The Content & Social Media leader for fashion brands learned to be nice to herself and solve a niche problem to build her own consultancy.
Elizabeth Myer has worked with Social Media and Content Strategy for some of the top ready-to-wear fashion labels in the US. She finalized her ‘office career’ as Director of Business Development and Content Strategy at Amazon’s fashion team: a pretty snazzy title, but it wasn’t quite what she’d bargained for. There were problems with process and misguided goal setting, so she quit to take a breath, then fix those problems from the outside. Since then, she’s established her own consulting business, Fourslices, with her business partner – solving the issues brands don’t even know they have. She’s based in NYC, where she lives with her husband and their very fluffy dog, Wookie.
How do you describe what you do for work?
My company Fourslices tackles branding and digital marketing problems. We craft strategies to help businesses achieve their actual objectives as opposed to the things they thought they needed. Then we empower those businesses to own the marketing of their brand long term. That work is usually outsourced, and there’s never a transfer of knowledge after those projects. So if we do a visual identity, and a website redesign, we will train someone at the client to manage their content and SEO at the end, for example.
You actually have to think pretty seriously about how to make it work. If you commit to making it work, I really don’t think you can fail.
How did your current business start?
I come from a branding background, within the fashion industry. I always had this chip on my shoulder about agencies because we’d pay them a whole lot of money to never really give us a great product. And then I became a consultant, started working for an agency, and realized that the people at the agencies are super talented. The biggest hiccup in the process was the model. Somebody at the agency is incentivised to sign on business long-term, because they want to have the highest margins possible.
Our whole thing is trying to lift a veil on the shadiness of outsourcing work, and the extreme price tag on it.
How did you find the confidence to quit and start on your own?
My mom has a consulting business. My dad studied biology, then became a computer programmer. So I’ve had examples in my life of people who have done one thing, but spent their life another way.
I work with a lot of people who are terrified by that. They’re like, “What do you do if it goes wrong? Could I go back to this or am I screwing myself?” People totally get in their own heads.
You have to just abandon that sense of fear over the risk, go all in on that thing you’re excited about. You can’t say, “I want the steady pay check and to leave my job and do something frivolous.” You actually have to think pretty seriously about how to make it work. If you commit to making it work, I really don’t think you can fail.
Plus, I spent 10 years figuring out the things that I was interested in, and then within those things, the processes that are totally broken.
What was your last full-time job?
I was the Director of Business Development and Content Strategy at Amazon’s fashion team. They wanted to take more market share from the high fashion vendor. The purpose of the job was to work with enough qualified partners that Amazon would be perceived as a voice in the industry. Ultimately, I didn’t think that was an achievable goal.
When I left Amazon, they actually hired me as a consultant.
I had said to myself, “I’m gonna learn as much as I can here, affect as much change, and then I’m gonna peace out.”
How much were you consulting for Amazon?
It was like 50% with a retainer. Which was good, because I could also start to acquire new business.
I realized as soon as I was outside Amazon office politics that, as a consultant, I could look objectively at what they need. And the outcome had never been better – more seamless or efficient. Additionally, I’d also built trust with the other people I was gonna work with as a consultant.
How did the conversation go when you quit?
I think there’s a moment when you just can’t take it anymore. For me, I had never been so unhappy. I think most people, when they’re going to do something really scary, they realize that their fear is no longer the number one thing that they’re feeling. It’s either complete disappointment, or I’m not doing anything with meaning in my life. I had that moment. The next day, I called my boss and said I didn’t think it was a fit for me anymore.
She had just been in Seattle for my performance review and I had gotten a very high rating – probably because I wasn’t just waiting for my stock options to vest. I had said to myself, “I’m gonna learn as much as I can here, affect as much change, and then I’m gonna peace out.”
The CMO called me, and I tried to highlight some of the issues – I didn’t see how we’d be able to fix them. I didn’t think it was ultimately what Amazon wanted.
So she asked, “What are you doing next?” Then she asked if I’d consult.
I do all those branding and content exercises with clients all the time – its hard to do that with yourself.
Clarify for me the 3 most crucial steps between quitting and starting Four Slices.
There’s a really important exercise that took a while, but I’m happy I took the time: firstly, I needed to take a deep breath and disconnect from all the things that were polluting my creativity.
It sounds really hippie dippy, but when people are stretched thin at their jobs, it’s really hard to start anything new and feel positive about it. I needed to let myself detox and forgive myself – be a little bit nicer to myself. I wasn’t in a really good place.
Then I wrote down what I felt I was going to stand for. I do all those branding and content exercises with clients all the time – its hard to do that with yourself.
Next, doing a deep dive on the other agencies out there, especially the ones saying they were doing things differently. I realized that none of them culminated with any education. At the end it was always the same: “After this contract, renew with us for a new contract.” This research and positioning phase allowed me to consider the possibilities. What could I do that was meaningful, and not being done?
And the final thing was to find a partner who felt the same way I did. The creative process is a lot more fluid and efficient when you have someone else to talk to.
Tell me more about your partnerships and the idea of having a community.
I think of one of my clients, Mari Giudicielli, who started a hugely successful footwear company. She’s been alone in that she’s the sole owner. But her boyfriend is a designer and does all her graphic content, and she has a whole network and community of people. Community is an important element. Most people have those built in communities if they decide they’re gonna start up something.
Because I work with some startups, we also see barter situations. For example, I have one client who is a dermatologist, coming out with his own skincare line. Essentially, he needs content, but doesn’t have revenue from the line yet because he hasn’t started it. We’ve hired a photographer to shoot content with him in exchange for skincare, facials, etc. I think that sort of thing exists a lot in the creative community – trading skill sets.
We also just formed a formal partnership with The Couch. They’re a few designers, developers, who came from two super cool agencies in the city: Red Antler and Chandelier Creative. We’re their branding/marketing shop, and they’re our design/development team.
Community is an important element. Most people have those built in communities if they decide they’re gonna start up something.
How many clients do you have at one time, and how long do projects last?
Projects usually last a lot longer than we expect. Our sweet spot is 3 projects, and 3 months long. And we work in 3 different phases.
Ideally in October, we would be taking on a new project, wrapping up the second phase of a second project, and closing out a third project. The first phase is research which culminates in a workshop. The second phase is us doing a ton of leg work, putting that into a position or story or narrative, or redoing the wireframes of a website. In the third phase, a developer or designer comes into the project and we manage the whole thing.
Timelines always get pushed back. So I think we need to learn, but I also think we’ll continue to shoot ourselves in the foot because business development is such a tricky area. If people want to work with you, you’d probably rather be really busy for a while than not have any work.
How are your clients finding you?
Almost all our clients have come via referral. Which is super lucky, but I have been working with social media for businesses – and specifically in fashion – for the past 10 years. It really is a niche.
People will say, “we need social,” and someone will say “well my friend has this company and she’s also worked with all these brands getting their social up and running.”
What’s the riskiest thing about working this way?
You go from getting paid once a month to, “Oh my god I’m in the business development phase of three of my contracts, which means that I might not start work for another 6 weeks, which means I can’t invoice, and then there’s a 30 day invoice turnaround.” So I’ve had 3 months where I haven’t gotten a pay check.
Otherwise, I have done things that weren’t right, but then I’ve just learned from them.
You have to be responsible about what you need to do every month to get by. But I didn’t put any other expectations on myself.
Do you have clients paying late?
I haven’t had to chase many people down. My recommendation is to make sure you have really good contracts in place.
One of the pieces of language another consultant told me to integrate into our legal verbiage is that contracts exceeding 5 days beyond the invoice due date are paid at a 20% interest.
You can do things like that because when you sign a contract, your payment terms are in the contract already. By the time you’re invoicing, you’ve signed off on exactly what your terms are. It’s not a comfortable exercise for anyone, but have all your legal framework set in stone.
If you did this over again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think anything! Where I was in my life was just needing to do something impulsive. People are often told to do the side hustle for a while, until it becomes enough to do the real hustle. For me, if I had done a side hustle, I would have always thought of it as a side hustle, and I needed to do a full hustle. The way that I am, there’s no grey area really.
But I never said, “I’m gonna be so successful, and make more money than I did last year.” Another departure from the way I had treated myself – having unrealistically high expectations – was that the only stipulation I gave myself was that I need to be able to pay my mortgage. You have to be responsible about what you need to do every month to get by. But I didn’t put any other expectations on myself.
Any time I was just one notch above paying my mortgage, I was like “COOL. Winning.” It’s all about perception.
What does your rent cost?
Our expenses are incredibly high. Our mortgage requires that we pay a minimum of $4200 each month. Just my expenses are in the neighbourhood of $4000 to $5000 a month. I think a lot of people could do this much more frugally than I do, and certainly if there was a month that I was nervous about not getting a pay check, then I would take more frugal measures.
When I started my business, I was super cognizant about budgeting out every single month. I was really good about savings. Anything extra – I didn’t get excited about it, I just stuck it away.
Describe the result you’ve seen from taking a different approach than competitors.
A book I read recently said, Think about chefs. They put out cookbooks all the time. Because they know that giving you the recipe is not enough to beat them at their game. If you’re super confident about what you do, just share the information.
There’s an unintended halo effect of this model for us: we’re super clear about ending a contract and turning the work over, but clients usually ask, “How can we work with you on something else?”
Brands are not actually used to people coming to them and saying, “Your contract’s over! You guys are good! You know everything you need to do it yourselves!”
No one says that to them.
All photos for this interview were provided by Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Myer can be found in New York or Hoboken, can be stalked on Instagram, and reached for future projects via Fourslices.
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