work. life. style
From The Founder
I'm a small-town girl with an entrepreneurial spirit, in pursuit of a laid-back way of life. I felt like a walking contradiction until I experienced true lifestyle change through the doorway of my closet.
My clothes were a catalyst for change, and I believe yours can be, too.
Join me and my mini rebellion against consumerism culture and the constant pressure to be anything other than authentic.
Transparency lives here.
Start with my first story below, then let’s make it official by chatting over my weekly email — and yes, I’ll really respond to you. ;)
Let’s Begin Here.
I’m Erin, owner and CEO of Cladwell, and a big fan of being candid.
I’ve been a founder in the startup scene for over a decade. I’ve worked with top accelerators such as 500 Startups, Science, and Indie.vc, and raised money from various venture capitalists. While I have lived in Silicon Valley, my home base is Cincinnati, Ohio. I started out by joining a startup as the Head of Marketing, then became a co-founder years later as we developed an entirely new business. When that all went down in a fiery ball of failure, I bought the company in hopes of turning it around, and here I am.
In two years’ time, I went from unpaid and upside down in cash to profitable with a steady salary for myself and others. You might say I’m living the new American dream—financially free in a company I love, without being tethered to “the man.” And yet, to be honest, something about that dream feels incomplete. I know firsthand that founders must take giant steps back to find another way forward. We wait months in negotiations without an ounce of certainty. We put ourselves out there only to be rejected time and time again. And yet, while many founders model transparency in their numbers, I rarely witness vulnerability around our common experiences. The heartbreak, the mental toil, that moment the light goes from bright to burnt-out…where’s the honesty? The few truly unfiltered conversations I have had with other founders left me feeling incredibly refreshed, deeply connected, and less alone in this seemingly impossible pursuit of building something that matters. Given that only 2% of women founders get funding, loneliness is not just a feeling, it’s statistically true. There are very few of us out here, so speaking up candidly has become increasingly important to me.
I have honest and unpolished stories to share. And after a decade of collecting them, my soul may wither away if I leave them untold. Start-ups, business, life & family—I’m offering an unfiltered look at my journey to show that success isn’t a silver bullet, progress isn’t a straight line, and financial freedom doesn’t solely come from taking the big swings. Speaking up is vulnerable, and finding my own voice has been slow—the silence hanging in the air is not from a lack of words, but too many. But I want you to know you’re not alone.
So…let’s begin here.
Start here with my favorite reads…
Chicken. Wings. Sexism.
The critics and naysayers that once fueled my desire to give up, are now my reason to keep going.
Business Is Personal
Every time I hear the words, “It’s not personal. It’s business.” I feel the need to take a shower.
A Hat That Changed Me
It had nothing to do with fashion, and everything to do with fear...
Playing the Game
Proving myself in a game that can’t be won only results in a few minutes of satisfaction before the fulfillment fades.
Fifteen years ago, I dressed mostly to impress others. I was playing quite a variety of characters in my own life, and it showed in my fashion choices.
Billions or Bust
We knew it was bad money, giving up the power in our company in exchange for very little, but we wanted the connections and needed to make payroll.
Drowning In Sweat Equity
After years of treading harder, stronger, and longer, and then sinking to the bottom, I’ve become conscious of my natural default. Now I intentionally force myself to do what feels unnatural—relax.
I was mortified, shamed, and in tears. Not only was it my first comment, but it had been sitting there at the bottom of the article for all of my friends and family to see.
We Can’t All Have Chickens.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the homesteaders, flower growers, and chicken farmers. Admire it, even! But I, despite my greatest efforts, am not one of them.
Ready To Fly
After our business went bust, I was left picking up the pieces of both the company and the broken partnership that left me feeling wounded. Trying to put everything back together in the midst of a global pandemic was like working on a 2000-piece puzzle with no image of how it all fits together. It all felt like a failure.
Boundaries = Freedom
Six years of working in fashion have taught me that it’s often the people with overgrown closets that have the least amount of freedom. They struggle with the simple task of figuring out what to wear, just as I did.
A Lesson In Marketing
True marketing is only as effective as the change it makes in people. People don't want what you make. People want to be seen and heard.
Style For Good
It’s time we put an end to toxic, dissatisfying consumerism culture. Not easy. I know. Good news, though — our style and wardrobe can be good for people and the planet.
Carving My Own Path
I was miserable. It just took sobbing uncontrollably on a zoom call with one of my investors to realize it. Not my best look.
What 2020 Taught Me
Just like pandemics start with one person, movements start with one voice.
It took me a long time to realize that overperforming is simply my coping mechanism to escape the Monday morning fear of lacking control.
Being a mom is a part of me, but it’s not all of me. It took me a long time to find the words to articulate that, even longer to say it out loud.
Words matter. The language we use to communicate defines our beliefs and shapes the environment around us.
An overwhelming amount of choice actually limits freedom. And if we follow the world’s standard for how much we “should have,” we will never have enough, never truly feel chisoku.
The Road To Recovery
When the ground beneath us shakes, it takes a minute to find our footing.
In The Name of Elon
I’m not writing this hoping Twitter fails. I’m writing this because I cannot stay silent while watching a billionaire man in power redefine leadership in our culture. I must say my piece.
Our accounts drained, business failed, reputation muddied, and entirely reliant on others to pull us up, I received a strange and unexpected gift – peace.
You may recall Cher from the cult classic movie Clueless. And her magical computer that puts outfits together from the clothes in her closet. Well, my team and I legitimately built that thing…
If you faced your own kind of hard in 2022, consider this a reminder that you don’t have to make sense of it all. In difficult years, sometimes “making it through” is enough.
Or, with any one of these fabulous options…
Cladwell offers a lifestyle that’s counter to culture with a personal styling app that makes it easier to live. For beginners and taste-makers alike, find a wardrobe template that best fits your style. Get daily outfits in the app. Publish and share your capsule with the world.. Start for free (seriously, no credit card required).
Get a true personal stylist in your pocket. Your stylist will be automatically added to your app and can help you create outfits, design capsules, and shop. Work with a stylist.
The Capsule Wardrobe Program is 8 on-demand video sessions that teach you how to build your own capsule wardrobe. Listen and learn at your own pace. Even work with a stylist for extra support.
The gram is where it’s mainly at for us. We post new stories on @cladwellapp and respond to DM’s on the regular. But… if you’re feeling adventurous we also pin beautiful things on Pinterest and share even more about work and life on LinkedIn.
Do more with less. We work with over 15+ artisans and makers to curate a selection of hand-crafted accessories to help you make the most of what you already have. Shop leather goods and accessories.
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