The career spotlights have become one of my favorite features on Design Darling, not just because they actually require me to change into real clothes and leave my apartment but because they really seem to resonate with a lot of you. I tend to gravitate toward female entrepreneurs but today’s post is a little different — in a good way — in that I’m casting the spotlight on someone whose job typically plays out behind the scenes. Meet Emily Karpin, the director of communications for Benchmarc, a New York-based restaurant group founded by world-renowned chef Marc Murphy and his wife, Pamela. I loved getting to chat with her about the intersection of food and social media (and, you know, getting to try a few of the dishes at Landmarc — yum). For all of you interested in pursuing communications, event planning, or anything in the restaurant industry, I think you’ll love hearing what Emily has to say!

emily karpin benchmarc restaurants

Name: Emily Karpin

Age: 30

Title: Director of Communications, Benchmarc Restaurants

Tell me a little about how you wound up in event planning and the restaurant industry. Is this something you’ve always wanted to pursue?

I actually originally wanted to be an entertainment attorney in Beverly Hills! After college, I took the LSATs and moved to San Diego to be a paralegal. I was miserable so I left that to get into events. I had studied abroad in Greece in college and really wanted to go back to Europe and travel so I applied to a program in London and got a job working in client services at a law firm. After a year of that, I moved back to New York knowing that, if I was going to change my career, now was the time. I took a job as a marketing manager in Union Square, trying to market the neighborhood’s restaurants and various events in the park. I worked my way up over the course of three years but I really wanted to make a career around food and wine. So at 27, I started going to Barnes & Noble on my lunch break to highlight jobs in magazines and scour LinkedIn for potential opportunities. Finally, after a lot of nos, I heard about this job and Pamela and Marc took a chance on me. The rest is history!

landmarc tribeca

It sounds like you’ve experienced a wide range of office environments. How would you describe the culture at Benchmarc or in the restaurant industry in general?

It’s certainly more relaxed than a corporate law firm! There are no cubicles, only open seating so everyone can talk freely and work together. What’s great about the restaurant industry is that it’s a lifestyle — you really have to love it. I love getting to work with people who love what they do. I mean, you spend more time with the people you work with than your significant other so it’s important to surround yourself with an amazing group of people.

That’s such great advice. What exactly do your job responsibilities look like?

I head up all of the external communications and social media for the restaurant group and Marc as a celebrity chef. One day I could be in the office working with publications getting quotes from Marc. Another day he could be on the Rachael Ray show. Anything that Marc or the restaurant is doing, I’m right there, whether it’s the Food Network or a charity function. It makes it really fun because as Marc’s career grows, mine does too. Right now we’re working on a cookbook!

landmarc nyc menu

What kinds of charity work does your group do?

Marc is involved with No Kid Hungry, a national organization that works to end childhood hunger. On a local level, he works with City Harvest, a food rescue program that delivers leftover food from restaurants to New Yorkers. He’ll literally go into what we call “food deserts” and teach lower income families how to stretch their dollar to afford fresh produce.

That must be so rewarding. And then on top of that, you’re also running social media for each of Marc’s restaurants?

Yes! Landmarc is a French bistro with Italian influences and has two locations, one in TriBeCa and one at the Time Warner Center.. Marc’s dad was an American diplomat so Marc developed a taste for food at a very young age! Then Ditch Plains taps into his more casual side — it’s more of a surf shack with lobster rolls and fresh seafood. Kingside is our partnership with the Viceroy, Marc’s take on new American. And then we have a catering arm called Benchmarc Events where we do in-house events and weddings.

I can’t believe you juggle all of those different entities! What’s one pinch me moment you’ve had so far?

This past April, Marc was invited to the White House to do a demo with Michelle Obama. So I got to work with the White House to coordinate the event. It was such a crazy moment: Marc Murphy is on stage with the First Lady and I’m right here taking photos!

landmarc tribeca nyc

I mean, how many people get to say they’ve seen the First Lady do a cooking demo with their boss?! What are some of the other goals you’re working on?

I would love for him to do another TV show or open a restaurant in another state. Marc was born in Milan and speaks Italian so an international restaurant would be amazing!

You’ll have to keep us posted! What advice do you have for readers who are interested in a similar career path?

Be persistent. A lot of people are going to tell you no, but all it takes is one person to read between the lines and see what experience you have that could transfer to a new role. Pamela and Marc did that for me and do such a great job investing in their employees — their people have been with them from day one. I feel really lucky to love what I do. Having bad jobs was a learning experience and it’s definitely hard to keep the faith when you’re hating your work but it makes me really appreciate where I am now.

Keep up with Emily and Landmarc Restaurant:

Menu  //   Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter

*Photos by Bekka Palmer, wardrobe styling by Allie O’Connor


Thank you to the moon and back for your thoughtful responses on yesterday’s post. Several of your comments and emails brought me to tears and I am so unbelievably grateful for this community of women who read here each day. It’s so nice to know you’re not alone when the going gets rough. Your words of encouragement are more inspiring than you know.

It’s fitting today that I get to share two very inspiring women with all of you. I’ve subscribed to The Skimm for close to a year now and it’s becoming part of my morning routine (right up there with walking Rory, getting Starbucks, and checking Shopbop’s new arrivals). In fact I often read it before I get out of bed in the morning. Not familiar? It’s a daily newsletter that provides updates on global current events in a fun, fresh, relatable tone of voice. My favorite part is that it provides context around each update so you’re not totally lost if you miss a day of news. Whether you’re a college student, a young professional, or a married mother of four, The Skimm a must-read for knowing what’s going on in the world (and what everyone’s talking about at dinner parties). It’s made me feel infinitely better informed in the time that I’ve been reading and I hope many of you will feel the same. I was particularly excited for this interview and I know you’ll enjoy learning more about The Skimm founders as much as I did!

the skimm founders

Names: Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin

Ages: Both 28

Titles: Co-founders and co-CEOs, The Skimm

How did The Skimm come to be? Have you always had a passion for covering the news?

Danielle: Carly and I both grew up as news junkies and we both love storytelling. We met in college during a study abroad program in Rome and wound up working together at NBC News after we graduated. We started as friends, then roommates, then [coworkers] discussing how the industry was changing and what was next. The career path that we’d worked so hard to get to just wasn’t the same as it was five or ten years ago.

the skimm headquarters nyc

So The Skimm was born out of those conversations as a current events guide for the 21st century. I love it! I start almost every morning reading The Skimm in bed. Dare I ask how early you wake up to be able to produce such current content?

Danielle: The question is really how late are we up!

Carly: It’s definitely an evolving process. We have a team that covers shifts all night. Thankfully now we have editorial support — our team is always touching up the newsletter before it goes out at 6 a.m.

the skimm founders

I imagine your schedule changes a lot based on what’s going on in the world.

Danielle: The only thing that’s consistent is how rigid we are with our schedule. We won’t take meetings before or after a certain time. We schedule meetings, networking, and TV appearances around when we need to be producing content.

Carly: The best and worst part is that every day is different. It keeps things interesting but it’s also really hard to plan. We’ve had a lot of fun putting together our team and finding people who were willing to take a risk and join a start-up.


How would you describe the work environment you’ve created?

Danielle: The office is very branded. Our first week in January, we were sitting on a turquoise tablecloth putting the office together. That was a team-building experience in and of itself. We created this space not just to house a team but to collaborate and be creative and have fun doing it.

Carly: It’s an open space, which makes it easier to collaborate. Our team literally plays musical chairs with their laptops depending on who’s coming to the office on any given day. Everyone is a team player — we’re all passionate about what we’re doing and we’re all here to get shit done.

the skimm press wall

What’s one pinch me moment you’ve had so far?

Danielle: Going on The Today Show was very surreal. I mean, we used to book the cars for the guests on the show! Being on the other side of it was just really sentimental and symbolic.

Carly: Or when Vanity Fair came to our apartment and totally transformed it for the photos.

Danielle: We like to celebrate the big days, even when we just started and were on a very tight budget. We went to a nice restaurant after Vanity Fair to split a glass of champagne and the only other person in the restaurant was Sarah Jessica Parker. We were like, it’s a sign! We had introduced ourselves to her a few months before and stopped her on the way out of the restaurant. Somehow she remembered us and said our business card was sitting in her closet! We were like, we’ve made it into SJP’s closet! And then as she was leaving, our credit card was declined. [Laughing] It was such a reality check.


That’s an awesome story. I love that you include your subscribers’ birthdays at the bottom of each newsletter. You have some pretty cool subscribers: SJP, Lena Dunham…

Danielle: We started doing it because Carly really likes to celebrate her half-birthday. We have this pen pal relationship with a lot of our readers. We get to see who’s waking up with our product every day.

Carly: People ask us for a print-out of the day their child was born. Not the New York Times but The Skimm! It’s pretty incredible.

the skimm office

I love that your team takes the time to do that! Little details like that make such a difference. What are some of your current goals?

Carly: We’re really focused on growth right now, both of our product and our team.

Danielle: A successful day for us is getting a lot done but also having a social life. You could put us in a room and we’d work all day.


Last question! If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Danielle: Do they have to be alive?

Carly: Can we answer together?

[Whisper to one another and then count out on their fingers.]

Danielle: The pope. Oprah. Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton.

Carly: Do they have to be real people? Let’s add Olivia Pope.


Keep up with The Skimm:

Sign up for the newsletter  //  Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter

*Photos by Bekka Palmer


You all know I’m a basics girl at heart. There’s nothing I love more than a perfectly cut blazer, a killer pair of skinny jeans, or a beautifully tailored silk top. My new favorite source for pretty silk basics? Cami NYC, a line of silk camisoles inspired by ladylike lingerie but refined enough for everyday wear. I was so excited to sit down with founder Samantha Steen and pick her brain about what it’s like to launch a fashion label in New York. That’s definitely a pipe dream of mine so it’s pretty cool to see someone just a couple years older making her dreams come true!
{Samantha in the High Top cami in sea foam}
Name: Samantha Steen
Age: 27
Title: Founder/CEO, Cami NYC
What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to launch your own line?
I always loved designing but I never knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. I worked for a bunch of different designers and have had so many amazing mentors working as part of small teams within the industry. I found this missing gap in the marketplace because I was looking for a cami that I could wear from day to night that was reminiscent of lingerie. I looked everywhere — boutiques, department stores, online — asking sales girls if they had what I was describing. And every time they’d say, “We don’t have that, but I really wish we did.” So one day I just sewed a piece of lace onto a cami and every girl at work stopped and asked where I got it. So I started making them in a bunch of colors and soft launched the website in August of last year. We sold 30% of our inventory in the first week. I was expecting that first production run to last me the year and now I’m on my twenty-ninth run in eleven months. Crazy!
That’s such an incredible benchmark! What’s your design process like?
Every time I have an idea, I sketch it out. I went to school for fine arts with a focus on painting. I always see women in the street or a design in a store and think, “That top would be perfect if it just had this or that.” With the High Top cami, I had seen that cut before but thought it would be amazing with a sheer panel. I go through my sketches and decide what’s most relatable to every girl out there and pick our color palette from what our team wants to be wearing that season. For spring and summer, it was pastels, sorbet colors, and neons. For fall, I can’t get enough of burgundy, charcoal, and navy. Once we have the design and the color palette, we’ll go to our pattern maker, our manufacturer, and then into production.
What does a typical day look like in your world?
One day I’ll be in back-to-back meetings and the team will be back at the office doing customer service and shipping. Other days I’m meeting with bloggers, editors, and stylists or running to the garment district to meet with printmakers or to look at new laces and silks. Since we launched, we’ve generated a strong celebrity following so we’re constantly tracking who’s wearing what. I’m always researching new fabrications and trying to come up with more comfortable, flattering fits. 
I love getting to wear a bunch of different hats on any given day. What’s the most and least fun part of your job?
The least fun is logistical stuff like dealing with international shipping. The most fun? Everything is fun to me. I like getting my hands dirty and I like the more glamorous side. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
What’s one pinch me moment you’ve had so far?
Getting praise from our celebrity customers is pretty surreal. Cameron Diaz, Hillary Duff, Rose Byrne, Shakira are all fans of the brand! It’s always fun to scroll through Instagram and see a familiar face in something I designed.
Those are some pretty huge names! How would you describe your target customer?
Every girl is the Cami girl! A twenty-something will wear it with printed jeans, a thirty-something will tuck one into a pencil skirt, my mom wears them layered under a blazer. 
It’s cool that you’ve designed a little something for everyone. What’s inspiring you right now?
I get so inspired just seeing women all over Manhattan. I think we’re all very fortunate to live in a city where there are such design opportunities. I love how people’s style changes from uptown to downtown — the women shopping at Bergdorfs are so different from what you see in Meatpacking. I love that juxtaposition and knowing Cami can be styled to work in any look.
When will you know you’ve made it?
I have moments every day where I’m like, this is it. On Friday, we found a picture of Shakira wearing Cami. We get notes from customers saying they appreciate our customer service. There are different aspects of feeling like I’ve built a successful business and I’ve surrounded myself with an awesome team who keeps that business growing. Everything from selling my first cami to seeing Shakira wearing hers to having a top tier editor praising the product… It all makes me so excited to keep going and to gradually expand the collection.
What’s next for Cami NYC?
We’re looking into a showroom where girls will be able to come in, try everything on, and place an order in the space instead of taking it home with them that day. It would be amazing to have a space for small events, sales appointments, and getting to see girls try on Cami for the first time!
Keep up with Cami NYC:
Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter
P.S. Know an inspiring working woman in New York who’d be a good fit for Design Darling? Shoot me an email!


I can sum up Mignonne Gavigan in one word: chic. Her apartment, her jewelry, her personal style… Everything about her just oozes chic. Mignonne worked for the likes of Rachel Roy and Loeffler Randall for nearly a decade before launching her own jewelry label just three months ago. I spent a morning in her gorgeous TriBeCa apartment soaking up her Southern charm and advice for young women who want to make it in fashion.
Name: Mignonne Gavigan
Age: 33
Title: Founder and owner, Mignonne Gavigan
Location: TriBeCa, New York
What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to design jewelry?
I love designing, creating, and making things. I grew up in North Carolina teaching sailing but my first internship was at Marc Jacobs, where I got to work with couture dresses. I wasn’t paid anything but I did it because I loved the art and the craftsmanship — I know what it takes to make something that crazy beautiful. That’s where I got the idea for my collection and what has propelled me every day. Everything I make is on beaded crinkle chiffon; the idea is to bring a piece of couture to every day. 
When did you know it was time to start your business? 
I was ripping up a couture dress and picked up a piece of the dress to tie it around my neck. I walked down the street and had people asking where I got it! Then I started making them for friends and family. I knew I wanted to work my way up and learn as much as I could from each job opportunity. I was head of Rachel Roy’s design team and then left for Loeffler Randall, where I really felt like I could bring a feminine element to their designs. Eventually I built up enough want and need for my necklaces and had saved up enough money to make the first round of samples, which is always the most expensive. 
Tell me about the process of designing a new piece. 
I do my research! I always check out what’s happening on the runway but I take it with a grain of salt — a lot of fashion to me is how something feels. I pull tears from magazines, go to art shows, stumble upon colors and patterns on the street. Then I see what sticks out to me and pull it all together. Each piece has to be interesting; you have to design a product that you know is going to catch. You have to make wearable things and make a little something for everybody. It’s a very organic process.
How did you figure out the production side of things?
Working for other people definitely helped me develop connections in production facilities. And my southern roots! I’m always kind to the people I’m working with. Right now we’re making everything in India.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I try to do a couple personal things before the team shows up at noon. I have a business partner who’s really bright and has a strong finance background. One of my best friends is our sales director; it makes such a difference to work with people you trust. We have seven people on the staff right now so we’ll have a meeting every Monday and then everyone heads off to work on their individual tasks.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Being creative is the best and worst part. I get to do what I love but there’s also a lot of pressure to make the right choices. You can’t just make things that only you want to wear!
I know what you mean! I hate when I buy a ton of one product that I love and it just doesn’t sell. What’s one pinch me moment you’ve had so far?
Every week there’s something cool and fun happening. We’ve had sales meetings with our ideal top three vendors. Net-A-Porter is putting us on their special finds. We just landed a PR company who’s stoked to get the ball rolling. 
I can’t believe you’ve only been at this for three months. 
The demand for production is the most exciting part. We did a trunk show last week and sold 42 necklaces. And a couple nights ago, I gave one off my neck to Katie Couric at a restaurant!
That’s amazing. When will you know you’ve made it?
I don’t think I’ll ever know that. I am having so much fun but it takes a long time to build a brand and get your name out there. I hope it keeps growing and evolving — next year you make some more necklaces that do really well and the year after that you roll out shoes that really resonate. Being successful isn’t selling 100,000 necklaces; it’s continuing to do it year after year. 
That’s such a motivating sentiment! I can’t wait to see where it all takes you. Do you have any advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs? 
It was really hard for me to break into fashion; I didn’t have any connections so I was just scraping away one day at a time. Continue to follow your heart. Don’t burn bridges. You can learn something from everyone. Once you stop learning, change jobs. It’s scary, but make that leap. Believe in yourself!
Keep up with Mignonne Gavigan:
Website  //  Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter


Today you’re getting two for the price of one (…still free). Roxy Te Owens was one of the very first friends I made through blogging. We met when I was still in college and she was just leaving her first job and trying to figure out her next steps. Fast forward five years and she’s at the helm of Society Social, a line of furniture that she designs and that’s been featured in every blog and magazine ever. She’s found her footing, moved to New York, carved out a niche for herself, and brought back the bar cart in her spare time. I’m continually blown away by her can do attitude and so proud to call her one of my friends.
Roxy introduced me to Inslee Farriss, an insanely talented artist with whom she shares a chic-as-can-be office space in SoHo. She does custom illustrations for gifts and wedding, sells prints and stationery on her website, and also writes the most clever blog you’ll ever read. They’re two of the most brilliant, charming, and innovative women I’ve met and I know you’ll all love getting to know more about them!

Names: Inslee Fariss and Roxy Te Owens 
Ages: 28 and 30, respectively
Titles: Illustrator and founder/designer of Society Social, respectively
Location: New York City and New York City/North Carolina, respectively


What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to do what you’re doing now?
Inslee: My first job was in a clothing boutique when I was 18. I’ve always wanted to be in the fashion/design/art arena, but I didn’t always know this would be my career. For a long time, I thought that illustration was just an outlet for me to be creative, an escape from a “normal” job. It took me a while to realize that my creative outlet could be my source of income.
Roxy: Yes! Mine was at a retail store at the local mall when I was 16. I didn’t know it then but my experience helped me land amazing internships while I was at Parsons. The fashion brands I worked for liked that I already had experience on the sales floor dealing with customers and in-store merchandising. Never underestimate a modest first job!


When did you know it was time to launch your business?
Roxy: It was more of a gradual realization versus one moment. I was in my third year of a corporate job in the buying office of a large department store. I was buying for about 300 stores and helping manage millions of dollars. Not only was it extremely stressful but it was also the same drill every day: 9 to 5 (though usually 7 or 8) in a gray cubicle hammering away at a computer. It wasn’t rewarding or fulfilling — not the kind of life I wanted to live!
Inslee: I didn’t really realize it until after I’d started my business… Whoops! I launched my website and sold a small collection of stationery while I was still in school. It was very much a back-burner side project. For a long time, my parents fielded the requests that were coming into my website while I was finishing up my degree at Washington & Lee. After graduation, we transitioned into me reading and replying to those emails directly. When I realized how many people were interested in my illustrations and willing to pay for them, I quit my post-graduate unpaid internship and threw myself fully into growing my art into a brand.

Tell me a little about the process of creating a new piece.
Roxy: My designs start with a variety of things: a look I love, a fabric, or a proper cocktail hour! I’m not technically trained so my team of designers and engineers are instrumental in making my ideas come to life. For my first bar carts, I knew I wanted to incorporate lots of faux bamboo, fretwork, natural cane, color, and functionality. There’s a lot of dialogue and brainstorming around the key attributes of my initial ideas, then sketches, then editing, then the spec’ing of the product. The designs that make the cut go to prototyping and on to production. It’s a fun collaboration with all parties involved but nothing makes it to the next stage without my direct approval. 
Inslee: When I’m working on something like my yearly calendar or a new card design, I create a big secret Pinterest board and compile tons of image inspiration. When I’m working for a client, I let their vision inform how I work. I always ask what little details make them unique. Things like “I always wear these earrings my grandmother gave me” or “please make me five inches taller” are common remarks that help me capture my subjects.

What does a typical day look like for you?
Roxy: Running a small business requires you to take charge of many roles, from designer to bookkeeper to marketing manager, so every day is different. I’m always learning something new!
Inslee: The beauty of this job is that there rarely is a typical day. Today began with working on a new blog post and then I had a client come in to meet with me about a commission… the subject of which is “two little girls and their cat, Olaf!” This afternoon I’ll be working on an interesting mix of administrative and creative work: both installing our air-conditioning unit and beginning a new bridal commission.

You crack me up. Besides your new AC unit, what’s inspiring you right now?
Inslee: I just launched a new product that I’m so inspired to work on: large, gestural nudes done in bright watercolor washes and sumi ink. It’s so much fun for me to do something different from my usual pen and ink and watercolor small character sketches.
Roxy: Travel! I just returned from a spectacular Mediterranean cruise. We visited Italy, Greece, and Croatia. The buildings were powder blue, bright pink, salmon, terracotta, minty green, golden yellow, and so much more. And the sea! Deep, saturated shades of cerulean and teal. I want to splash my apartment and all of Society Social with the hues of the Mediterranean! 


That sounds amazing! What’s the most fun part of your job?
Roxy: It is my absolute favorite to receive notes and pictures from my sweet customers. It’s still surreal to think these designs started out as just a thought, and seeing them in real homes – styled by real people – gets me every time. My customers’ enthusiasm keeps me going!
Inslee: I love interacting with my clients. It is by far the most fun part. I love helping them celebrate important milestones with commissions, launch new businesses with illustrations for their websites and branding, and plan parties with illustrations for invitation designs. 
And the least fun, just to keep it real?
Inslee: Trying to find more than 24 hours in each and every day. Being an independent and creative entrepreneur is a major undertaking and requires a ton of focus, energy, and the ability to wear many hats. You try installing an AC unit and painting a bridal portrait in the same 2 hour window and tell me how it goes [laughing].
Roxy: The least fun is the uncertainty of it all. I’m relatively new at this so there are definitely days when I feel overwhelmed and unsure of myself.
I know that feeling all too well. How do you stay organized?
Inslee: I use Salesforce to keep trace of my incoming leads and commissions. I would be lost without it.
Roxy: Google Calendar! I wouldn’t know what day it is without it.
I need to start using both of those! What’s one goal you have for your business in the next year or two?
Roxy: At this point most of my wholesale business has come through my website, but I would love to see how buyers would respond to SS at an industry trade show. I can’t decide between the NYC show, the Atlanta show, and High Point, of course. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Inslee: I’d love to establish myself as a resource for not just illustration work but fine art (like my nudes) and other larger pieces.



What’s one pinch me moment you’ve had so far?
Roxy: About three years ago, I was unemployed and deeply entrenched in the 20-something battle of finding my life path and passion. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it was! When I see my designs in national glossies, I still can’t believe it. I’m so grateful.
Inslee: Well, I can’t reveal too much just yet, but I’m partnering with an NYC stationer with a rich history in the finest of papers. Our collaboration will launch in a matter of weeks so stay tuned!


That’s so exciting! When will you know you’ve made it?
Inslee: When we can afford an apartment with a dishwasher.
Roxy: Really all I’m asking for is a little more natural light and a second bedroom. 😉

You know you live in New York when… Ha! Any advice for the next generation of creative entrepreneurs?
Roxy: Five tips, to be exact!
Inslee: Learn how to build and code your own websites!!!

Keep up with Inslee: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter
Keep up with Roxy: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter