One scroll through Laurel Kinney’s website or Instagram page, and you’ll notice just how well she unites the words “personal” and “style.” Her genuine and engaging approach to personal styling is connected to her background in psychology, as she says below, “My creative process with clients is sort of like a mix between psychology and art; I dig into my clients’ personalities for little touchstones that I can translate into clothing.”
I’m thrilled to have a conversation with Laurel on Movers + Makers to learn more about her story. Below, she shares how she got into the styling business, what her typical day looks like, and how she’s navigated being a creative business owner.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before becoming a personal stylist and what led you to pursue it?
I went to school for Social Work, and worked in end of life care for years before realizing I wanted to do something a little more creatively fulfilling. I spent a lot of time driving around Austin as a hospice social worker when I first moved here, which gave me time to think about my possible future life. I started a style blog just for something fun to do outside of death and dying, and soon met a local stylist who showed me the ropes of the personal styling business. When I realized I could combine my psychology background with something creative that could actually help people, I was hooked. I started my business in 2010 and have been working my butt off ever since!
Once you decided to launch your styling business, what were some of the first steps you took to get started?
I got ultra-clear on who my ideal client was. I imagined her in my head, and just followed her around all day, if that makes sense. I learned early on that you can’t ever focus too much, so I concentrated hard on attracting my ideal client which helped me sound like more of an expert, and helped me build my confidence. That isn’t to say that I didn’t say yes to everything in the beginning, because I did, I just tried to FOCUS on what I wanted right out of the gate.
“Learning how to market gracefully and naturally was a big learning experience, and I surprised myself with how much I both enjoy AND despise that part.”
What has been the most unexpected part about owning a business?
Well, that the work never stops. There is SO MUCH emotional heavy lifting you have to do in order to run your own ship–put yourself out there as a “brand,” market yourself, then actually do the job well, create systems for yourself, ask for help, provide your own sense of structure…it’s a lot! It was especially a lot for a person like me who was a social worker with zero business background and always had a predictable income. Learning how to market gracefully and naturally was a big learning experience, and I surprised myself with how much I both enjoy AND despise that part.
Take us through a typical day in the life. Do you have any routines or schedules that you stick to?
My day starts with my two dogs jumping on my chest, alerting me to their very immediate needs. Most days I get right up and have coffee while I read a few of the yoga sutras before I go to practice. I practice ashtanga yoga at Mysore Austin, and I’m usually there for an hour and half, 6 days a week. Then I’m home, making breakfast, walking the dogs, and getting ready for my day. My days are spent either in a client’s home, sorting their closet or styling their outfits, or out shopping with clients.
I try to take 2 days off per week, and save one day for projects I’m working on, so I typically have 6 client sessions a week. After work it’s dog walking and winding down by making dinner, hanging with friends or just chilling with The Bachelor. I don’t have much of a life, honestly, ha!
As a stylist, where do you go for inspiration? What does your creative process look like?
I find inspiration everywhere–books, movies, music, Netflix. I recently watched Russian Doll and basically died over the wardrobe–the characters all wear the same thing for the entire season and the styling was brilliant because it never seems boring. My creative process with clients is sort of like a mix between psychology and art; I dig into my clients’ personalities for little touchstones that I can translate into clothing. I never know what will come out and inspire me. Sometimes it’s them saying they used to be in a punk band, sometimes it’s the fact that they’d rather be outside more than anything. I’ve trained my brain to be able to take any idea/feeling/goal and translate it into an outfit.
“I had so many people look at me like I had 8 heads when I first started my business…I just had to block out the noise and keep clear and focused on what I saw for myself and my future clients.”
You recently launched the Style Shift Workshop, a virtual personal style course. What inspired you to launch a new offering like this?
I created the Style Shift Workshop a few years ago, as a way to reach my clients virtually, and was taking people through the styling process one on one via video conferencing. This year I decided to create a video course that people can take on their own, and I can provide support once they have a solid grasp on the basics. I want to work with people who know themselves well and are willing to go deep in order to reflect their real selves through their style, and I couldn’t get as deep as I wanted repeating the same closet sorting steps over and over.
I think the new workshop will be really cool because people can get a ton of help from just the videos, and then I can provide more intensive support to the people who most need it. Plus, we are going to have a community feature where people can ask questions and get support from me and the other Style Shifters. I want to create a cool community of like-minded seekers of style depth!
Is there anything you’ve read or listened to that’s been an inspiration for you or your business?
Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass at Making Money really changed my whole mindset around money and getting clear on how I wanted to make a living. As far as style inspo, The Curated Closet by Anushka Rees is a great resource for creating a quality wardrobe and when I read it I was like “dang it this is the book I would have written!!”
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a business?
Don’t give up if you really know you want it, and use the people who doubt you as fuel to move you forward! I had so many people look at me like I had 8 heads when I first started my business, and I just had to block out the noise and keep clear and focused on what I saw for myself and my future clients.
I also recommend asking for support! I have worked with business coaches off and on in several different capacities and it has made a huge difference for me in terms of strategy and confidence. It’s lonely being a sole business owner since no one cares as much as you do about your work, so it’s very helpful to have someone else around who can understand your business and help you succeed.