Day in the Life: Shilpa Shah & Karla Gallardo of Cuyana

Welcome back to our monthly series, Day in the Life! Through this Q&A series, we’re giving you an inside look at the day-to-day lives of some of the most inspiring women in business. This month, we talked with Shilpa Shah and Karla Gallardo of Cuyana, the lifestyle brand for the modern woman interested in simple functionality.

Below, hear what these co-founders have to say about filling whitespace, what advice they have for for work-life balance, and the habits they’ve developed to be the best versions of themselves.

Tell us a bit about Cuyana. What whitespace did you see in the market? What need did you want to fill?

Karla: Fewer, better things is the philosophy behind all we do. We started Cuyana to inspire consumers to shop intentionally for high-quality pieces crafted with integrity. We saw the need for luxury-made items at an affordable price point - the consumer mindset was shifting, and we had the opportunity to be the better choice within fashion.

Shilpa: She was seeking higher quality products with purpose; logos and overt branding were no longer relevant. Customers craved more, they were tired of expensive low-quality products - we created a brand to fill that need.

Are you a night owl or a morning person? When do you do your most important work and why?

Karla: I’m a night owl but have recently been successful in transitioning to being a morning person. Getting an earlier start to the day enables me to spend more time with my son, Mateo.

Shilpa: I’m a night owl by nature. I’ve tried to become more of a morning person, but I’m still a work in progress!

What does your morning, pre-work routine look like?

Karla: I’m up early to ensure I have breakfast together with my family - with such a busy work schedule, breakfast is more dependable than dinner. The shared time together sets the foundation for my whole day.

Shilpa: I spend my mornings coming up with creative ways to cajole my kids out of bed - they’ve clearly inherited my night owl mentality! The rest of the morning is a wild dash to get everyone to where they are supposed to be and making it happen on time.

What’s your commute like? Do you listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks? Any current faves?

Karla: I spend my commute looking at everything I’m devoting time to, ensuring that each task or meeting has purpose.

Shilpa: I take my time on the train to peruse the New York Times app or listen to podcasts and audiobooks - listening to "Becoming" narrated by Michelle Obama has been a wonderful experience.

Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office/to your desk?

Karla: Grab a cup of coffee - my brain doesn't process information until the first sip of my morning latte. I then head right to an early meeting with my bag and latte in tow - I rarely make it to my desk.

Shilpa: Definitely not eating frogs! I am typically in meetings first thing in the morning. I’m lucky if I even make it to my desk, but always have coffee in-hand.

What are you working on this week?

Karla: Everything from annual internal reviews to our exciting plans to expand retail!

Shilpa: I’ve been focused on exciting collaborations and our seasonal marketing strategies.

What advice do you have for balancing the minutiae of day-to-day tasks with big-picture planning?

Shilpa: Break down the big-picture plans into smaller, discernible milestones. Then you can plan all tasks the same way!

Karla: We plan our annual strategy every January, and it serves as the overarching framework for everything we do.  New items pop up every day though, and it is important to constantly review my week to ensure that every meeting and task continues to ladder up to the big picture. I re-prioritize my week on Sundays to make sure I achieve key results by Friday.  Also, I am very close to the data. It reveals whether the path we decided to take in January makes sense, and it will sometimes challenge me to make changes in the overarching strategy. I spend 2 hours looking at reports and thinking about the big picture strategy every week. It is my “zen” moment, and it brings back the focus.

What are some work habits that help you stay healthy, productive, and on track to reach your goals?

Karla: I make time each day to do something for the people I care about most. I then get some me time by working out a few days a week at home on our Peloton.

Shilpa: It’s not the quantity of time, but rather the quality way in which you spend it. I make sure that I connect with my husband and kids in ways that also meets their needs. It’s amazing how outsourcing the household tasks opens up more meaningful time together.

What are you reading/watching right now?

Shilpa: Anxiously waiting the last season of GOT!

Karla: Honestly, television is my way to zone out - I love watching laughable and outrageous shows at the end of my night.

When do you go to bed? What’s your “optimal” # of sleep hours?

Shilpa: Between 12-1 am. I would love to have 7 hours of sleep, but I usually end up near 6.

Karla: I get up early now, so I’m in bed by 11!

What’s the most rewarding part of your day?

Karla: The time with my son and husband. Whether our family breakfast in the morning or watching Mateo’s favorite movie, Moana, the moments I spend with my family are the best.

Shilpa: I cherish the time spent with my family. Sometimes, getting in those last few hours of quiet work time at the end of the day can feel rewarding too!

What’s something not a lot of people know about you?

Karla: I already revealed my guilty television pleasures!

Shilpa: I actually wasn’t very organized until I met Karla. It’s been amazing to see how our “fewer, better” philosophy has changed the way I live.