Billie Whitehouse, designer and director of Wearable Experiments, which creates software, hardware, and apparel for wearable technology products. Whitehouse was recently named one of Business Insider’s “40 Under 40: People to Watch in 2015.”
Who was/is your biggest influence in the business world? Or: Who is the business leader you admire the most?
I mostly look up to the design industry and designers – like Phillip Stark or even Bernard Arnault. They are businessmen, but they care about quality of design enormously. But I also have many mentors, and I grew up with a single working mother. She left my father with only $1,000 in the bank and built a design institute out of sheer determination, drive, and good design.
What’s one piece of advice you would give another entrepreneur?
If there is no love in work then the world becomes a desert.
How do you keep a balanced perspective in the midst of the chaos that comes with developing a new product category and founding a company?
A balanced perspective comes from within. I don’t think you can look for balance from external things. It is a constant challenge; sometimes you are great at it and sometimes you need to recognize when you are tipping too far away. Things like daily exercise, meditation, and constant interactions with great people keep me in check.
What business failure do you cherish most?
I wouldn’t call it failure. I have tried on many varying types of businesses. I would just see that it was no longer fun and figure out where to take it next. When you lose the joy for what you are doing, then I think it is time to reconsider.
What do you think is the biggest advantage to being a young business leader? The biggest challenge?
The biggest advantage is that you can evolve with the changing industries and you are less afraid of change. The biggest challenge is sticking to what you know is best for the company rather than what is best for the individual.
Billie Whitehouse is the designer and director of Wearable Experiments. Wearable Experiments specializes in the combination of hardware, software and apparel for wearable technology products. Forbes recently compared Billie and her co-founder Ben Moir to Steve Jobs and Jerry Seinfeld. Known for her development of Fundawear, Navigate and the Alert Shirt for Fox Sports, Billie is invigorating the fashion industry and transforming it into a business focused on improving the quality of our lives.
Billie is an aesthetic specialist with a naturally inquisitive nature towards technology and innovation. As a garment engineer she strongly believes people should not have to look like the technology that they have grown to love and depend on. Billie’s designs are sharp, experimental, naturally confident and subtly feminine in appearance integrating the latest technology.
Business Insider recently named Billie as one of the 30 most important women under 30 in tech. The highlight for Billie in 2014 was winning the Best Fan Engagement Award for the work on the Alert Shirt with FOX SPORTS as well as bringing Wearable Experiments to the USA.
What is your personal mission?
We want to be the next great activewear brand. My personal mission is entirely tied to seeing that through, whatever it takes. I believe that we are born to recreate – to sweat every day. All I want to do is to help push people to do that, and do it with style.
What is the best piece of leadership advice you’ve received?
When things go right, pass along all of the praise to the team. Leave none for yourself. When things go wrong, own it and take all of the blame. Leave none for your team.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career? Why/how did you decide to take it?
I’ve watched myself and many friends all take career “risks.” No one has fallen flat on their face. In fact, every risk taker has turned into a smashing success. The hard part isn’t taking risks – once you have gotten to a place where you are ready to jump, do it. The hard work is getting to that spot.
Ultimately, it is important to trust your instincts. Be audacious and bold. In the words of My Morning Jacket: “Believe, nobody knows. Believe, nobody knows for sure.”
Who is your business/leadership idol?
My dad. I think people are enamored with these visionary thinkers. But I am much more enamored by the folks who give their job their heart and soul day in, day out, year over year. My dad is one of those guys. He’s done it for the last 40 years, and I don’t think he will ever stop.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Doing the same thing at a much larger scale. I’ve found my dream job, and I plan to spend the rest of my career making Outdoor Voices great. I’ve wanted to be the CEO of Nike since I was five. Over 20 years later, I still feel that same drive. I don’t imagine much will change in the next 20+.
What’s the most valuable knowledge or skill you bring to your business? Why?
Number one is definitely a point of view. We have a very focused understanding of who that customer is, where they are, and what they do. I am excellent at making sure that everything we do is aligned with that point of view. Knowing when to say “no” and when to push forward with all of our resources. In such a competitive market, nothing is more important.
Andrew Parietti is President at Outdoor Voices, a lifestyle brand that makes technical apparel for recreation. Known as AP, he is a native of Seattle, WA—a community where casual activity is a part of everyday life—and joined Outdoor Voices in 2013 with the goal of creating the new generation of activewear. AP began his career at a boutique management consulting firm advising a client roster that included GE Healthymagination and Anheuser-Busch InBev. He graduated from Colgate University, where he was captain of the lacrosse team, with a double major in Economics and Philosophy.