The Fold Woman: Caroline Harding-Gelbard

The Fold Woman: Caroline Harding-Gelbard
June 9, 2015 The Fold
Caroline Harding-Gelbard

Tell us a little bit about your career background and how you got to your present role:

I joined Paperless Post (a fast-growing, venture-backed company which allows users to create custom online and paper stationery through innovative technologies and beautiful design) in early 2015 to establish and lead their international business. Prior to this, I spent 3 years with Stella & Dot (another US tech start-up, this time in the jewellery and accessories social selling space), leading their expansion in new markets. I started my career in strategy consulting with Bain & Company (spending time in London, Johannesburg and San Francisco), following my degree in History from Cambridge and graduate studies at Harvard.

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Caroline wears The Shell top in white and The Draped jacket in cobalt blue  

Have you had a mentor or role model who has helped you in your career?

I feel lucky to have had several! Stella & Dot was packed with inspiring women in executive roles, and seeing them in action on a daily basis did so much to encourage my ambition and define my approach to work-life balance. Jessica Herrin, the CEO and Founder, has built a $250M+ business around a full family life. Watching how she prioritized and focused her time was educational – and seeing the energy she derived from her sense of mission (her hiring rule is to ‘hire missionaries, not mercenaries’) made me appreciate the importance of finding passion in your work. Kathleen Mitchell, the VP Europe, is a role model in leading a business with style and a great sense of fun, and is unfailingly generous with her advice and her connections. And I’m lucky enough to have two mentors from my Bain days, Dana Bloom and Amanda Good, who have since become firm friends – while continuing to provide inspiration, guidance and encouragement!

Having worked in international expansion at Paperless Post and in your prior role at Stella and Dot, what are some key learnings you’ve had bringing businesses to a new market? 

Launching a business in a new market can be incredibly challenging, but the sense of pride and satisfaction when those first orders start to ship and the business begins to gather momentum is unparalleled. The most important thing I’ve learnt is to let your customers lead you. Find a way to determine where there is demand for your product or service, and consider launching with a ‘minimum viable product’ version of your offering to confirm product-market fit before you fully invest in localisation. Second: localisation is really important to get right (and can be damaging to get wrong). You need to find someone who really understands your brand and can help you translate it (and, where necessary, adapt it) for the new market. Hire great people! And finally: it will almost always take longer, and be more complicated than anyone anticipates! Stay positive and keep pushing forward.

Caroline Harding-Gelbard

The Langham dress in chevron print

Tell us about your role at Paperless Post – what does an average day look like?

I’ll check in first thing with the rest of the UK team at our office in West London, and then I tend to use the mornings for meetings with people outside the business – potential collaborators or marketing partners or our PR agency. Our UK team is really well supported by functional teams in New York and they come online early afternoon. So my afternoons will be spent catching up (via Skype) with our product and development teams to check in on progress on new features for our website, or our marketing and content design teams to collaborate on the various UK initiatives that we are working on. I love the variety of my role – no two days are the same and I get to involve myself in all aspects of the business.

Paperless Post specialize in online & paper stationary including event invitations. What, in your opinion, makes a great event invitation?  

For us, success is a world where anyone sending an invitation to a private event, be it a last-minute dinner party with friends, or a 500 person wedding, logs in to Paperless Post because it gives them an easier and more beautiful way to connect with their guests. The best invitations reflect the sender’s personality and the style of the event to come. They stand out in an inbox of emails or a post tray full of bills – and opening them makes the invited guests feel both special and excited.

I also think that really great invitations should also make it easier for people to host and attend events. We are constantly innovating in technology to develop features (like our Apple Watch app) that enable our users to easily track RSVPs, send reminders, see the guestlist or contact the host.

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Caroline wears The Shell top in white and The Draped jacket in cobalt blue

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

 “Work smarter, not harder.” I found Ariana Huffington’s book Thrive incredibly inspiring – she was the first to convince me that success is not correlated with hours spent in the office!

How do you like to unwind outside of work?

Early morning runs along the river in Chelsea or a ClassPass class, and the amazing Headspace app, are indispensable elements of my morning routine and help me prepare for the day ahead. My husband is also in the start-up space (he is CEO and Founder of the online flower company Bloom & Wild), so – geekily – we often find ourselves comparing notes on product roadmaps and digital marketing strategies over a large glass of wine at the end of the day. Sad but true! To really switch off, I love nothing better to escape into the luxury of a great book.

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The Langham dress in chevron print

Tell us about your 9-5 style – what is your go-to look?

Our office dress code is casual, and I do lots of running around London, so the ‘uniform’ that works for me is jeans (J Crew toothpick are the best), beautiful and quirky flats, a J Crew sweater (I have the Tippi style in far too many colours) or a tee, and a jacket from Comptoir des Cotonniers. And I’ll always finish the look with a Stella & Dot statement necklace or bracelet. For smarter events I’ll dress the jeans with heels and a smart blazer (I love my new Marais Tuxedo jacket), or my trusty Kensington white tweed dress for really important meetings!

And finally, what is your favourite piece from The Fold spring/summer collection?
I’ve got my eye on the Langham Chevron print dress for a season of summer weddings and christenings.

 

Pictures by David Nyanzi

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