STEM: Leura Fine, Laurel & Wolf

This article is part of our Create & Cultivate 100 List created in collaboration with KEDS, you can view the full STEM List Here.

Democratizing design. 

Leura Fine, CEO and founder of Laurel & Wolf, the interior design company that offers its services online only, has come a long way and is bringing the design world along with her. 

A Jewish, southern girl who grew up in Alabama, Leura moved to Montreal to study at McGill University. But she graduated early, moved to LA where she worked for a world famous Burlesque dancer, all the while building a career as an interior designer. Then, she started a tech company. All before the age of 30. 

An innovator in the online design space, Laurel & Wolf has developed a platform and software to allow for easy communication between a client and a designer, from anywhere. The entire service takes place in the digital world, and has opened the industry of interior design to people who never thought they could afford such services. 

Luckily her experiences in the interior design world made a few things quite clear to the budding techie. 

First, “the days of physical style boards and long, unproductive in-person meetings,” needed to go. “The future of design could be digital.” 

Second, she noticed that most designers could not afford to support themselves because their were not enough people who could pay traditional industry rate. 

And third, and most important, people wanted interior design help, but couldn’t afford it. There was a design hole. 

“It was time to figure out a path to allow designers to earn a living doing what they love,” says Leura, “and for far more people to be able to afford access to those services. It was time to democratize design.” 

In January 2014 Leura began concentrating full-time on Laurel & Wolf. The first version of the site was up that month. "I was the algorithm" she says about the company's beta site, a very bare-bones version of what exists today. Instead of spending 100k on a website build out, she paid a local LA-based developer 5k to build out eight pages with no backend. "I started spreading the word through friends and friends of family, putting it out on social media, saying, 'Hey who is looking for interior design services that only cost 300 dollars?'"

She had about 1,500 people sign up over the course of six weeks. The first iteration of Laurel & Wolf took users through a "style quiz,"-- that had no outcome. What Leura was testing was the public's interest. The BIG question: Would people be willing to pay for an interior design service online? 

It's a simple, but brilliant idea-- take a service that only a small percentage of households can afford, and open it up to more people. More people=more work=more revenue. 

And then there were more questions, more late nights, and the step of raising money. 

“There are all sorts of moments you have as a founder and CEO where you might question the path you are on,” says Leura. “However, usually after a good venting session, a good cry, a few glasses of wine, I feel refreshed and ready to conquer the world.” Feeling failure she explains is an important part of the process, but you can’t dwell. “Take a deep breath and move on! You will realize that you are a lot stronger than you think.” 

You’d have to be to work her hours. “My career has evolved from having a job to being the job. My life life is Laurel & Wolf, which is how it should be when you start your own company.” 

But she says she can rely on herself more than ever before. “In my job, I’m constantly having to push myself harder to learn more, do more, be more, and as fast as possible. For the first time, I’ve realized I can actually meet those demands along the way.” That doesn’t mean she always gets it right, nor does she have the expectation she will, but knows if she’s willing to fight for it, there’s nothing she won’t accomplish. Which includes taking Laurel & Wolf public. 

Beyond democratizing design, Leura wants to level the playing field for dreams as well. “Little girls should dream of being scientists, designers, or CEOs and they should have women to look up to in every single field.When I was a little girl, I never dreamed I could be a CEO because I never saw one. We have the power to change that and therefore change the course of history.”

Styling provided by Reservoir LA. Hair and makeup provided by Glamsquad. Photography courtesy of Light Lab and Woodnote Photography.