Keeping up with fashion is just a hobby for some; but for others, it’s their business, too. Combining the two can be tricky, though—you need the creativity but also the business skills to see a start-up succeed. And the founders of these two businesses have the fire and fuel it takes to keep their start-ups going strong.

At Milk & Honey Shoes, women can design their own pair of kicks.

At Milk & Honey Shoes, women can design their own pair of kicks.
Image: Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey Shoes began simply enough—with the idea that, “If you want a crazy pair of green glitter shoes, well, then you should have them.” That’s according to co-founder Dori Howard, who started her shoe company with sister Ilissa Howard. The two sisters both had successful business careers when they decided to start Milk & Honey. Dori worked as a film studio executive at Paramount and Ilissa worked for a today company. Both had six-figure salaries when they quit their jobs in 2011 to embark on their dream adventure.

Together, they learned how to craft shoes—from flats to platforms—and then launched their website. Women can design their own shoes on Milk & Honey, specializing everything from the color to adding bows and studs. Their design-it-yourself process allows women to have more power than stores when it comes to making a fashion statement.

Similarly, Moda Operandi is an innovative online retailer of high-end fashion items, specializing in trunk shows that feature items stores will likely never carry. Started by Aslaug Magnusdottir and Lauren Santo Domingo in 2011, Moda allows serious fashion buffs to shop with all the same privileges afforded industry insiders. And the two women would know.

Aslag Magnusdottir runs the "business" side of things, while Lauren Santo Domingo keeps the creativity flowing and customers happy.

Aslaug Magnusdottir and Lauren Santo Domingo started Moda Operandi in 2011.
Image: Stewart Shining

Magnusdottir previously worked for Gilt Noir, which is the elite shopping section of the already-high-end Gilt Groupe. While working for the company, she noticed that many of the pieces on the runway never made it into stores—and were therefore never sold. Designers told her that there was no place for their collections’ special pieces.

She joined up with Lauren Santo Domingo in late 2009 and a year later they began working on the project in earnest. Lauren herself is a fashion insider—she is a contributing editor to Vogue, New York socialite (the next Mrs. Astor?), and wife to billionaire-heir Andres Santo Domingo. Together, the two women are the ideal head of a fashion-based business. Lauren’s strengths lie in knowing the customer and working the creative side of fashion, while Aslaug knows how to work the business side of things.

What’s next for Milk & Honey Shoes and Moda Operandi? Likely great things. All four women founders are innovative, intelligent, and young—and so far, their businesses are thriving.