The Fashion Magpie Kristi Zuhlke

Woman of Substance: Kristi Zuhlke of KnowledgeHound.

I met entrepreneur Kristi Zuhlke while participating in an accelerator program for female tech founders.  She was the guest of honor at a roundtable and, when she sat down and started sharing the story of building her business — for maybe the first and only time across all of my experiences interacting with founders in the startup world — I felt as though she was actually telling the truth.  No puffery, no self-aggrandizement, no smoke and mirrors: just the facts.  The hardships, the triumphs, the emotional topographies of building something new and convincing others to see the value in it.  I met with her a number of times afterwards, and was continuously struck by her earnestness.  There was no beating around the bush with Kristi: she was refreshingly straight-forward.  And she was also exceptionally generous.  When Mr. Magpie and I started fundraising for our business, she made legitimate connections to top Chicago investors for us.  She put her neck out there, talking enthusiastically about our product and urging her investor connections to sit down with us to hear what we had to say.  And the response was universal: “Any friend of Kristi’s is worth meeting.”

So you can probably tell while Kristi is this month’s woman of substance.

Kristi is a serial entrepreneur with an exit under her belt.  She launched her first business while still in college.  After graduating, she joined Procter & Gamble, where she worked with billion-dollar brands like Gillette and Always.  In 2011, Kristi launched a smartphone app technology that analyzed moles for characteristics of skin cancer, which she in turn sold in 2012 (#badass).  Kristi is now CEO and Founder of her third business, KnowledgeHound, a technology designed to “cure corporate amnesia and create data democratization.”  She came up with the idea while working at Proctor & Gamble, when the GM asked her, “What percentage of men shave in the shower?”  “I’m sure we know it,” she replied, but was then surprised to find that they did not have that data on hand.  She started realizing that companies spend millions of dollars on product research and market studies every year, but that information in turn dies with the end of a marketing campaign and is impossible to ferret out again for future use.

Kristi has raised over $4M in funding for her business (#badass again — and you should read what she has to say about the role of gender in raising her first round!) and has an impressive roster of Fortune 1000 clients across a range sectors.

There aren’t too many founders who successfully launch a business, close a seed round, and then close a Series A round in short order.  There are even fewer female founders who do so.  Kristi is the real deal.

Below, her answers to my Proust Questionnaire.

Your favorite qualities in a woman. 

I don’t often think in terms of gender when it comes to noting the qualities of people I admire.  That said, my favorite quality in powerful female founders is conviction in their decision-making. They do not stand down when someone challenges them and can speak with eloquence and strength to get people onboard with their vision and beliefs.

Your favorite heroine. 

My mother, who survived both raising me and battling breast cancer.

Your main fault. 

Fault? I struggle with that word. It’s not one that I let enter my vocabulary. I have found that as a CEO with strengths in vision, sales, product, and relationship management, I need to surround myself with others who are stronger at operations and finance. 

Your greatest strength. 

My optimism.  As an entrepreneur, you get knocked down on a daily basis.  You have to see the glass half full to make it through founding a company.

Your idea of happiness. 

The way I feel most loved is spending time with others.  Happiness is hanging out with family and friends who are dear to me.

Your idea of misery. 

I am an extrovert, so being on an island by myself would be miserable.

Currently at the top of your shopping lust list. 

I am moving into a new condo and am in need of some living room furniture.  Boring. I know.

Desert island beauty product. 

If it’s deserted then I really don’t need a beauty item besides endless amounts of sunscreen.

Last thing you bought. 

A Lyft ride. I love that company. Ridesharing has provided so many ways for people to earn money with flexibility.

I feel most empowered wearing… 

My leather jacket.

Favorite Magpie post.

This one.  I love simple fashion.  It’s perfect for a woman on the go who doesn’t like to spend time thinking about what to wear.

Channeling Kristi… 

Below, a few products I’ve curated that are inspired by the fearless, on-the-go Kristi Zuhlke.  Click on each item for details, or see links below!

T by Alexander Wang Twist Blouse // M. Gemi Flats // TDE Monogrammed iPhone Case (OBSESSED) //  Clarins Sunscreen // Leuchtterm Notebook // Etoile Isabel Marant Leather Jacket (on super sale!) // Illesteva Sunglasses (major covet of mine) // Kiehl’s Lip Balm // Striped Tee // Golden Goose Sneakers.

P.S.  When I was running my business, my daily uniform was dark wash denim and a statement blouse (this or this — marked wayyyy down right now!) OR a well-cut dress (I would have worn this — on super sale! — or this…can you tell I’m still not over the pearl trend?) with pointed toe flats.  I am also obsessing over this but just don’t know that I’d wear it as often now that I wear more casual stuff day-to-day.  LOVE.

P.P.S.  Two of my most popular recent posts: how to dress like Francesca in Master of None, and the best products for home.

8 Comments

  1. Very inspiring! A badass, indeed. I love this series!

    P.S. I have those Illestevas in matte tortoise with mirrored lenses and I luuurve them!

    1. Seriously – I am so impressed with anyone who raises capital in this cutthroat environment, but especially a solo female founder! The odds are stacked against her. Also, those shades sound ridic. I love a mirrored lens!

  2. Thanks for responding. iPad or iPhone- when I click on the post to read more from my email or if I just pull up via Google. The photo that heads the post isn’t visible or any of the photos when you list picks. So today, Kristi’s picture was on my email but when I clicked it wasn’t on the post. The item pictures (A. Wang shirt, etc) were visible today but other pick pictures from previous posts don’t show. I can click the “this shirt” link to take me to the item though.
    And I forgot to mention, yesterday’s post was lovely and made me think of my bestie.

    1. Ugh – so frustrating. I did install a caching tool so that pictures load as you scroll — it makes the entire site run a lot more smoothly, but it means that there is an occasional lag in loading picture. Let me know — next time you read a post — linger on a section of the post for 3-5 seconds and see if the picture eventually loads. Maybe you’re scrolling so fast it’s not showing. Regardless, not a good thing to happen but this will help me understand what’s going on!

  3. First time commenting but wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your posts. Always thoughtfully written, and I believe from the heart. And your picks-the best! I bought the Alwxander Wang shirt featured (great price, hope it works). I do have trouble seeing the pictures in many of your posts though- probably something to do with my lack of computer skills.

    1. Thank you so much for writing this — it means the world to me. Let me know how the Alexander Wang shirt works out — it is SO chic and versatile! Sorry to hear that about the images…what’s the deal? Are they not loading at all, or are they super small, or what? Also, are you reading on your smartphone or computer? xoxo

  4. This is SO exciting because we actually just got KnowledgeHound at work!! Now I’m even MORE excited about the product! Thanks for the great insights on its inspiring founder!

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