Erin Kleinberg Is The Coolest Entrepreneur You’ve Never Heard Of — Until Now

Photo: Courtesy of SIDIA/Camille Duncan.
In Refinery29's Talking Shop series, we're chatting with owners of up-and-coming small businesses about their experiences launching, the big challenges and wins they've faced, and of course, their products and services.
Erin Kleinberg might not be a household name yet, but if you've ever perused the closets of stylish folks on the Coveteur, double-tapped a @maybelline Instagram post, or slipped on a two-piece Sidia loungewear set , then whether you've known it or not, you've interacted with her work. The Toronto native founded three (three!) successful companies by the time she turned 30, but don't call her a "girlboss"; she is a boss, period.
While those in the know most associate the Toronto native with the fashion business, she actually got her start in media. After interning "here and there" in her 20s at magazines, Erin eventually launched an eponymous apparel brand. While she lacks any formal business training and credits mentorship for helping her blaze a path in the fashion industry, Erin also displayed an early knack for self-promotion and seizing the moment: After spotting Mischa Barton shopping at a Toronto H&M at the height of The OC's popularity, Erin gave her a top that Barton was later photographed in. Her designs eventually caught the attention of retailers including Barneys New York, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus. Once again showing an ability to tap into the zeitgeist, she went on to launch Coveteur in 2010, inspired by a conversation at brunch after seeing The Social Network. That cemented her status as one of the leading voices in indie media. Next came Métier Creative, a behind-the-scenes agency and collective specializing in all things branding.
And here's the thing: She's just getting started. R29 sat down with the entrepreneurial tour de force to chat all things career, in addition to learning about label-to-know Sidia, what Kleinberg refers to as her "most personal project yet."
Tell me about how the Coveteur came about.
My friend Steph [Mark] and I decided to create a hub for all things style, personal and home... We wanted to take you inside people’s homes and see what were the outfit options they could have worn that day. We ended up shooting six core people that we launched with and even before we launched, got partnerships with Vogue and Elle. And that day we like closed the internet, like it shut down! (Laughs) Everyone was writing about it because it was right as social media was starting. And so people were really voyeuristic and they wanted to see into other people’s lives.
Photo: Courtesy of Sidia
Totally. That sort of hyper-personal, intimate content was not really a thing yet at the time.
I think that helped propel my career for sure. We started something that was truly shifting the cultural zeitgeist and was revolutionary in its own right. So that was a big career moment for me. Then I left in 2014 and came back to my clothing line, which is where I met Alex [Assaraf]. It was awesome to work with the same partners again, but as a creative entrepreneur, you're always thinking about what's next. What's the next move? What's my next hustle? 
Which brought you to your next adventure, Métier Creative.
I partnered with one of my old employees from the Coveteur and we decided to launch an agency. It all really started with Jen Atkin, who was like, "I'm launching this hair care brand. Does anyone know a social media consultant?" And [Jen] was like, Hell yeah, let's do it. Going for what you want is a huge part of my [career] journey.

"Education is a huge pillar for me as an entrepreneur. It never stops and there's always growth."

erin kleinberg
It’s so impressive that you lived so many lives at such a young age. There's so much pressure to have formal training or to have everything figured out beforehand, all of which can be so intimidating. 
Totally. But I think there's pros and cons, right? Some of my business school friends almost have too many guard rails to think like an entrepreneur, and then sometimes you just throw yourself into it. And then you learn by doing and by experience. It really truly depends on like your DNA, but I think for people like me, it's built-in.
Photo: Courtesy of Sidia
So finally, let’s talk about your latest brand, SIDIA.
The beginning started pretty dark, I will say. It was early 2020. And we had investors in Métier that I actually decided to buy out. We were ready to rumble like February or March, with full autonomy, Métier solely mine. And then the pandemic hit. The same week we got shut down from COVID, my grandmother of 79 years, Sidia, passed away from stomach cancer.
That must have been so difficult.
It was this whole discombobulation of Sidia passing and my grief and we're locked up and everything. But it made me realize that I needed a new creative outlet for my grief, for my life. And I thought, what better than to build this brand in Sidia’s name and in her honor to create this legacy, much like all the legacy brands I've worked with in the past. I've studied Coco Chanel endlessly for years. 
I love building brands. I love working with founders, but I wanted to do this again for myself and create my most personal project yet. The entire brand acts in honor of the blueprint herself, Sidia, and in the simplest form, she created this sense of comfort for me. We started with apparel because that was a world that we knew, but we knew that we wanted to be in beauty, lifestyle — in that realm. After all, we’d been building beauty brands for years with all these brilliant founders and brands. Sidia is a lifestyle play on making you feel that comfort, inviting you to own your space and time in your bathroom and your oasis. 
Tell me a bit about the funding process for Sidia. What was it like getting the business off the ground?
Funding is hideous. I can't sugarcoat it. You have to tell yourself a couple of things: First, I'm gonna have so many conversations, until I'm blue in the face. Second, you're gonna hear the word ‘no’ so many times. And third, and I think this is the most important, is that it's going to happen, but not exactly the way you thought it might. Another female entrepreneur said that to me and I was like, Damn, really?  You see in the media all these [startup] darlings. For every unicorn, there's thousands of women slugging along trying to figure out where their next check's gonna come from. 
Photo: Courtesy of Sidia
Cosign all of that.
I think one of the most important things is to build a wonderful angel network. A 10k check here, a 10k check there, and you can get to 250 or whatever you need. Also, investing in other women is really important. It's going to take so much longer than you think, and you have to be creative: Kickstarter, angels, friends, and family. Go to the people that believe in you the most to start.
What has been your biggest business win?
My biggest win is my team. That goes without saying. There's almost 20 women who work across Sidia and Métier, and a lot of them have been here for a long time. I think that's a true testament to what we're building and how we're constantly growing together. It takes a village. If I don't have the team, then I don't have anything. I can't do anything by myself. People always say this, but hire people who are smarter than you. Make sure they have different strengths than you. My M.O. is like, communication is collaboration, it's community, and it's really just trying to get to higher heights together.
What about your biggest challenge so far?
I think it's really important for people to understand that being an entrepreneur comes with so many hardships, you know? It looks glossy on Instagram, but it is so fucking hard. Almost every day, a door gets slammed in your face, but then you wake up the next day and it's the resiliency that makes you come back to life. And honestly, becoming a mom. It was an extraordinary win, but also an extraordinary challenge in just trying to manage time. I have two kiddos and it's hard because your mental capacity is stretched in so many different ways. So I think that that's a challenge I’m continually trying to work on.
Your career has spanned fashion, media, creative, and now Sidia, which I feel encapsulates so much of who you are.
My goal is to really put my grandmother's name in lights. She was embarrassed by her name, and there's going to be Sidia stores in Paris, Milan, London that really champion that connection to the matriarch. That's huge for me. I'm all about good, healthy, responsible, sustainable growth and I want to keep going. It’s okay to be ambitious; I want Sidia to be a hundred-million-dollar brand. We look to the Sarah Blakeleys, and even Nili Lotan — she built a hundred-million-dollar brand without one investment.
Your career journey is so unique, but you're also actively investing in other startups as well. Why is that something you've continued to be passionate about?
I feel like investing in women-led companies actually puts my money where my mouth is and allows me to support on a deeper level. It's critical to try to invest in each other in any way we can and obviously for people who are in a position to invest, it's a really great way to support the community. I'm just super obsessed with the whole world of funding, and when I got the opportunity to start investing in other people's companies — first of all, I loved that they were coming to me; I think that's great. Obviously, the other businesses I invest in are different [than my own] but it's really nice to just see entrepreneurs shine. One of my big pillars has always been mentorship. I am where I am today because of mentorship and so I'm super passionate about giving back to the community and speaking to young women coming out of university or speaking to someone who has an idea [for a company]. We have to inspire each other, we have to uplift each other and when other people win, we win, and vice versa. It's all about that connection.
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