In Conversation With: Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo of A Thing or Two
The former co-founders of the popular fashion and design website Of a Kind championed shoppable content before it was cool. Now, these self-proclaimed “work wives” are building their own micro media c
Photo courtesy of Claire Mazur (right) and Erica Cerulo
It’s easy to forget, but once upon a time we lived in a world where e-commerce platforms like Shopify and social apps à la Instagram were nonexistent. Back then, shoppable content was anything but as ubiquitous as it is today. In fact, when Lucky pioneered the concept of editorializing the shopping experience in a print magazine in 2000, it was mocked by the industry before critics finally warmed to the idea. (Disclosure: I was an editor and columnist at Lucky in 2014 until it folded in late 2015.)
But by the time the Great Recession ended, blogs were everywhere, tech companies were laying the infrastructure that would convince a generation to trust social algorithms over professional experts, and people expected to know not just how much a product cost and where to get it but also where it came from and the person or team behind it.
Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo read these tea leaves and responded in 2010 with Of a Kind, a cult-favorite shopping site that earned the co-founders a national partnership with Target just four years after its launch, was purchased by Bed Bath & Beyond a year later and pointed shoppers to the next big thing until BB&B pulled the plug in 2019.
Of a Kind positioned its inventory in the once-ignored sweet spot between fast fashion and luxury and was humanized by the personalities of its founders. “[We] are the face and voice behind it, and knowing that no one cane ever be us, replicate our voice or point of view, helps us navigate,” Claire said to Fashionista in 2014. “So much of our business is driven by our personal instincts.”
We’re coming up on a year since Of a Kind rode into the sunset. And Claire and Erica are now focused on their latest endeavor: A Thing or Two, equal parts business, podcast and newsletter. “I’d say we’re still figuring out what exactly the next chapter holds,” Erica, a fellow Lucky alum, said to The Supercreator. (Her employment predated mine, for the record.) “But we knew we wanted to keep up a weekly newsletter and podcast in some form — they’d become calling cards and, in many ways, outlets for us.”
Like most creative businesses, A Thing or Two has, well, more than a thing or two going on at any given moment. Erica said she and Claire have a standing Monday meeting with a regular agenda. “There are items on that agenda that we might not need to dive into every week, but just seeing everything we have going in one place helps keep our individual brains and our hive mind organized.” Claire added: “When we started Of a Kind, we defined our roles pretty clearly in terms of who was responsible for what buckets of the business. Most of those buckets — finances, legal, editorial, visual, etc. — translated fairly seamlessly into this new chapter, so we’ve been able to make the divide-and-conquer transition pretty smoothly in that regard.”
Last year, Claire and Erica wrote Work Wife, a book about the value of co-creating with your BFF. And like in all successful relationships — whether they be romantic, platonic or business — the two creators play to the strengths of each partner. It’s Erica’s attention to detail and follow-through, according to Claire, that makes her such an asset to their creative projects. “This is important for the obvious reasons — it keeps our ship in shape — but it also makes me want to be accountable to her in those same ways, to meet her where her standards are set.” On the other hand, Erica said that she tends to make decisions and move on from there. “I appreciate — and am well-served by! — the fact that Claire’s much more reflective. She’s a second-guesser, and over the last decade, that’s prompted us to rethink many things and to break rules we made for ourselves as we’ve grown and evolved.”
At its core, A Thing or Two is showcase of everything — from recipes to books to beauty products — that Claire and Erica think more people should know about. But our current daily reality involves an unrelenting pandemic, a national debate over policing, an overdue reckoning on systemic racism and a president who brings shame to our country and the office he inhabits with every tweet, briefing, ad and debate performance. Claire and Erica have leaned into this moment — while many of their contemporaries have cashed in their privilege points and opted out — and spoken up about the issues impacting them and the communities around them. “It’s all related, right?” Erica said. “The discoveries we share, the creators and businesses we support, the topics we talk about—they all say something about who we are as people and also who we are as citizens and as political beings.”
Along the way, Claire and Erica have discovered that a newsletter and podcast, even if they’re both as legit as A Thing or Two’s, can only accommodate so much. The duo also knew there was an opportunity to serve the segment of their community who was looking for more from the brand with new ways to experience the connection they pride themselves on delivering. So this past summer, A Thing or Two launched Secret Menu, a membership program where Claire and Erica send an additional newsletter each week to the people who “are always up in our inboxes and DMs asking for advice on their careers or where to find the best socks.” Secret Menu also gives Claire and Erica a playground to experience with the recurring revenue business framework that seems to be all the rage these days. “We had been interested in subscription models and micro media companies for a while and it’s been cool to learn more about that world by doing,” Claire said.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no use in making sweeping declarations about what the near future will hold. And that’s fine with Claire and Erica. After all, as Claire reminded me, they spent almost 10 years working on one big project. So both women have embraced the discomfort from not knowing what’s next in hopes that it excites them enough to take on something big again. “I find it’s most productive for me to try to look at [the] uncertainty as opportunity,” Erica said. “Having the sort of partnership that I do with Claire means there’s someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off of all the time — often when they’re half-baked or even just anxieties — and I trust where that will lead.”