Every startup founder fears the day the money dries up. When that day comes for the wide majority, they fall silent. For years, that was the case with Derian Baugh, CEO of Men’s Style Lab, but today he shares his failure experience and if he regrets the decisions he made.
Men’s Style Lab wasn’t a small startup out of a basement. Baugh ended up raising 3 million dollars and had 36 employees at one point—many of whom were stylists with fashion degrees. Despite seeing the signs, Baugh fought—maybe at the expense of his own mental health—to keep the company going. He recounts the toll it took on his family and his finances, ultimately forcing him to declare bankruptcy and sell his home. It was a rough road, but he learned some incredible lessons and tells about life on the other side of catastrophe.
Who Is Derian Baugh?
Derian Baugh is the founder and former CEO of Men’s Style Lab. The company rose to fame alongside StitchFix and TrunkClub nearly 5 years ago. Today, he’s the co-founder of HUDU, a company designed to get you connected with the right services sourced from your community and not easily-faked reviews.
He Lost His Identity
Baugh explains how his company became his identity. He called himself “The Style CEO” and used his personal brand to push his company and grow it. But when his board told him it was time to shut down the company, he suddenly didn’t know who he was. If he wasn’t “The Style CEO” anymore, what was he?
After MSL failed, he ended up avoiding the coffee shops he used to frequent, fearful of the questions. He simply went dark on several relationships. He thought all eyes were on him as a failed founder. But after a while, he realized it wasn’t weird for everyone else. “It was just another Tuesday,” he explained. People didn’t care nearly as much as he thought they did. His friends still liked him, his family still loved him, and life continued.
Failure Makes Us Human
People identify with those of us who fail and are honest about the experience. The majority don’t identify with the mountaintop success stories and the reality is that most successful founders first experienced bone-crushing failure. When success-minded people see another fail, it’s a badge of honor because they’ve been there and know what it’s like.
The people who do brand you or treat you differently because of your failure are the ones who haven’t tried anything in their life and secretly want others to fail, making them feel better about themselves.