We’ve been readers of the blog Cupcakes and Cashmere ever since we could save favorites in our RSS feed (remember that?). Emily Schuman, the blog’s creator, exudes warmth and charm. She’s a “go to” friend when you need advice on anything from relationships to beauty hacks to hosting. Her Links I Love series always leads us down the most decadent rabbit hole of interesting finds. However, what truly sets this mama apart from her fellow bloggers is that she has been able to grow her business to include two bestselling books, plus a women’s fashion and home goods line that is sold in major retailers from Anthropologie to Shopbop (we’re coveting this sweater for Fall!). We caught up with Emily as she prepared to re-launch her online shop. We spoke about growing her team, setting boundaries, and motherhood advice inspired by her close relationship with her own mama. Read on…
We are long-time readers of your blog and are so thrilled for all the success you’ve had to date. How did you go from blog to brand? Was there a pivotal moment when you realized Cupcakes and Cashmere could be so much more?
Thank you so much! It’s funny—I think people see where I am today and assume it happened quickly or seamlessly, neither of which are the case. I began the blog in March of 2008 as a hobby. I’d recently gone from working at Teen Vogue and Domino magazines to AOL, where I was managing online media campaigns and found myself uninspired in the role. At the time, blogs were rather singularly focused—you either wrote about fashion or food or interior design. The concept of a women’s lifestyle site wasn’t really a thing back then. I knew I wanted to write about fashion and food—hence the alliterative title—and allowing myself to cover such a broad range of topics helped make sure I didn’t burn out. I’d say the most pivotal moment of my career was when Coach asked me to design a handbag with them back in 2009. That’s when I realized Cupcakes and Cashmere could be much more than this little blogger side gig.
You now have two internationally bestselling books; a growing clothing and home decor line sold at major retailers; as well as an online store of your own. What has been the hardest thing about growing your business? The most rewarding?
The hardest part has been learning how to manage. Beyond the fact that I can be a bit of a controlling perfectionist, I literally went straight from assistant to CEO, so I kind of missed out on years of climbing the corporate ladder and learning some valuable management skills. The most rewarding part is being surrounded by this incredibly supportive community of like-minded women.
Who was your first hire? How did you know it was time for you to add staff?
Phoebe Dean! We brought her on as an Editorial Intern and she quickly proved herself, so we offered her a full-time graphic design position. I’d needed to hire someone for about two years at that point; we were more than ready for her to begin. We’re still really close and I’ve loved watching her grow over the years (she currently works at Doen).
Mamas supporting mamas! You now lead a team of 8 people. What does being a good boss mean to you?
Leading by example, setting clear expectations, giving lots of positive feedback, handling awkward/uncomfortable/negative situations as soon as they become known, and being my employees’ biggest cheerleader.
That’s all such good advice. What do you feel has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in your career?
Negative feedback. I’m a private person who also happens to be very sensitive, so leading a relatively public-facing life can be tough. People sometimes make assumptions or accusations that simply aren’t true, and I’ve had to learn to not let it get to me. There’s a difference between accepting constructive criticism and just letting online trolls affect me negatively.
You recently relaunched your shop with version 2.0. How is it different from the first version?
It’s a lot cleaner and feels like less of a blog-turned-shop than a luxury online retail boutique (with a nice range of prices). It’s simple to navigate to bestsellers like our sleeveless ruffle denim dress, polka dot wrap dress, Marrie Leather mini skirt, jumpsuits, rompers, blazers, and cardigans. Gift cards are available and easy to use. People are now able to click to buy Cupcakes and Cashmere products from Instagram, which is how many people shop these days.
We can’t wait to check it out! Your hubby Geoffrey is also the president of Cupcakes and Cashmere. We have much admiration for couples who work together as well! How do you separate work and home? Do you have any practical tips and/or advice for other couples doing the same?
Thank you! Sometimes, even I don’t know how we do it. I think we just balance each other out really well because we have such different strengths. There’s no one I trust or admire more, so it works. The only way we’ve been able to somewhat separate our different lives (between being spouses, co-workers, and parents) is by creating boundaries. When we’re with our daughter, we’re focused on her. When out on a date, we don’t allow business talk, because the lines can be blurred so easily. At work, we try speak to each other as co-workers, not as husband and wife. There are pros and cons, of course, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
So much of your brand is supported by your openness and willingness to invite readers and fans into your home (we love your IG stories!). Is there anything you won’t show? How do you create those boundaries?
There are definitely things I don’t show, but sharing what they are would defeat the purpose! But really—if there’s ever anything I’m on the fence about, I don’t post it. Some parents have asked me if Sloan is always perfectly behaved and happy, since I don’t share shots/videos of her throwing tantrums, but for me to do so seems invasive and unproductive. Just because I’m not showing certain things doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with them.
What has been your most successful post to date, and why do you think that is?
Sloan’s birth story. It was quite a personal post to write, but had it not been for the blog, I probably wouldn’t have written it down and that would have been such a shame. I re-read it on Sloan’s birthday every year and there’s almost always one detail or moment that I’d forgotten.
So many women look to you for inspiration (we know we do!). Who do you admire and draw your own inspiration from?
Strong, intelligent women. My mom, my grandma, Michelle Obama, Ina Garten, Frances McDormand.
You have been so busy! What projects do you have coming up?
Yes, we have a lot of very exciting projects and new arrivals in the works! This spring will feature a dress shoe launch which has been a labor of love for over two years now. I cannot wait to get them into the marketplace—I’m really happy with how they turned out!
Do you have any daily routines and/or rituals that you follow?
Each morning G and I take turns making coffee for each other. It sets the tone for the day and reminds us to slow down and enjoy that time with our family. I try to walk for an hour each day, whether in the morning or night, and listen to true crime podcasts (right now I’m into Crime Junkies). We have the same nighttime routine for Sloan every evening with dinner, a bubble bath, quietly playing in her room, followed by books and “la la” (songs I sing to her every night while she’s in bed). We started it because we’d read about the importance of establishing bedtime routines for kids, but I think we all benefit from it. Plus, she’s truly an all-star sleeper, which makes us all happy.
Let’s talk motherhood. Your daughter Sloan is now 3 years old. How has becoming a mama changed you personally? Professionally?
I thought I was sensitive before having her, but she’s just made my heart feel like it’s too big for my chest. I’ve become more patient, less hard on myself, and it’s given me a whole new level of appreciation for my own mom. Professionally, it’s helped me stay much more focused. Since I’m juggling so much, I simply have to be a lot more strategic with my time.
We know that you are close with your own mother. What lessons has she passed down to you?
Always put family first and trust your instincts. Also, you’ll never regret going to work out.
3 pearls of wisdom
Be consistent and build strong patterns (that goes with meal times, traveling, sleep, etc.).
Always tell the truth. Even though it’s not always easy for them to hear, it builds trust and they’re better equipped to handle transitions and change when they know what to expect.
Treat people well. There’s no better way to teach your children how to interact with others than by watching how you navigate your own relationships. If you’re nice to yourself, act like a supportive friend and a loving wife, they’ll eventually mirror that behavior once they’re older.