Welcome to E!'s Tales From the Top, our series on women who are leaders in their fields and masters of their craft. Spanning industries and experiences, these powerhouse women answer all the questions you've ever had about how they got to where they are today—and what they overcame to get there. Read along as they bring their resumés to life.
Some in-laws could never work together. These women have been doing it for more than a decade.
We're talking about Veronica Swanson Beard and Veronica Miele Beard, the founders of the womenswear label called, naturally, Veronica Beard. Yes, they're in-laws running a business together...and they have the same name. "It's as wild now as it was back then," Miele Beard admitted to E! News in our exclusive interview. "It doesn't ever stop entertaining people."
"The funny part," added Veronica Swanson Beard, "is that we actually spent a lot of time trying to think of another name for the brand and then finally we were like, 'God, if this goes anywhere, any press that we get is going to spend the entire article talking about the fact that we have the same name, so we should get it right out front.'" Admittedly, it's a detail that's hard to overlook. But after a decade outfitting women—including some very famous ones—the Veronicas' successes have long-since overshadowed any strange quirk of fate. Though there is much of their story that seems like destiny.
They first crossed paths at a wedding in 2002—the same night Swanson Beard and her now-husband Jamie Beard also met. And in between the champagne toasts and the dance floor jams, the fates were doing their thing, ensuring the pair's lives would forever be intertwined.
"We had a relationship separate of this business, thank God, which was about our family," Swanson Beard said. After all, they wed siblings Jaime and Anson Beard. "I think having that foundation as sisters-in-law and being family first and also friends was really important than just two friends starting a business who could potentially walk away from each other."
Aside from their budding friendship and shared love of Beard brothers, they also discovered a similar aptitude for fashion. While Swanson Beard had studied at Parsons School of Design and worked in the industry, including for Narciso Rodriguez and Alberta Ferretti, Miele Beard was a sartorial risk-taker on Wall Street. "I worked at many different investment banks, really high-brow, and it was a time when you wore a suit to work," she recalled, "and it was pretty boring." In the sea of navy blue, brown and black, you could find her unapologetically sporting red and pink. "I loved the idea of being the only woman and being feminine and being sexy at work," she said, "and owning it."
But there was one other significant ingredient for these business partners in the making: "We were also both product junkies and entrepreneurs," Miele Beard described. "We were in completely separate lifestyles, lives, careers, and yet, when we got together, all we talked about was the next big idea and how we're going to make money on something—and then this something came along and we did it."
What shoppers know today as the Veronica Beard brand began with that one "something": A rack of women's dickey jackets. Like the OG faux turtleneck, you can simply zip one of their interchangeable dickeys (knit, hoodie, cashmere, leather—they sell a variety) into the front of one of their blazers for a comfortably layered look. Plus, it makes putting together an outfit pretty fool-proof and packing, well, a breeze. "We called it the Wonder Woman cape because it changed your life. It was the one piece that you could rely on in your crazy, busy life with kids or not," Miele Beard explained. "Wherever you're going, it sort of fit every lifestyle."
It also evened the fashion field. "The concept of the dickey existed already for a long time in menswear, but it didn't exist in womenswear and we were like, this is so cool, it looks like you're wearing a huge, fat fisherman sweater under a cool, vintage, blue school-boy blazer," Swanson Beard explained.
"It was so trompe l'oeil," she continued citing the type of optical illusion employed in art, "because there's no way you could have that big, chunky sweater under this little fitted blazer, so people were like,'Wait, what's going on with your jacket?'"
Added Miele Beard, "We were like, every woman needs to have what these men are having."
In the 11 years since, they've had showings at fashion week, an early Goop feature from Gwyneth Paltrow and celebrated becoming CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists. Most notably, their dickey jacket lives on, now in much more extended company. There are Veronica Beard dresses, jeans, sports bras, bikinis and even clogs, all part of the one-stop shop advanced contemporary label they've grown together, aimed at serving their broad clientele. "We're the brand for the movers and shakers," said Miele Beard, "and doers and makers."
In an industry where designs often look like they belong more in a museum than on a clothing rack, the Veronicas are busy thinking about everyday life. "We road test our stuff. Our stuff is very product-focused," Miele Beard noted. "It's like, go and pick up a child in those jeans. Go hail a cab and do you see your stomach when you do it? Who's buying this? Is it bra friendly? We ask a lot of questions that a lot of designers might not. It's really rooted in reality."
But don't think 12 brick-and-mortar stores, an expansive line and the likes of Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle rocking your shirtdress on a royal tour happens overnight. Swanson Bearded noted that people can overthink things, crafting a business plan before they make their first sale. "Kind of put the car before the horse," she explained. "We didn't do that. We just sort of learned as we went, and a little bit sort of winged it and it was so much more fun."
Below, soak in the wisdom they've gained along the way:
On advice they'd give their 2010 selves:
"Don't listen to the noise," Miele Beard said. "There's a lot of noise out there and you just got to stick with your gut."
On the advantage of being an outsider:
"It wasn't like I worked in the industry," Miele Beard said, "so I always felt like, 'Oh, there's a certain way of doing things. There's a way that they teach you at Parsons that I'll never learn.' I feel like when you aren't in that cookie-cutter situation where you don't know anything about something, you actually maybe have your mind open to other ways of doing it—being sort of a blessing because you can question things."
On the reality of a successful start:
"We knew the jacket was a hit the first season," Swanson Beard said, "as soon as they shipped because they were selling out faster than we could get them in a box. That wasn't actually the problem...It's easy to have a good item to start with. It's very, very hard to build a business."
On the benefit of becoming moms before starting their business:
"Being stay-at-home moms and having kids before we started this business, to me, is one of the best parts of it because we weren't 22 where we were out at every party," Swanson Beard said. "We started this business to have a business. We wanted it to be profitable. We wanted to have amazing products. We wanted to have fun and grow it. It wasn't about going to parties and doing the whole fashion scene because, at that point, we had eight kids at home. Veronica has five, I have three, so you had to go to the office, get the work done, get home for dinner, put the kids to bed, maybe go out to dinner with your husband and go to bed and do it all over again."
On advice for moms looking to rejoin the workforce:
"If you've left the workforce and you've had kids and you feel an urge to go back to work, do it. Talk to your friends. Talk to anybody in your community that has connections and have them hook you up with an interview or talk through it. It's scary to do, but do it," Swanson Beard encouraged. "It's so rewarding, and I think everybody in your family appreciates it, too, when you're feeling really fulfilled."
On what is essential to their success that people don't see on social media:
"Hustle," Swanson Beard said. "Getting up, getting your kids out the door, fed, commuting into the city, having, like, 42 meetings back-to-back, going to an event at a store, meeting accounts for dinner, going home hoping that your husband still loves you."
"Planning your outfit," she continued ticking off the never-ending to-do list, "and getting your doctors in and working out...The whole thing. Women are expected to do so, so much and it's a lot."