Interviews & Profiles

Trendy Treat Founder Stephanie McLean

How to Take Your Food Startup to the Big Leagues

An accidental Fashinoista, law grad and lifelong lover of travel, launching Trendy Treat has been a serendipitous adventure for Stephanie. Launching a lifestyle portal is perhaps an unexpected path for someone who holds a law degree and a Masters in Real Estate Development from Columbia University.

Stephanie has always relished in coloring outside the lines. A lifelong globe trotter, whose adventures have taken her to more than 18 counties spanning 5 continents. Stephanie always enjoyed collecting unique pieces. People often wanted to know where she got the items from. Thus birthed the idea of being able to bring a curated global shopping experience to all women.

Women don’t come in standard sizes. In fact, most women struggle with fit issues. A size 4 from the waist up and a size 6 from the waist down, standing at 5 feet 9 inches, finding clothes with the perfect fit has long been a challenge.

Ethical fashion is also something that Stephanie is incredibly passionate about. Creating a platform that supported designers who were committed to sustainable fashion was important. The in-house line Mogul In The Making epitomizes socially conscious glamour. All pieces are ethically manufactured and have a positive socio-economic impact on the regions it is produced in.

Brining the luxury of perfect fit tailoring and global travel, has culminated in the birth of Trendy Treat, a lifestyle portal for the globally glamorous modern woman.

Full name: Stephanie McLean
Location: Miami, Florida
Title & company: Founder, Trendy Treat
Education: MS Real Estate Development (Columbia University 2011), Law Degree (University of Arizona Law 2010) and BS Political Science (SUNY Stony Brook)

What advice would give women who are interested in working in your industry?

My business is in fashion and tech; both industries are viewed as daunting to make a name for yourself. Tech is notoriously male dominated and fashion has traditionally been an incredibly hard industry to find mainstream success.

Personally, I love a good challenge and think that a lot of small players, aggregated can make big changes. I’d encourage more women to learn to code and acquire other in demand tech skills. For fashion, to try to get their designs into the world, whether it’s friends, small boutiques or flea markets, so they can get customer feedback and prove that there is demand for their products.

Have you always been an entrepreneur by nature? How did you come up with your business idea?

I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I am the very assertive, color out the lines, left of center type. I started a summer camp in High School and always knew that I wanted to create a business of my own. The business idea took a few iterations to get it right.

Ultimately, Trendy Treat evolved from my desire to create a brand that meets the needs of globally glamorous millennial woman, something reflective of our lifestyles. It’s an exciting time to be a woman, the education and professional attainment of women is at the highest levels in history. Women are travelling and conquering the world.

Trendy Treat provides a lifestyle brand that meets those discerning needs trendy travel experiences, ethically manufactured made to measure clothing, truly unique pieces from designers that are new and next, from Africa to Asia, many of whom have celebrity followings. It’s a lifestyle portal for the globally glamorous.

What makes you proud of your company?

The tremendous growth rate of brand overall and the individual designers. In barely over a year, the site’s clothing line Mogul In The Making is carried in over five boutiques, many of the pieces have even made it to the store window. One piece ended up being worn by a client on TV. Entrepreneurship can be rather lonely, Trendy Treat has built a great global creative community of over 20 independent designers from 5 continents working to break into fashion. They have all grown tremendously.

Ethiopian Based Designer Abai Shulze of ZAAF Collection was selected for 100 African Entrepreneurs, Nigerian & Amesterdam based designer houses, O’Eclat & Mauke V, were both featured in Vogue. Domincan Repulic’s Ela Design Studio were in Canada’s En Route Magazine. Paris Hilton fell in love with Jamaican based designers Lexitori’s products and Nacres became a celebrity staple, being worn by Empire’s Grace Gealey, Nia Long and a myriad of other celebrities. I’m incredibly proud of them and am happy to provide a platform for them to share their talents with the world.

Do you think the attitude toward female entrepreneurs is changing?

The attitude towards female entrepreneurship is definitely changing. Women are more economically and educationally empowered today. There are more women around the world launching businesses today and finding tremendous success.

Alexa Von Tobel (LearnVest), Natalie Massent (Net-A-Porter) and Sophia Amoruso (Nasty Gal) are all sole female founders who’ve launched multi-million dollar tech companies. Think the attitude is definitely shifting to view us as serious players in the big leagues.

What advice would you give as a woman to another woman, who is thinking about starting her own company?

Just do it! The real learning happens when you actually start interacting with clients. Many times the concepts that you will have initially will evolve after interacting with clients. When you have people willing to happily part with their money, that aren’t really friends or relatives, then you’ll know you’re onto something. It doesn’t have to be capital intensive, just find an inexpensive way to connect with your client base.

Tell us more about how you came up with your idea and about the process on how you turned the idea into an actual business?

Initially, I had a broad global idea of wanting to create a socially conscious company that helped other companies by combining my love of fashion, travel and media. It took a few tries to get it right. I worked with mentors from grad school (Columbia University), did a soft launch, based on that feedback, rebranded. Held some pop up shops, put up the website, started selling on Etsy and in boutiques.

Also I did a lot of international travel last year to Germany, Dubai, two African Countries, the Caribbean to scout talent, figure out manufacturing options and refine the travel offerings.

Tell us something interesting that happens behind the scenes of your company?

Manufacturing the clothing line is both a pain and pleasure point. Most people in manufacturing can relate that it isn’t the easiest task. That being said, seeing something that was just an idea in your head being brought to life is exciting. The line is committed to ethical manufacturing and I am very hands on, so I get to really connect with the people that are making the clothes, which is great. It feels like we have a little community that’s rooting for the success of the brand.

What have you learned from your success and failure that you’ve experienced during your business?

Early on I had an unpleasant experience with a designer. I realized that it’s important to have unification of purpose with the people you decide to work with because it is instrumental to the success of the business. The success thus far has emphasized the importance of hustling hard and staying humble.

Are you working on any new projects or launching something new that you’d like to share with us?

Trendy Escapes Signature Itineraries is the site’s newest product line and an integral piece of the overall Trendy lifestyle brand. A truly unique offering, Trendy Treat curate’s travel itineraries with tips from influencers, designers models, tastemakers and offers a luxurious getaway tailor made for the globally glamorous modern woman. First class airport lounge passes, blow outs, unique fashionable experiences that are surely unforgettable, you’ll experience the city like a tastemaker.

To get the trip off to a glamorous start, we create a surprise edit from the sites designers from around the world, put it in a great travel bag and deliver it to your door. You may be off to Paris, with glam luxury leather pieces from Addis Abba Ethiopia, stunning gems from Singapore or luscious silk scarves from Mexico.

Tell us more about how you see your company evolving in five years?

Aspire for Trendy Treat to gain a foothold in the lifestyle space for women. Envision greater selections of designers, product offerings, content and travel experiences.

What’s your current method of having enough cash flow? How have you overcome funding difficulties?

Sales have thankfully been promising. Savvy use of initial investments coupled with thoughtful planning have helped to keep the finances in order, so I haven’t had first hand experiences with funding difficulties thus far.

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