From the Bronx to the Windy City, WhatRUWearing Founder, Farissa Knox, has found herself in literally every situation. From founding and owning, not one, but two companies in her early 30s to finding love and starting a family, Farissa Knox represents the dream of having “it” all. If you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting the powerhouse business woman, let us tell you what it’s like: First, she greets you with a dazzling smile and a warm presence. With her gaze on you, she’ll typically offer you a compliment on what you’re wearing. But that’s not just it. From the best dressed girl in the room, to the shy introvert in the corner, Farissa treats everyone with the same respect. To meet Farissa, is to be the center of the universe.
Although her inspiring success story has not yet been officially documented, we had the pleasure of recently sitting down with the Founder and CEO of WhatRUWearing, over Prosecco and lunch at Doc B’s in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Having recently made some savvy business decisions, from giving WhatRUWearing a Clueless approved makeover to publishing her first tell all, Farissa gave us the scoop on the qualities needed to be a successful leader, the thing’s she struggles with as both a businesswoman and woman in 2015, her new book and her genius idea behind WhatRUWearing.
How was the idea of WhatRUWearing born?
One Saturday or Sunday morning, I was in bed, freezing, and my husband and I were day drinking. I was on my iPad looking at celebrity outfits and I thought, “why isn’t there a place to see what everyone was wearing?” It eventually evolved over time into the concept of wanting to know what regular people were wearing and the name and domain were purchased that same day.
What was your first step in creating the brand?
My first step was to get smart on how to make a website. I wanted this website to be interactive and not just full of information.
What brought about the idea of the WhatRUWearing App and more importantly, ambassadors?
That came a year or two after the first version of the website. IF we wanted our WRUW Girl to interact, we had to have our product work with their lives. The idea of ambassadors came from working with a local PR firm. We wanted to reach out to our “ideal WhatRUWearing Girl” and thought, hmmm, how can we do this? This led to the idea of the ambassador program. I knew for sure we could create something girls would be excited about.
Before you hired anyone on, how did you handle everything yourself?
Just doing it! With my first company, I had one employee. Then, I needed an assistant, knowing I wanted to create this second company, I wanted to find an assistant that was our ideal WRUW girl!
How long ago did you start writing your book?
Eight years ago. It was actually out of a dare to see if I could even capture the stories I was telling people. And once I start something with potential, I can’t stop!
What has been the scariest part about starting your own business and brands?
Honestly, being responsible for other people’s salaries. I hire young people on purpose because I love to watch my employees grow and evolve. If I fail, the company fails and then I have to tell my employees they don’t have salaries anymore.
To whom do you attribute your entrepreneurial spirit?
I give my parents credit for never making me feel like I could not accomplish sometime. In my family, any idea, goal or thought I ever had was encouraged, simply by saying it out loud. My parent’s always encouraged me to go for it. As I got older, I realized it’s truly up to me to dictate how big I can personally think, spread my talents and turn the things I love, into successful business ideas.
Have you ever wanted to give it all up?
It’s funny because success is this weird thing where some days are great and some days aren’t. It’s hard work. It’s the hardest thing ever to start a company, build a company and hired people. There’s an article that I either have posted or will post on my website (http://farissaknox.com) about the differences between being an entrepreneur versus working for yourself and I couldn’t agree more. An entrepreneur is someone who builds businesses. You could be the best marketer ever and want to start your own marketing firm but if you just own your own marketing firm, you’re not really just doing marketing – you’re owning your own business. You’re running a company, that’s hard work. You have to do all these things so that the company can do marketing. You’re no longer just doing marketing. There have definitely been times where I’ve wanted to walk away, more so in the beginning, but once I decided yes, this is something I can do and that I refuse to fail at, those thoughts became less frequent and now I have no choice but to meet my own definition of success.
What do you think has driven you to accomplish so much at a young age? By your early 30s, you were the sole owner of two companies?
Taking the first step and having it genuinely work out. But not by luck. I’m a risk taker and every risk that I ever took, worked out for me. When those risks didn’t work out, I learned from them, instead of dwelling. There were many lessons learned that allowed me to make more calculated and successful risks, the next time. Those calculated risks pushed me to move forward and ultimately keep going. I kept landing in great places and kept going. Furthermore, I got smarter overtime and realized that if I was successful doing one thing, I could be as successful doing another. I think some people are destined to do certain things and I’m doing right now, what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m living a life I completely enjoy and belongs to me.
Has your presence always been commanding and magnetic or did it flourish overtime?
Well, first, thank you for describing me that way! To be honest, I’m not sure. I’ve always been who I am, although I’d describe myself as quiet. I’ve never been the person who talks the most. I’m a listener and when I do talk, I use as few words as possible to make the biggest impact. I think that combination allows people to see me as commanding and magnetic. Fun fact, I used to write poetry as a kid when when boys didn’t call me back. I think those experiences taught me that words are everything and that’s why I’ve always been obsessed with using the right ones to get my point across.
Is there anything in your life that has made you insecure?
Yes! Being married to the person I’m married to. In the beginning, it was very difficult and made me feel insecure. My husband is the smartest person I know. He’s gained a lot of success in life and if you’re not a confident woman, that success can be extremely intimidating. Moreover, as a businesswoman you want to be taken seriously in your own merit and not just as someone’s wife. In the beginning, I always found myself pushing him away, which would cause arguments. Eventually, he convinced me that we were better as a team and when I figured out how I made him a better person, and how he made me a better person, I became much more comfortable. I like to think we’re similar to Jay-Z and Beyonce – a force apart but even better together.
What do you feel is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life, thus far?
The importance of true confidence. If you’re confident in yourself and your abilities, you can literally accomplish anything you want. Confidence and hard work will get you what you want and where you want to be. Although everyone knows these things to be true, only a select group of people actually are living their lives on that level.
If you didn’t own two companies, what would you be doing?
I think about that sometimes and if I didn’t own my own companies, I’d definitely be working at a Marketing firm or agency, working my way up through the ranks. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d still be in charge of some shit – I just wouldn’t own it. Fortunately, there’s no area in my mind that doesn’t encourage or force me to be successful. If I was in an agency, I’d definitely be more focused on my money than leaving a legacy, but in my current role, I’m concerned with leaving a legacy on the world. If I wasn’t shooting to build this empire, I’d be shooting for maintain a massive bank account.
What’s the future hold for WhatRUWearing?
The future is bright! Whatever the WhatRUWearing Girl tells us the future is, is what it is. If she tells us she wants to app to do something different or different content on the website, it’ll happen. Also, I would eventually love for WhatRUWearing to become apart of a larger company that really understands the WhatRUWearing Girl. As a boutique entrepreneur, I can’t take this global, but I know someone, somewhere, can!
And for the Farissa Knox brand?
I want to be looked at for inspiration, humor and style, so that young girls can find something about me that encourages them to be the best version of themselves. I also want to eventually find young, business women and invest in them.