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How She Got There: Emily Motayed & Lee Mayer, Co-Founders of Havenly

Name: Emily Motayed

Age: 27

Job Title and Description: Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Havenly

College Name/Major: Vanderbilt University/BA (2010) and UPenn Wharton School of Business/MBA (2016)

Website: www.havenly.com

Twitter Handle: @emotayed


Name: Lee Mayer

Age: 33

Job Title and Description: Co-Founder and CEO of Havenly

College Name/Major: Columbia University/BS (2003) and Harvard University/MBA (2010)

Website: www.havenly.com

Twitter Handle: @ellemot



What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Emily Motayed: There’s no real typical day! There is a lot of travel involved with my role, as we have small teams on both of the coasts and our headquarters are in Denver. My responsibilities include thinking about growth, scalability and new customer acquisition as well as working on strategic partnerships and opportunities (such as our latest team up with Domino). Also just making sure that everything keeps running smoothly on a day-to-day basis!

Lee Mayer: As CEO, I focus most on building out our winning team, including hiring and identifying what type of roles we need. I also make sure that the company has the resources it needs in order to succeed – which includes a lot of investor meetings and pitching the company and our product!


What is the best part of your job?

EM: One of my favorite things about this job is working with our amazing designers. They are a diverse group of people and so creative. They come up with beautiful combinations that I could never even dream up. It’s amazing what they put together even when working with the smallest budgets. It’s also really fulfilling that we’re giving these talented professionals a new avenue to grow their careers.

LM: Seeing the finished product or final outcome of the collaboration between Havenly, the designer and the client. It’s fun to see the unique personality of every client come through in their decor style.


What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

EM: My first entry level job out of college was in healthcare consulting – it was 2010 and I participated in on campus recruiting at Vanderbilt. It was a tough year for a lot of college grads and jobs, and I was lucky that Vanderbilt had a robust career services program.

LM: My first job out of college was at Accenture in consulting. I had interned there the previous summer when I was in college, and received a full-time offer then.


What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

EM: Startups are more demanding and draining than any other job because there’s an emotional factor. You build the team. You build a product. You build a brand. So, it’s very personal because you pour yourself and your vision into it. It’s super hard work because at the end of the day, you’re accountable for people’s paychecks and happy customers. Buck stops with you.

LM: In the startup world, everyone has an opinion on what you should do next, how to grow the company, etc. They are wise and extremely experienced people but nobody knows your business better than you and your team who are in it day out. It’s important to listen to external input, but not to let it be your only guide. 


Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

EM: Definitely my father – he has created and built many successful businesses from scratch while remaining committed to his community and his family. It’s pretty impressive to see him as a business example as well as an example of how to balance work and life.

LM: One of my first bosses when I was in my early 20s really took the time to mentor me on both a professional and personal level. She really helped me identify my core strengths and weaknesses so I could really focus on making myself a better employee and eventually a better boss.


What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

EM: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” – Sara Blakely

LM:  “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not people or objectives.” – Albert Einstein


What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

EM: Hiring people who are a good culture fit. I think it’s extremely important to invest early in hiring people who are good for the company as a whole and not just good for the role or position.

LM: Being too attached to perfection – it’s impossible to make sure everything is perfect in a startup, and sometimes it’s smart just to ship the product the way that it is and iterate on customer feedback as you move forward.


What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

EM: The most vivid moment was when we placed the first real order we got from a customer that was not a friend or family. It was a client who had found us on their own (not through word of mouth) and signed up through the site and went through the design process – I was absolutely delighted! It was so cool and unique to see that our product resonated with so many people.

LM: Seeing the team grow from just my sister and I to a team of more than 20! It’s crazy to think that what was just a simple idea a few years ago has grown into a company that supports so many people and is also making so many people’s design dreams come true!


What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

EM: People who have a passion for life, a passion for what they do in work and/or a passion for home decor. Startups are hard work. They demand a lot intellectually and emotionally. Passionate people tend to have the inner drive and energy you need to make it through challenging situations. And they are fun to work with!

LM:  Problem solvers or creative problem solvers. The nature of a growing business is imperfection. The company may have a lot of one resource, but be low on another. Problem solvers figure out how to get things done in creative ways with fewer resources or in a different way entirely.  


What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

EM: Build a solid network. Connect with anyone and everyone and nurture those relationships. You never can be sure where you will end up or who will be able to help you fulfill your dreams.

LM: Always be learning. Everyone you encounter in the workplace has something to teach you. Learn from people with more experience from you and those with less. Learn from people who have the same skill set and those who do something completely different. You will become a more versatile, well-rounded person this way and be able to work well with a wide range of people. 

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Lily is a member of Wesleyan University's class of 2016, where she double majored in government and sociology. She's a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect (www.theprospect.net), the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her work with Her Campus, she also serves in editorial roles at HelloFlo and The Muse.