CEO Lona Alia of Style Lend
by Gaya Lynn
In the year 2000, there were only three female CEOs who headed Fortune 500 companies. Yes, that’s 1,2,3. In 2009, the number rose to 15. This year, however, the number more than doubled with a total of thirty-two female powerhouse CEOs. Plus, with more and more young women such as Trepic’s Kimberly Cheung Wright and Amanda Signorelli of Techweek taking the helm, one can expect even more next year.
Yes, the female CEO is on the rise, and is slowly but surely gaining ground upon her male counterpart. And while the biggest super hero on the silver screen this year may have been Wonder Woman, quite a number of female executives such as Indra K. Nooyi (Pepsi), and Mary T. Barra (GM) were crushing it in the boardroom-minus the Lasso of Truth and the Amazon bracelets.
Want even more reason to celebrate girl power and do a happy dance? Four out of the ten highest paid CEOs were female. But with the average age of today’s female CEOs being fifty-five, one wonders who will emerge as the next generation of financial leaders.
One young CEO who may one day have her name listed on the Fortune 500 list is Lona Alia. Lona is young, bright, and full of ambition. When she was a teen, Lona came to the US from Albania. Her story is unique and while its ending seems almost fairy-tale like in nature, make no mistake—it was her brains and courage which brought about a happy ending, not the gallant efforts of a Prince Charming.
After witnessing firsthand the social and political unrest and violence of her native country, she moved to the US in hopes of following the American dream, and it was here that her whole life changed for the better.
With her natural good looks, Lona at first became a high fashion model. Wanting to do more with her life, Lona eventually moved to Silicon Valley where she began several start-ups. Eventually she founded Style Lend, a fashion rental marketplace, four years ago. Combining her background in fashion and her business sense and experience, Lona created the fashion- based company with its focus on helping women around the world have “access to the world’s most coveted closets and help promote sustainable fashion consumption.”
A week ago, I spoke to Lona who was a recent guest on WFN1 CEO Money with host Michael Yorba. Together, we spoke about her business, her thoughts regarding the challenges female CEOs face, and how this young lady is ready to take on the business world, one outfit at a time.
Gaya Lynn: You came to the US from Albania when you were a teenager and eventually moved to Silicon Valley. After building several start-ups, you founded your own company, Style Lend. All brazen moves. What fuels your drive to go into uncharted areas?
Lona Aila: I would say the desire to change the world. I witnessed firsthand the destruction that the fashion industry does to our planet so I could not be silent and stand still. I had to act and do something. When I achieve my goal with Style Lend, the world will have less garments produced (right now we produce 150B garments per year, 4x increase from just 10 years ago), less resources will be pulled out of the earth and there will be less garments ending up in landfills which are being filled at an alarming rate.
GL: Being the founder and CEO of your own company, Style Lend, you must carry a great deal of responsibility upon your shoulders. How do you deal with the stress and workload and are you now able to delegate some of your responsibilities?
LA: Indeed there is so much weight on my shoulders every single day. Something they don’t tell you or you don’t know until you are in the thick of it. I am very careful to achieve some kind of balance as I do not want to burn out like many founders do….Sleep is one thing that is non-negotiable for me. At least 8 hours a day is necessary for me and if I do not get it, I am not doing my company any favors since my brain is operating at a lower efficiency.
Another thing that helps me quite a bit is meditating which I do not get to do as often as I would like to but it is super helpful for me to de-stress. And the last thing is to make sure to spend time with loved ones. Family and friends. They bring me back down to earth and show me what the most important things in life are.
Delegating responsibilities is key. My team has been such a blessing to me and I could not do what I do without them.
GL: Explain to our WFN1 readers how the services you provide at Style Lend can benefit them.
LA: There are two ways Style Lend can help women:
1. Make you money with the dresses you own by renting them out to others.
2. Give you access to the best dresses on the market at only a fraction of what it costs to buy them.
As the holidays are approaching and you have several holiday parties to attend you may be thinking what do I wear. Well, Style Lend solves that dilemma by allowing you to rent 10 dresses for the price it would cost you to buy one. So now you can look different at every event you go to and not have to worry about breaking your bank.
GL: There are many preconceived notions about Millennials and for the most part, they don’t seem to be very positive. For example: the notions that they are entitled, and lack social skills since they grew up in the digital age.
I however believe that your generation has produced great independent thinkers, who are bolder and less inhibited and much more aware about their environment and against corporate greed for example.
LA: I think you said it well. There are positives and negatives for every generation…We tend to focus on the positive. Millennials and Gen Z which is the generation after millennials care about sustainability and the world. They are generally more informed and they are selective in terms of what they choose to wear. It is the first generation that made the nomadic lifestyle popular and they are savvy and very discerning consumers. This is why some of the older brands have a tough time getting them.
GL: I am part of the age that saw the growth of the female in the work force. For a while, it seems to get ahead you had “to think like a man, act like a man.” How is it for a young ambitious woman like yourself today? Is it still a “man’s world” or is that changing?
LA: It’s definitely very much the same however I am hopeful and optimistic about the future. The empowerment of women movement is here to stay and there are a lot of wonderful amazing powerful men in my life that encourage women to be the best they can be. I applaud those men and I thank them because boy do we need more of them out there. Less than 6% of venture funding goes to women founded companies so there is still a long road to equality in pay, C suite positions and funding. But again I stay hopeful that what is right will prevail.
GL: Finally, I always like to ask….what is the one thing you wished you knew ten years ago (business or in life) that you wish you knew today.
LA: Follow your heart, do what you want. and only what you want and love. Do not compromise.
For more, please go to https://www.stylelend.com
With an MFA in writing, Gaya Lynn has been writing professionally for 20+ years and has written for various media outlets both here and in Italy. After working as a media representative for Dick Marconi, one of the original founders of Herbalife, she now represents top artists such as the artist FRISCH and photographer Jimmy Wilson.
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