Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin is a seventh generation descendent of shipping and railroad tycoon, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and great-great-great niece of Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough. Consuelo shied away from the world of debutante balls to carve her own path through her ventures in music and business, and has been featured in Vogue, Town & Country, 25A, Prestige, Paper and Raine Magazine for her many accomplishments. Consuelo is well known in the fashion industry, and in 2015, teamed up with powerhouse network HSN to launch Homage by Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin. The pearl jewelry collection was inspired by an engagement ring she inherited from her great grandmother, Consuelo Vanderbilt Earl, which is thought to have once belonged to Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough. As no stranger to entrepreneurship, Consuelo is preparing to launch SohoMuse.com. The invitation-only website is a professional network for the creative industries, and aims to become the trusted source for the global creative community. As a creative herself, the site has been developed by creatives for the creative community.
How did you get into the industry?
As an artist I began my career as a singer-songwriter, playing in cafes and bars in Europe and signing my first record deal in the U.K. when I was 21. I later formed my own label in order to have more control over my own career and the music itself. I became an entrepreneur really out of necessity. I wasn't a 'techie' by any means, but I found myself starting up a tech company. I co-founded SohoMuse because I saw the necessity in the marketplace, having experienced firsthand the lack of a real global online community of creative talent where we could network, collaborate with and hire other artists.
Any emerging industry trends?
They say the world is a stage, and that's never been truer than it is in today's digital world. The overall process of showcasing talent and making connections is becoming more and more high tech, and eliminating borders as it becomes more and more global. Vertical Social Networks are becoming essential to a wide variety of industries because they encompass and facilitate the needs of the people within those industries in a single hub. By creating a platform that is targeted for a niche industry, individuals are able to determine thoroughly who they are connecting with. In the creative industry, it’s all about your network and tailoring your body of work to your clients and opportunities. SohoMuse is an invitation-only, membership-based site that caters to a specific market and focuses on valuable connections by providing the means to vet talent through industry referrals. I see the trend and emergence of Vertical Social Networks occurring in many industries.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
As a professional within the creative industry, unique challenges arise. One of the challenges across all creative industries, including film, music, fashion, etc., has been tracking and receiving payment immediately as well as over time through royalties. As you can imagine, with a creative work, there can be lengthy delays due to many factors, and there are often many people who contributed to the creation of that work. Blockchain is a new emerging technology that is poised to help face this challenge head-on, and I think it’s one of the most important and relevant new opportunities to hit both the entertainment and tech industries. Nearly everything we do today is digital, and digital ledgers and contracts, as well as payments, are only a part of that evolution. Aside from the efficiency, security and transparency, the applications that a technology like Blockchain could be used for within the creative industry are too many to count. From the practical uses like royalty and residual income tracking and payments, distribution and rights management and booking and payment systems for agencies and management companies, to the radical ones like cryptocurrency crowdfunding for content creation platforms and communities – I believe Blockchain is going to transform the way many things are done in the creative and other industries.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
The inspiration for SohoMuse came from my experiences working in the music business. On one side I would be working in the studio late at night, feeling creative and looking for someone to collaborate with, but everyone was asleep. There was no online space where I could find other artists - not just other musicians and songwriters, but dancers, poets, painters - in other parts of the world and meaningfully interact and create with them. On another other side, when I was looking to hire creative talent, like dancers and choreographers, hair and makeup stylists, film crews for music videos, etc. I found that process to be incredibly distracting, frustrating and painfully slow. Particularly when I was in another city or country where I didn't have a network. That is what I see for the future of SohoMuse... In its inception it is already a perfect hybrid of visually rich portfolio platform and professional creative community to solve both of those problems. But the future goes far beyond a digital social network. SohoMuse is a home for Creatives, both online and offline. It's a workplace with the tools and features we need to move our crafts and careers forward. One with a giant, global sandbox in which to play and create.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
Our Beta launch has been incredible and watching our membership grow has been truly thrilling. We have a lot of new features we've been working on that we're really excited about, like incorporating live streaming and e-commerce. We are in the process of solidifying an event for New York Fashion Week and looking at opportunities for other live events in cities around the world. We are also working with a blockchain developer to explore applications for our members and prepare the company for implementation. Meanwhile, we are taking the feedback we get from our members and shaping our list of improvements and coming features based on their needs.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Our Ambassador Program has so far proven a great success. We selected 100 talented professionals - key influencers from a wide variety of creative fields - to serve as founding fathers for our Beta launch. We asked that they each invite ten creatives from their network to join the site and they are in turn bringing in some wonderful, high-caliber talent to SohoMuse.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
I remember building the first prototype for SohoMuse, and when we were ready to expand that platform we had a third party audit on our code. In a nutshell, the report basically said the code was great... for last year. Now it's practically antique. So we had to start from scratch and now we constantly monitor and employ the next generation technology. The biggest ongoing challenge we face as a social media tech company is keeping up with the rapidly evolving technology. It moves in leaps and bounds (occasionally getting abandoned altogether) and I've learned the hard way that you must leap and bound right along with it, which is exactly what we are doing with SohoMuse.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
The ideal experience for a user would be making a connection that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to make, landing a job or lead with another creative professional or finding a creative candidate for a project. Creative professionals have a very unique way of displaying their skill sets, and SohoMuse enables the individual to showcase all of their creative talents in one place. If people are able to connect and discover opportunities on the platform, then I know the purpose has been fulfilled.
How do you motivate others?
I really try to make everyone I work with feel like part of a team, and that we're all working together towards something great. I encourage them to speak up, good or bad, and really let their voices and ideas be heard. Creativity and innovation require a certain level of freedom and when you surround yourself with good and talented people, it's a crime not to explore their full potential by giving them the freedom and the forum they need to brainstorm, express and create.
Career advice to those in your industry?
I say this a lot, but don't be afraid to fail. My failures have been my greatest lessons. The risks I have taken have led me to where I am today, and while some may have backfired on me, I don't regret a single one. Be bold and be brave every time you get the chance.