Petite powerhouse Melissa Gonzalez took an hour of her crazed schedule to invite us into her office and answer our seven questions. Their office, located in the WeWork workspace, was also a large topic of conversation (Net-a-Porter is rumored to be moving their NYC headquarters into the same offices. Um, awesome!) Armed with a coffee, the voice recorder on my iPhone, my backbone (Liza Kindred), and my Lady Gaga’s Workshop neon yellow composition notebook, we were ready to rock. Here’s what the lovely Latina had to say:
TWF: Tell us about your company.
MG: Lion’esque media is a creative agency for emerging brands. We specialize in social media and pop-up strategies for brands who are looking to activate and reinvent themselves or are just looking for sustainability strategies. We also do PR outreach and social media for brands that aren’t ready and we help them grow their name before they’re ready for the pop-up. That’s what media does. But you want to know about Lion’esque Style right?
TWF: Both! But yes, tell us about LS.
MG: I began working with emerging brands in ‘09. I started getting booked on TV shows and was given more opportunity, so I asked myself, “How do I leverage this?” Then it occurred to me that e-commerce is a theme they all struggle with. But, I wanted to separate it–the agency is people intensive and the e-commerce site is tech intensive, so that’s when I decided to launched Lion’esque Style. Well, actually we’re not fully launched yet. Pre-launch is in April.
Lion’esque Style is almost like an Etsy solution for these brands, but we’re not only an e-commerce platform. We focus on actually growing the brands’ names. So you can think of us as a PR company that’s providing you an e-commerce platform. We’ll do all the photos, the video, and editorial copy. We also do all the press–whether it be through celebrity or TV. They just have to design, manage their inventory, and ship it.
We really wanted to provide a solution for these emerging designers. Most of them can’t keep up with how expensive it is to have a really good e-commerce site these days. Flash sites kill their margins, and Etsy isn’t going to elevate their brand. Indie sites such as Ustrendy are great, but our brands are seeking more of a luxury feel and we adhere to that level of consistency by producing our own shoots. We want users to feel like they can grab the merchandise off the screen.
TWF: That’s funny, we actually just wrote an article on the importance of producing your own photo shoots. Makes such a difference, doesn’t it?
TWF: Is it more of a “b2c” right now or “b2b?”
MG: As we evolve, I do want it to be both. But for now I want to master b2c selling and then branch out to wholesalers and buyers. It’s definitely a possibility.
TWF: But the site’s up right now, correct?
MG: Yes, we’re still beta but technically you can still shop. I built it to figure out what works best in terms of storytelling, content, and what works technologically. It also acts as an example to show our investors.
The official relaunch is going to be in April with a lot of new product. We’re aiming for April because we know our audience will be excited to shop for spring. We’re launching in stages, though. February we’ll be launching our designer platform- with about 20 designers.
TWF: Describe Lionesque in 5 words.
(Let’s just inform you that this question is always a fun one to ask. It’s like a game of Family Feud–they either know the answer immediately and shout them out, or they’re speechless and strike out. Lionesque needed a second, or two. We think the time lapse only made their answer stronger. Kudos.)
MG: Original, Inspirational, Fashion-forward, Fashion Innovated, “1st in the room,” Trend Spotter. (That’s 6 adjectives, but we’ll let them slide.)
TWF: Tell us about your team.
MG: Lion’esque Style’s team is:
Assistant Curator and Stylist: Aliana Galan
Trend Hunter and Editorial Contributor: Quiana McCarthy
Social Media Coordinator: Eliza Rodriguez
Back End Development: Brian Getting
Graphic Design: Chris DaSilva
Photography: Frank Wang and Albert Cheung
Videography: Aleks Degtyarev
There’s also my extended team on the media side such as Tradell who is our Social Media Coordinator for LM, and Michael who’s the Visual Merchandiser of our pop-up shops.
TWF: Sounds like a solid team.
MG: It really is. Everyone’s great. We keep growing, too!
TWF: What is unique about your company?
MG: We’re not just trying to do e-commerce for the brands. We’re trying to change the game for them and give them the optimal distribution online that they lack. It’s not only about selling a product, it’s about growing their brand–and that separates us from the others.
TWF: What’re your future plans?
MG: What we really want to do as we evolve is build a virtual styling tool where people can see where these designers make sense in your personal wardrobe.
TWF: Wow, that’s a big tool.
MG: YES (insert exhausted face here)
But really, it’s about hooking in the customers. The way we’ll be doing that is with our virtual closet experience. It’s definitely a trend right now, yes. But ours is going to be a little different. Without revealing too much, I’ll say it’ll be much more personalized and tailored to the individual themselves. A mobile app and a blogging platform for the designers is also in the works.
(We’re exhausted for her.)
TWF: Tell us about the market you’ve been targeting.
MG: Right now it’s women 24-45 that love unique elements and statement pieces. They love versatility–something that you can wear three different ways–and are fashion-conscious. It’s women who watch the Golden Globes. She can afford to own luxury pieces but wants something unique. She’s looking to compliment the wardrobe she already has with that statement piece that evokes a conversation at a party. Oh, and she loves color!
TWF: What things inspire you the most, whether in business or in life?
MG: The creative process is really what excites and inspires me. Brewing something and being challenged by it everyday. I feel like a sponge. I really don’t know if I would’ve gotten this experience if I had gone to grad school.
TWF: The school of life.
MG: Exactly. I love that we make a difference for these designers. It gives a new identity to their brands that they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for us and their feedback makes this all worth it.
Lion’esque embodies the things we love most in business models: leveraging growth in small business owners, and hybrid online-offline (you can shop their pop-up shops based in NYC). Already having raised some seed funding before they’re even fully launched, it’s evident that the former finance queen has even earned the respect of investors.
So what other huge event can you cram in while you’re trying to launch a new business? Well, a wedding of course! Melissa is set to be getting married this spring. As if opening up a second business isn’t stressful enough.
We’re eager to see how this startup evolves and highly recommend that you keep an eye on Lion’esque Style and Melissa Gonzalez. She’s truly a smart and ferocious woman with a great business model in her hands. Rawr!