Erin Kleinberg dove headfirst into producing a t-shirt line before going on to co-found cult-favorite website The Coveteur. Now, two years after starting Métier Creative, the serial entrepreneur reflects on what’s she’s only now realizing: Everyone is kinda faking it.
Exhibit A: It’s 2006 and I’m 20 years old, standing in the buying office of Barneys in NYC, trying to peddle my clothing line—a small collection of embellished t-shirts—to their women’s ready-to-wear buyer. I wanted this appointment so badly. It was my first step to “making it,” and to this day, I can still hear the buyer asking me, “So, what’s the lead time here, Erin?”
Lead time. Right. I had no clue what that meant, or how in the world I would produce any purchase order over 20 units. On top of that, I definitely did not know how to navigate the 150-page shipping guide accompanied with the perils of NAFTA and shipping from Canada.
“But I stood there and made something up, as confident as could be, and by some miracle, she believed in me.”
During those chaotic early days of my clothing line, I vividly remember staying up all night in my parent’s home office, stalking the internet for names of buyers who might take a chance on me. I was consumed with Googling everything I could to learn about shipping, duties, taxes, and tariffs. It was a slow process. And terrifying. And fun. During those late-night sessions, I’d never felt so alive, just praying someone would answer me. And eventually, it started to work; the responses started rolling in on my trusty (and massive) navy blue Blackberry.
Fast forward to 2010, when two friends and I founded the culture website Coveteur, which, in our minds, would be a fun side project borne out of our own curiosity. There was no way the cool kids we admired from afar would allow us into their homes to take pictures and be featured on our website.
But boy, oh boy, were we wrong. Soon, I found myself in front of the crème de la crème of creatives, CEOs and agents—Bob Sauerberg of Conde Nast, and my fellow Toronto-native Drake. And there we were, convincing them to take a chance on our side-project-turned-business with little else than an abiding passion and the will to make it work.
Today, I am spearheading my third entrepreneurial venture atop the foundation I built from my prior experiences. I started Métier Creative, an all-women-led creative advertising agency, two and half years ago, with my Coveteur partner in crime, Stacie Brockman. We’ve had the pleasure of working on projects with some of today’s leading luxury and beauty brands like Dior, Tiffany & Co. and OUAI Haircare.
“Even still, three businesses later and twelve years after I stood in that Barneys doing everything I could to cover up everything I didn’t know, I don’t feel like I have all the answers. Not even close. I’m still learning, and I’m still making things up as I go.”
But what I have learned for certain is this: You really only have to prove yourself to yourself. There are people out there with MBAs, who have spent years earning impressive degrees from impressive schools, and many of them go on to do very impressive things. But there are also a lot of entrepreneurs and leaders out there like myself and Stacie who have learned through experiences and—maybe more importantly— the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality.
To this day, I’m not exactly sure why buyers responded to me, or why Drake invested in the Cov, or why our dream clients signed up for Métier. I have a hunch that it came down to my own resilience and determination; those traits have a way of making themselves seen. But am I sure that they had no idea that I was very much in the process of figuring it all out as I went, making it up on the fly as often as I needed to. And anyone who tells you their story went otherwise is probably faking it.