When I met Lucy Danziger for lunch this fall, she arrived at the Manhattan restaurant on a motorbike and walked in wearing a leather jacket and carrying a motorcycle helmet. As she shook out her blond hair, trying to revive it after its confinement in the fiberglass bubble, I thought she truly looked the part of a bold, “just try telling me I can’t” 50-plus woman. And as we talked over our meal, I realized she was certainly living the part, as well.
She’s built a perfect site for ‘hinting’ to friends and family what you’d like for Christmas.
After years in top positions in the magazine industry—most recently as the editor-in-chief of SELF—Lucy has thrown herself into a new, heavy-on-the-tech venture that might have been daunting for many of us. She’s created a digital shopping platform called Hinted, a personal buying registry (why should brides have all the fun?) where all your connections can keep track of things you’re loving. A perfect site for “hinting” to friends and family what you’d like for Christmas.
I asked Lucy to explain what has fueled her transformation and how we can learn new tricks at our age.
Tell us about your pre-Hinted career.
I was the Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine for 13 years and the founding editor-in-chief of Women’s Sports & Fitness for Condé Nast. Every job I held I always thought—no matter how high you get, you are not the owner. You can build a brand to 12 million monthly active users, and at the end of the day, you don’t own SELF, you just work here. When I left they replaced me with someone with a different vision, and two years later they folded the magazine. I would love to know that when you pour your heart and soul into a company, you build it for longevity or at least get a say in what happens to it. That’s why I decided to launch my own digital publishing company.
Did you consider yourself tech-savvy?
I’ve always loved tech as a consumer but never coded. I consider myself a fast learner. I have become more tech savvy but not without making some pretty big mistakes, like hiring the wrong developers or not properly testing the app before it launched, and so thank goodness I surround myself with a lot of tech savvy users and ambassadors who give me critical feedback and help me grow what I’m doing. We know from magazines that you can always make it better. Tech requires you to love the iterative process.
If everyone had a running list of what she loved or needed or wanted we could all save time and money.
How did the idea for Hinted come to you?
I used to get gifts at SELF that were things you’d send a stranger. Orchids and stuff I would never wear. I gave most of it to anyone who wanted it. The waste struck me. And the orchids died. So I thought: brides aren’t the only ones who need a registry. If everyone had a running list of what she loved or needed or wanted we could all save time and money. Then my niece graduated from college, and everyone asked me what she wanted. I asked her again and again, and, of course, she needed everything. We don’t give cash in my family because it feels too transactional. She finally presented us with a PowerPoint presentation with links and pictures and captions. I thought—that’s it. That’s the type of thing we need, a running list with links directly to buy. So we built an everyday registry for any occasion and it took off.
Does Hinted do anything special for holiday shopping?
We have kicked off a #NoReturns challenge for holiday because when gifts go back it’s twice the waste that it needs to be–shipping essentially three times instead of once. We want everyone to lower the impact on our natural resources this holiday season by making wish lists and giving each other (and getting from loved ones) the right gift the first time. Consider that 45 percent of recipients returns gifts and that clothing is the most often returned gift: 65 percent of the time. Also, Hinted is donating all proceeds from affiliate sales fees for anything sold on the platform to Oceana.org through Jan 1st. So we are really putting our money where our hearts are: to help save the planet and the world’s oceans.
Were you intimidated to do a “social shopping” tech platform? It’s often portrayed as tech creators having to be under age 30, and usually male.
I don’t fear failure. I fear not trying. I could have taken my severance and bought a condo somewhere and sat down to rot. I thought: Nope … I want to keep in the game. I’m not worried about what others think. Hey, I got fired. That kind of bursts the bubble of public perception of you as a winner. You fall, get up, dust yourself off, and go. Who cares if someone thinks I should retire, or run another magazine, or not try to play in the big leagues. That’s their problem. Mine is solving the site glitches, bringing in revenue, growing the traffic, gaining traction and stickiness, and selling sponsorship. I’ve got too many problems than to worry about what someone else thinks of me.
I’m not worried about what others think. Hey, I got fired. That kind of bursts the bubble of public perception of you as a winner.
What was your hardest moment?
My logo was not looking right. We changed the name from the first iteration—22 Hints—to Hintd. The designer just didn’t have the right sensibility. I was ready to cry. We needed this logo for our first major launch, and I went to drinks with old magazine friends, and when my former creative director heard my woes, she said, “I gotta go. I’m going home to work on your logo.” By midnight, I got an email and the new logo was beautiful. Strong, bold, and feminine. Then after another rebranding, we bought a vowel, and she added the “e” in an hour just before leaving on vacation. That’s true friendship. From the lows to the highs. Share your pain, share your struggle … you never know who will swoop in and help you. Don’t fake it till you make it. That’s BS. Make it every day, little by little, and accept the help of those in your network kind enough to lend a hand!
What’s your plan for Hinted’s future?
We see Hinted as a publishing platform that can exist in different verticals: Fashion and Beauty, Menswear and Grooming, Wellbeing and Fitness, Tech and Gear, etc. So each of these is almost like a magazine of its own. The truth is we want to become a shoppable publishing platform with content that is both curated and user generated and integrate video, stories, recommendations, and celebrity so that you can shop what you see on video or your favorite stars.
What was the most memorable reaction to your telling someone you were creating a tech platform? Maybe from your kids?
When my kids see me fumbling with my phone to post something, squinting at the screen, they say, “You call yourself a tech founder?” I’m also a slow reader, have awful eyesight, and am an atrocious speller. But I managed to be an editor in chief at Conde Nast for 18 years. So go figure. It’s not something that I let bother me. I may be an unlikely success story, but I’ll take it. When people tell me I inspire them, like when I’m doing triathlons at my age, what they really mean is: It’s amazing you still try, at your age, to compete or be out there doing something ambitious. Why not? It’s better than sitting around getting old.
Two times people are successful in launching a business: When they have nothing to lose (like in their 20s) and nothing to prove (like in their 50s).
What would you say to women our age who think they can’t possibly start a tech-based business?
You can do anything you want to do. There are two times that people are successful in launching a business: When they have nothing to lose (like in their 20s) and when they have nothing to prove (like in their 50s) so either end of that is a great time to just hit go. What are you waiting for? Permission? Okay, I grant you permission to go be a huge success story.
What advice would you give any midlife woman trying to reinvent her career—any success habits, advice, or epiphanies to share?
I am an awesome procrastinator. I avoid the thing I don’t want to tackle, like raising money. But I wish I could follow this advice: Do the hardest thing first. Some people are great at raising money or doing business plans. That is not me. I love to make and create things for other people, so they can improve their lives. If you are the business plan writer, then start the creative part … get to the thing you most want to avoid and get started. It’s never as bad or as hard or as arduous as you think. I tell my kids it takes a lot of work to avoid doing work. Just do the work. And have fun. Always have fun. If you’re having fun, you’re bound to be a success.