female founder spotlight: jackie courtney, founder & CEO nearly newlywed
it's officially the start of wedding season, and you know what that means!!! crying ugly tears while your best friend walks down the aisle, bridesmaid proposals [with blankbox, duh] and spending at least a month's worth of rent on flowers. most of all, it means gaining a new appreciation for the people in the wedding industry who live to make it easier. jackie courtney, founder + ceo of nearly newlywed, is that person. from shark tank to having her company nicknamed 'the amazon of weddings', jackie's story is extra sparkly... and so is her style.
for our readers who aren’t familiar with your business... what is nearly newlywed + why are you different from the rest of the bridal industry?
first & foremost because we were founded on the premise that resale should be embraced and destigmatized; not that it is for everyone, but if someone wants to pass their dress along or wear something worn one time by someone else (by the way like almost all movie premiere and oscars gowns) then it is their choice and it should still be an amazing experience. second nearly newlywed is a digital company, so we endeavor to create products and tools around digital discovery, service and commerce. as we have evolved to be a larger destination and marketplace, we both want to help customers transact and have access online as well as help physical retailers have an online presence and to ultimately help smooth out some of the pain points that exist for wedding stores and designers that are very unique to the process.
so, basically, women can buy and resell their dress, jewelry, accessories, everything for their wedding and designers/stores can sell and market on our platform as long as they adhere to our quality, transparency and sustainability standards.
you pitched your initial business idea on Shark Tank in 2012. we have so many questions - why did you decide to go on?
oh geez, Shark Tank, taking me back. well, I never intended to do something like that to be honest, the opportunity presented itself to us and we had literally just launched the business with 50 wedding dresses in my bedroom. at the time we took it as something the universe was presenting and decided to go for it (also free trip to LA! haha). It was all kind of crazy and happened very fast, we taped our episode two months after we launched, so we were a super baby business at the time.
you declined the offer from the sharks, why? how do you feel about it looking back? what're the sharks like IRL?
It wasn’t a good offer! so no regrets there. the feedback was helpful and some of it I really disagreed with, so honestly it spurred me to fight on without the high profile capital (and we raised a substantial angel round at a good valuation 6 months later).
I am very glad we did it though, and thankful for the opportunity. It allowed us to put the idea and brand on a platform of millions of people and that accelerated our growth in a way I couldn’t have dreamed. I was also very lucky to have thousands of women reach out to me in support and to help me really push forward a grassroots marketing effort to spread the word. the sustainability approach to creating more value and choice in the wedding space and trying to remove stigmas that are often placed on it, especially on women, around the dress and what that is supposed to look and feel like, I think resonated with a lot of women across generations and many we would never have reached, certainly not so quickly, without the Shark Tank platform.
the Sharks were pretty great. Mark Cuban was my favorite, I felt like we were really having an authentic exchange about business mechanics and ideas. I mean, it’s a TV show, it's TV, but it's all taped live in one session so there are authentic exchanges. In general I liked Mark and Barbara the best. I suppose if I am being honest, didn’t live for Herjkovic.
editor's note: follow up question. was mr. wonderful actually wonderful?!
fast-forward to now, you’ve grown to more than 1 million brides per year (!!!). first off, CONGRATULATIONS! secondly, aside from blood, sweat, tears & sleepless nights, what do you attribute this growth to?
you hear it time and again, but creating a base of customers that believe in your mission and empowering them to be brand advocates is key. especially in bridal, in which the consumer turns over and isn’t a lifetime one, having people that believe in your mission is priceless. lots of grit. plenty of tears. time, lots of time and waiting and inching the rock forward. some luck too I think. but yea, most of the real progress is the boring stuff, the sweat and such, the day in and day out. Shark Tank and a few key New York Times features didn’t hurt either. and women like you ladies! supporting and sharing!
let's rewind a little bit...you have a design & management degree from Parsons the New School and worked for numerous luxury brands before launching Nearly Newlywed. what was the hardest part about starting something on your own?
I often say the hardest part of starting was, starting. like, I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur or set out on that path in a traditional sense, so I had a lot of insecurities, imposter syndromes and just, straight up fear about telling people and self identifying as a business founder. I remember someone asking me that I wasn’t super close with after I had left my job about what I was working on, and I got very anxious, skittish, and she thought I was being guarded about my ‘idea’ as if I would be afraid she would steal it. which certainly I wasn’t and if, as most say if, anything is true in business it is that the ‘idea’ and the mythology of the idea is rarely where a successful business comes from. It is a part of it, but it's execution and timing more than anything. and grit. anyway, telling her and owning that I was going to try to start a business, just saying it out loud, that was the hardest. and leaving a really sexy job in fashion was hard too. that was a very large part of my identity and understanding who I was without that, without the big company and big names to lean up against, was very difficult to push past. I mean, my boss said to me ‘you know most women would kill for this job’ when I resigned, and I mean, she was sort of right, so walking away to start something so unknown was very difficult, because I really didn’t know what I was doing.
and then, not quitting when things were flat and hard and just, felt sort of like cross-country skiing in quick sand, that’s the other hard part. because shiny things sustain you, milestones anchor you…. but gritting your teeth and getting up and trying day after day, that’s where & how success blooms, in my opinion. man, can I reference the word grit anymore? grit grit grit grit grit, I still need more of it, so I suppose I can’t really say it enough. grit! ;)
did you have an “aha!” moment that made you start nearly newlywed?
oh and no aha! moment, ha, really just that I felt the bridal industry was innovating very slowly, much slower than luxury fashion which I had thought prior to getting engaged was behind all other industries (which it was) but then I realized bridal was even further behind, so I figured innovation had to happen at some point and I saw some real problems around value and transparency and sustainability – so I decided why not and went for it.
talk to us about storefront! What was your thought process behind creating this and how can other founders apply that thinking to their own brands?
I saw that the wedding market was ready for more commerce and discovery online. the customers had been for awhile, I was one of them, but the industry took a longer time to evolve, so I was really waiting for the moment in which I thought there was enough need and appetite on the B2B side to coincide with the already existing demand of the customers (brides).
there is a lot of chatter about disruption in spaces, and I don’t necessarily see nearly newlywed and our role in weddings as that. It is, in a way, disruptive, but ultimately there are incredible designers and stores in the wedding space and outside of it that want to sell and market to wedding customers. some are very anti-change and sustainability but many, many are open and want to innovate and adapt. I don’t want to disrupt the industry, I want to support and offer the customer what she wants – choice, value, amazing products and I want to help those in the industry that are open to market to the changing landscape and customer, to help fit the pieces together, offer them a digital voice and expertise and hopefully, create prosperity and value for everyone in the process.
you see ONE MILLION brides a year - I repeat, one million. what is your strategy to make sure you stay engaged with an audience of this size?
I think scale is a tough thing. not scaling fast enough makes you feel like a snail and scaling fast is hard to keep up with. we did a good job of taking it slow, a million is big but seven years is also LONGOOOO. But that is still a challenge. It is very hard for me that I can’t help every customer, talk to every designer, write every message to someone that messages us on social. I try, because that is part of our DNA, but it’s a challenge. the biggest thing we do is keep things in house. we don’t outsource customer service, social, any of it. so everyone is part of the nearly newlywed team and brand full-time, [they] believe in it and are just as much a part of building it as I am. so even though, they aren’t me or maybe weren’t here from day 1, they are a part of the nearly newlywed team now and I think you can feel that when you interact with our brand and experience.
best advice to brides or funny bridezilla story?
if you find a dress you love, especially if you buy it, stop looking at dresses. amazingly and also frustratingly the world is full of incredible, amazing, gorgeous things and gowns. the architect of the idea that there is ONE dress and ONE look for every bride was a marketer, trying to close a sale. you will see something else that piques your interest and it will only upset your satisfaction with your current dress. That really goes for most things. Look, be selective, and by all means, wear two dresses! Three! five! But once you decide move away from inspiration boards and browsing to something else so you don’t unnecessarily wage war on yourself with FOMO which you just don’t need.
you’re a business owner and a mom...how f*ck do you do it?
ask me tomorrow? haha. honestly, women are incredible. all of them. every single one. we make time and space for things and fight battles that inspire me all the time. motherhood is just another facet to that and it has made me much more measured about my time and forced me to get better at saying no. and I suppose also more bold. not sure if it is because I am constantly tired? or because I want to set an example to my son and think, well shit, if I am not going to be the person I want and set out to be now, then when will I? that definitely helps curb the moments when I want to throw myself out a window.
I am also very thankful for some of the female founders and networks I have been a part of and many of which are for mothers or are mothers. heymamaco in particular is a great resource and connector for women that are mothers and in business.
now for our signature question... inspiration behind the name?
ah. well, we wanted a play on the idea of new vs used. newlywed was a term I always loved and thought it transcended just the wedding day idea because it speaks to the idea of fresh, fun, happy love. That honeymooning period (which we need to extend and keep reigniting rather than demarcate to the first year, but I digress) but the idea of a newlywed or someone on that path felt fun and light and lovely. And someone that was nearly there was on that journey to lifetime commitment and love. and then the play on nearly new was there, as we started with only used dresses that were ‘nearly new’ and we marketed to ‘nearlyweds’ and ‘newlyweds’ – also so many urls were taken, so we were like, ok it’s a mouthful but we like it.
*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of jackie courtney + nearly newlywed
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real
in other words, jackie is just your average new yorker who turned down the most famous investors in the world, has disrupted the bridal industry to grow to over 1 million brides per year, and simultaneously raised another baby....all while maintaining killer style, confidence + the sparkliest personality you will ever meet. jackie, thank you for being you!
something oops: bridal mistakes to avoid from the experts
blankbox bride, m. 2018
"most brides think going last will make their look stay the most fresh, but the bride should really be one of the first clients. if things run behind, then the last people getting serviced are rushed. the bride should have her hair set in the morning and have services when it's calm before vendors arrive and then touch ups at the end."
"plan the wedding you can afford now, not the one you hope to be able to afford in 2 years. make hard decisions early on and it will pay off in the long run; few things are worse than investing time, money, resources + relationships into planning the big day, only to be left with years of much needed repair to your bank account + relationship."
"don't number your guest tables; label them instead with things like countries you've visited, types of dogs, or sports teams. that way people won't feel like they're at the last table."
another pro tip: "don't let your dog anywhere near your wedding cake or he will eat the top tier. true story!"
april gift guide: the 'color up your life' gift box
whether you're celebrating easter or a far more devout holiday like national pretzel day (or if you're catherine, winston churchill day), gift baskets are out + gift boxes are IN! speaking of in, the arrival of spring means color is making a comeback for everything but gabi's wardrobe, so we're giving you the pop of color life essentials to #fillintheblankbox that you didn't know you needed...until now.
if bringing lunch to work more often isn't a 2019 goal of yours...did you even new years resolution, bro? if you're like us, you've been wanting to do this since your first day in the real world, but this vegan leather, insulated lunchbox that doubles as a chic bag actually makes us want to.
this image is the property of modern picnic
are you a 27 year old young professional who nicknames her water bottle? okay good, us too! "larquie" cleans itself with a built in UV-C light system that kills bacteria with the push of a button. best part? add someone's name (or your own) with their personalization option!
this image is the property of larq
guilt free candy? we are here for that. pick your favorite treat, and robyn will turn it into the sweetest candy dish [pun 100% intended]. this art-meets-function piece is the perfect coffee table centerpiece or just something to stare at longingly as you forcibly swallow your kale.
this image is the property of by robyn blair
cracking open a new book is great, but have you ever cracked open a box of your favorite flavor + colorful sprinkles? if not, april 26th is national pretzel day...and we all know someone who celebrates every single made up national food holiday.
this image is the property of fatty sundays
the pop of color life essentials for blankbox SS19 #fillintheblankbox
female founder spotlight: cate luzio, founder & CEO of luminary
step aside, chrismukkah, everyone's favorite celebration is here: international women's month! we're so excited to celebrate all the inspirational, impactful women in our lives and couldn't think of a better way to do this than sitting down with a woman who created a place for other women to connect, create, and collaborate: cate luzio, founder & CEO of luminary.
fun fact: in under a year, cate went from leaving an executive-level banking position and decades long career in finance to creating, funding, curating, and opening the doors of the first female-focused collaboration hub; think less traditional co-working and more perfectly curated apartment filled with people you want to meet. palace is honestly a better word; if you've ever been in the space, you probably want to move in and may think we do in fact live there. they have wine on tap, why would we leave? check out the space here!
can you share the “aha!” moment that made you realize you wanted to pivot your career from finance into the 'next thing'? did you know at that time a workspace for women was what you wanted to do or did that come later?
I didn’t have an “a-ha” moment when I decided to leave banking, but I did have a “what now” reflection point after a pivotal meeting with my [male] mentor. he encouraged me to try something else and then explained “what’s the worst that can happen? you can always go back to banking.” I couldn’t get his comments out of my mind, and then I made the decision to give myself a chance to pivot.
the idea to create luminary was born two months later in march 2018. I realized that women needed a space in NYC to go to invest in their professional development (without sacrificing self-care), build community, and get work done. I created a business plan and it was full steam ahead to make it a reality; we opened our doors just eight months later in november 2018.
editor's note: gabi + catherine moved in shortly after with the 'side hustle' membership. cate cannot get rid of them.
was anything holding you back from creating this? how did you work through that process?
nothing held me back. I truly feel luminary fills a gap for professional women “in the middle” - those who are pivoting and entrepreneurs looking to advance, so I just went for it.
in my opinion, preparation and execution are critical. I spent most of my career building, fixing and rebuilding businesses. writing a business plan was my first step; once that was done, I held focus groups and discussions with different women who reinforced that a place like luminary was needed. building out a 15,000 square foot space in less than eight months meant a huge hustle and having the best team around me.
your tagline for luminary is 'come sit at our table'; can you talk to us about why this is important to luminary's mission and to you personally?
we’ve all felt intimidated at some point in our lives. whether it was walking into the cafeteria on the first day of school, looking for someone to sit with, to your first day of college orientation or your first job, those feelings of self-doubt trickle in. whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we’ve all had these feelings and I wanted to create a place that was welcoming, open and engaging. our “come sit at our table” mantra is important because we are inclusive not exclusive. we are a community of women across all ages, backgrounds, levels, and industries. our goal is to inspire and be inspired and build a diverse community.
you’ve built a great team at luminary; can you share some ‘how to hire right’ secrets?
building the right team around is you is so important. I look for people that want to work hard, that have passion for what they are “selling” and believe in our mission. this isn’t just a job or a company, it’s a family that’s part of a bigger community. we rely on one another and succeed when we work together. I have always said you’re only as good as your team. we win together, but we lose together too.
how would your team describe your leadership style?
my team would definitely say that I am direct and demanding, setting the bar high for myself and others; but I’m compassionate, open, energetic and mission-driven. I wouldn’t say my hiring style has changed from banking to luminary, but I had to hire a team with completely different skill sets and backgrounds. when I look at the team we’ve built, I know we have something special.
you’re a seasoned finance professional, but first time self-funded CEO; can you share a few things that expectedly, or unexpectedly, challenged you with this career change and how you navigated them?
self-funded or not, being a first-time entrepreneur is a roller coaster. the highs are super high, and the lows are super low; it’s hard to navigate the challenges most of the time to be honest. as a self-funder, I focus on execution and acceleration of results to cash flow positive, so I need to be laser-focused on revenue and expenses. I think whether you self-fund, you raise or you leverage various loan options, it’s still a ton of pressure, but that’s also what makes the success matter that much more.
what has challenged me the most is that roller coaster and the lack of infrastructure that I relied on more than I realized working for a big bank. on the positive side, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of women, especially entrepreneurs, that have reached out to see how they can help. it’s really inspiring but I still feel there needs to be a support group for female-founders. maybe I’ll create one at luminary! want to join?
can you talk to us about your decision to self-fund vs. raise money? were there different funding avenues you explored or did you always know you wanted to self-fund?
frankly, I never really explored other options. I knew that if I wanted to open luminary in less than a year, I wouldn’t be able to fundraise. It’s a long process and as we are all aware, women get less than 2% of venture capital funding. I’ve been working with and supporting initiatives focused on gender equality for many years and I wanted to walk the walk and put my money where my mouth was. not everyone can self-fund, but I had saved a good amount from my banking days and wanted to invest in this company. I continue to look at funding options and leave the door open as the business grows.
what do you consider your best pinch-me moment?
the day we had our launch party, our furniture arrived at 8:30am (161 pieces of furniture, 3 weeks late from Asia and elevator out of commission). the entire team and then some pulled together, and we kicked off our launch party at 6pm. I couldn’t believe we did it, but then again, I knew we would. that day I received flowers from someone special and the note said, “never a doubt.” I think that was my pinch-me moment that we had done it – in less than 8 months.
is there a female founder you view as a mentor?
there have been so many, but I will say the co-founders of The Second Shift, Gina Hadley and Jenny Galluzzo. they have been incredible - the advice, support, introductions to other female founders and just “get it done” attitude. I also recently met Michelle Cordeiro Grant at LIVELY and we just clicked; the idea generation, brainstorming on how to collaborate and reciprocity around introductions has been fantastic. honestly, we have several female-founders that are luminary members and they all inspire me!
editor's note: check out our february issue if you missed our february spotlight on michelle cordeiro grant! and yes, thank you for asking, our pinch me moment is when worlds collide and founders we adore meet and click with each other - and invite us to sit at their table.
we ask every founder we meet this question, because it’s always a good story! how did you come up with the name for luminary?
after dozens and dozens of names on poster board, I checked my LinkedIn and had a message from a former colleague whom I didn’t know. he said that he hoped I was well and even though we had never met, he saw me as a luminary for so many. I actually googled it because I knew it meant light but when I read the definition: "a person who inspires others, a guiding light, a role model, an influencer, a leader, a legend, a heroine", I knew. I wanted to build a community of luminaries.
cate, thank you for being a luminary for us (and so many others) + for giving us a home away from home. we can't wait to see what the future holds for luminary [i.e. the roof deck coming in april] and for all females who get more sh*t done because of you.
*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of cate luzio + luminary.
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real
#bts with blankbox: a glimpse into the last six months
blankbox is officially six months old (!!!!!!) it's crazy to think that exactly six months and ten days ago, we decided to stop talking about blankbox to each other, anyone who would listen, and ourselves in the mirror and just DO IT. *patiently awaiting nike sponsor*
we get asked all the time "how is blankbox going?!" and according to our instagram insights people actually like to hear from us... so here goes. we've decided to honor this glorious anniversary by recapping the good and the not so good of our first six months in business. it’s important to know that behind the instagram highlight reel, revenue goals and exciting things we share with all of you, there is an equal amount of blood (if you’ve ever wrestled with an industrial tape dispenser, you know), sweat (have you ever carried 5 boxes at once to the post office….times 5 trips?) and tears (usually fueled by sleep deprivation). but seeing you guys use and love blankbox makes every second worth it.
first things first, we actually did the damn thing. the first week of launching a business is basically a drug-less high. we took the week off from our day jobs and split our time between packing boxes + sprinting back and forth to the post office, and responding to the outpouring of texts, calls, emails, and carrier pigeons from people we love.
we joined the female founder collective, brainchild of rebecca minkoff & elisabeth leonard, which has introduced us to so many female founders-turned-friends + impactful contacts. special shout out to our amazing photographer diana davis (@dianadaviscreative), who manages to take the only pictures of us we can both agree on, and cate luzio, the inspirational founder of luminary, which also happens to be our new home away from home (side hustle membership for the win).
we launched the fill as part of our brand’s mission to fill people’s brains with meaningful content the same way our customers fill their boxes with meaningful gifts. we’ve been victims of the inbox overload and wanted to give people real stories, fun and inspiring features, and on brand product recommendations of things we actually use and love. naturally, we decided to bump the launch up a month...two days before sending it out....#entrepreneurlife.
we were featured on somethingnavy as part of brand director tara foley’s wedding day seen here, and played a part in many other weddings for bridesmaid proposals, wedding welcomes, gifts to the parents, and more. second best feeling to the first week of launch is seeing blankboxes as part of our customers’ special days and meaningful moments - it’s surreal. we're not crying, you are.
we participated in the formerly's money talk series, a newly launched and female-founded personal finance platform, where we shared what it's like to launch a business and how we 'try' to keep our personal spending habits in check while bootstrapping blankbox. read here!
we were interviewed by swaay media, talking about bringing this new concept to market, starting a business with your best friend, and our advice to new(er) founders! we've recently started focusing on press coverage to grow our business: the highs of this are hearing the reaction to the blankbox concept (and designs!), talking to influential people who actually care about what we have to say (what?!), and waiting excitedly for the articles to come out (stay tuned for more where that came from!) the lows of this….see the not so good. but before you read on, check out the piece here!
we‘ve learned skills we hadn't touched with a ten-foot pole in our finance careers: product development, production and quality control, social media, website building, digital marketing, and what customer acquisition channels work and don’t work for us. we’ve also learned that everyone we talk to knows something we don’t, and that a lot of these things we mention above can be learned simply by asking people around us.
if this was instagram, we’d just end there. but this is REAL LIFE, PEOPLE!
the not so good.
we pop’d up in three locations over the holidays: our thought was by popping up alongside gift-able companies, people would naturally gravitate towards chic, convenient packaging. while sales were less than inspiring - we're learned an incredibly valuable lesson... people who attend pop-ups want to touch and feel your product, so displaying your boxes like they're the newest exhibit at the MET is a not-so-good idea. our tower of boxes seemed to deter customers from picking up a blankbox and learning more about the product.
we realized we can’t afford a PR team or like, 1/10th of a PR team, which was pretty discouraging since this is an area of entrepreneurship we need the most help with. cue hours of cold emailing pitches to dozens of editors & publications, with a response rate lower than the legal alcohol limit.
we had our first post-office mishap where a customer never received her box (eeeek!) we knew it would happen at some point, but we still felt personally victimized by the USPS.
there's no leaving work at the door: with your own startup, there are no days off or clocking out at 5pm. the perks of this are that the business is basically your child and you don't necessarily want to leave it at the door; the cons, you will have dreams about boxes. a lot of them. on a more serious note, it can be exhausting to continuously create the mental space for it and continuously feel the pressure of 'I can always be doing more'. cue a lot of pep talks to ourselves and scheduling time to step back and have "me" time with the same importance we would assign anything else on our calendar.
march gift guide: the 'celebrate the women in your life' gift box
as if we needed another reason to celebrate women, march is women's history month and home to international women's day! naturally, we'll all be needing thoughtful gift ideas for the women in our lives - mothers, sisters, best friends, girlfriends, mentors, inspirations, you name it - okay, okay also ourselves. you've convinced us.
whoever the lucky recipients may be, here's a guide to curating the perfect gift to celebrate international women's day + all the women in your life. like our february gift guide, each of these products is created by a female founder so you can support women by supporting your women. as always, self-gifting encouraged.
catherine's sister gifted her this book for christmas and it's since become one of her favorite 'coffee table books with content you can actually read'. from media titans to tattoo artists, grace bonney's collection of interviews with 100 creative women will leave you inspired.
this image is the property of amazon
fun fact: cuyana's nyc store launch was the first event we attended after launching blankbox. karla + shilpa (the founders) were manning the cash register, so we bought a piece to introduce ourselves. little did we know we'd be resisting the urge to wear this simple but elegant staple....every day.
this image is the property of cuyana
a touch of class, a touch of sass...and basically a hug for your earlobes. the gold is the highest quality; these are a recent purchase, but in over a year of stacking their rings, not one has a scratch or blemish. simple, stylish, and a hint of elegance will elevate even the old 'im pretending i just worked out' look.
this image is the property of AUrate
drunk elephant has completely changed my skin. to say i'm obsessed would be an understatement; if they gave $$$ for referrals we'd be jetsetting to bora bora and cruising around on our yacht. the line is pretty pricey (but so worth it), so the littles is the perfect way to try the products + get #drunkinlove.
this image is the property of drunk elephant
strong women. may we know them, may we be them, may we gift to them.
female founder spotlight: michelle cordeiro grant, founder & CEO of lively
can you think of a better spotlight for valentine's month than the female founder who reinvented the lingerie industry? we can't! we sat down with michelle cordeiro grant, founder & CEO of lively and creator of the 'leisuree' movement.
fun fact: michelle was the first person we ever gifted a blankbox to! she runs a multi-million dollar business, but in the female founder collective spirit, has still found time to be an incredible resource, mentor, and inspiration.
what inspired you to start lively? how has the brand evolved from the original idea?
It was while I was at Victoria’s Secret that I realized that the $13 billion lingerie category in the U.S. alone was dominated by this one brand, with one POV. I was inspired to create a completely new experience for this category, one that was inspired by real life. The concept of LIVELY began around what I always thought was missing from the lingerie category: a brand that delivered on what it means to be sexy today—smart, healthy, active and confident. Today, LIVELY sets out to deliver on high style and ultimate comfort in one place so that women can live their lives 14 hours a day and not have to compromise. Looking back, it’s amazing to see that every experience truly shaped the ethos and purpose of LIVELY and where I landed.
you don’t have a co-founder. can you talk about how you managed all the responsibilities of starting and growing a company early on? what are the most important things to dedicate your time to as a new entrepreneur?
In the beginning when I was my own CEO and only employee with no company name, I started the journey by developing a vision board. Then I spent most of my time networking and making a list of things I was unfamiliar with like digital marketing, customer service and so on. The reason I did this was so that I could use the network that I took the time to build to support me in those key areas.
you pioneered the phrase “leisurée” - how is this important to your brand values? What do you feel are the strongest differentiators about your brand relative to its competitors?
With our mission in mind and our experience in hand, we knew we wanted to do things differently. We started by wiping the slate clean and taking our time pulling together elements of high style, function, femininity and comfort that we personally loved. We began by buying yoga pants and cutting the waistbands off and stapling them to bralettes because this is what we wanted to wear all day. The end product was so authentic in concept and design that we realized we created a whole new product category—one that blurs the lines of active, lingerie and swim called Leisurée.
what has been your most impactful learning moment for lively so far?
One of the most impactful learning moments for us has been really taking the time to listen to our customers, incorporate them in every facet of our brand and deliver them products that they ask for. An example of this is when we launched our Busty Bralettes, which sold out in less than 24 hours with over 3,000 people on our waitlist. Our DD and DDD girls asked us to make a bralette for them and not only did we deliver, but we involved them in the marketing and sharing of this launch.
how would your team describe your leadership style, and how has that impacted the growth of
your brand? any specific words you live by?
You’re only good as your team. One of my first bosses gave me this advice that I’ll never forget. I truly believe it’s not what we can accomplish as individuals, but what we can do together. It’s the entire team behind LIVELY that’s striving off each other’s strengths, talents, and passions that make this company a success. I strive to create an environment where my team is able to be curious, explore their passions and tackle new projects. It’s the most rewarding feeling in the world when our projects come to life, especially knowing that we all accomplished these moments together.
talk to us about your decision to raise money. at what point did you know it was the right decision, and what are some of the questions & concerns we can expect from potential investors?
When I launched LIVELY in 2016, I was able to fund the brand with an angel round pre-launch to help bring LIVELY to life. I strategically took a different approach in that I purposefully took capital from our manufacturer versus going to a traditional VC or financial partners. The reason why I took this approach was that I wanted to build LIVELY on community and experience first therefore needed to have a solid quality product that could stand strong on its own and go beyond our customers’ expectations. At the early stages, understand that investors are investing in the entrepreneur. They want to know and understand the your vision, they want to see the proof of concept or product and where it will fit in the market.
what does being a female founder mean to you? Is there a female founder in particular you look up to?
As a female founder, my goal when starting LIVELY has always been to give back to the female community both through LIVELY’s mission and my own personal efforts. It’s extremely important to me to be able to help women build confidence, lead and change their dreams into goals. LIVELY is all about inclusivity and with our ambassador program, which we now have +65,000 ambassadors around the country, we have been able to create a community of smart and strong women who share stories and do the things they love with one another. A female founder that I look up to is Diane von Furstenberg because she has been able to defy gender stereotypes and establish herself in the fashion industry without having to sacrifice her role as a mother. Her fearless attitude and understanding of what today’s women need and want to have inspired me and my journey as a female entrepreneur in this industry.
we ask every founder we meet this question, because it’s usually a fun story! how did you come up with the name lively?
I created a persona of who I thought the customer should be—her name was Liv. In my mind, Liv was adventurous, free-spirited, friendly and outgoing. She was the kind of girl who you’d want to be friends with and who would always have your back. As I thought about different words that shared and described Liv’s personality, the word LIVELY came to mind. By definition, LIVELY means “full of life and energy, active and outgoing,” which describes the persona I had been envisioning!
so...need we say more? a huge thank you to michelle for a great conversation, and for being an inspirational female founder changing the conversation in the lingerie industry! all product photos are shoppable but be warned ... your bra & undies drawer will never be the same.
*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of michelle grant.
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real.
valentine's day gift guide: the 'wine is my valentine' gift box
if you’re like us, you’ve had many different types of valentine nights: candlelit dinners at tables dressed in white linens, cracking open a cookbook and cooking in pajamas with a long term partner, and last but certainly not least, stretching out on the couch alone in fuzzy socks binge watching romcoms clutching a bottle of wine for dear life (turns out large cheese pizzas were not just for kevin mcallister, right?)
how ever you’re spending valentine's day this year, remember to participate in the tradition of completely forgetting a holiday’s history and commercializing the sh*t out of it! in other words, valentine's day gifts are always necessary, whether it's for you, your lover, or your galentine. p.s. our gift guide is extra sweet because all gifts included are from female founded brands(!) p.p.s - self-gifting encouraged.
what's better than valentine's day flowers? this floral, not-so-ordinary shower cap that lets you soak in the bath without frizzing your ‘day two’ hair.
sandalwood, amber and moss, oh my! these expertly designed candles will light up any room (oh, the old candle pun). its 55-hour burn time should last you through a long bath + some of ryan reynolds' greatest hits.
like a bath bomb, but better. soak in a silky milk bath and moisturize dry skin with healing extracts made from oatmeal, honeysuckle and chamomile.
the perfect cross between going braless and not scaring the pizza delivery man: a bralette that you'll actually want to lounge in. no need for lace lingerie here.
last step: grab a good bottle of red and settle in. when wine is your valentine, you know it's gonna be a good night.