A Bells & Becks woman is someone you know even without truly knowing her. She’s smart, savvy, put-together, accomplished—and doing it all with flair. These are the women we know, admire, and design with in mind. Featuring some of their stories here feels like the best way to celebrate all they’ve accomplished (plus, how they’re doing it with joy and great style). We hope they inspire you as much as they inspire us.
A pivot, a remix, a change of pace—whatever you want to call it, trying something new is always a risk. And Regan Stephens, co-founder of travel guide publishing platform Saltete, has taken big swings in her career not once, but twice. After getting her start as a photo editor, Regan first shifted into travel writing, which brought her to some of the most notable publications out there.
Starting Saltete was a new kind of venture; one that sees her not only working with her husband as co-founder, but also getting into the world of startups, where no task is too small—or too large—for their attention.
As year one of Saltete comes to a close, Regan reflects on what she’s learned and how her career pivots brought her to where she is today. Plus, she shares what goes into her favorite outfits, including why shoes help her feel extra powerful.
How do you describe what you do?
I’m a travel and food writer and the co-founder of Saltete, a publishing platform for local experts to create and sell their own travel guides. I’m also a wife and mom of three girls. As a writer, I report on and write stories for outlets like Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, and the New York Times. As a start-up co-founder, I work with my husband, Eric, on building and running Saltete. He’s the developer, and I help writers create and market their guides. But honestly like most any start-up, we’re both doing all the things, from handling support emails to working on our product roadmap for 2024.
What have been some of the biggest, most notable wins while building your career?
I left a career in photo editing to pursue food and travel writing almost 10 years ago. It was tough in the beginning—even though I majored in English in college and have written over the years (a blog, content for tech startups, etc.) I had major imposter syndrome. But I’ll never forget seeing my byline for the first time on a story about beer for Food52, and years—and many, many stories—later, seeing it on the front page of the style section of the New York Times.
We launched Saltete earlier this year. Starting a business is daunting, and can sometimes feel like a slog, but every time a writer publishes and sells their first guide, it’s the best feeling.
And on the other hand, what are some of the more subtle, quiet wins that have meant a lot to you (but maybe weren’t as obvious)?
Every job I’ve done to this point in my career has brought me here—from working in the photo archive at Vogue House in London right after college to a photo editor role at People, to being the managing editor at Philadelphia magazine to writing about hot dogs for Food & Wine or an oyster safari in Denmark’s Wadden Sea for Travel + Leisure. Each of these experiences (and the highs and lows that come with each!) has given me the skills and perspective to make and run Saltete.
We believe in the idea that if you want something done, ask a busy woman—what are some of your best tricks or hacks for working through a busy schedule and keeping lots of balls in the air?
I swear by time blocking! I use a nerdy book called the Time-Block Planner by Cal Newport to map out each day the night before, and assign each task (writing, interviews, meetings, emails) to a block. Knowing I only have X amount of time for a task before I have to move on to the next thing means I focus more (and drift over to Twitter less.) I love Asana to manage my daily and weekly to-do lists. Eric and I also do a short meeting on Sundays to talk through our schedule for the week, and divvy up work and parenting tasks.
What are the best and worst parts of being a female entrepreneur?
The worst part is knowing the statistics about how female entrepreneurs are treated. (E.g., the staggering gender gap in VC funding; all-female founding teams only get 2.3% of all VC funding.)
The best part is that my three daughters see me creating something, and they know they can make cool things, too. We used one of the guides this summer—local expert and cookbook author Katie Parla’s guide to Rome—and they loved finding a new-to-us gelato shop and knowing mom and dad built the platform that led us to the best passion fruit granita of our trip.
What is your best career advice that you’ve received or given?
Right after I moved to New York, my first boss at Time Inc. (now Dot Dash Meredith)—her name is Fran Hauser and she’s amazing—she told me that you should never come in with just a problem, you should always bring a solution or two. It stuck with me, and it gave me a bias toward action. 20-some years later, when a problem pops up my first thought is how to fix it.
What is your best travel packing tip?
I love a capsule wardrobe for not only packing light, but packing quickly. I have go-to pieces (black pants, cashmere sweaters, lots of stripes) that can mix and match. I also love merino wool—it’s thin and light but warm and great for layering. Earlier this year I used this trick to pack carry-on luggage for a six-day trip to Norway.
What is your go-to outfit and why?
When I have meetings or generally have to look like a business lady, I like black wide-leg trousers, a Sezane silk button-down, and a blazer with Luna heels. On more casual days, it’s jeans, some form of stripes, gold jewelry and, for a little sparkle, the Sofia in blush.
What is the thing about your wardrobe that gives you the most joy?
My shoes, by far. For my clothes, I gravitate toward pretty neutral colors and simple silhouettes, but my shoes are a way to add a little pep. My mom has always loved shoes, too. I remember playing in her closet as a kid, with my sister, and a great pair of shoes makes me think of her.
How does wearing a great pair of shoes make you feel?
Pulled together, even on my most frazzled days.
Shoe Lightning Round
- Flats or heels? Flats
- Brights or neutrals? Brights
- Trends or classics? Classics
- Closed toe or open toe? Closed