The twelveNYC office is a girl’s dream. Situated in the incredibly chic yet still industrial neighborhood of DUMBO, the company is based on one of the most perfectly picturesque and photographed streets in Brooklyn. The decor is a covetable mix of blush, mint and velvet that we could just melt into while nibbling on color-coordinated chocolates styled to match the Instagramable tablescapes. Clearly, founder Katie Conovitz has an eye for detail, and knows how to make an impression. The whip-smart yet warm and funny redhead tells us that though persistence and hard work is to be greatly valued, it’s the way you treat your team that makes the ultimate difference for your business (no employee has ever left Twelve!). She is the inspiring leader of a company she calls the “unicorn” of product development agencies and “a rock” for her team, family and husband Brandon. In other words, she’s our kind of heroine. We caught up with this boss lady and her Creative Director, Brooke Lucks, to talk about twelveNYC and were also fortunate enough to pick up some expert advice on branding along the way. Read on…
The best advice we give to our clients is to ‘stay in your lane.’
Katie, you founded twelveNYC in 2005. What was your background and was there a memorable moment that inspired you to go out on your own?
I was in 6th grade when my dad ran for United States Senate as a Democrat in Indiana, a very Republican state. He was ultimately defeated, but spent a year traveling the state telling his story with his family by his side. I now realize that I was transformed by that experience in the most simplistic way – it led me to develop a belief system that I could do anything. If I wanted something, I’d go after it – no matter how steep the climb. So, my childhood reference were parents who took risks, pursued dreams and stood up. Naturally, that trickled into my adulthood. In my late 20’s, after great work experience, I went for it and went out on my own. In hindsight, it was very naïve, no formal business plan, just sheer determination and belief that I embodied the skills it took to build a company and keep it afloat. 12 years later, it’s still standing (proudly).
What is the biggest mistake companies or brands make when trying to market themselves?
The best advice we give to our clients is to ‘stay in your lane.’ In our experience, branding that chases a broad range of customers or trends ends up losing the core customer.
You now have offices in Brooklyn, London and Hong Kong – how do you lead your team across time zones and cultures?
The invention of Slack and access to information and communication allows me to be a very “connected” leader. I work 24/7 and love it. We have a very hard-working and tenacious team who tends to see the world through the same lens. As a united team, we are able to maximize the 24-hour international work cycle.
What does being a good boss mean to you?
Each person who works at twelveNYC is different – embodying different strengths and weaknesses. It is my job to build confidence, empower and help each individual find their lane. We are a team of unicorns. Each individual has found their way to twelveNYC through a unique path. I relish the opportunity to tap into their hidden strengths and help them each grow within our organization.
How do you manage your time between work and family? Do you have any favorite “lifehacks” or “non-negotionables” you’ve picked up along the way?
Build your team! This team really started with choosing to marry Brandon. Without him, none of this would be possible. We work as a cohesive team and he has supported me, cheered me on and rooted for me since day one. The team has expanded as our needs have grown. We also have wonderful childcare providers and I live across the street from my office, so my kids make frequent appearances in the office.
How do the people close to you describe you? Your husband? Your kids? Co-Workers?
I don’t know, you would have to ask them – ha! Since I can remember, I have always been described as “the redhead”… beyond that I hope they would say I am a “rock”: reliable, forward-thinking, supportive, and determined. My kids would tell you I never cook but make up for it in snuggles… and they better never forget the time I went on the banana boat in our favorite place, Jamaica!
How would you describe what you do at twelveNYC today as opposed to what you were doing when you started?
I wake up each morning with the same drive, passion and hunger that I had on day one. When I started the business, I was doing everything from development to client outreach, relationship-building, sourcing, production and delivery (literally taping up boxes). Growth has allowed me to give up the day-to-day of a few of those responsibilities, however, I never stray too far. I am very involved with each team, ensuring we are moving in the right direction, solving problems, or diving into new challenges. I now have the luxury of a bigger team which means a bigger brain trust. The thrill of the entrepreneurial ride is still as present for me as it was on day one. The ride of the past twelve years has helped me to evolve as a businesswoman and strong leader. I truly believe we are just getting started at twelveNYC!
How are you different from competitors in the space?
I really do not believe we have any true competitors. We have diversified our business in a way that allows us to be actively playing across multiple industries while maintaining our creative integrity and processes. We are a unicorn. There will always be emulators, however, I wake up each morning determined to continue to carve an authentic path for twelveNYC. Nothing has happened fast for us – it has always been about showcasing our capabilities through the lens of excellent work, laying one block at a time.
What are your Three Pearls of Motherhood Wisdom?
- Stick together – like glue!
- Have fun and get silly.
- Be bold, and always know I will be there, standing on the sidelines, cheering you on.
Brooke, what is your role at twelveNYC? What do you do on the daily?
As SVP and Creative Director, I direct the creative vision at twelveNYC — keeping the company’s aesthetic fresh, consistent and on-brand. I translate market and runway trends into merchandise and lifestyle accessories for our private label collections. Each day is different for me – which is one of the reasons I love my job. I spend my days in the market, attending client meetings, preparing creative/trend presentations, and developing new, exciting ways to tell our clients’ (and twelve’s own) stories.
You have traveled around the world with Katie. What would you say has been the most memorable experience you’ve shared on these trips?
Most recently, it was exploring the Korean market in Seoul, where we found the most inspiring, innovative and exciting ideas. Fast-forward two days later, and we were in our sample room in China working with our team to create real-time merchandise that was influenced by our findings in Seoul.
How would you describe the company culture at Twelve? Is there a different atmosphere in the London and Hong Kong offices? If so, how?
The culture is unlike anything I have ever experienced (having worked for over a decade in fashion magazines). Each person is encouraged to find their strength and then hone in on it to thrive. It is an extremely collaborative environment — we work in teams in a large, open space. Everyone works hard but is still encouraged to maintain a life outside the office. It’s incredibly telling that after 12 years in business, twelve has never lost an employee! We strive to achieve the same culture in each of our offices. In fact, we currently have a member of our Brooklyn office living in Hong Kong to infuse the HK office with our Brooklyn DNA.
What is your favorite thing you’ve created yet?
A holographic magazine tote from my first year at twelve. I still love it and get excited when I see people wearing it.
What’s the “it” item this year?
Crystal-covered YSL boots, and mini-bags (worn alone or clipped onto a bigger bag)!
Photos by Stevi Sesin