Meet BU Style’s founder, Natalie Tincher!
Natalie Tincher started her career as an editor and founded her own NYC-based personal styling company, BU Style, 13 years ago before styling for "regular people" was a known career path. Since then, she has built and reinvented her business, including styling for Bloomberg TV, starting a podcast, and much more! Tincher has been featured in Forbes, MSNBC, Refinery29, and more. In this interview, Natalie discusses her journey to becoming an entrepreneur and her advice for students and young professionals.
Can you share more about your journey from being an editor to founding BU Style? What inspired you to take this unconventional career path?
I didn't know that there were a lot of non-traditional career options until I moved to New York. When I moved to New York, I knew I liked fashion, but thinking about becoming an editor at a fashion magazine just didn't feel quite right. I wanted to merge what I was really good at—which was supporting people—with the fashion world, so I thought of starting a career as a personal stylist before it was a well-known thing.
I did some searching and realized the Fashion Institute of Technology offers what was called “Image Consulting Training,” in which I could learn principles of how to dress different proportions. I learned color theory and a lot of those nuances. I was enlivened by that because I could get some training to start a career that I wanted. Then, when I googled other personal styling companies, there were two others that popped up, and they were both not what I was looking to work with. I wanted to work with traditional menswear and womenswear clients. I wanted to help regular people like me. So, I got trained, made a website, and was doing this while still working as an editor. I would take clients in the evenings and weekends and didn't take a salary for the first year of business to see if it could be a thing. I got my first client, and then that client came back. People started finding me online and then through word of mouth, and it started growing and developing organically from there.
What were some of the initial challenges you faced when starting your own personal styling company, and how did you overcome them?
I had a lot of doubts, and it was really scary to figure out the details of getting a business license and a business name. The thing is that I didn't have a lot of money. It's not like I was going into the second phase of my career with a big nest egg that I could deeply invest in all of the right support and protocols. It was overwhelming, and I had to break it up into micro steps of what I could accomplish. It was scary, especially in New York City, when the rents and the cost of living were high, but I just felt driven by it. Along the journey, I would do part-time jobs or other contract work to really give myself the breathing room to grow the business.
Could you highlight key moments or strategies that contributed to the growth and reinvention of BU Style over the years?
As a founder, as you grow, you could do a lot of things, but you shouldn't. So, a lot of it was discovering what my areas of genius and excellence are and being humble enough to understand that there are other people who have other geniuses that are not mine. For example, I have a director of operations that I invested in to help me clean up my processes. So, my client touch points were a lot less intense, and I could free myself up to work with more clients or to grow in other arenas. Investing in coaches, mentors, and other team members and consultants was a huge point.
What advice do you have for individuals who aspire to pursue a career in personal styling or entrepreneurship, especially in unconventional fields?
Invest in your education. Many people feel like they may have a knack for fashion, which limits their viewpoint of understanding that there's a lot to learn in the business. So invest in your education, whether within the methodology of the practice or, again, through coaching. I would say there are a lot of opportunities to train under people now. I would advise them to gain a lot of knowledge. Talk to other people doing this, shadow, get experience if you can, and just practice a lot.
How did growing up in a small Midwest town shape your early aspirations, and how did your perspective change when you moved to New York City?
It's interesting because I'm the youngest of six kids, and I always loved traveling. I loved seeing new things. Whatever cultural things were happening in my hometown, I wanted to do it, and I would with my dad. I remember one of the older kids in my town was doing a study abroad in London. I remember thinking that it sounds so cool, I wanted to do that. I loved growing up in a small town. I learned about community, and so many beautiful things from it, but I had such a curiosity for the world that I knew I wanted to see it.
So, I did a study abroad in London, and that's where my desire to see how they all dress so uniquely started. My parents even said, "Once you went to London, we knew you're never going to come back." They knew that my journey was not going to bring me back to my small hometown, but the parts that I brought from it were its kindness, humanity, and a sense of community. I didn't even know that I could have a career in fashion or ever live in New York City. It just wasn't something that was on my mind when I was young. My mind started to open up to the possibilities that I could have in life, and it lit me up.
What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned throughout your career journey, both personally and professionally?
I would say: failing is okay. That means [I am] figuring out the next right thing. I am creating a focus. [Another] roadblock I continue to have in my life is that I get really excited about a macro idea, and then I get excited about another. So, instead of letting myself get shiny object syndrome, it's picking the one shiny object you want to focus on that aligns most with the business. A lot of people are going to have a lot of ideas for you on how you could make money or how your business could grow. It's learning how to filter out all those shiny objects and focus on the next growth point.
Self-doubt is common among young adults. How can we overcome self-limiting beliefs and gain confidence?
That's a great question. A few things are leaning on what I knew I was good at from an early age. I've always been optimistic. There are certain really pivotal teenage experiences that happened to me where I knew that I found a way to come up with a solution and make things happen. I remember once wanting there to be a high school dance, and our principal said no. I went out and got a petition from 100 students and wrote a convincing essay. If you fail at something, it doesn't mean you've failed at everything. Thinking about the positive things that have happened is really cool. So accepting the failures as learning opportunities and then also looking at the really positive things that were happening that could come along with celebrating the successes.
Could you recommend three books or podcasts, and explain why you find them valuable?
I would say Adam Grant's “Think Again” because it really helps you unlearn and think about soft cognitive skills. “Love and Work” by Marcus Buckingham is a great one because it's very much tied to your happiness and joy by doing things you love, and how much of what you're doing is sparked by love. I would also say the OG podcast “How I Built This.” I still love hearing the different stories and ways people come about creation and entrepreneurship. So that has remained a podcast on repeat.
Natalie Tincher's inspiring journey highlights the incredible possibilities rooted in determination and passion. It's a story that underscores the idea that success can emerge from even the most modest beginnings. If you're curious to learn more about Natalie Tincher and gain further insights from her experiences, feel free to check out her LinkedIn.
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