Founder & CEO, St. Frank
Christina Bryant has an elevated bohemian esthetic. After living and working abroad, she came back to the United States to study business at Stanford, and was frustrated that she couldn’t make her home look and feel the way she wanted it to. She started St. Frank initially as a framed textiles business - something that didn’t really exist in the market at all, and a concept that was difficult to prove worthy to investors. But today, her business is rapidly growing and offers a unique home decor option by sourcing and selling beautiful textiles created by artisans from all around the world. In her spare time, Christina is trying to learn how to surf off the California coast near her home in San Francisco.
Wolf & heron: What values are most important to you?
Christina Bryant: I believe in taking advantage of every day and treating people well. My values are reflected through our company core values, which are service, excellence and fun. Those ideals are central to who I am. Also, as someone who loves art and design, I wanted to create a home that was authentic to who I am, and that wasn’t easy for me to do with the options available. So, in many ways St. Frank embodies me and the experience I want to have in the world.
w&h: Wow… sounds like St. Frank is almost your flesh and blood. What do you want it to be 10 or 15 years from now?
CB: I hope to start multiple businesses over the course of my life. I hope to live in many places and explore the world – experience different things. Because of that, eventually, I’d like to sell St. Frank and try the next thing. That feels very far down the line for me. Right now I want to focus on creating quality products that are delivered with great customer service, and building a business where people enjoy coming to work, show up as their best self, and create value together.
w&h: With all these businesses you imagine, what’s the big difference you want to make in the world?
CB: What I really care about is creating opportunity for others. When I lived in Rwanda, I learned that we can give people health and education - which is important! - but what has the power to sustainably change many of these communities is quality jobs. I want to create jobs for people in places where quality jobs aren’t readily available. At St. Frank, we work with artisans around the word in under-resourced settings to support good jobs. And we’re also very focused on preserving traditional artisanal craft. In whatever I do I want to be supporting opportunities for others to do what they want with their lives. Choice is the ultimate luxury.
w&h: As you’ve built St. Frank, where have you had to be influential?
CB: Influence. That’s a big one. Nowadays, information is being democratized, so influence is too. But that has given us a huge advantage. In some ways, we built our brand through Instagram. Through growing our following, we were able to gain influence and spread the word. When I was starting the company, we didn’t even have a website, but I started documenting the process of building the company. By the time we launched, we had over 20,000 followers and inbound interest. It used to be that you needed major print press or someone at “the top” to decide that you’re worth it, but now you can get buy-in from the masses directly, and that’s rooted in influence.
w&h: What has been challenging about gaining influence?
CB: As a woman, fundraising for my business was very intimidating and scary. I had to work on my confidence in delivering my message, building who I am, and, frankly, growing a thicker skin. If I wanted to get buy-in and people believing in me in the investor community, I had to believe in myself. As women, we’re often taught - maybe subconsciously - to be humble, give others credit, and smile politely, but those behaviors don’t necessarily go very far in the investor world.
w&h: Yes. We’ve heard a lot from other HBICs in Action who have had to fundraise that they had to train themselves out of some “female habits.” What about the habits you’ve had to develop? What routines do you use to sure you show up as the version of you that you need to be?
CB: First and foremost, I always get 8 hours of sleep. I sacrifice everything for that. I also try to meditate for 10 minutes or so a day. I don’t always get to it, but it always helps when I do. Those are my main strategies for calming myself down when there’s a lot to do. I’m a big list-maker. I have daily and weekly to do lists and do lots of prioritization and re-prioritization based on urgency and importance. It helps me stay focused and accomplish what matters most.
w&h: What have you had to rely on as your most important non-technical skill?
CB: I think passion for what you're creating combined with perseverance is what’s important. We built the brand on framed textiles. When I was trying to explain what a framed textile was to people, no one knew what I was talking about. But I could see the potential for what I was creating and I put a stake in the ground and had the conviction that it was going to work and that I was going to find the solution to whatever problem came my way, and that was so instrumental for me.
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Christina's Words of Wisdom
"I want to create jobs for people in places where quality jobs aren’t always available."
"I want to impact people by giving them the opportunities to do what they want with their lives - CHOICE is the greatest luxury in this world."
On Showing Up
"If I wanted to get buy-in and people believing in me in the investor community, I had to believe in myself."
"Information is being democratized, so influence is too. That has given us all a huge advantage."
"I put a stake in the ground and had the conviction that it was going to work, and that was so instrumental for me."