Dorian Howard: How She Went From a Big Shot Studio Executive to Startup Founder


Do you have any funny stories since starting your company?

I went to go meet with an investor and — what I always said to the investors in San Francisco, I always say “Oh, I’ll be up there next Thursday.” I’m never up there next Thursday, but I always say that and they give me the meeting and I book a quick Southwest plane ticket, always make sense. So, I was going to meet investor and I said — I’m trying not to giveaway names. So, they said “Oh, sometimes he likes to take his pictures in front of some students. So, I’m picturing three Harvard MBA guys in their 20’s that are sitting in the boardroom with us.” And I said “Okay. That’s fine. Is there anything specific I need to know about that?” They said “No, no. Just do your normal pitch.” So, I walk in and it is 40 kids, when I say kids I mean like 15-22 on beanbag chairs in a huge room. And I’ve flown myself up there and I’m thinking — I was so angry because my first instinct is “you’re wasting my time. You’d had me do this because I’m a woman and you don’t get that many women up here and there are a lot of girls in that audience. You had me up here because I’m a tangible product that people can wrap their head around. There’s not some, you know, weird act. And you’ve got to be kidding me. You are wasting my time and this is disrespectful”. So, you know, I get up there and I do my pitch and those kids are asking me questions for 45 minutes. They are asking me hard questions, because they’re all trying to show off and, I’m frustrated because I’m [thinking] “Listen the VC man is not asking me why I’m qualified to be a CEO. Why are you, you 16 year old?” But, you know, it was fun and I left and never followed up. I just figured it was a blow off meeting and I’ll just chalk that up to experience and they ended up being one of the biggest investors in our last round. Yeah, so it was that roller-coaster of emotion of you’re wasting my time to wow, you’re in. I guess it worked.

What are your long-term plans for Milk and Honey, and is there anything exciting you’d like to share with us?

There are a lot of cool things that are happening. One of which we’ve been working on for a while, and we’re really excited to launch, which is we’re doing collaborations with different influencers and tastemakers. So, the first one that we are launching is going to happen in the next few weeks and it’s with a blog called “Go Fug Yourself” and the fug girls are these amazing bloggers, huge following, million plus unique visitors per month,and  they are very fashion focused and celebrity focused, so they design great line of shoes for us. That’s going to be Milk and Honey by the Fug Girls. And it’s amazingly, they just covered Fashion Week for New York Magazine. They’ve got a fantastic following and fantastic fashion sense. They were a no brainer for us and I’m just so excited they can be the first people we’re launching our collaborations with. And then we have a few more that we’re going to roll out probably once a quarter, once every other month. We’ve been having fun working with different people. We’re going to be doing a collection with Hundred Layer Cake to do a wedding collection uncovet, which is an amazing Santa Monica based site that we love and again — we love their style and their taste. They’re going to do a collaboration with us. So, being able to offer our users different experiences in a different way of going about the shoe design process is something we’re excited about.

How do these collaborations help with customer acquisition costs?

In this day and ages especially in e-commerce you do need to be creative with customer acquisition cost because, you know, everyone is doing their Google ads, everyone is doing their Facebook campaigns, everyone is being retargeting. Their are the few things that everybody does and, you know, every time I meet an e-commerce entrepreneur and I really try to meet a lot of them, because I think we can save each other a lot of time frustration, by comparing notes. I always say like “What’s the secret? Did you figured out yet? Like what is the thing that converts in a massive way?” And, you know, everyone has a different answer and being able to kind of commiserate with other e-commerce entrepreneurs has been fantastic, but these collaborations certainly do help. We have a celebrity charity program where we have celebs come in and design different shoes and 100% of the profits from the sales of their shoes go to their charity of choice. So, that’s been just a great way for us to give back as a company and its just been fun for the celebrities. It’s just a way for them to do something. People are asking celebrities for things all the time so we want to come up with a unique offering for them and being able to design their own shoes is pretty neat.

What words of wisdom do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Don’t hesitate. Hesitation is where you get into trouble. So, if you have an idea, go do it. Don’t do it halfway because that will never work. Unfortunately there’s no such thing as keeping your day job while you start your company. You have to take off the life vest, dive in head first, if you sink to the bottom, someone will rescue you and you can start again but, you can’t, if you stay in the shallow and it’s never going to be any fun. So, just dive in with reckless abandon.


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Twitter: @MilkHoneyShoes

Photography by Melly Lee

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