Over the last seven years, Char Gust has taken Style with Char from a side hustle blog to a fully fledged business. Now she wants to make getting dressed in the morning more effortless and effective, because you’ve got other things to worry about.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I am a lifelong resident of the [Fargo-Moorhead] area. I graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in journalism. I started my career immediately after in something that wasn’t journalism. I was a technical writer back in the ’90s, which took me to product marketing, product managing, and product planning and all kinds of areas around that. Later I worked at Microsoft where I was for 22 years. The bulk of my career was product management and leading product management teams. I had a chance to work in some other industries.
Throughout that time I had some side businesses, and most recently it was the fashion business that I have today – which continues to grow. About seven years ago I started to take that more seriously and started thinking of ways I could grow it while working full time and then transition to doing it full time. About 18 months ago I retired from the software industry, and have been primarily focused on my women’s clothing business.
All of the time that I was working full time helped me understand how busy career women are. Even though we don’t like being judged by how we look, we are being judged by how we look. I’ve honed in on busy career women who need to get out the door, but also need to look polished and professional when they do it. The bulk of my business is centered on helping them find the right pieces for their closets. That starts from undergarments to clothing – and making sure they have transitional pieces to go from work to fun time.
How did you get the idea for Style with Char?
I’ve always been a writer at heart. When I started the fashion business seven years ago, I knew I needed ways to get my name out there. I started a blog called “Style with Char” and it just stuck. That blog has helped me gain customers locally and even nationwide, which was surprising because I had no idea what I was doing!
And you started by selling out of an RV!
I was doing a lot of in-home parties back in the day, and I felt like I could do it more effectively for the people who were hosting and for myself that way. I purchased an RV and turned the bedroom into two changing rooms. I would bring the RV to their home or even meet in a parking lot nearby. They’d bring their friends and shop, and then I was there to help pick things out as needed. I transitioned to a rental space for a while and got rid of the RV. It was an awesome option because they could host a party without cleaning the house or banishing their families to the basement. I recently closed my studio. During COVID, people aren’t doing that kind of gathering as much, so I’m focusing on other ways to get these services to women. So I’ll do drop bags where I drop off a bag of clothing in your size to try on, or we’ve done virtual parties. I also have a portable rack that I can bring to someone’s home and do one-on-one styling.
Did you ever have a moment where you were just like ‘what the heck am I doing?’
I had been dabbling in different things for years. One of my friends was working with a company on the side and suggested, “Hey, you should do it too.” So, I signed up and the startup kit was like $100, which came with a ton of clothes. I figured I’d try it, but I just planned to sell to some friends and family and not really put all of my focus on it. I held my first get-together with just about 15 friends and sold $1,500 that day. That blew me away, and I knew I had something special. It made me wonder what I could do if I was really trying.
Do you have advice for women who want to take their side gig full time?
There are a lot of resources now for people who want to start small businesses across any industry. Don’t be afraid to get out there and go looking for them, or to try new things. I kind of have “shiny-object syndrome” so I have to really work to figure out the best ways to spend my time. Even now when I’m putting more intentional focus on the business, I want to make sure I’m doing the right things to help the customers and to help me grow the business – and give me the free time that I want and was the reason I pivoted to this business in the first place.
Why is dressing well something that women should take seriously?
While we may not agree with this, the world around us is judging us. How you look and the way you present when someone meets you or is first working with you will often impact their impression of you and it can make a difference in how you feel and how they react to you. If you think about an outfit that you know fits great and that you love, it will change the way you interact with the world. It can give you the confidence to approach challenges or take on your day more effectively.
What do you wish women understood better about curating a wardrobe?
I can offer a lot of tips on how to not make it overly complicated or have to put a lot of thought into what they’re going to wear every day. When you have fewer decisions to make you can make decisions faster. One of the things that I did in my wardrobe when I was working was, I realized most of the clothes I had in brown and tan I didn’t wear as much, so one day I just took all of them out of my closet and donated them. I had fewer items in my closet and it helped me get ready faster. I use something I call the “lazy closet cleanout,” where you identify over a period of weeks or months what you aren’t wearing as much, and can start to get rid of those items. I often tell people to go through accessories too. I love accessories, but it’s a place where you can have a lot of decision fatigue.
Who are you outside of your work?
I used to tell people I’m a snowmobiler, but for the last two years I’ve spent the winters in Arizona. I sold my snowmobiles two years ago, but I’ve been an avid snowmobiler and feel like it’s been a huge part of my personal identity. I love to read. I love to camp and be outside. Lately I’ve been going ATV-ing. I keep up with fashion and what’s going on with the fashion world. My boyfriend and I have a German wirehaired pointer.
What will you be presenting at FLOW?
I wrote an ebook called The Formula for Dressing Effortlessly, and we’ll be going through the strategies for dressing effortlessly and how to condense your wardrobe into the things that look great on you, fit you well and are appropriate for work. We’ll talk through the basics that you need and best practices for streamlining your closet so you can get dressed and get going!