Stacey Chang is the Founder and Chief Warrior of VEERAH, a mission-driven luxury shoe company created for women passionately inspired to do good and look incredible.
VEERAH (vee-rah), derived from warrior in Sanskrit, is rooted in the belief that today’s mega-tasking women are true modern-day warriors. Building a brand to satisfy and complement the demands of their dynamic, fast-paced, and conscientious lifestyle has been the very foundation of VEERAH. As a Benefit Corporation, VEERAH looks at their shoes with a holistic point of view – from sourcing eco-conscious and cruelty-free materials to their support of various non-profit partners.
Prior to founding VEERAH, Stacey assumed numerous leadership roles at The Estée Lauder Companies and Coach Inc. She holds an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I came to the U.S. by myself to attend a high school. I didn’t speak much English and it forced me to both listen and observe more. I realized that I could learn a lot by listening to others and also not to assume that people who are quiet have no voice. I go out of my way to create a comfortable environment to let others speak their minds regardless of their backgrounds and language skills. I strive to be empathetic and a better listener.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I was very fortunate to have rotational experience at both The Estée Lauder Company and COACH, Inc. That experience made me realize that I enjoyed changes, taking on diverse challenges and learning about all aspects of business. These cross-functions and regional roles also make me more flexible and adaptive with different working styles and cultural differences.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
It is amazing that our customers take time out of their busy schedules to share feedback with us about how VEERAH has become a part of their lifestyles and special days ( such as weddings, graduations, work interviews). I really love to hear from them and am constantly inspired to see what we can do better. For challenges, you constantly see areas that you can improve upon. It is difficult knowing that there are “imperfect” mechanisms up and running. However, with limited resources, it is even more important for me and the team to focus on priorities versus fixating on perfecting every detail. Time will also always a challenge and sometimes it is uncomfortable to make decisions without having all the data, but you just have to keep moving forward.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Be grateful, have empathy for others, possess an extraordinary work ethic and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
There have been so many that it is hard to choose just one but I would say the most important lesson has been that of remaining persistent. Not taking no for an answer. Turning a “this can’t be done” into a “here’s how we can do it”.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I think when you are passionate about what you do and running your own business, work is part of your life and it is difficult to separate them. However, I do believe that mental and physical health is the foundation of everything you do. Therefore, I practice mindful meditation and participate in triathlon races to ensure that I dedicate time for my body and mind. I often find myself able to figure out solutions to my problems while exercising. I am also a true believer of quality over quantity. While I don’t have much time for my family and friends, I make sure we spend high quality time when we are together.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think we often underestimate our abilities and sell ourselves short. I think women tend to be more reserved and more reluctant to put ourselves out there when we are not 100% sure and wind up missing out on opportunities in the workplace.
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
There are a lot of support groups, organizations and incubators out there to support women to start their own businesses. This is also a great forum to allow more women to share their experiences and make others aware that entrepreneurs have various backgrounds, personalities and experiences. There is not one type of entrepreneur. As more and more stories of successful women and their journeys are shared, I think more women will be encouraged and realize that they also have what it takes to start their own business.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life? Going back to question 7., we tend to sell ourselves short. Mentors can see your potential and have faith in you that you can achieve way more than you can imagine and provide guidance and encouragement along the way.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Tory Burch has been an immeasurable source of inspiration for me. After realizing my own dream of starting a company, my intention of giving back and being an advocate for other women became a driving passion. Seeing what Tory’s foundation has been able to accomplish is what constantly motivates me and my team. As my company continues to evolve, I aspire to grow a strong global brand that mirrors the success that Tory has achieved, as both an entrepreneur and model of empowerment for the next generation of women leaders.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
Professionally, I would like to see VEERAH becoming a global leading fashion brand that champions sustainable fashion and women empowerment and raise awareness of impact that women can make from their footwear choice. Personally, I would like to complete a half-ironman triathlon race!
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
1. Seek out advice from the people who you trust and inspire you.
2. Prepare to work harder than ever before.
3. Realize that there will be many challenges along the way but hold true to your passions, focus and envision success!