designer or not) is simple: if you know, then you know. I don't need a giant emblem to tell people how much money I've spent!

For that reason, I never even considered Coach. I am not a huge fan of their signature fabric, which I personally feel took over the brand's identity and sadly diluted the classic luxury of the brand. It wasn't until my friend Leia recently mentioned the Coach Classics collection, which hearkens back to the brand's original leather bags, that I was curious enough to take a peek. I have to say I totally love these bags! They look so timeless and academic, and I would believe it if you told me they can last forever. I'm going to have to try some of these out in person to see how they fit/feel and examine how much I can manage to shove inside, but Coach has somehow shot to the top of my Perfect Bag list with this collection. (Thanks Leia!)

What do you guys obsess over? I know I'm not alone! I can already feel the "Great Watch Hunt of 2013" coming on, heaven help me.


BAGS: Legacy Duffle; Legacy Swingback; Willis Bag; Stewardess Bag.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Re-Post: Beacon Coffee + Pantry

///  I originally created this post for Fancy French Cologne. Now that the shop is closed and the blog is down, I plan to re-blog a selection of interviews and posts from time to time that I think are interesting and applicable to Corporate Neon. Enjoy!  ///

We are so excited to introduce you to Alexis Liu, a recent San Francisco transplant by way of New York. Alexis has built up quite the fashion and design pedigree, coming from a professional background that includes work with Comme de Garcons and Ralph Lauren, as well as a background in industrial design. She recently moved to San Francisco to help open a small business in North Beach, and we’ve been intrigued to know how the transition has been – not only between cities, but professionally and of course fashion-wise. It’s inspiring to see how she’s applied her various skills to the business and brought a unique point of view to San Francisco’s coffee culture.

I caught up with her recently at Beacon’s opening party to catch up with her and see how life in San Francisco is treating her!

Tell us about Beacon Coffee & Pantry!

We are a coffee shop and specialty market located in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Our goal is to highlight and support the best artisan producers from the Bay Area and beyond. We serve Sightglass coffee, and in our pantry we have a selection of jams, pickles, pastas, grains, sauces, oils, salts, candy, chocolate, and snacks. In the coming months, I'm going to focus on bringing more unique, "cream of the crop" items, and also expand the selection with some interesting lifestyle and kitchen items as well.

What was the most rewarding part of the process?
It's been an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience to build something from the ground up. None of this—the brand, identity, or space—existed a year ago, and now it’s a growing business. Christian is my cousin, co-owner, the one who spearheaded the project, and brought me on to work on it. He comes from an architecture and real estate background, and I come from a fashion/product design background, so it was great to collaborate and design the space together. It's been incredibly rewarding to see my ideas come to fruition, for an audience that changes every day. We started with a totally raw space, so it was pretty amazing to see it all come together—we made every little decision, in every inch of the space, every step of the way. This has been a career change for me, but it has been a project that combines all my work experience: design, marketing/PR, and customer service.

To add to that, on a day to day basis, it’s rewarding to really get to know our customers. Even though we are at the convergence of so many San Francisco tourist destinations, most of our customers are regulars. A lot of them have expressed how happy they are we opened, and that something like our shop was needed in the neighborhood, so it’s great to have that kind of validation. As a small gesture of our appreciation, we post "customer of the day" (on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), which shares a little about our awesome customers.

The most challenging?
The most challenging thing has probably been changing gears from working as a designer (at a desk, with regular hours) to opening and running a new small business (never not working/thinking about work). There are always unexpected issues that pop up every day, and serving coffee is just one part of the juggling act. It’s all been great though, coming into it I knew it was going to be a big challenge, which is why I decided to move out here and do it. I've learned more than I ever would have in the past year about creating a brand, building a space, and running a shop, and managing personalities.

Tell us about the succulent installation you designed—it’s truly amazing.It’s over 1,300 succulent plants. When we were deciding what type of art to install, we took the same approach as we did to our interiors - we wanted some that would appeal to everyone, but be striking and unique. You typically see living walls outdoors, but I did a lot of research on how I could make it work indoors, I spoke to a few experts, and chose varieties that typically could do well in low light. I mapped it all out in Photoshop first, then made a couple trips to Succulent Gardens in Castroville (which is an awesome succulent nursery, check it out if you're ever in the area). The planting was just the first part, we then had to figure out how to waterproof the wall, frame and support the whole thing, which weighs at least 600 pounds, and more after watering. The whole process took a couple months.  But it was so fun, and definitely one of my most rewarding projects. Not a day goes by where someone doesn't comment on it.

(People always ask how we water it. There is a drip irrigation system built in, so we hook up a hose, and it drips from the top down into the gutter installed at the bottom. Sometimes I also take off the wooden frame, which comes off in pieces, and spray the whole thing down.)

Your favorite thing about the shop / item in the shop?
That's hard. I obviously love Sightglass coffee, and all our pastries are really good. We are the first shop to start serving Worthy Granola, which is 100% organic and handmade in North Beach (, and it’s probably my favorite way to start the day. Some other favorites are: Dandelion Venezuelan chocolate, Baia Pasta, Dry Soda, our smoked sea salt, flageolet beans, and Have'a Chips. I made a batch of candles inspired by SF neighborhoods, but those sold out in the first few weeks we were open, and I haven't had a chance to make more. But there are some very exciting things are coming in the next few months, so stay tuned.

Do you think a shop like this could succeed New York?

I think this could succeed in New York, but rents are insanely high for spaces that are much smaller, so obviously the concept/experience would have to be tweaked a bit. People are generally people are more rushed and impatient, but there is a rapidly growing appreciation, awareness, and demand for specialty coffee. People do sit in cafes for hours, especially in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. I think the pantry concept could definitely be carried over— there are so many food-related cottage industries, especially in Brooklyn. There is an energy in New York that is unlike anywhere else. I really miss it, and daydream about opening something like this there one day. Maybe it’s in the cards, who knows!

How has the move affected your wardrobe choices? What do you wear to work now vs. before?
I've always been somewhat driven by comfort. I used to work for Comme des Garcons, I'll always love it, and have tons of that stuff tucked away, but I rarely wear any of it anymore. Right before I moved here I worked at Ralph Lauren, so I still wear a lot of that, but my style has definitely gotten a lot more casual. Lots of denim, cotton, and stuff I can wash easily, cause I'm spilling coffee and doing dishes. I've kind of reverted to how I dressed as a teenager. Pretty much all the shopping I do in San Francisco is vintage/thrift—it’s awesome here! Maybe I have a different aesthetic/style sensibility, cause I find a lot of gems that no one here seems to want.

Anything else you want to mention?
If anyone out there has any awesome products they think could be a good fit for us, I'm always open to hearing any suggestions. The same goes for artists too—we always wanted the shop to be a platform for rotating artwork, and we have a lot of prime wall space and the front display window (aka the "driveby gallery"). Come by and say hi!

Follow us on:
Instagram @beaconsf
twitter @beaconsf

Monday, August 26, 2013

Orla Kiely Fall/Winter 2013 Lookbook

Just dreaming of this dreamy collection, that is all.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to (Grad) School Fashion

I've been having a blast daydreaming about outfits for school. It's been so long since I've had such a marked transition as this one, and we all know every major transition in life calls for a fresh set of clothes. Plus, Davis is A LOT warmer than San Francisco, which means I'll soon be free of tights (at least for a while)!

In reality I don't expect my day-to-day wardrobe to change allllll that much, but I am really excited to stock up on staples like these perfect Jeffrey Campbell flats. And while an oversized PS11 Tote that costs more than a month's rent in Davis isn't so realistic to use as a book bag, I still think it fits quite nicely with my back to school aesthetic...


Friday, August 16, 2013

Entrepreneurial Real Talk: Closing Time

My business, Fancy French Cologne, officially closed its virtual doors yesterday. Carly and I started the business a few years ago as a way to stay creative after the band we played in for six years broke up, and running our own business seemed like the obvious next step. It’s funny to think back at who we were then – even though it was only a few years ago, I feel so much older and more experienced having gone through the process. The two of us were just a couple of super motivated girls that wanted to DO something, and so we did! In fact, we did everything from scratch, with help from our friends and family, learning so much from so many mistakes, and cherishing every hard-won accomplishment along the way. The experience has shaped me profoundly, and I’m so proud of us for what we achieved.

Back when we began the project, e-commerce was still a pretty uncharted territory. Of course online stores existed back in 2009, but it was a different time and things were far less sophisticated than they are now. One aspect I truly enjoyed throughout this process was following the progress of shops like Modcloth and Nasty Gal over the years – watching as smaller, entrepreneurial businesses were able to thrive in the face of mega-stores (with mega-bucks!) like GAP or Nordstrom. These new businesses truly innovated where the more established brands seemed hesitant to stray too far from the status quo. I always say that we’re living in the “turn of the century” and there are things happening now that might seem unthinkable in twenty years. The world of e-commerce has opened up opportunities to empower women in ways that did not exist before—to me it’s just amazing. Not only for the entrepreneurs at the top, but for the women that are able to work for companies that share their values, and for the customers that finally see an authentic reflection of themselves in the businesses where they shop (as opposed to purely being “marketed to”). To me, this is powerful.

Now, after almost four years of working together on our business, Carly and I are both ready for yet another phase in life. Most people have had a sad reaction to this news – as though it somehow wasn’t our decision. But of course it was! And it was a business decision first and foremost, not an emotional one. We considered keeping the store alive while I go back to school and Carly pursues an exciting new project, but for what? Running a business is A LOT of work! If we can’t give Fancy French Cologne the time and attention that our customers deserve, then what is the point?

I look forward to working with Carly again someday, with all the amazing people who helped out during photo shoots, and with the wonderful designers that we had the honor of collaborating with. Whatever I do next, I know that this experience has molded me and taught me what I’m capable of and what my core values are. I will carry Fancy French Cologne with me far into the future.


PS I love you Carly!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A lovely afternoon in San Francisco

Sean and I recently spent some time bippin and boppin around Hayes Valley. We are starting to realize these are the last few weeks of our life in San Francisco before I go back to school, and we're doing our best to make the most out of what little time we have left! Our first stop was Biergarten, where we tried the most delicious pretzel I have ever had. I kind of can't stop thinking about it... and of course there was beer.

Next we stopped in at Two Sisters for a drink. We rarely go bar hopping, especially during the day time, but the mood was right for a dark bar on a gloomy day. This is definitely one of our favorite spots within walking distance, it'll be tough to find a replacement in our new town.

After a sip at Two Sisters, we skipped over to a new-to-us sushi place followed by another drink at a new-to-the-hood wine bar called Fig & Thistle. We ended our night with a long walk (too many drinks!) towards Japan town, stopping at St. Mary's Cathedral for some more photos.

I'm definitely gonna miss this city.