SEEN Magazine and Styleshack merge to form new media partnership.
By Jackie Headapohl
Photography by Marina Pia Goldi
Living your best life locally.
That’s the mission publisher Kevin Browett had in mind when he launched Neighborhood SEEN magazine in 2014.
“I saw the future trends changing more to local shopping, the local small towns emerging again and moving back to one’s roots,’” he said. “I wanted to create a local publication that highlighted all the good things that people do, local business stories, and events and trends that people care about — right in our backyard.”
Rachel Schostak and Amy Gill had a similar vision for their business, Styleshack.com. Schostak, a fashion industry expert and retail specialist, launched the first version of Styleshack.com in 2013 as a shop-local platform that connects shoppers to local boutiques, unique designers, trends and specialty stores. Since its launch, Styleshack has been the go-to guide for everything fashion, featuring style tips, fashion trends, design inspiration and local shopping opportunities.
Schostak, 30, married and expecting her first child in February, grew up in Farmington Hills, spent one year at University of Michigan and then transferred to the Fashion Institute in New York, where she earned her degree. She worked in the fashion industry in New York and Chicago for a few years before returning to Michigan to work as social media director for Denise Ilitch Designs. That was when she first got her big idea for styleshack.com.
For entrepreneurs, the key is perseverance. When Schostak first applied to Bizdom, the startup accelerator program from Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans family of companies, she was turned down. But rather than give up and accept failure, she worked hard on her idea for the next year, reapplied and got accepted. There she met Gill, who ran training and development for the business accelerator.
Gill is also Michigan-bred and born, having grown up in Huntington Woods and graduated from Michigan State University. She’s married with two children, Georgia, 5, and Sam, 3.
“What I liked about working at Bizdom was helping build out a lot of people’s good ideas,” she said.
When she and Schostak met, they discovered they had good synergy and balance. “I loved her mission of supporting local retailers and boutiques,” Gill said.
When Gill returned from maternity leave for her son, Schostak, who was deep in the midst of raising money and launching her full platform, asked her to become her business partner.
“It was a tough decision to leave Bizdom,” Gill said, “but I knew if I didn’t do it, I would always wonder, so I took the plunge and said yes.”
Like most good partners, they make up for each other’s weaknesses. Schostak has the big and creative ideas, and Gill works best providing structure and delving into the nitty-gritty details of making a business successful.
“I was always looking for a business partner; I never wanted to be doing this alone,” Schostak said. “It’s hard to find someone who is as committed and passionate about your big idea as you are, but that’s what I found in Amy. She saw a lot of companies come through the accelerator and fail, and she always kept pushing me. She believed in me and my product.”
Last year, Styleshack.com, working with more than 100 local retailers and boutiques, launched its full platform, including a content management system that enabled bloggers and influencers to connect to the marketplace. The company was able to connect small local retailers to new audiences, but cash flow — and growing the business — was always a struggle.
“For most of 2016, we were working with store owners and working to raise money so we could market and grow,” Gill said. “Then we met Kevin.”
A NEW PARTNERSHIP
Both companies were growing when Browett and Schostak (old family friends) and Gill met last year to discuss working together. They all agreed print (SEEN magazine) together with digital (Styleshack.com) and the ability to buy online with various delivery options was the wave of the future.
“We wanted to work with SEEN on fashion and style content and, after a discussion, we realized it would make sense to partner,” Schostak said. “It would give both our companies the opportunity to expand our missions — to make it easier to search, shop, share and discover local retailers and businesses.”
By merging the companies, SEEN could become a “smart print” media company, connecting local individualized experiences through content and commerce.
Schostak now works as creative director for SEEN, directing the magazine’s fashion shoots and style coverage. She maintains a personal blog, “Notes from the Styleshack,” for those who follow fashion trends. Gill works in sales development and manages SEEN’s website.
Earlier this year, SEEN publicly announced that it had acquired the Styleshack technology along with the innovative Styleshack team to further the “hyper local experience.”
“For SEEN, the mission is about telling
local stories and connecting people with what’s going on in local communities.”
— Kevin Browett
Styleshack is now SEEN Marketplace, and Browett, Gill and Schostak are courting investors for their new company — SEEN Media, with Browett as CEO, Gill as COO and Schostak as creative director.
The new company will take the SEEN Marketplace to the next level. “We’re going to be launching new types of pages: restaurants, things to do, home fashions — all local products and services,” Gill said. “It will all be connected digitally to SEEN magazine.”
For example, let’s say you’re reading a restaurant review on neighborhoodseen.com. Right now, if that restaurant has a page on the SEEN Marketplace, you can click through to see all its information.
In SEEN Marketplace 2.0 — coming within the next six months — you’ll be able to click and make a reservation at the restaurant without ever leaving the page. “Our new technology will allow users to ‘add to their cart’ a reservation or click through to call the establishment, all without ever leaving SEEN online,” Gill said.
Schostak added, “We also aim to simulate the experience of working with in-store stylists by learning about our shoppers’ preferences and delivering relevant results.”
Browett is excited about the future. “For SEEN, the mission is about telling local stories and connecting people with what’s going on in local communities,” he said. “With Styleshack’s technology, we will continue the mission to help everyone live their best lives, locally. NS