DANY LEVY, FOUNDER OF THE ONLINE GUIDE DAILYCANDY, DISCUSSES THE EVOLVING NATURE OF HER ROLE AS A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR
This article was excerpted from OPEN Book: Leadership. Find more information and resources including a podcast featuring Dany Levy at openforum.com/leadership.
While she was working as a magazine journalist, Dany Levy dreamt up the concept for the curated online guide DailyCandy, and set out on her own to produce a free daily e-mail: a New York City-based insider’s guide to what’s hot, new, and undiscovered – from fashion and restaurant news to gadgets and travel. Ten years later, with 3 million subscribers, she is guiding her vision on a global scale with a new owner, and reflects on how her role as a leader has changed and evolved over time.
How much has the vision changed as DailyCandy has grown?
I think the core has stayed the same. DailyCandy is much more female than I originally thought it would be. That refocused the vision from producing a general city guide to concentrating around a female demographic. In the beginning, it was very much about the things I liked, but as we’ve grown, new people have had to communicate their understanding and expertise, so that’s changed of course. I encourage all our contributors to develop individually without imposing my taste, but at the same time work hard to make sure what they do falls within the overall brand and its tone and voice. Brand consistency is key.
What are the most difficult leadership decisions you face?
Some of the more difficult decisions are about disagreeing with people I respect, when I’m required to take a good look at the reality of the situation. Companies are like families, but keeping hold of the bigger picture is important. I know I’m facing a difficult decision when I feel myself working to preserve the family dynamic at the same time as making a hardheaded business call.
Is there a single piece of advice you received in the course of the growth of DailyCandy that stands out?
I remember watching Peter Sheinbaum, my first CEO, doing spreadsheets, and saying I wanted to learn how to do them. He told me that I can’t and shouldn’t try to do everything, to be all things for the company. There’s a tendency for entrepreneurs to think that they have to micromanage every aspect of the business. I was good with the content, the product, the brand and the marketing, and have an insatiable need to learn. I wanted to learn all aspects of the business, and Pete told me to slow down, suggesting that we divide and conquer instead – a great piece of advice. It’s important to keep mentors, and I know I wouldn’t have survived without them. I’ve always been amazed by how many people are willing to help an entrepreneur.
What brands do you turn to for inspiration?
I’m always inspired by people who have created amazing brands from scratch – like Marcia Kilgore, who carefully built the Bliss brand from a one-room spa in SoHo to a worldwide brand. I admire Natalie Massenet, who created Net-a-Porter, which has been a whopping success, largely because of her keen eye, business savvy and knack for quality and curation. I also admire Tina Brown, who executes any project she takes on with great competence and determination.