Christiane Lemieux founded DwellStudio in 2000, hoping to create a line of home furnishings with a trendier vibe than traditional retailers like Pottery Barn (WSM). The company slowly gained a following, helping the designer-turned-entrepreneur catch the eye of Wayfair, which purchased DwellStudio for an undisclosed amount in August.
Fortune’s Most Powerful Women started as a list in 1998, kicked off its annual Summit the following year, and has since become a community of the preeminent women in business, government, philanthropy, education, and the arts. This weekly Q&A features one MPW’s personal take on leadership, aspirations, and (of course) balance. (Lemieux was a Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur winner in 2012.)
1. What currently excites you most about your industry?
I think the home/lifestyle industry is in total flux. Online retail is shaping the future. It is moving at lightning pace. I am thrilled to be part of Wayfair — now the largest online home retailer in North America — and to be on the forefront of this sweeping change with the best in the business. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of years bring as we push all the boundaries together.
2. What was your biggest missed opportunity?
We were very far down the road with a great visionary and strategic venture partner in 2008, and then the world bottomed out. I think had that materialized it would have been very interesting — I am so curious to see where that would have taken the business. That being said, I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and our Wayfair partnership is shaping up to be even more interesting.
3. What is the best advice you ever received?
Your life IS the occasion. Rise to it.
4. What is one trait every entrepreneur needs more today than ever?
Instinctively, I would say passion. Passion fuels the staying power it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. If you are not passionate about your endeavor it will not succeed. That being said, I now work with Niraj Shah, the inspiring and prolific CEO of Wayfair who has quickly taught me the virtues of focus. Niraj leads the company with boundless intelligence and laser focus which I believe is the reason for the company’s meteoric rise. Maybe the super-secret to business success lies in the Venn between passion and focus.
5. What would you say to a group of young people looking to enter the tough job market?
Do anything and everything — you never know where something completely random will take you. Keep your eyes open, and don’t underestimate hard work.
6. What was your first job?
The first paycheck I ever received was at 16 as a summer camp counselor-in-training. It was so little I never bothered to cash it. I still have it somewhere.
7. What is one startup you would have wanted to found?
In my world there is nothing more talked about than Warby Parker. I think as a startup in the consumer space it was beautifully executed. They got all the details right. Google (GOOG) would be good too.
8. What other companies do you admire? Why?
There are so many great companies now that are taking a 360 view of business. I am so inspired by TOMS, for example — they have the holy grail of great product, innovative communication, thoughtful growth, and they are using their product to change the world. I think more and more companies that are taking this approach not only attract the best talent, loyal and committed customers, but change the way we think about what doing business means.
9. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
I am actually writing this on an airplane on the way to Haiti to do both design and manufacturing for the DwellStudio line and work on behalf of Every Mother Counts – Christy Turlington’s amazing organization advocating maternal health. Personally — I also have my eye set on Myanmar. I tried to get there when I was last in Vietnam but could not swing the visa on time.
10. What’s your take on the “having it all” debate?
I think it may be possible to have it all but impossible to have it all at once. I also think it’s important to know that “all ” is going to look very different at different times in life. I really believe that “all” is a fluid thing and better seen that way because then it’s always out there and attainable.