Behind the brand

This blog post is a long time coming, I’m going to give you a look behind the brand, Burgundy Fox. You’ll learn about me, the founder, and the path that inspired me to start a subscription lingerie business. I don’t know that there was any one defining point, but a series of events and inspiring people that led me to do the unthinkable, quit my full-time corporate job and jump into the utter uncertainty (but limitless possibility) of entrepreneurship.

I’ve always believed in the power of women. I was raised by a ferocious and loving mother who worked full-time ever since I can remember. Okay, ‘full-time’ is a gross understatement. She worked 24/7 and was the constant force of nature that got 3 girls and 1 grown man out of the house with oatmeal in our stomachs and lunch in our hands, worked a 9-7pm job in personal financial planning and mandated we eat a home-cooked dinner as a family every night. Amidst our lives full of countless doctors appointments, band recitals, teacher meetings, proms, the occasional detention or court hearing, she somehow managed to succeed at work, receiving promotions and national awards-she was my first example of a woman kicking ass.

Looking back now, I always wanted to be a boss. My mom glamorized work for me–her colorful array of power suits, talk of stock options, and the etched glass awards she’d bring home that said ‘Susanna Wong #1’. I always knew I wanted to be a very successful person and I learned at a young age that there was one way to attain that, by working harder than everyone else.

The thing I never saw from my mom’s experience, and was ill-equipped to face, were the ugly obstacles unique to women in this world. While in high school, I had my first encounters with sexual harassment and sexism, as I suspect many of you have. The frequency of these instances happening to me and people around me, only grew as I continued through college and into my career. I was becoming more aware and slowly began to find my voice in the fight against gender bias, inequality and harassment, covert and overt, man to woman and woman to woman, in media and in the workplace. It took a lot of self-growth to find the confidence to speak up and now I see that standing up for women is not only a necessity but an obligation to improve the experience for future generations.

Without cultivating strong self-confidence, you cannot have power.Tweet: Without cultivating strong self-confidence, you cannot have power. https://ctt.ec/3dE1a+ @burgundyfoxco

Without cultivating strong self-confidence, you cannot have power. It won’t take long to find examples of how women are held back by lack of confidence, more so than men. From the Toys R Us aisles to bodega magazine racks, we’re fed subliminal cues that our bodies and voices are not enough, that we are objects to be saved or consumed, mere receivers lacking power and not actors.

Maybe you’re thinking, “that’s advertising, why lingerie, Leslie?” It wasn’t until I started
shopping for lingerie did I realize the juxtaposition that lingerie presented. One one hand, it was awkward and intimidating going into a store to chat everything from your breast shape and sex life with a complete stranger. On the other hand, once you found something you felt confident in, you felt like Beyonce–the world was yours for the taking. Too many of my lingerie shopping encounters made me feel less than adequate when I put the garments on, and I’d leave empty-handed. I was trying on things that Gisele would rock down a glitter encrusted catwalk–that wasn’t me. Worse yet, it made me judge myself if I didn’t fill out a bra or have a flat stomach-these expectations of the ‘ideal’ body for lingerie are simply unrealistic yet we hold ourselves to this standard. I wanted lingerie that let me feel comfortable, confident, in control of my own interpretation of sensuality, not someone else’s definition of sexy.

IL3A2106I wanted to create a way for women of all shapes and sizes to experience lingerie in an accessible way, without the intimidation, awkwardness and unattainable body comparing. The world is changing and the beauty of this is, that we have more ways to let our voices be heard. Where we want change, we can create it.

Burgundy Fox is more than lingerie, it’s my desire to change the way women are portrayed and allowed to feel about themselves, through highlighting stories and images of real women–businesswoman, founders, bankers and mothers– looking beautiful, feeling confident and kicking ass.

If you’re reading this, you’re truly building this brand alongside me and I can’t thank you enough. Your kind words, encouraging texts and Insta-hearts remind me that I’m not doing this alone.

Love, Leslie
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Exactly How to Negotiate Your Salary

Facts: No one likes to negotiate. Or I should say, no one likes to admit they like to negotiate. It sound sleazy, swindling and cheap. I never thought of myself as a negotiator until I reframed the way I thought about it. Since I was 5 years old, I’ve had a knack for trading. I’d trade sleeping in my parents bed for cleaning up my toys (true story), and if you have a child, you understand how negotiating actually comes naturally to us. I kept trading things through high school leadership, into association leadership into Head of Business Development for a B2B startup. It wasn’t until I read Stuart Diamond’s ‘Getting More’ by the advice of a Wharton School grad, that I realized what I was doing my whole life: trading values–a core negotiating principle. I tell all my girlfriends to read this book. Once you do, you’ll actually want to practice your newfound skills.

Since then, I’ve made it an intentional practice to negotiate when I want more. I’m not excessive, but I do it when it really counts, like during salary negotiations. I’ve given a lot of women friends advice on negotiating their salary, and recently helped a friend negotiate a 25% increase from her starting offer (she is obviously awesome and deserved it). It doesn’t always work out that way, but I was happy to know that my collected advice works for other people besides myself. Here are my 3 basic principles to follow: 

1. Get into the numbers

Add 10% more (at least) 

Know that every employer is doing their job by getting more for their money. They might actively benefit by giving you the lower end of a salary range. This seems obvious, and I use the word might, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch, for long. Salary negotiation is your job to ensure you aren’t walking into a role feeling undervalued or disgruntled–because that isn’t sustainable and won’t benefit you or the company in the long haul. Unless your role is commission based,  you’ll likely maintain that salary for the next 12 months, so be sure you’re happy where you are. So we know the employer will likely be holding back some cards. Here is my rule of thumb. When you’re asked about salary requirement, take the number you really want, add 10%, and you have your answer. There is a good likelihood they will come back with an offer or 5-10% less, landing on what you really wanted in the first place. Do this and the gap between what you really want and what they offer will be much less to negotiate toward.

I touch on this later in the article, but my experience tells me you aren’t going to have several chances to counter offer-1 to 2 at most, so this is an opportunity to really think about what you need to feel whole and what your ‘walk away’ number is.

Let’s revisit the first sentence in this paragraph “every employer is doing their job by getting more for their money”-it’s a business. With that in mind, they will expect you to negotiate.

Market rate

Approaching a counter offer can feel uncomfortable. It feels much less so, when you have data. Gather data that supports what the market believes your time and expertise is worth.

Gather data that supports what the market believes your time and expertise is worth.Tweet: Gather data that supports what the market believes your time and expertise is worth. https://ctt.ec/25RuH+ @burgundyfoxco

Presenting this information lends validity to your request, because there are facts which support it’s justified. Sites like Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com are great for getting an idea of salary range for your role and your experience level while factoring in things like company size, company revenue or funding stage and similar jobs in your location–this is called ‘market rate’. You should present relevant examples only. Irrelevant examples will create holes in your argument and might reduce how compelling your stance is overall.  

Stock

I’ve learned a bit about stock options as a part of overall compensation in the last few years. I’m not a financial advisor, but I have helped friends better understand the value of stock options when they are tied into employment contracts. Here are a few basic terms I had to understand the first time I was offered options. Warning: a mini dictionary lies ahead. If you’re not into learning about this stuff, skip to principle #2. 

Options: Options are like building blocks in a company’s house. They are valuable in order to construct a house, but don’t necessarily have value until value is placed on it, such as when a home is listed on the market. The more valuable the house, the more valuable the bricks that make it up. A company, especially a new one, can grant options to employees as incentive to work hard and grow the company’s value and sometimes to compensate for a lower salary due to the early stage of the company. The earlier the employee, or the more impact provided, the more options granted.

Exercise: This is when you purchase your options. Your options are not ‘given’ to you, you have to buy them.

Strike price: The price you buy your options is called a ‘strike price’ and it’s dictated at the time you signed your stock agreement. Typically, the earlier employee, the lower the strike price–that is a benefit of joining a company when they a higher degree of uncertainty, you’re trading higher risk for higher reward. If your strike price is $1, and the company goes public at $40 per share, you just made a 40x return. If you owned 50,000 shares, your stock is now valued at $2 million.

Vesting period: This is different at every company but the standard structure is a 4 year cliff. You gain (or vest) 25% of your options after 1 year, then vest month-by-month after that. You can only exercise what you’ve vested.

Liquidating event: This is when the stock receives a ‘real’ monetary value in the market and can be converted to cash when sold or taken off the market. A company’s stock turns liquid in an initial public offering (IPO), a merger or an acquisition. If the company is acquired, your vested and exercised stock will either be paid out by the buyer or else absorbed into the buyer’s stock at a 1:1 ratio.

Valuation: This is how much the company is believed to be worth, and is a figure that’s determined upon investment, capital or private. Ever seen Shark Tank when the contestants offer a portion of ownership for money (20% for $100,000)? That tells you the company’s assumed valuation ($500,000). This matters to you because it tells you what your stock might be worth. Take the valuation ($500K) minus stock the company doesn’t own (like the 20% from investors) that leaves $400,000. Say there are 100,000 shares outstanding, divide $400K by 100K shares, which say each of your options is worth $4. Multiply this number by your shares and you’ll learn how options could add to the overall compensation an employer is offering you. Bare in mind this isn’t guaranteed income that will come quick, or at all, depending on the company and it’s stage.

Dig into the company and understand what they are worth, so you understand better what your options are worth or could be worth. As an option to negotiating salary, you could ask for an increase in options. This shows your belief in the company and could also pay off big in the future.

2. Frame it right  

Value

At every point in your interview process and even into negotiations, you should continue letting the company know how excited you are to bring them value. While you hopefully love your soon-to-be job, the company is still tuned into WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) and you must play to that in order to tactfully negotiate salary. If you are already employed but seeking a raise, outline and quantify all the great things you’ve done for the company. Numbers are difficult to argue, so there’s potential so use them to your advantage on why X value you created, warrants X raise–and you foresee even larger growth ahead. You’re excited to take the company to new heights, you look forward to continuously growing with the company and want to feel fairly compensated for your performance. Always frame what you want, into terms that will make them want to say yes–because it benefits them. And of course–be great at what you do. 

Assume the best

The company should want to make you happy. Walk into negotiations assuming they wouldn’t want you to take a job where you felt underpaid, which could damage motivation and cause future underperformance. Understand that by digging into all scenarios of a job and an offer letter, you are ensuring you are the best fit for each other and that neither of you will need to be repeating the process in 6 months. I like to think of this as ensuring each side is ‘whole’ on the offer, a win-lose, is a lose for all. Any employer should understand that and want the best for you, as long as you’ve framed it as being best for them, too.

A win-lose, is a lose for all.Tweet: A win-lose, is a lose for all. @lesliewong15 shares salary negotiation tips at https://ctt.ec/25RuH+ @burgundyfoxco

Make it a conversation

Contrary to what you’ve heard about providing solutions, not problems–you don’t need to come in with all the answers. You do need to avoid nagging and making this all about you. Once you frame your concerns correctly, and use data to validate an asking price or counter offer, you might be surprised about what they will suggest. Be ready to share the things that matter to you, monetary and non-monetary, and be ready to trade. Back to trading values, negotiation is not about one person getting and one losing–it’s about trading items of unequal value. You might want a higher salary to factor in commuting and dog walking costs. If they aren’t able to increase your salary, perhaps they’ll let you work from home a 3 days a week or maybe there is a commuter benefit. Come ready with data to support the number you’re asking for, be gracious and be flexible. Again, you don’t want either party to feel wronged. 

3. It’s not all numbers

Room to grow

I’ve talked a lot about numbers and salary but I want to highlight that a job’s value shouldn’t be determined solely on money. Money give us freedom and the means to impact causes we care about, and that is very important, but not everything. Think about what else would help you grow your career in the longer term–mentorship, the ability to switch competencies, the chance to lead a team or a promotion in title. Your next job may not be perfect, but it should be a few stepping stones toward your ultimate goal.

Your next job may not be perfect, but it should be a few stepping stones toward your ultimate goal.Tweet: Your next job may not be perfect, but it should be a few stepping stones toward your ultimate goal https://ctt.ec/25RuH+ @burgundyfoxco

If you know you’re seeking to grow within the company, make a point during the interview process to ask about potential for growth (but acknowledge you’re focused on the job you’re being hired for) and for examples of people who have moved teams or been promoted. If this is important to the company, they’ll love to share their success stories.

Development & Perks

Digging further into growth opportunities, see if there are opportunities to develop yourself beyond team or title changes. Can and will your leader mentor you? What are your teammates background, can you learn from them? This might be baked into your role (I must be hungry), but some companies will pay for you to attend conferences, educational seminars and networking events to develop your skills. Does your role involve public speaking? Professional coaching would be a great development opportunity. These most certainly can be seen as additional value to your overall compensation because they provide substantial value to you as a person, that you don’t have to pay for.

As for perks, factor in other things that are important to you, whether that’s work from home flexibility, free meals or commuter benefits. On the flip side of that, understand when you are being underpaid (below market rate) and a company is compensating with free beer and an annual company retreat. These perks might range from useless to nice-to-have to significantly impacting your budget. Know what’s valuable to you and don’t let things that aren’t important to you, dictate your negotiation stance.

Happiness

Lastly, you have to feel happy and ‘whole’ about your decision. A big part of that equation could be who you work with–do you like the people you’re about to spend 40-60+ hours a week with? Just as employers like to ask behavioral questions of their interviewee (“tell me about a time when”), you should do the same. Understand what your boss has done in difficult situations when her team wasn’t pulling weight. Dig into the ‘why’ during your interview process, take note of what’s not said, and above all trust your gut.

After you’ve researched market rate, asked a lot of questions, had open conversations, and counter offered at least once–you should have enough data to make an informed choice. In my experience, you don’t have multiple opportunities to counter offer and you’ve got to trust their word on what they come back to you with. If they meet your counter and nothing sends you red flags, you should take it. If they almost meet your counter, explore trading items of unequal value. If you still don’t feel whole after all is said and done, consider this might not be the right fit and consider if you’re willing to walk away. To keep a positive professional reputation, try to avoid pushing for terms then renegotiating OR pushing for terms (which are met) then walking away.

In the end, know that negotiation is a very valuable skill. If done right, you will not only end up with a bump in salary that could make all the difference in your big picture life goals, but you will also impress your employer. An employee who can hold their ground and persuade with respect and tact is a secret weapon that any employer would love to have on their team-wouldn’t you?

I’d love to know what you think, if you have any questions and if these are working for you–or not! I love seeing people rewarded for hard work and having guts. Negotiating can feel uncomfortable, but remember that greatness lies outside your comfort zone–now go ask for what you’re worth!