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Melissa Gonzalez of MG2 on Handbag Designer 101 Podcast Every Tuesday


Emily Blumenthal

Host

00:00

Hi and welcome to the Handbag Designer 101 podcast with your host, emily Blumenthal, handbag designer expert and handbag fairy godmother, where we cover everything about handbags, from making, marketing, designing and talking to handbag designers and industry experts about what it takes to make a successful handbag. Welcome, Melissa Gonzalez, to Handbag Designer 101, the podcast. I'm the principal of MG2, founder of Lionesque Group, of independent handbag designer world recovering independent designer life. How are you welcome? So happy to have you. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

00:41

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I'm glad we're able to do this before the end of the year. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

00:46

Oh, yeah, I didn't even think of that. You know, when you work for yourself on, you know, I think, lean and mean, there is no such thing as the end of the year. It's just it keeps going. And oh, by the way, it's the next year, the next day, yeah for sure. For those who don't know you, I mean, I know you, I followed you, I had been following you forever. What? How? You had a platform 200,000 million years ago called Linus Media, correct? But it started, yes, yes. So how did you stumble into the world of independent designs, selling them, finding their value in that? And, of course, we will wrap up with is there still value in that? But let's get down and deep. So what is a tale called Melissa Sure. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

01:38

So I have kind of like, because no road is straight, I have kind of you know, some twists and turns. So background when I graduated college I worked from all streets. So that's kind of how, where did you go? I worked at Penn State University and then I worked at Credit Suisse. Back then it was Credit Suisse, where's Boston? 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

01:56

and our shop. Like people show you jealous of that. That's like one of those like fly back interview. I couldn't earn enough to pay my rent. I don't need to live with my parents for a shop, so well done. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

02:08

Oh, thank you. I did move out quickly from my parents out but my bedroom was like a converted dining room but whatever, I was in the city so I was excited about that. But yeah, that was kind of my first introduction actually to retail because I worked in institutional fail and I was a generalist. So I was sitting with management teams for you know everything from like BB in the gap to like you know fast growing internet companies and so you know back then was really immersed in the conversations to understand like vision and what made it work. Then you know what were they projecting and all that. Did you find that? 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

02:48

interesting. Was it interesting I? 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

02:50

think that I find it more interesting as they look back than in the moment, just because I was always pulled to wanting to pursue something a little bit more creative. So I think that didn't get allow me that full appreciation. But I do recognize like at a very young age I was sitting at the table with really intelligent power player in various industries and having the opportunity to kind of like hear them and their vision and kind of notice trends and what was working out. What was it working? It was pretty valuable. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

03:21

So pull it forward. You were like 22 sitting at the table with grownups in retail and you were not in your head like oh okay, Like not even realizing that. You were like behind the curtain of retail odds, Like who knew. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

03:33

Oh for sure that's wild. Exactly Some of the people that I, you know, kind of took to meetings and things like that for sure were, I mean, c-suite level, and so but like me too, here's my business card. Yeah, I can say that to them. But so when I left, I went to pursue a creative path and how long were you dayjapping in finance? 

03:59

I left finance officially in 2009. I then graduated that 10 years before that, so you know. But I also interned on Wall Street. So I started my career actually in fixed income. I was in retail government trade and then went to quantitative strategy that Morgan Stanley, and so that's sexy. Yeah, now that you look back you realize actually it's pretty bad app. But I, especially as a woman yeah, yeah, especially then too. So you know, but I gravitated to storytelling and I think that's become like the kind of the happy, fair and dippin' path that I've led to now, because I have the foundation of understanding, like a lot of data coming at me and having to analyze that and then make recommendations from it. But being able to come to the equity side really lived more in the stories of it, not just like the numbers of it, and so bringing that together and if I may. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

04:53

I'm sorry, I am really good at interrupting. People have told me. When you say the equity side, just to clarify what exactly that means, what does that mean for a heat level? Who are unaware. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

05:04

Yeah, so like you can make fixed income investments or equity based investments where you're, what would be like the way you invest in the stock market on average when you buy shares into a stock? That would probably be the most equivalent, but we were doing this at an institutional level, so my clients are more like hedge funds, the mutual fund wealth management that we're making minimum buy in the market. So, but just like a person right here going to gravity, to the story of Peloton, where, you know you, the numbers matter too, but we got more immersed in storytelling about a bit as well, and so when I left, I wanted to pull forward more of that storyteller opportunity, and so it did start with Linus Media, which became Linus Group, as we can found ourselves, and in the beginning there was a big content portion of it. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

05:51

Well, because it's like were you like okay, I've been in finance for 10 years, I've saved some money and really I think I'm going to start my own company. That happens to be about independent designers and selling their products. Like that is a hardy chunk of the story, because, having done the same thing, there were very few of us who were trying to. You know, hey, I can start a platform and sell stuff that nobody can find anywhere else, Like that is an early adopter to the market, even at that point, like adjacent to Etsy, except for in retail goods. So how did you say, like, hey, this sounds like a good idea and maybe I'll do it Because huh. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

06:29

Well, it actually was just one of those things that evolved because it wasn't my idea when I left. When I was working on Wall Street, I also was a host of a show called Lot Beat on BT and so I had production fighting myself Because I always kind of wanted to pursue that creative path. And I auditioned and my leadership was very supportive, like as long as you're still at the desk and you're supposed to be like, do that. And honestly, clients loved it because I'd be like pitching them stock. They'd like can we talk about what you had on your show? So I think a door opener. But it did get me to be more comfortable having to present and thinking on my feet and all that. So I thought I was going to pursue where that path when I first left and I did do a web series called Remake BFF and that kind of got picked up and I got the money out of that and made the pilot with somebody whose family owned a real estate in midtown Manhattan and he said you know, we're trying to do something creative with the street level retail here and I think that's a great way to help our partner and help us figure out what that could be. And so it was just good timing in that I left out very good terms from Wall Street. I had a little bit of a package and a nest egg. 

07:45

Then we did the homemade BFFs theories. It was homemade beauty, fashion and fitness. You know where there's an advertisers kind of thing. Yeah, exactly. And so it was just like it gave me some opportunity. And so I said, sure, let's give it a comment among my cost of time. I don't have real estate costs. You know, that's what they were bringing to the table and let's see if people find value in this. And so for the first three or four months we were independent designers and most of them paid me in product. We didn't know was it going to work, was it going to not work, and all this other stuff. And then by that was September was the first pop-up, and then by January we were charging because we started developing a wheat list and brands were making sales this real estate that you had had. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

08:34

Was it the same store space or were they rotating or were you going based on it was the same location? 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

08:40

So we started with one location and rotated it at its height. The program had three revolving storefront. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

08:47

How long were the leases per se for the independent designers to be there? Usually a minimum of a month, maximum of three months. Did they have to be on site? Because that was the companies or retailers or so forth that have done this pop-up rotation platform, and there have been a few of them the British company they sold, and Graham and Walker, those guys who would own it. The first they would charge, then they didn't, then it was a portion of sales, then it wasn't. Then there was having them there to work, rotate, work it. How did you come up with that model? Were you there every day to be the hostess? I was not. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

09:27

I never ran that store. That was not going to happen. But it is a big pain coin and that's why a lot of companies partnered today with Elite, because that's a big part of the commitment skills that are needed. But no, what we provided at the time and this was pre-Lioness Group, this was Lioness Media was because we had a production arm with it and that was the partnership with the family too, because the fun had helped with the pilot of my other idea. So we would make video content, tell the stories of the brand that were coming in. That was part of the package that they got, the Media Kit. I had relationships with everybody from Tine Out and New York Magazine and all that. So we did a part of it. We did media production, PR support because we were PRing also the program. So after a while people knew, okay, who do you have next, what do you write about? And then we helped them design and the speed. But they had the product and operating with their responsibility. 

10:28

In the beginning we did do a portion of sales. That was really tricky. Some were more honest than others. It wasn't going through our POS because a lot of cheap things, but through data we got to see, okay, what really do, we think, is kind of the average sales, and so we used that to guide what we charged in rent. And then it became more of a flat fee program so that we were getting the rent we needed for the package that we were providing. And they were add-ons to that package, if you wanted to have an opening reception or whatever it was, and at a height too, we had all three storefront people were adding an opening reception. They were taking over events because we're blocking hotel rooms. So it was a win-win for the hotel and for the brand. Do you think that model is learning? 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

11:11

Do you think that model could work now, post-candemic, where people are so hungry for new ness and events and excitement, because you see, all of these pop-ups are coming back and events are coming back and fancy clothes? I mean it's very cyclical to I've spoken about this a hundred times but post-Fanish flu and going into the growing 20s and this whole, we want to party, we want to shop, we want an excuse to look cute, this whole whimsical novelty aspect. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

11:42

Yeah, I do think so. I think, though, that would happen with, like, the word pop-up got over saturated and not everything was a great experience. I mean, somebody hosted a class they called a pop-up, you know. So I think that you have to be careful with that. But also, location still matters too. There's very few industries like categories, like when we did pop-ups with sneaker brands. Sneaker heads will go anywhere to find a drop, but most brands don't and categories don't have that. I do think that's possible and I think you think it'd be really interesting with Hotel still, because you have a mix of you know, especially in New York, you could be near residents and workers that are commuters, that are coming in regularly, but then you also get the tourists and they want something you know, interesting and unique to take with them. So, yeah, but location and curation still are critical for that success. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

12:36

That's so interesting, I mean I bet in the thick of it. You probably, you know, I know you probably weren't there, but like, organizing events is not for the faint of heart, it really isn't, it is, but it's exhausting. You know, people see, I mean I've done my share of pop-ups with independent designers, obviously, specifically handbags. But you know, one thing could fall through, like the liquor doesn't show up, the security doesn't show up, your insurance doesn't come through on time, like even the things that you would take for granted, that you would have on a day to day. One thing doesn't work and then all of a sudden, everything kind of falls apart and then it kind of lands on you to eat the loss. If they, or even the people who paid for it, don't even show up, then what yeah? 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

13:21

Yeah, no, for sure. I mean most people that paid for their contract show up. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

13:27

Or like they're, or they're invent or they're inventorying. Show up at the time. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

13:32

That's definitely happened, especially if it was an international brand. Very tricky and it hurts when you're a small independent, you know, designer, you don't have the same cushion as some of the larger brands to take this hit. You know, for some, the pop-up, the one or two they did a year with like the bulk of their revenue for a year, yeah so, yeah. So you know to be really mindful about that. Planning ahead just because it's short in duration doesn't mean planning is. So be really thoughtful about all the elements. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

14:03

So how long did you do that before you recognize, because I know you also. If I'm not correct, I believe you had an online platform too that was selling. Said weird, really. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

14:16

You have a great memory, yeah, yeah. So I would say from 2009 to 2012, there was a lot of kind of evolution and learning. 2009, fall 2009 was the first pop-up new form perspective NFP studio with Neil Travis, and then that evolved. I would say I think it was around 2011,. 2012. When we launched e-commerce. It was only for about a year. 

14:39

This was when you know shoppers were just becoming a thing and what the impetus of it was. You were having these great pop-ups and then people would kept emailing us where at the grand bill, how do I shop them? And most of them didn't really have fully developed e-commerce platforms, so it was meant to be like a curating marketplace of that. But, as you know, e-commerce takes a lot of time and energy and money and infrastructure to really grow it, and so that was a long-distance interaction that I pursued. But I did do that for a period of time and was part of Low Enthusiasm Familyarized Balance Incubator program, learned a ton and then so took that, we closed it and decided you know what we're going to really focus on physical retail, because we're working so hard to make it tough to close it because were you like, oh, it's so goddamn burned out at this point? 

15:34

This isn't, I mean it's like anything that once you let it go, you decompress from it and you realize like, okay, it's better, but in the moment you put so much wet equity and hard into it that it's a really hard decision. 

15:48

But what I would say, you know and I've learned over time like numbers don't lie and that is your indicator and trust it and make the right decision because there's the opportunity cost of maybe you could be doing something else and you know you're going to be doing something else, doing something differently or doing it better. And so I learned a ton from having e-commerce and made me a better advisor and strategist with the brands we work with today, because it gave me a better perspective of Omni-Channel and kind of understanding how it all needs to connect to be successful and how all the different touch points feed each other. So I would say like it didn't work, but I invested in my education through that and while we were pursuing e-commerce so much there was so much organic and bigger brands coming our way wanting to work together for physical. So it was like sometimes too, if you're fighting so hard in one direction that doesn't allow you to hear all the organic, positive stuff that's happening, you know, then you can have an opportunity. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

16:50

If I may, though speaking about this, because the platform you had at the time there really weren't too many competitors. I mean, look, we ran I don't even know how many years we ran Handbag Designer 101 as a platform for independent designers and, with all due respect, it nearly killed me because you know we it was dropship. Most retailers are trying to push right now I've spoken about that extensively that you want to get into Walmart. Walmart carries brands that you wouldn't expect to be on a Walmart-based platform. However, it's income coming in. It's another distribution from the channel for them. So why shouldn't they? 

17:32

But dealing with an independent designer? I was also doing press for it was like a 360, as you said. It was as much as Omni Channel as it could have been. And you know, we know the pain points of being a small brand and delivery and quality control and shipping and return, then to have to deal with that, because then you're the one who has to deal with that, and then go back to the designer and say, okay, you have a giant order, why aren't you delivering on time and all these things. It's enough to say like, why am I doing this? And then try to look at it. So, okay, what are my takeaways? Where are the unique selling points and what's the value of dealing with smaller brands? So do you think there are some takeaways that, having dealt with that, that you can share the knowledge to an independent brand saying here's some things to think about or to keep in mind, because so many designers neglect to see themselves as a business and you know, you lose customers once they don't come back. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

18:33

Yeah, there's just so many options out there that blah blah patience for that for sure. You know. I think the hook is where a lot of them are probably really strong. You know there's an authenticity to when you get to interact with a founder and people love that and love to support that. I mean that's what made a lot of the fall. That's really successful. Like they came because they're. They love to be able to be like I can go to the designer and my friend and I shop from them. But then things have to back up to that. Like that's just one of your relationship. 

19:02

You know the quality of the product in their hands matters. The follow up that you do after the purchase matter. You know how you handle a return with them matters. Customer service, right, all of that stuff. Like everybody quotes my and you live. But it's true, everybody remembers how you make them feel you could probably get a shitty product, but if I treated you right, you'll give me a second chance If you ever wanted to start a handbag brand and you didn't know where to start, this is for you. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

19:32

If you had dreams of becoming a handbag designer but aren't trained in design, this is for you. If you have a handbag brand and need strategy and direction, this is for you. I'm Emily Blumenthal, handbag designer expert and handbag fairy godmother, and this is the handbag designer one on one masterclass. Over the next 10 classes, I will break down everything you need to know to make, manufacture and market a handbag brand, broken down, to ensure that you will not only skip steps in the handbag building process, but also to save money to avoid the learning curve of costly mistakes. For the past 20 years, I've been teaching at the top fashion universities in New York City, wrote the handbag designer Bible, founded the handbag awards and created the only handbag designer podcast. I'm going to show you like I have countless brands to create in this in depth course, from sketch to sample to sale. Whether you're just starting out and don't even know where to start or begin, or if you've had a brand and need some strategic direction, the handbag designer one on one masterclass is just for you. So let's get started and you'll be the creator of the next it back. Join me, emily Blumenthal in the handbag designer, one on one masterclass. So be sure to sign up at Emily Blumenthalcom slash masterclass and type in the code on cast to get 10% off your masterclass today. 

20:59

Actually, there's a 10 talk that I show my students. It's, I think I show it on like class one or class two in my entrepreneurship class at FIT and I can't recall who the speaker was, who this woman was, but there's an anecdotal story of lawsuits against doctors with bad bedside matters versus positive bedside matters. And there was a doctor who apparently had had operated on a patient's wrong leg like got it mixed up, genuinely mixed up and did that operation on a functioning part of the body as opposed to the broken part of the body, because the doctor was really, really, really apologetic. The patient didn't press charges. Yeah, not litigious. And that's truly goes back to how you deal with your customer. If you make a mistake, own up to it. How can I fix it? What can I do? Yeah, yeah, I mean I'm right on and doing the surgery on somebody's wrong part of the body. Don't get me wrong, I'm not. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

22:01

Yes, it's a different magnitude than like putting them in the wrong handbag. 

22:05

I sent you the right style, yeah, same thing, yeah, but there's I mean, there's plenty of disruptors, right, and the ECOPS 8th that they want on customer service, you know, and that's how they really built their brand. So you got to think about the packaging, you know so that even though somebody paid for it, it feels like a gift. What are the things you're going to? You know what's the right, appropriate follow-ups. You get them to come back again, you know. So it's really having a holistic approach to that and I would say, when you're starting out on time to be all things because you're going to probably have a small team and it's going to be really challenging to do all those things well, so, like, what are the top three things you can do? Great, and then, building upon that, you know so that you really are permission for success to deliver upon that and get known for that and grow and then add on top of that. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

22:57

That's good, that's a really good piece of advice. We're the top three things that you have to offer, and you do well, because 100% you cannot be everything to everyone, and that's always a mistake I mean, I think we all go through that as founders when you start out and to narrow, cast your demographic and recognize hold on, I can't, I can't cater to everyone, so who am I catering to and who am I doing it? Well, so that is some sage advice, melissa. I appreciate that. So after you're burnt out, you're like okay, I can't do this anymore, I'm over it. How did you evolve? And you know, after realizing something and I'm not saying it didn't work, but it didn't work as well as obviously you would have hoped why did you even keep the name lioness? What was that? I? 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

23:42

just so. I debated that a long time for sure, and especially when we I hope you don't mind me, and this gang, no, as me pursued the nature of pop up. People like you should just be the pop up agency. And then I was like, well, if I go so niche in my name, can I ever become anything else? Wow. 

23:59

So with lioness, the background of it is I'm a Leo, I went to the state we're a lion, and then at the time, with all women and I'm a woman. So ask is kind of like what got added to the word lion? And then what evolved is we rely on productions and line of media than line of group, and that's kind of where we, you know, evolved to for more of the retail strategy, design portion of it, not all the production influence or stuff. I've still kind of line of media, but so that's kind of like what the evolution was. Because they wanted to. People also knew the name. So like how do I leverage that, even though I had to kind of educate that we're pivoting but also keep a name that wasn't so niche that if we evolve I couldn't do anything with that. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

24:44

So yeah, but it's not a pivot, though. You know like, yeah, shut something down. Did you officially shut it down? Yeah, was it like? So you're like okay, website shut done. What was your plan? 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

24:57

you have to, you have to be okay failing fast. I mean that's the thing that I think you know most entrepreneurs that are successful had failure and you have to be able to pivot. It's not a failure to pivot pivot either. It's the ability to recognize like this isn't working. These are my parameters. 

25:18

I'm willing to like have losses or you know what it means you have these stopgaps happen and be able to be brave enough to say that's not the right approach. Maybe I have a right idea, but that's not the right way to execute it. Or maybe I have a great team, but we need to pivot on what the idea is, because that's not the market asking for. You know, and so the ability to be able to do that is actually success, and so sometimes I think it needs to get trapped in that you know. But if you allow yourself to like watch the numbers, know that they're your friend because I would do that in the beginning too like I'm gonna look at these numbers, but you have to, you have to and then be able to say, okay, let's analyze that. 

26:02

What about that's working? What can I do different? The three things right idea, right team, right time. Like things have to line up right, you can have the best idea, but if you know the team to execute it like an idea is worth how much without that part of it. And then sometimes you might have an idea but the market's not ready for it, and that happens a lot of times. Oh, yeah, yeah. So it's kind of like you really have to think about thought and put the passion in it, but be able to separate yourself with a business plan, a critical point to say then personal business so like is what's working and if it's not, what can I change about it? 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

26:41

damn, that is good. I mean, look the handbag that I created. I have patented the silhouettes here. I thought I was this incredible, I split the atom. The handbag designer not trained in design. Look, I've done something that's far better than what everybody else is. 

26:56

That, like you know, you have that kind of delusion when you start kind of think you have to to some extent because you are, no matter how much experience you have, nobody's going into anything being like I've done this. I know exactly what I'm doing, because you, until you're in it, you don't realize oh, I didn't know 90% of this. Yeah, you know, it took me six years until I was able to license out my silhouettes because my bag couldn't sell without me being there to sell it and that was a wild, wild epiphany to recognize because it was a wallet wristlet fusion and it was not something that people could understand on itself without me there doing this. The dog and pony show like this is how you put it on, this is how you wear it, here's the unique selling points and you know to do that with the business. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

27:43

There was a tick talk then because then you would have had an army helping you with that. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

27:47

I, exactly, exactly I would have done all of that. It's so funny to think about that. I didn't ever cross my mind. Maybe you got to bring it back and get it to some tick clocker. Listen, I had three patents before I was 27, and boy I to use the word IP when no one knew what it was. I'm like you're all so dumb, but me what, what is it matter? So you pivoted into something that was the same but very different. How did you approach that? So? 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

28:22

I've been in a few times throughout, you know, and from Wall Street to being an entrepreneur, you know physical only bringing an e-com shut that down, focus on physical works with great opportunities. You know brands and opportunities mark jakeups, j Hilburn you know the real, real read. I mean we worked with great brands and then I did. I had another idea and I was part of X or C and I came up with a retail tech idea and I partnered with our company called impinge and you know it was another learning like that one was. 

28:57

I had a good idea, but it was a very different use case that was much more complex. I didn't have the team for it, really, and we were ahead of our time and so I think, with the right team and the rain and bath mean we could have developed it so when the market was ready. But all those things matter, you know, and I had learned from earlier that I probably could have shut it a little faster, but I pulled the plug because I realized like I did not have the team that was going to make this happen and it was a very complex idea. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

29:31

So but all that was true. Do you think it was sometimes the ideas that are too complex, that they're too hard to digest and explain and therefore, if you have to be there to present it to a point to educate that sometimes that is part of the barrier itself? Like, oh god, if I have to be there to explain it to every single person, then maybe this isn't something that's going to work from a product standpoint, I would say yes, like what you're. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

29:57

You know people don't get it. When it comes to tack, it's a little trickier. There's two things. Sometimes it's like the simplest thing, like the person who invented the bottle cap that lives on every Coke bottle, pepsi bottle, like that, in theory the simplest thing. And when you have something that simple that can go that mainstream and that wide, like success. But then there are other things that are complex and when it comes to tech and those things, I feel like it's kind of like we're seeing an AI now and like with Microsoft's offering. Like it's super complex, which means it's super expensive, which means your addressable mark is probably pretty small and you're going to need to have the right infrastructure and runway to get past that part, to like get to be for attainable pricing, more. You know Mac, you know adoption is possible and stuff like that. So it's kind of like a different animal than like product. But even to get through all that you need the right team, the right investment partner. Like Just kind of like. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

30:54

Know that for what you were doing past line, ask media that whatever you would do would require investment. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

31:04

No, because my next group never took about that. That was more people business. You know, I was like I couldn't, you know, but for tech I did, I think, because I'm not a quarter myself. So you know, I think, if I had the opportunity where I had the vision and I literally write all the code myself and with a graphic designer and was all the thing Right, maybe. But knowing I was in the N, yes, I was going to need to look at that. But I felt, with technology, kind of like with the product company, service companies are much harder, yeah, I think, in this aspect. But because those are the kinds of opportunities where you can make money or sleep, right, so like, you make a number, like certain amount of investment that will monetize over time, because you start selling thousands of handbags or for this technology, right, thousands of retailers are adopting it, so like, and what was it? 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

31:54

And that makes them what was the tech. If you don't mind sharing yeah. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

31:59

So it's called field tap and we created an RFID back shopable key and we piloted it in partnership with general growth partner, which is now G G P, which is now Brookfield, and we piloted in the store. But the thought of it was how do we create physical experience with that mirror, the e-com experience, where if you're shopping online, you can add things to your cart and remembering it back to it later. So we did that for physical retail where, with your RFID back key, as you were shopping, you can add things to your digital cart, but from a physical location. So for the consumer, they got to remember what they like. They were able to text their cart to somebody else to get advice. 

32:43

On the brand and retailer side, you could see attribution, which is one of the biggest pain points in physical retail. So, yeah, people were just they could get evidence of what kind of the product people were discovering in store but adding to their cart. Every one of the length was an affiliate length with the brand. So we were able to track when a sale happened and even like how many touch points that they need to have before they need to purchase, what was the average amount of time it got to a purchase? What kind of products were they purchasing outside of the store? 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

33:11

So it was like, in theory, some sexy data, but it was very complex to build. Yeah, yeah, I mean any tech CTO and then teams to build under it. So I knew like if that was sad, because you know that was so much of your time and to build that. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

33:29

You just know it was going to work without that. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

33:33

How long did that take you before you were like, ok, time to pivot again. It was a year, I think it was a year and you have. You had investment for that. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

33:43

Yeah, small like the round, but I knew, in order to progress, to show the milestone and to be able to get to where I need to go, we'd need a bigger runway, I'd need a different team, and you know, I think that become more successful and like as your founder, regardless of it, you need to really like with achieving this idea, what is the work skills that I bring to the table and what do I need to build around me? And they have to be the right people, like when you're going from employee one to even 10 or even 20, but like every seat matters, yeah, you know. And so like what is that matrix together? And then you have your advisors too. That was how I started, but in that I needed a kind of a tech co-founder who was a kick-off technology but had a mutual understanding and respect to. I brought industry expertise, you bring tech expertise and we have to like develop together. Yeah, and that's what always easy when you work in technology companies that you find that harmonious partnership. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

34:47

But I think that can even be translated into having a partner for your own brand, right? Like, yeah, it's great to have a duplicate skill set, but if you are going to have a partner, it has to be divide and conquer, like I need to be able to successfully defer to you on things that I can't do. So that's the whole puzzle piece of it. But can I just ask you having and again like all this speaks to something larger having taken investment, even seed investment, and the fact that you know you pivoted, therefore you didn't run, therefore saying maybe it didn't work Was that a hard pill to swallow? Was that the first time you'd taken investment, to look at it in a different way, being like oh, you know, I just know for so many founders that, obviously speaking of handbags who get money and even if it's friends and family round, there's a certain around, especially with women, the guilt of failing when you take people's money. Oh, so with, if you don't mind me asking, yeah, with the website e-com. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

35:48

That was friends and family and it was super hard. It was super hard and you have to do it with the right people, who you know you'll be friends on the other side of it. Some are the same kind of friends and some friendships change and it was really hard. But you kind of like, if you're going to invest at early stage. Two, you have to know You're kind of you're probably making a donation. But I have to answer that you know because when you're that early stage, the odds right, it's like a very much lower percentage when you're that early stage. And so when I did it for the tech company, it was seed stage but more institutional. 

36:26

But I didn't take her throne because I didn't want to do that path again, because I know what that felt like. But I also realized that when you get investment, money is only a portion of it. You need network and advice. There's other things you need to. So you got to get the money from the right partners as well, because that's the way you're gonna more effectively put their money to work to. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

36:50

My god, melissa, we haven't even gotten to what you do and I know we've taken up like 800 hours of your day, but this in itself was like look, I wanted to round out with where you are now and if you could throw in some touch points about handbags, industry, anything you can. Some takeaways, but there were because I don't want to hold you captive for too much longer. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

37:10

No, no, yeah. So now through all of my journey in 2019. So 10 years later, we were approached for acquisition by company called MD.2. They're a global design architecture firm. A lot of time Also MG2 is not my initials, yes, but it's fun when people think so but, yeah, we did a lot of diligent. 

37:33

You know this culturally, the right partnership, one of the synergies, etc. So I would say all my stops along that path. When you're working with independent brands, working with, you know, fast growing digital natives that are VC backed. Working with mass retailers that are trying to think like DTC companies. You know, experimenting with e-commerce, trying technology. All of that makes me a stronger strategist today, working with brands as I dip into the digitization of the store and the opportunities of things beyond where we are today. So I would say, just always remember like you're learning along the way You're like I say, like I sometimes am the authority in the room. It's I'm the rookie in the room and I get to be able to fluctuate around that in order to be like always growing and that's the opportunity. 

38:31

So today I am a principal and shareholder in the firm that acquired us, which is MG2. I am, I lead strategy for consumer experience. So we help brands and retailers. We're also doing work in cinema and F&B, helping them kind of like what's the future, and it could be anything from they're embarking on their first location to Evolving who they are to I mean a lot of different, different life stages that we work with, and so that's what I do today. I also have a podcast, like you, called retailer fine, and on there I have conversations with everything from like they sweet to a brand of retailers to founders of technology companies, so you know or having these kind of comprehensive conversations about the future of the consumer. What does that mean for retail experiences? And yeah, that's kind of I think I answered the question that I stray that? 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

39:26

no stray away. Melissa Gonzalez, how can we find follow, get more information? Are you open to people reaching out just for sure? Lots of conversations, so forth. Yeah, I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. 

Melissa Gonzalez

Guest

39:42

You have to search for Melissa Gonzales. Why enough on LinkedIn? Because if you just search more for them, balls there's a couple. Oh so LinkedIn's great and you can follow my podcast, which is retail refined, and we have some great gas from there and that's probably the best you way and you know that'll end up in my inbox, though. 

Emily Blumenthal

Host

40:02

Melissa, thank you so much. This has been so enlightening from so many different angles and I know the takeaways for this are vast and hearty, and I just want to thank you for being part of handbag designer 101 today. Yes, thank you for having me. Thanks for listening. Don't forget to rate and review, and follow us on every single platform at handbag designer. Thanks a bunch. See you next time you. 


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