How She Got There: Rachel Jo Silver, Founder & CEO of Love Stories TV

Name: Rachel Jo Silver
Age: 34
Job Title and Description: Founder & CEO, Love Stories TV
College Name/Major: B.A. in International Relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University. M.A. in International Affairs, Conflict Resolution, and Civil Society Development from The American University of Paris and Institut Catholique de Paris
Twitter Handle: @racheljosilver
Instagram Handle: @racheljosilver

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

RJS: I’m the founder and CEO of Love Stories TV. We’re the first and only platform for watching and sharing real wedding videos. I think being a CEO and a founder are two really different jobs. When you’re a founder, your job is to do everything. So when we started the company and there were only two of us, I had to do fundraising, sales, marketing and I had to build the audience and do video acquisition. You have to do every single thing. 

As a CEO, once you start hiring people, your job is to empower them to do their jobs and really just be the ultimate manager. Make sure that they have everything that they need, and that everyone is working toward the same goal. It’s an interesting two hats to wear.

Every day is really different. For a founder, no two days are the same, but for a CEO, it's does your team have everything they need? Are they all working toward the same goal? Does everyone understand the priorities? Is your team happy? Those are the typical things.

What is the best part of your job?

RJS: The best part of my job is my team. Every day I get to this office and I cannot believe that I got this group of amazing humans to want to work on this idea of mine. I was the manager of two of my team members at Birchbox. So, when I started Love Stories TV I thought, “Who are the best people I know? Who’s the smartest, best person that could do a little bit of everything?”

I started thinking about the people I worked with at Birchbox, particularly people who weren’t there anymore. My first employee had left [Birchbox] because she’d moved back to Chicago. She was our first employee and she just did everything for a year and it was unbelievable. And then we did a fundraise and hired more people, and now I have a second team member who worked with me at Birchbox and she’s incredible. 

Then we have two people who I didn’t know before. I always liken it to dating, so it’s really interesting because I’ve known my husband since I was five years old. The people you’ve known the longest you know the best, and you know everything about them and how it’s going to be, and that’s what it’s like with my two employees from Birchbox. 

But then, for example, one of my team members who used to run social media at Cosmo, sometimes I look at her and think, “I can’t believe I met this stranger, of all the people, and she wanted to work here.” We met, and it’s perfect. I think that’s sort of like dating. Just being able to work with them, I feel so lucky every day. 

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

RJS: I studied international affairs in undergrad at Michigan State University, and then I went to Paris, France and got a master’s in international affairs and conflict resolution. I was looking at jobs in the government, a big non-profit or international organizations.

I did an internship when I was in graduate school back in New York City working for a conflict resolution non-profit. I sort of realized that while that subject matter was really interesting to me from an academic perspective, it wasn’t really how I wanted to spend my time. So, I spent my last semester of grad school taking classes a little bit outside of my major. A little bit of business of fashion because I was in France, and some communications courses.

I ended up in New York and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I interviewed at this start-up called Howcast Media, and they were a how-to video start-up. I walked in and it was in a loft in SoHo, and there were video props all over the place and everyone looked young, and it looked really fun. I thought that I just want to be here, I don’t know anything about this but I know I want to be here. The role was the executive assistant of the CEO.

I couldn’t have possibly had a better first job. I got to shadow the CEO of a company who had worked at Google, among other things, and I got to listen to all his phone calls, go to meetings with him and travel with him and plan events - I learned everything. I learned how to write and email and how to structure a meeting. I learned all about New York and the best places to go. I can’t imagine a better education into business and the media world in New York, and I’m really grateful for that opportunity. 

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

RJS: People say all the time that networks are everything and your relationships are everything. I think I always knew that because I had seen that from being the assistant of the CEO and I went on from there to manage a non-profit that he had started, and also working at Birchbox. 

When I started Love Stories TV I had found pretty quickly as a founder is all you’re doing is asking people for favors, all the time. Like, “Can you introduce me to this person?” or, “Can you teach me how to do this thing?” or “Can you get me into this event?” I realized that my network was the most powerful tool in my toolbox.

I had felt really grateful that I invested so much time in it and I still think that every day. The one piece of advice is your network is everything. Invest in your network, and not in a superficial way like who are you connected to on LinkedIn, or “who do you know.” Who are the people you can call up and they’ll do something for you because they care about you and consider you a real friend? The bigger that web of people is, the more successful you’re going to be. 

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

RJS: When I was younger I thought that the most important thing about work was how good your work was. How great are your ideas and how effective are you in executing them? That is really important, but bringing people along with you is the most important thing. 

If I could go back in time and be my younger self again, I think I would listen more and try to be more empathetic. As a young person I think I could’ve been patient and listened more, so that’s what I would do better if I could go back in time.

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

RJS: Sometimes I’ll get a Twitter notification and someone will write, “It’s the middle of the night and I just spent three hours watching Love Stories TV videos, I’m going to be so tired tomorrow.” Nothing feels more surreal than that. There are hundreds of thousands of people out in the world who know what Love Stories TV is. They’re watching the videos and they care so much about it that they want to talk about it on their own. 

It’s one thing seeing hundreds of comments on a Facebook post that we post, or seeing people respond to my Instagram story who follow me. But really when I see a tweet or a Facebook post or an Instagram out of nowhere, someone just went on their own account to write about how much Love Stories TV provides entertainment or relaxation for them, or as a tool for planning their wedding, that’s what feels really surreal for me. 

What do you look for when considering hiring someone? 

RJS: I really lean toward ideas. I want someone who has interesting and original ideas. They think of things I haven’t thought of before. You want to hire people who are smarter than you and know how to do things you don’t know how to do. I really value ideas and creativity.

Being a strong writer is something that’s not emphasized enough. No matter what your job is, you have to be a great writer. If you’re in social media, you have to write great captions on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. If you’re doing product marketing you have to write great, clean and concise emails. I think that’s really valuable.

I look at ideas, I look at writing skills and I also look at enthusiasm. I hired one of my best friends at Howcast. She replaced me when I moved on from being the assistant, and she came into our interview with a notebook and started taking notes. I later told her, because she became one of my best friends, that it really impacted how I felt about her. She cared so much that she wanted to be attentive and organized in that interview.

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

RJS: I feel really passionately about interns and internships. I feel that when I look at my network, it’s vertical and horizontal. Internships are the best and most important thing you can do. I always tell people to do an internship every summer of college. You can come out of college with the start of four different networks, four ideas of what you want to do. Work as hard as you can. Internships can form real relationships with people at the company, not just the other interns.

At Love Stories TV we value interns so much that we have interns in Chicago that work with one of our employees and we have interns here who work with us in New York. One of our interns is graduating and we don't have a full-time role at the company, but she's so good that we're going to keep her for the summer and pay her to train the new summer interns. We're launching a remote internship program where people can work from wherever they are and watch wedding videos, and then they can create social content about the wedding videos. We're going to pay her to help us run that program.

What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

 RJS: If it’s messy, or if there are mistakes or it’s not formatted correctly, that’s the number one thing that makes me stop looking at it. You could have the best experience in the world but if your resume doesn’t look professional, put together and mistake-free, then you end up judging the whole resume based on that. The same thing goes for cover letters. I actually think that cover letters are more important than resumes because you’re in college, you’ve done internships and taken courses and that matters, but you’re a blank slate.

We’re looking for someone who’s hard-working and interested. So, your cover letter to me is much more telling. Tell me why you want to work at Love Stories TV. Is it the right length, is it clean, is it grammatically correct? The first thing I look at is the cleanliness, the format, sort of the presence of the document. I won’t look at the resume if the cover letter doesn’t read cleanly or they don’t explain why they want to work at Love Stories TV. I also don’t consider those people who write one cover letter for all their applications. Tailor it to the opportunity you want.