Stefani Tsakos | Founder, One Clique

"I’ve learned to have a thick skin and take the criticism because EVERYONE has an opinion—you need to be willing to listen and not take it personally. You must also trust your instincts. And: timelines almost always change.  Oftentimes, situations are simply out your hands and you need to be able to re-route and not lose focus."

How do you start your day?

Snuggling with my three-year-old daughter, while she watches cartoons and I drink coffee and scroll through Instagram.

Who inspires you?

Other women inspire me—women who are confident and who are individuals. I’m also constantly inspired by New York City and its people.

What would you tell yourself as a teenager?

That this is the easy part; try to enjoy it and not care so much about what others think.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be grateful for what you have and live in the moment. Make memories.

What do you need to get you through each day?

Besides coffee? I think simply the motivation to do a good job, challenging myself, and proving to myself I can be better.

What are you reading?

I have a bad habit of getting halfway through a book and then putting it down—but I just starting reading Wild, by Cheryl Stray, so hopefully I’ll make it all the way though!

Briefly describe your business and inspiration for it.

One Clique is a collection of Shoe Separates, Tops and Heels that click on and off, allowing ultimate style versatility. We currently sell exclusively online at The inspiration came from the notion of “Why can’t we do that?”  We are for the fashion forward and forward thinking. We believe in limitless possibilities.

How has your passion fueled your business?

I’ve always had a love for fashion.Textures, colors, balance, and detail are what I am always fixated on. I think that crosses over into every facet of my business.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I spent over a decade as a freelance fashion stylist—so I had a history of working for myself, as well as building something on my own. But the best part was always the collaboration with others.  Starting a business with Sandy Saccullo, my partner, is what I was excited about. Doing this with her is what got me excited about being an entrepreneur.

What was the tipping point for realizing you had a good business?

I think I am a pretty good barometer for what’s gimmicky and what is actually cool. After several years of putting together TV segments for the NBC Today Show,I’ve seen many interchangeable novelty items. From the moment we started this venture, I’ve always believed it was a great idea—and that what we are doing is not only special, but different from anything else that’s out there. Getting the validation from some heavy hitters in the shoe industry has been really exciting as well.

What has been the key to your success?

Drive and passion. I always put my all into everything I do. No task is too small or insignificant.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your start-up career?

I’ve learned to have a thick skin and take the criticism because EVERYONE has an opinion—you need to be willing to listen and not take it personally. You must also trust your instincts. And: timelines almost always change.  Oftentimes, situations are simply out your hands and you need to be able to re-route and not lose focus.

What challenges did you face in the early days of being the Founder of your own business?

There were a lot of areas of the business where I had absolutely zero experience.  I had to learn on the job and try my best. I’m constantly worried that I’m doing something wrong, or that it’s not good enough.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your business to date, and how have you moved past it?

The biggest mistake we made was rushing everything. Looking back, I wish we had taken things a little slower. I’ve learned that slow and steady wins the race. I was too focused on unrealistic timelines. Now I’m working in reality, instead of fantasy.

What would you have done differently?

I would have taken the first year to really focus just on the product, instead of trying to build the structure of the business at the same time. It is sort of the chicken before the egg scenario, but in the end, the product is most important.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had in your business to date, and how did you pull through it?

Timelines—simply receiving a product when we need it. And raising capital is always a challenge. Also, having to constantly re-route and making the best use of our time is what got us through the challenging situations. We never stopped moving even if there was a delay.

When self-doubt hits, what do you do?

I remember all the times in my life where I trusted my instincts and it paid off. I remember the successes—that helps me stay focused.

What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur?

There’s always a fear you may not succeed, and that you could possibly let others down—those who believed in you and invested in you. That’s the hardest part.

What aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur do you like and/or disklike?

I love being able to “create.”  To make something come to life that I imagined in my head is so exciting! The worst part is dealing with numbers. It isn’t my forte, but it’s essential for every entrepreneur to have thorough knowledge of all the financials; I find this to be the most challenging.

Which books, articles, blogs have helped to shape your business and/or leadership style?

In My Shoes, by Tamara Mellon; If You Have To Cry Go Outside, by Kelly Cutrone;  #Girlboss, by Sophia Amoruso. These books have all inspired self-confidence in me. They have taught me to have faith in my own abilities and instinct. I also really love the following these bloggers for the same reason:

The Blond Salad, Chiara Ferragni

We Wore What, Danielle Bernstein

Song of Style, Aimee Song

Sazan Hendrix

Are there any go-to resources that you’ve found useful in running your business (service, website, etc.)?

I use basecamp for web projects, mailchimp for newsletters, and dropbox and Google drive to share documents.  Google, Pinterest, and Instagram are my go-tos for research and inspiration.

What has been your best strategy for selling your product or service, and what have you learned along the way?

We chose to sell our products directly on our website because we want to offer our customers the most competitive price and while providing the convenience of shopping online. As for raising awareness about the brand, I think that word of mouth is really important. Reaching out to friends and family and sharing what you are doing on all your social platforms is a good way to get a dialog going about your product. Getting support from blogs and other publications that both our customers and we read is always so amazing, because it’s organic. We want our customers to find out about us from sources they trust.

How did your experiences in the corporate world prepare you for entrepreneurship, or not prepare you?

I didn’t really have experience working in the corporate world before this, but as a freelance stylist I did have the luxury of working with a wide variety of clients in the fashion industry. I think that experience has worked in my benefit because I’m used to a hectic, faced-paced schedule where each day is different—much like what I’m doing now!

What do you think the most important attribute a female entrepreneur/ business owner can possess?

Compassion.  I think women get a bad rap for being competitive with each other, but the truth is that we all have great compassion towards one another. Women have the ability to relate to each other in an extraordinary way. That attribute can be extremely powerful in business.

What do you do outside the office to help you stay creative/productive?

Watching movies, and reading books, blogs and magazines, shopping, traveling, and drawing are all ways I keep my creative juices flowing.  Also, every moment I’m in New York City, walking the streets, observing the people, inspires me.

What would you say to another woman who asked you if they should take the leap and start their own business?

I would tell them they are capable of ANYTHING.  No matter what it is, they can do it—so go for it. It’s supposed to be hard, and you are supposed to feel pushed and stretched and challenged 90 percent of the time. That’s when you know you’re doing it right!