Our office has been buzzing about Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur’s book Work Wife: The Power of Female Friendship to Drive Successful Businesses. Cerulo and Mazur are the duo behind the Of A Kind, a website/shop that celebrates emerging designers.
Their book, described as “a celebration of female friendship and collaboration, proving that it’s not just feasible but fruitful to mix BFFs with business,” inspired us to sit down with Collectively’s Co-founders to learn about the chemistry behind their partnership in honor of Women’s History Month.
How did you meet?
AT: Ryan interviewed me for a job! She hired me for a role on her team at a start-up called Foodbuzz, a community of food bloggers. We bonded because we’d both recently been to the same new restaurant and ordered the same thing.
How did you decide to start Collectively?
AT: We had both left our previous roles (where we were also working together) and we were contemplating our next move. We knew we wanted to build on our experience with brands and influencers, but weren’t sure what the next step was...work for another media company? A platform? One day we were having drinks together and Ryan asked the question, “What if we started our own thing?” We tested the waters with a few brands and the reception was great—so we went for it and haven’t looked back.
RS: I remember thinking, we’re a great team, we know and love the influencer marketing space, why not give it a try? I’d worked with Alexa long enough to know she and I were both equally energized by tackling new challenges; we both love the process of problem-solving and learning new things. So it makes perfect sense that the idea of starting an agency, with zero experience running an agency business, was exciting and motivating to us.
Describe your working partnership.
AT: We have worked together for so long, it’s kind of second nature! I think it helped that we were coworkers before we became friends, so we’ve always been very comfortable with each other’s working styles. We joke that we share a brain, although we actually have very different strengths and perspectives that we bring to the table. There’s a lot of trust and mutual respect, which is a huge part of a successful partnership.
RS: Our working relationship is seriously dreamy! Shared brains--or maybe shared moon signs (we’re both Taurus Rising)--we are incredibly aligned in so many aspects of our work and life, and we have such a deep level of respect and admiration for each other--as colleagues and as humans outside of work. We challenge each other in productive ways, we support and encourage each other’s growth and accomplishments. It’s why we got “married” to use the work wife analogy. Alexa and I really bring out the best talents and capabilities in each other, and when you find that dynamic with someone in the workplace, you can be unstoppable and accomplish more together than you could ever do on your own. Of course we said “I Do!”
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far at Collectively?
AT: Building an incredible team of people who love working together. We consistently hear that one of the best parts of working at Collectively are the people you get to work alongside. I’m also incredibly proud of our fantastic client roster—we’re a small agency, and have had to work hard to have the kind of partners we do.
RS: Hands down, I’m most proud of the team we’ve built and the incredible work they do. One of the reasons we started Collectively was to create a great place to come to work. A place where you would have a voice, work with respectful, supportive colleagues, take risks, and experience real learning and growth. We’re not perfect, and we don’t always get it right, but we always try our hardest. Both Alexa and I are very enthusiastic people with a penchant for efficiency, and I’m proud of creating a positive work environment that doesn’t have the crazy drama or toxicity of so many workplaces. We don’t have time for any of that. We’ve got work to do, and we might as well have as much fun as we can doing it!
What do you attribute Collectively’s success to?
AT: Being very good at what we do, but also being enjoyable people to partner with. I tell our team this a lot, but one of our most significant competitive advantages is that we’re nice. We genuinely like our clients, and share their goals.
RS: Being committed to change; we’re operating in a crazy fast-paced environment where a continually shifting landscape challenges our work daily. Whether Instagram is launching a new feature or Facebook cuts off access to data, we have to stay nimble, experiment often, and stay ahead of the curve so that we can continue to deliver exceptional services and work.
What’s the best business advice you’ve been given? The worst?
AT: The best advice I’ve ever read was early in my career: be enthusiastic. When you’re just starting out and working on things that may seem small, get excited about them and do your best work. It leads to bigger and better opportunities. It holds true now, too. I try to bring a lot of energy to meetings because it’s just more fun. Worst advice: Before we launched, we pitched our business model to a friendly advisor and they told us it would never be very successful. Luckily, we ignored the advice and kept going!
RS: Some of the best advice I ever received was from my dad when I first started Collectively, and we had zero clients. He’s been in sales most of his life (also a small business owner), and he said, “Don’t spend too much time worrying about how to do the work. Win the work first, then figure out how to get it done once you have to.” Our production team will probably kill me for saying this, but in a way, it emboldened us to go out there and land our first clients with confidence in our ability to execute.
Can you name a few favorite female influencers whom you admire most right now?
AT: I recently had a daughter, so I find myself inspired by mom-bosses (Is that a term yet?) who actively share both the professional and personal sides of their lives: Leandra Medine, Piera Gelardi, Eva Chen, Chriselle Lim. One of my favorite follows is @napkinapocalypse—she's the mom of Pam Loves Ferrari Boys, a French Bulldog and Collectively partner who has her own line of merchandise. She has three (human) children, too, and is hilarious.
RS: A current obsession is Michelle Obama. I just finished Becoming and found her story inspiring and her honesty refreshing. I'm also a die-hard fan of The History Chicks, a podcast duo (both moms), who unpack and celebrate the lives of many awesome women throughout history, who often encountered extreme sexism. It’s super nerdy and silly, but I love transporting into these women’s lives.
What are your favorite things to do together out of the office?
AT: Eat! I think we probably both enjoy having meals together the most, either alone or with our husbands. We’re also pretty good at shopping together, but that doesn’t happen as often.