Pulling Rank

After relocating from New York, Rank & Style is finding its fashionable feet in Austin, thanks to the three women now in charge.

By Taylor Prewitt

Setting out to find the best volumizing mascara is nothing short of a chore, one that starts with a quick Google search but devolves into the better half of an afternoon spent wading deeper through user reviews, cataloging influencer opinions and batting off paid advertisements at every turn. And even then, you’re lucky if you end up with a mascara that doesn’t clump. In short, one does not simply or swiftly browse the Internet for the best in women’s fashion-and-beauty products.

This headache is the problem that tech-driven women’s beauty-and-fashion site Rank & Style seeks to solve.

From the basic (the 10 best white T-shirts) to the niche (the 10 best hyaluronic acid serums), rankandstyle.com simplifies the buying process by ranking the 10 best of a wide array of women’s beauty-and-fashion products. More importantly, it does so using a data-driven algorithm that takes into account product reviews, celebrity favorites, best-seller lists and influencer opinions for product lists that are both convenient and— crucially—objective.

Rounding out its third year of existence, the formerly New York-based site now has its home base in Austin, thanks to the new management of CEO Jamie Chandlee, Chief Operating Officer Dalton Young and Chief Creative and Digital Officer Beth Newill.

That the trio of Austinites, each with complementing backgrounds in social media, law and marketing, respectively, came together on this project at all was something of a perfect storm. Young and Newill immediately recognized the potential of the site when a mutual friend and early Rank & Style investor reached out with the news that the original founders were exiting. It was Young who approached Chandlee, a friend and former Facebook account executive looking for her next venture.

“When the opportunity came up to really, fully own [a business] with successful partners—we all bring really important skills and have great strengths in different areas, which is key—you know, we just jumped at it,” Young says.

In addition to Chandlee’s experience heading the fashion-and-retail vertical as Facebook’s first Austin sales hire, the partners’ backgrounds are especially suited to the fashion-leaning, tech-based company. After moving from New York, Newill owned and managed an Austin boutique before working within the same tech-focused scene Rank & Style joined. Young, with a legal background and an active law license, handles the operations side of the company.

“We definitely talked through how we liked to work and the different areas that we’re most interested in,” Newill says. “Luckily, everything just really kind of aligned in terms of our strengths.” Since acquiring the company in April, the women have utilized those strengths to actively grow the site’s user base. The partners started by revamping the newsletter and strengthening the site’s social-media and marketing efforts, two moves that have paid off with a continued, growing and engaged user base. Next steps include bigger changes, like more Austin hires and a website redesign to give the interface a made-over, modernized look. (They are in the beauty business, after all.)

Taking cues from its user base, through which users are invited to request new lists, Rank & Style will also add new verticals in bridal, maternity, men’s and kids’ products by the end of the year. Users will also see an added emphasis on the site’s “Talking Top Ten” lists, which allow influencers, entrepreneurs, bloggers and female CEOs to share their own rankings, allowing for an editorial yin to complement the site’s objective yang.

But perhaps a more fundamental change involved the company’s headquarters move from New York to Austin, where it’s one of the few fashion-related brands in the city’s tech sphere.

“Being in Austin, it’s such a vibrant community and we know there’s so many tech resources here and always so much happening,” Young says. “That was compelling to us as well, that it would give us a really good platform to keep Rank & Style going from down here.”

On the 90-day anniversary of the trio’s acquisition of the site, in late July, Chandlee met with the site’s partners, including Refinery29 in New York, and Young and Newill held down the fashionable fort in Austin. Seemingly, the dust is starting to settle.

“We all feel like we’ve finally been able to come up for air,” Dalton says. “We’ve grown in those 90 days already, and [we] continue to focus on [growing by] just [concentrating] on delivering the content that the audience really likes.”


Photo by Andrea Foster.