Brit Morin, CEO and founder of Brit + Co, has loved technology and making things since she was young. After graduating from college, Morin moved to Silicon Valley and worked for Apple followed by Google. Eventually, Morin realized she wanted to start her own company and quit her job to brainstorm ideas. In the meantime, she spent time doing one of her favorite activities —making things. As Morin spent time creating things for her wedding to Dave Morin, cofounder of the social network Path, her friends constantly complimented her creations while doubting their own creative skills. Her friends’ lack of what Morin calls, “creative confidence” provided a moment of clarity about the mission and purpose of Morin’s future company. In 2011, Morin founded Brit + Co, a San Francisco-based media and commerce company that inspires women and girls to be more creative through engaging content and classes. The company currently has more than 100 employees, an audience of more than 90 million online and across social media platforms and a recent $20 million Series B fundraise. Morin has also taken the conversation offline through her bestselling book Homemakers: A Domestic Handbook for the Digital Generation.
Brit Morin, Founder and CEO of Brit + Co
What inspired you to start Brit + Co? What was your career path?
I’ve loved “making” since I was a little girl and in high school, I fell in love with tech. I graduated college early and headed straight for Silicon Valley to work for places like Apple and Google. It was incredible, but I started to feel an itch to start my own company, though I didn’t know what I wanted it to be yet. I took some time to figure it out while getting ready for my wedding.
During that time, I joined a place called TechShop which is like a gym for making things, for $100 per month you get access to crazy tools like laser cutters, sewing machines and 3D printers! I became totally obsessed and was there every day making things for my wedding. My girlfriends were floored and couldn’t believe I was making all of these things by hand. They said things to me like “I could never do that. I’m not creative!” At the same time, Pinterest was becoming increasingly popular, and these same girls were pinning all kinds of creative projects they wanted to make.
I realized then that there is a disconnect between being a child and an adult that makes us lose our creative confidence. I saw that so many women wanted to be creative but lacked the tools and skills to do it. Millennial women are really the first generation that grew up with working mothers — most of us were not taught to cook or sew, and we opted for computer science over home economics. And so, Brit + Co was born to try to fill that void and to inspire and provide women with the tools to lead more creative lives.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting Brit + Co?
It’s so hard to pick just one for each of these! I think that now is such an interesting time in media. There are new platforms and formats popping up every day. Keeping up with it all and deciding what to invest in is a constant challenge, but also a constant opportunity to innovate.
In terms of the biggest reward, I can see that Brit + Co is having a true effect on people’s lives. So often I hear stories of our community members who, because of us, decided to take on a creative hobby and were able to better manage their anxiety or depression. Others have told me that through our online classes, we encouraged them to turn a creative passion into a real business. There is no greater reward than feeling like you’re changing lives for the better.
Gross: What advice do you have for other women who hope to start their own businesses?
Morin: It sounds so cliché, but pick something you’re really passionate about. Based here in Silicon Valley, I see so many people choosing to start businesses just for the prospect of making a lot of money. Starting a business is not easy, and it’s important to have a mission and purpose that can serve as your north star through the good times and certainly the bad. And have patience. Most startup companies — even the most successful — are at it for seven to ten years before they really take off in the mainstream market.
What is a workday as Brit like? Please walk me through a day!
Oh man, where to begin…well, like any true millennial, my day starts with my phone, scanning news and checking email. Then I (sometimes) get in a quick run on the trails outside my house where I listen to podcasts. (I’m addicted!) After that, it’s baby time. I am currently the mom of two amazing boys under two years old.
Once I get ready and get to the office, I typically dive into my “work block” which is the time I reserve to catch up on emails during my first two hours at my desk. Then it’s generally a flurry of meetings with different teams, executives, partners or brands, depending on the day. Sometimes I pop into a quick photo or video shoot, too. (Halloween season is costume craziness!)
I’m out the door by 5:15 p.m. with the rest of the parents and home for bathtime and bedtime with the boys. After bedtime, I spend time with my husband or sometimes friends. Then it’s more emails and watching all the morning shows I’ve DVR’d that day – it’s a weird guilty pleasure — then off to bed to do it all again!
What are your responsibilities as CEO and founder of Brit + Co?
What is not my responsibility as CEO would be an easier question to answer! Everyone at an early-stage startup has to wear many hats, and as the CEO you pretty much wear all of them. As the business has grown I’ve of course been able to step back some, but most people don’t realize I am not only the face of the business but also the acting CEO, so I go from shoots to spreadsheets on a daily basis.
What are the most important characteristics someone needs to have to be successful in your role?
1. Passion: Believe in what you set out to do. Follow your north star.
2. Flexibility: Realize not everything is always going to go according to plan. Watch the data. It will tell you what to do next.
What are three characteristics you look for when you’re hiring a new team member?
1. Someone who loves and understands the Brit + Co brand. This really translates into the quality of work they will do here.
2. Someone who is a creative thinker. Our mission is all about creativity so it’s natural that we defer to hiring uber creative people to help us pioneer all new ways of doing things across the entire business, from engineering, to finance to designers. And yes, we do employ actual artists here!
3. Someone who is “hungry.” The sky’s the limit with startups, so it’s important to have people who are eager to help grow the business. I love a good hustler.
What are the most important skills for doing your job and how did you develop them?
As the CEO, it’s 100% people skills! I remember a quote that Eric Schmidt once said: “You know you are a good CEO when you have nothing to do.” What he meant by that was that if you run your company well, you have probably hired enough talented people to delegate your work to. As any business grows, it’s important to accept that you can’t do everything yourself. It’s sometimes hard to let go because as a founder, my business is everything to me, but it’s vital to hire a team that you can trust and rely on. Establishing that mutual trust with your team is something that will pay dividends.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned at work and how did you learn it?
One of the biggest and toughest lessons for me was not getting caught up in the ups and downs. When first starting Brit + Co, I would go from thinking I was a genius to feeling really low in a matter of 24 hours. I’m not joking; it was that crazy. It’s important as a startup founder to realize that you’re going to have failures (especially in the early days!) because in many cases you’re trying something totally new. There’s not a playbook and it’s important to adapt and keep moving.
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
“Everything in this world was made by people no smarter than you.” This is a quote by Steve Jobs, and it rings in my head on a consistent basis. I started this company when I was 25 and had no prior entrepreneurial experience. I was so insecure about that lack of experience but kept trying to tell myself that I was smart enough to just figure it out as it happened. Luckily, five years later, that is still true. And yes, I feel much more confident now! But it’s true — you can build and create whatever you want, no matter your age or experience. Work hard and learn quickly.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Life’s only short once. Live what you love. Try to make your passion into a career. And don’t let anyone bring you down for trying.
What is your business advice for other young professional women?
Don’t let your fear of failure keep you from trying. I believe Brit + Co’s theory that women lose confidence as they become adults is applicable beyond creativity. Many women lose confidence in the business world as well. While it’s important to make logical choices, don’t fear failure. Every failure will teach you something else about how to succeed.
Who else do you want me to feature? Please let me know some women you admire!