An interview with Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of LIVELY
To hear LIVELY owner and CEO Michelle Cordeiro Grant talk about her journey is to feel included and part of something bigger than yourself. In this age of women’s empowerment, what defines us is no longer a trend set by others. It’s something that we envision, it’s something we establish. Michelle’s creation of LIVELY, and LIVELY’s 80,000-strong ambassador network, leads the way on a most intimate level.
Michelle, through LIVELY and its ambassadors, is helping to set the new standard for what makes women beautiful, sexy, healthy, confident and smart in the newly created “Leisurée” market. Women of all sizes and shapes, from all walks of life, can live comfortably in stylish Leisurée, feeling beautiful and confident. But beyond that, they can become members of the team and key influencers of LIVELY’s future creations.
In this exclusive interview, Michelle describes her formation of a boutique, niche market endeavor, founded on women’s empowerment, inclusivity and strong family values. She provides us with an insight into herself, a powerful and dynamic woman. She discloses what inspires and keeps her motivated, and gives us a real sense of how inclusivity and empowerment of women from all walks of life are incorporated into her business model.
Michelle will inspire women to want to be part of the bigger LIVELY movement, or even to start a movement of their own. But whichever way they choose to move forward, she’ll have touched them with her depth of understanding of what it means to be a woman today.
SB: What is LIVELY?
MCG: LIVELY is inspired by what we believe makes women sexy today; smart, healthy, and confident. We started our conversation with bras and undies that blur the aesthetic lines of lingerie, active, and swim, taking the best elements of high-style and ultimate comfort from each category. We are establishing an entirely new category and point of view of lingerie, a movement that we call “Leisurée.’ Since launching in 2016, we have expanded into seven additional categories including loungewear, active bras, and swimwear. We have grown our community to over 80,000 Brand Ambassadors, launched a podcast called “No Makeup Needed,” and opened several retail stores in the U.S. More than product, LIVELY is a mindset that reminds, empowers, and enables us all to live life doing what we love, with the people we love.
SB: How does inclusivity play a part in your business model?
MCG: I started LIVELY after realizing that in the $13B lingerie industry (in the U.S. alone), there has historically been one point of view represented. I was inspired to create a completely new category and experience for the lingerie category, one that celebrated human uniqueness, and products that conformed to womens’ bodies rather than forcing women to conform to the products.
Inclusivity is at the core of our brand values, and is why we exist. We are on a journey to support ultimate inclusivity, and we do so through the product assortment we currently offer, and by constantly evolving. Some of our most recent product launches were our Full Support Series, which added sizes 38DDD up to 44DDD/46DD to our collection, and our Go Nude launch, which added a selection of five skin-colored bras, bralettes, and undies shades called “The Crew Nudes.” Additionally, LIVELY stands for total price equality, meaning all women pay the same price for LIVELY bras and bralettes, regardless of size and style. And lastly, we love to feature our community, made up of women from all over the U.S. Our #bossbabe Ambassador crew are of different ages, household incomes, ethnicities and sizes. They feature in all our marketing channels: website, Instagram feed, emails, and more.
SB: In your opinion, why is focusing on a niche so powerful these days?
MCG: Focusing on a niche allows a brand to have a clear, concise, and powerful point of view, which leads to direct impact for consumers.
SB: You used to work at the giant corporation that is Victoria’s Secret. What’s it like now running a boutique business?
MCG: One of the most valuable lessons I learned in my time there, and took with me as I’ve built LIVELY, is the power of brand and brand cohesiveness. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a startup, building a narrative your customers will consistently associate you with is extremely important.
At LIVELY, we are all about our community. Having a close proximity to the women who buy our products has allowed us to create an open dialogue that ensures we’re representing them accurately, and putting forward pieces that they want and feel comfortable in. Being direct-to-consumer allows us to be plugged in in a way we might not otherwise be: to be on the pulse of the next generation, constantly learning how we can create a brand that fits their needs. Also, being in a more boutique business has allowed me to create a brand that shares the values of our community.
SB: Talk to us about the strategy behind your brand ambassador program. How did you grow the program to 80,000 participants, and how has it affected your business?
MCG: At LIVELY, our 80,000+ Ambassadors are at the core of our brand, and because of their enthusiasm and support, we’re able to amplify word of mouth efforts beyond our own marketing channels. Additionally, we rely heavily on feedback from our Ambassadors to help inform future products in sizes, shapes, and styles that fit their needs. To acknowledge and really personalize the Ambassador program, we are always listening to their feedback and curating events, product iterations, and campaigns around their interests.
SB: How do you envision the future of boutique retail?
MCG: If you look ahead at where Millennials and Gen Z are headed, they’re yearning for human interaction and impact. Gen Z was born on a screen, but they’re looking for ways to spend time with others. Boutique retail can be one of those places where they come and interact and learn.
Digital grew quickly and is an important part of our business. In order to be a truly community-led brand, we knew we had to have both a physical and digital presence. Even before we had brick-and-mortar stores, we were having events and experiences so our crew could come and interact and learn. Since launching online in 2016, we’ve opened three stores in New York, Chicago, and Austin, and have grown our community to over 80,000 women across the country through our Ambassador program. We’ve definitely found that hosting physical experiences in our stores, tailored to our community’s interests, helps to create that loyalty, that trust, and that relationship that leads customers to keep coming back and/or buying more product online once they leave the store. I see these trends continuing into the future as the latest generations begin to dictate more and more of the retail market.
SB: What inspires you and keeps you motivated, even through hard times?
MCG: It can be easy to fall into a cycle that leads to burnout when you work in a fast-paced startup environment, and I often equate it to building a mental muscle. It’s like training for a marathon. You might fall or make a mistake every now and then, but every time you get back up, you’re training yourself to take on more and get stronger the next time you try something.
One thing I try to do every morning regardless of busy schedules is to spend time with myself for 20 minutes or 1 hour. It ranges from walking to work, to taking a fitness class, or just doing a two mile run. It’s my time to give gratitude and acknowledge why I do it all, and that helps me go into each day calm and collected. Throughout the day, if I’m able to take certain meetings or calls outside, I’ll adopt the “walk and talk” method. I find that getting up and moving not only makes me feel better and more alert, but it helps get my creative juices flowing.
Lastly, creating boundaries and structure around my day is extremely important to me. I make sure to leave the office most evenings in time to have dinner with my family and have time with my kids before they go to bed. I think it is so important to start and close each day with your loved ones. At the end of the day, that is what life is all about! Making time to do these things for myself and my family really helps me avoid burnout as much as possible.