Folks We Love with Janel Molton Hertz + Chao Wang | founders of the Dopple
How did you two meet?
J: Chao and I met at a fashion PR firm called Bismarck Phillips in NYC in 2008! It was my first job out of college and the financial crisis was looming. Chao had just left her finance role and was segwaying into marketing and I was instantly drawn to her creative approach to business and bubbly personality.
What is the Dopple and what gave you the idea for it?
J: Dopple is the best (+ coolest!) way to shop for babies and kids :). It’s a quarterly subscription service that sends parents 10-15 pieces of clothing, shoes, and accessories from the world’s BEST designer and independent brands matched to your little one’s size, style, and (most importantly) budget at below retail prices!
The idea was first “conceived” when I was pregnant with my first baby Carmen six years ago. I had been in women's fashion e-commerce for over ten years yet and when I started looking for clothes to buy for her, I was floored by how limited (and basic) the childrenswear market was. I wanted to find cool unique product but also didn’t want to pay $100 for a onesie that she would wear once and destroy.
CW: In early 2017 I noticed that all these direct to consumer baby food companies were popping up, like Raised Real, Little Spoon, and Yumi. I was speaking with some friends about how our friends who were starting to have kids wanted something better than Gerber for their kids…better than Johnson & Johnson. It was clear and interesting that my old millenial friends were going to be very different parents than parents a decade ago.
How does it work and how do we get in on it?
CW: You simply take a quiz and that’s it! We put together a personalized assortment of adorable outfits from the world's best luxury and boutique brands (including Stella McCartney, Chloe, Misha and Puff, Rylee + Cru, Oeuf, Gray Label, + hundreds more) curated to your wants and needs. You’ll receive it in a few days and simply choose what to keep and send back anything else in a prepaid mailer we include. Free shipping & returns, always! For your Zen Mama followers, use the code YZMBFF at checkout to waive the Service Fee and try for free!
What is the most challenging part of running your business?
J: For me, the biggest challenge has been learning how to calm my own anxiety as we grow and the dream gets bigger. I feel the weight of that responsibility and success for everyone involved and working through those fears is an active challenge.
CW: Making sure I’m working on the right thing at the right time. Knowing when and how to take a break. Knowing if I’m worrying too much, too little or the right amount about everything!
Do you have any tips for the ever impossible seeming balance? It’s a mirage, right?
J: Totally! I hate the word balance when it comes to having kids and a career. There is no balance post children. Whether you work or stay-at-home, raising human beings puts you perpetually off kilter as you actually can’t control every moment, making every day balance impossible.
CW: Yeah... I think the idea of “balance” is just setting you up to fail! I mean, who determines what balance is? I think having the flexibility to set up your life so you can be your best, do the things that make you happy, be with the people you love… that’s living the dream, to me! We’re really open to new ways of working at Dopple. Grace, our Head of Merchandising, works from home in LA and that offers flexibility for her to be with her daughter Sloan. Julio, our Founding Engineer, takes his daughter Chloe to a class on Friday afternoons across town but works on evenings and weekends.
can you tell us more about your respective backgrounds?
J: I majored in Art History in college, but interned at two art galleries and didn’t feel as inspired as I thought I was going to be. At 19, in between my sophomore and junior year, I interned at W Magazine in NYC and fell in love with the fashion industry (even with the Devil Wear’s Prada type of experience!). After college, I actually started my own designer consignment site (Chao was my model!) before going to Net-A-Porter to learn from the best of the best until I then met my (now) husband and moved to SF for love. I then spent two years commuting to LA to work at Revolve (and launch FWRD) before we moved back to NYC (pregnant) where I headed up brand marketing at a wedtech company called Weddington Way.
CW: I worked in finance straight out of college, which I found pretty uninspiring, but in hindsight it was incredibly useful. I changed careers and then spent about 7 years in consumer marketing and communications, working with companies from mutual funds, luxury goods to e-commerce startups. I then moved from NY to SF to join a startup really on, and haven’t looked back. Before Dopple, I help scaled two other successful startups and was fortunate to meet and learn from amazing entrepreneurs and investors who are now part of the Dopple family.
What advice do you have for people working as a team? What works most effectively for you two?
J: Great question! A business partnership is basically a marriage and as a wifey to two people I think the most effective tool within a team is having a safe space for honest communication and feedback. Chao and I try to meet once a week before the team gets in to just connect, with no set agenda and this has been a game changer for me personally.
CW: I try to remember that growing a venture backed startup is really, really hard. It’s not supposed to be easy, and it’s a marathon not a sprint! Be patient, be kind, be solutions oriented and proactively work on building a great relationship (whether anything is “wrong” or not). Janel and I started working with an executive coach who has had a lot of experience with startup teams -- wish we had sooner!
Self care tips?
J: Hahaha! I’m still learning how to self care with two kids and a young startup but I think the biggest thing I’ve tried to start doing as of late is to make time to see and connect with my best girlfriends. Whether that’s an hour phone call after bedtime (pre-evening work session) or a quick trip to LA, creating those moments has been super important to my mental health.
CW: Sleep sleep sleep! I’m obsessed with getting enough sleep and I lecture everyone I know to get enough sleep, including Janel! Even though I don’t most of the time...for me, sleep is the foundation of mental, physical, emotional health. It’s more important than what you eat, how much you exercise, meditate, etc.
What are you reading?
J: Nothing right now as I can barely get through my emails :).
CW: Right now High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil and Normal People by Sally Rooney… both highly recommended and kind of cliché for an old millennial working on a startup!
What are you watching?
J: Real Housewives of every city! Bravo superfan over here!
CW: I don’t watch TV, but when I do, it’s really cringe British reality shows I’m too embarrassed to name!