The role of connections in business and entrepreneurship

Connected By: A New Series by Rachel Schwartzmann

Behind every success story is a series of big breaks, mentorship, guidance, and happy accidents.

I have always attached myself to storytelling.

As a child, I filled notebooks with fantastical short stories and artwork inspired by animated heroines that leaped across the pages of books I consumed or made their mark in iconic Disney films I watched over and over (and over). Later in my adolescence, this passion stretched beyond the confines of a diary into classrooms and onto world stages where I immersed myself on a path of becoming a professional dancer by training at a leading performing arts high school in New York City. It didn't work out in the end, and as I inched closer to adulthood, I found myself charting a new course that allowed me to satisfy my creative interests in a way that didn't necessarily depend on me being front and center. So as most ambitious, digitally-savvy young people do, I embraced the tools I had at my disposal (both online and offine) with an understanding that I couldn't do this all alone. That thought-process inspired the first iteration of my company, The Style Line, where the content I created initially focused on mini Q&As with leading fashion influencers and bloggers about their relationships with personal style. I was eighteen, a senior in high school, and had no idea that the Tumblr blog I had just started would evolve into a boutique content company complete with an editorial platform, content agency, and podcast.

Cool.

From that point on, pieces of my entrepreneurial journey came together through a series of connections that ultimately shaped the conscious mission of my business. It began shortly after launching when I joined a friend at a fashion panel event at TOPSHOP in SoHo after school. After the discussion, I carefully approached the speakers (anxious not to stumble over my words, or onto the floor due to my former penchant for wearing 6-inch platform heels), and made my first-ever industry connection, Indigo Clarke. The highly-acclaimed journalist and creative director allowed me to get my well-heeled foot in the door by writing for Ksubi Denim's (former) online culture magazine, Sex & Fashion. I had no business writing about either subject at that point in my life, but I remember Indigo's assuredness in everything around her, and looking back I now realize that this confidence extended to me too. She remained a presence in the very early days of my career, and while our paths have since diverged, Indigo's unconditional kindness instilled in me a desire to have The Style Line's mission be committed to telling the stories of and fostering the next generation of creatives.


Left: A mood board of brands under The Style Line umbrella

Right: Rachel at 18, after launching The Style Line

And as far as first brand connections go, it was only a matter of time afterward that I excitedly accepted an invitation from Tumblr's Fashion Evangelist Valentine Uhovski to tour the Tumblr HQ as a freshman in college. Eventually, I went on to collaborate with the pioneering platform on many of its creator-driven initiatives, including their seasonal New York Fashion Week program and recurring industry events. I dressed loudly and spoke quietly, and found myself among other rising professionals from all walks of life who possessed a unique creative perspective with Valentine at the helm of a band of (inspiring) misfits. In the years following my deep involvement in the Tumblr community, I watched Valentine pave the way for artists, writers, and digital luminaries who were on a mission to make amazing things — and make something of themselves. I ended up pivoting the business entirely with the introduction of The Style Line's agency CONNECT(ED)ITORIAL, but those experiences and Valentine's continued stewardship of the creator community showed me the power of connections that begin online and blossom offline."

From that point on, pieces of my entrepreneurial journey came together through a series of connections that ultimately shaped the conscious mission of my business.

Many more meetings like this followed, and throughout the years, the sentiment of connection has been the underlying theme that has carried me through the ebbs and flows of entrepreneurship. And that's really where this particular story begins: After reconnecting with Supermaker co-founder Jaime Schmidt following her feature on The Style Line in August 2018, I've had the pleasure of working with her and the incredible SM team over the last couple of months to launch this column. Today, I'm excited to welcome you to "Connected By," a monthly series that will be home to the stories of connections to founders, creatives, and collaborators in my world — and the connections in their own lives that have inspired the businesses they build, and the products that we all love.

Ideas are fueled by curiosity. These ideas inspire companies. Connection is what brings it all to life. While there's no doubt that the intricacies of nurturing modern relationships have changed, we all share a universal desire to feel connected by something and to someone. I hope this glimpse into my story provides a starting point to consider what role connection plays in your life. And above all, I hope this series gives you the courage to connect (or reconnect) with those who have made an indelible impact on your story — even if it's still unfolding.

Ask yourself:

How have you approached making connections in the digital age?

Join the conversation on Supermaker's Twitter.

-Rachel Schwartzmann