7 AM to 7 PM: Maisonette's Cofounder Prioritizes Family While Building a Business

Sylvana Ward Durrett and family

Verywell Family / Sylvana Ward Durrett

For Sylvana Ward Durrett, the world of shopping has always been second nature. As a former Vogue editor, who rose through the ranks from Anna Wintour's assistant to Fashion Editor to Director, her knowledge of the retail landscape and consumer behavior is all-encompassing. And during her nearly 15 years at the magazine, she could recite a list of destinations for a new dress or handbag just as effortlessly as those for a sofa or dog leash.

But when Ward Durrett was tasked with shopping online for her three children, she suddenly found herself drawing a blank. "If you think about it, as adults, we sort of have every category in our life—whether it’s your clothing or your dogs or your groceries—aggregated, curated, and centralized on some kind of one-stop-shop online," she says. "But there didn’t seem to be a destination like this for when you had kids, and instead, you had to have 35 different pages open on your browser to get everything they need."

Frustrated by the lack of options, Ward Durrett consulted her fellow Vogue editor, Luisana Mendoza de Roccia, at the time a mother of three with a fourth on the way. Her friend not only had no suggestions to offer but explained that she too had noticed this void in the market. The two put their heads together, and after doing extensive research to confirm that no such place existed for children beyond the baby stage, they decided that they would create one.

"What we determined was the way to win this market and the way to absolve the customer of this problem was not through any kind of micro-solution," Ward Durrett says. "We didn’t want to solve just one piece of the puzzle; we wanted to solve the entire puzzle."

The women set out to build a singular destination for children that covered all categories, from bibs to bloomers, books to blankets, and blocks to bikes, at every price point. And in March 2017, just a year after leaving Vogue, they launched Maisonette, a chic online destination often referred to by moms as "the Net-a-Porter of kids shopping."

In the more than four years since, Maisonette has seen impressive and continued success, with just under $50 million in total funding, roughly 1,300 brands sold on the site, and two private labels. Ward Durrett has shepherded this growth, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company from Brooklyn and handling investor relations, all while raising her three kids between the ages of four and nine. But as stressful as it can be to balance work and life, she says her children—Henry, Gracie, and Millie—have been the biggest guiding force in building the business.

"It’s funny because as our kids have aged, our assortment has changed. And I think that’s an important piece of it because our customer also ages, so the older our children get, the more inclusive our site becomes," Ward Durrett explains. "It means that we’re constantly evolving with our customers."

I try to remember that no parent, whether working in the home or out of the home, can be with their child(ren) one hundred percent of the time. It’s always going to be a balancing act.

The Maisonette cofounder's approach to the business, in many ways, mirrors her approach to parenting. "I really listen to my kids and try to give them space to express how they’re feeling in any situation—and especially in tough situations!" she says, noting the importance of a "pause, listen, and connect" method before trying to correct behaviors.

"I really believe that kids who feel seen and heard and respected will grow into independent, confident adults," she shares. "Open communication and connection with my kids is something I value so much and work on every day."

Even so, juggling back-to-back meetings and phone calls with constant drop-offs and pick-ups, three different sets of extracurricular activities, and near-nightly battles over bedtime is far from a walk in Brooklyn Bridge Park (which Ward Durrett just happens to sit on the board of).

"I try to remember that no parent, whether working in the home or out of the home, can be with their child(ren) one hundred percent of the time," she says. "It’s always going to be a balancing act, and I
believe in quality time over quantity, and I make it a point to be there when they need me."

Below, the Maisonette cofounder shares how she runs a thriving business, prioritizes quality time with her family, and still finds time for a weekly date night with her husband.

Sylvana Ward Durrett and daughter

Verywell Family / Sylvana Ward Durrett

Tuesday

7 a.m. Every morning starts with either my youngest or my oldest (who is actually our earliest-riser) waking me up. This morning is no different. Come 6:30 a.m., there’s a face in my face, and it’s never a smooth wakeup. After that, it's a marathon to get the kids dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, backpacks on, and shoes on.

7:30 a.m. If we can, we all have breakfast together as a family. We do also have two dogs, so there’s a lot of chaos in the morning: dogs on the counter trying to eat the kids’ breakfast or my husband trying to walk them while I get the kids dressed and shovel coffee down my throat.

Come 6:30 a.m., there’s a face in my face, and it’s never a smooth wakeup. After that, it's a marathon to get the kids dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, backpacks on, and shoes on.

8:30 a.m. Once they’re out the door, I walk the kids to school, which typically involves two scooters. I drop them all off at their school in Brooklyn Heights and walk to the office in DUMBO, which is about seven minutes away.

The density of the city makes it easier to do all that because I can get from place to place pretty quickly. It’s been sort of a game-changer for me, and just having all of my life within a 20-block radius has been super helpful.

11 a.m. Meeting with a prospective investor. We're currently in our C-round fundraising, so I'm meeting with a number of potential investors.

1 p.m. Lunch and work time. I almost always end up having a working lunch because this is usually the only time of the day that I don't have meetings or calls, so I can catch up on other work.

3 p.m. Weekly executive team meeting. Every week, our executive team meets to go over various aspects of the business.

Being able to sit down with the kids and my husband and talk about our days is a true luxury.

5:30 p.m. Meeting with our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant since we're doing a lot of work around DEI right now.

6:30 p.m. Dinner with the family. One night a week, I really try to focus on coming home and cooking dinner for everyone. Being able to sit down with the kids and my husband and talk about our days is a true luxury. With all my kids' schedules, it’s hard to get everyone at the table at the same time, but when we can, it’s a huge success, and I feel like we’ve pulled a miracle off.

I make a really easy salmon dish that takes me about 15 minutes. So, I do salmon, a salad, and a veggie (even though my kids revolt); but it takes me literally 15 minutes to do the whole thing, and it’s usually a crowd-pleaser.

7 p.m. Bath and shower time for the kids. My two older kids can now shower themselves, which is super helpful. Then they have to do homework, and if there's time after that, they're allowed to watch one show. They're usually in bed by 7:30 p.m, and they're allowed to read until 8 p.m, but then it's lights out.

Wednesday

7 a.m. The kids wake up between 6 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. My oldest, Henry, wakes up first. Our nanny lives with us during the week, and she is in charge of breakfast, while I wrangle the kids (some more easily than others!) into school clothes.

9 a.m. After getting the kids ready and dropped off at school, I sometimes have time for my one exercise during the week, which is Wednesday tennis clinic. I find it so luxurious to do that right at 9 a.m. and get an hour in to get my endorphins going. I sort of need something like that during the week. It's also right next to my kids' school, so it's super convenient.

10:30 a.m. Once I'm at the office, I have a call with the Brooklyn Bridge Conservancy about tomorrow night's gala, which I'm hosting. I just love the park so much, and I'm on the committee.

I find it so luxurious to do that [tennis clinic] right at 9 a.m. and get an hour in to get my endorphins going.

12 p.m. Meeting with my Head of People to go over all things staff and hiring.

2 p.m. Meeting with an existing investor, who's a member on the Maisonette board.

3 p.m. Private label monthly business review. We always knew a private label was something we wanted to do at some point, but we took two years to really understand our customers, what they want, and what we had a hard time finding from a third-party vendor. And that was really this blend of everyday basics with style, so Maison Me was sort of our answer to that.

We also recently launched Neon Rebels, which is an even more affordable price point and is more of a kids-driven line. So, we go over both of those brands in this meeting.

5 p.m. End-of-year sprints meeting to review all the initiatives we're working on from now until the end of the year.

6:30 p.m. Dinner at Bar Bête with my husband. We try to do a date night every week, but the specific day changes depending on what else we have going on. We’re big foodies, and we love to support our local spots in Brooklyn, so Bar Bête is a favorite.

7 p.m. Once we're back from dinner, I do my evening routine. I wash my face with Cerave and then use the whole Dr. Lara Devgan line—the hyaluronic serum, the vitamin C serum, the retinol bakuchiol serum. And I usually watch a show in bed with my husband; we’re deep into the "Formula 1" series on Netflix. 

Sylvana Ward Durrett and kids

Verywell Family / Sylvana Ward Durrett 

Thursday

7 a.m. The kids are up again some time between 6:15 a.m. and 7 a.m., and our nanny cooks breakfast while I get the kids dressed. Breakfast ranges from scrambled eggs and toast to Honey Nut Cheerios to bagels and cream cheese, but that time at the table together is sacred. We chat about the schedule for the day, and I always glean a lot of information from our talks together, which continue on the walk to school. 

9:30 a.m. Meeting with another perspective investor.

11 a.m. We have our weekly all-hands meeting every Thursday. Here, we address the whole company, which now includes about 120 employees.

2 p.m. Meeting with our Chief Technology Officer.

5 p.m. I never leave work early, but tonight, I'll dip out of one of my meetings halfway through and switch to Zoom while I get my hair and makeup for the gala done in my bathroom. But I will still be on that call, and I will continue to be on calls until the minute I walk in the doors of the gala because I’m booked pretty back-to-back during the week.

Usually, if I have a work event, my husband stays home with them; but in the rare cases where he is not, calling them to say goodnight can sometimes make them more upset.

5:30 p.m. Since I have an event tonight, our nanny is in charge of feeding the kids and putting them down to bed. Usually, if I have a work event, my husband stays home with them; but in the rare cases where he is not, calling them to say goodnight can sometimes make them more upset.

7 p.m. Hosting the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Gala. This park is so incredible, and we provide all of the programming for everything in the park, including all the kids’ sports and educational programs. Tonight's gala helps raise money for that.

I got home late from the event, so I skipped a few steps of my routine! Hopped into PJs, brushed teeth, washed and moisturized face, and am in bed in under five minutes. 

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