Written by 𝒮𝓉𝒶𝒸𝑒𝓎 𝑀𝒶𝓇𝒸𝒽
Rule #1: Never start a business with a friend.
Rule #2: Never have a partner who’s a friend.
Meet Ellen Mason and Jennifer Ransom, the friends and co-partners who are breaking the rules at A Fashionating Life, a blog and community for women in their 40s, based out of Austin, Texas, who want to feel empowered by fashion in their daily lives.
Born in New York and raised in LA, Ellen is 48 years old, brunette, and the introverted “thrifting ninja” (as Jennifer amusingly calls her) behind A Fashionating Life. Born and raised in East Texas, Jennifer is 45 years old, a red head, and the extrovert who brings her own sense of style and ease to the camera.
Admittedly during our conversation, they laughed when agreeing fashion was the only commonality they shared as they leaned into the computer screen and each other with a familiar warmth that sometimes only women and friends over 40 can understand. These women are confident, creative, accomplished, and welcoming, both possessing their own callings and talents that found a way to pour into and on behalf of each other for the sake of something more.
Their relationship began in 2013 when Jennifer, Executive Director of a Texas non-profit arts organization, hired Ellen as Communications Director. An easy friendship quickly ensued inside their close-knit work environment, made all the better by a mutual professional respect, sons who were the same age, and a tendency to show up at work and events wearing the same outfits.
After five years of working together and a year of Ellen dreaming of what a fashion blog for women in their 40s would look like, Jennifer prodded, “I’ve heard you talk about this forever… you need to launch before you need a rebrand!” Ellen responded, “I’ll do it, but only if you do it with me.”
Jennifer recalled the moment she was convinced: “We already shop with each other and for each other,” Ellen told her. “We show up at the office wearing the same things. The content is already being produced just by way of our lives. We only need to document it.”
Perhaps that’s oversimplifying a tad, but nonetheless, here they are, easy collaborators and faithful friends, sharing a passion to cross demographic and socioeconomic borders to celebrate womanhood through the clothes they wear and the stories those clothes tell.
Balance of Roles
When asked how they decide who does what, the answer was easy: This was Ellen’s idea. She drives the social media and technical side of things, as well as the direction and vision, and Jennifer shows up for photo shoots and writes what Ellen needs her to write.
For some partnerships, this could prove to be a source of contention when one holds the dream and the other shares the responsibility to support it, but when asked, Jennifer didn’t flinch:
“The majority of my drive is for Ellen because I know it is her dream. She supported me completely in our previous employer/employee roles, and I love the friendship that grew out of it. It also doesn’t hurt that I love fashion, so there’s an interest level there for me. It sometimes does take more time than I have and I’m consistently behind on what assignments I owe her, but I’m grateful for her grace that she extends to me, and we have fun doing this together.”- 𝒥𝑒𝓃𝓃𝒾𝒻𝑒𝓇
They communicate regularly about the blog through email and an online calendar, using automation and technology to drive the business relationship. Most of the time spent together is intermingled—play dates with their boys often turn into business meetings, and when they get together it’s for photo shoots and tasks that can only be done in-person.
For them the bottom line is this: “Let’s have fun and make good products.”
The Ego Factor
“We really have no ego around this project, which is weird because the product is us, but it’s really about the sum of our individual parts not being greater than the whole, which is the blog." - 𝒥𝑒𝓃𝓃𝒾𝒻𝑒𝓇
"We have distinctly different styles. We often show up in the same article of clothing, but it looks completely different based on how we styled it. And our response is, ‘Wow, that looks amazing on you! I never would’ve put that together!’ Differences are a great balance; we’re not cookie cutter, and we celebrate that.” -𝒥𝑒𝓃𝓃𝒾𝒻𝑒𝓇
Setting Clear Boundaries
Establishing boundaries and knowing what they are will always be important. “Do you both have the ability to say that you could deliver this piece but you don’t have the capacity for it, that it’s up against your boundary, and you’re both okay with that?” - 𝐸𝓁𝓁𝑒𝓃
Their boundaries also include the values of honesty and authenticity, coming to the table as they are, and setting expectations. And if those expectations can’t be met because the other simply can’t get it done, then grace must be extended. “I know she wants to be the best partner that she can, and if she can’t deliver a piece it’s honestly because she doesn’t have the bandwidth for it. I don’t want to burn her out.” - 𝐸𝓁𝓁𝑒𝓃
Trust is a Necessity
“There are others in the community who are influential, have fabulous wardrobes and are very fashionable with large circles of influence with whom I could have joined a fashion blog, but I trust this woman, and I think that’s the most important thing.” - 𝒥𝑒𝓃𝓃𝒾𝒻𝑒𝓇
The Value of Challenging Each Other
“Welcome someone who challenges you, disagrees with you, and has different opinions, as long as they do it respectfully. At the end of the day, differing opinions can give you a better, more successful product than if you were sitting around telling each other everything is great. I think about how Dolce & Gabbana talk about partnership and how they actually don’t agree on much. Most of the time they have opposing opinions, asking,
'Do you think it makes our product better that we sit down and talk these things out and push each other to come up with something better, or do you think our product would be as successful if we told each other we have nothing but fabulous ideas?’ You actually need people to challenge you.” – 𝐸𝓁𝓁𝑒𝓃
Thank you, Ellen and Jennifer, for such a wonderful conversation on building creatively and well with your friend. We are certainly challenged here at Flaws, thanks to you two who radiate grace, truth, humility, and trust… with a whole lot of style.
You can follow Ellen and Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram at @afashionatinglife
𝐖𝐞’𝐥𝐥 𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐩𝐨𝐝𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐭
With more highlights from Stacey's conversation with Ellen and Jennifer, what we learned, and what we're still trying to to learn in our Flawed —yet newly Fashionating—way.
𝚀𝚞𝚘𝚝𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚆𝚎𝚎𝚔:
𝙿𝚛𝚊𝚢𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚆𝚎𝚎𝚔:
Lord, we pray for every entrepreneurial friendship pair out there who dream of making a difference together. Bless their talents and their gifts to be used to serve each other and the world in a magnificent way. May their hearts be unified in vision and purpose, and may they feel Your joy in every idea and conversation they share, Amen!
See you Friday!