Founders of Flora Nuit, Laura and Melissa, know that there is no better time for acting on your business idea than right now. Here they share how they took a leap of faith and launched a luxury lingerie company without waiting for the moment to be right.
What did you do before launching Flora Nuit?
Laura: I studied Art History in college. After I graduated in 2009, I worked in a gallery for a few months, but then decided I wanted to travel, so I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I worked a the lifestyle editor of a website. After a year there, I moved back to the US and started working as the assistant to the CEO of a lingerie company based here in New York, which is where Melissa and I met (we only overlapped for about 4 months though and stayed in touch through good mutual friends.). I moved into a marketing role in that company and oversaw digital and email marketing as well as in-store events.
Melissa: I came to NY for college and then briefly lived in Charlottesville VA where I worked in a lingerie boutique as a manager. I had worked in retail throughout college but this was my first time working with lingerie, and I really enjoyed it. I managed the store for almost 2 years and then through colleagues in the field interviewed for a managerial position with Journelle, a lingerie company, for their first store. After about a year and a half of managing the flagship store, I began working as the buyer, responsible for the existing store and for opening 2 additional locations. This is where Laura and I met, but there was a very brief overlap.
When and how did you launch Flora Nuit? Where did the idea come from?
We were out for coffee one day when Melissa brought up the idea of at-home lingerie parties. We decided to start researching the competition, figure out how we could make our model unique, and determine how much it would cost to launch. After getting great feedback on the concept and realizing that we’d be able to launch quickly and cheaply, we decided to start reaching out to the brands we wanted to work with, building a basic site, and working on the branding. It was about 6 months from when we had our first conversation to when we had our first Flora Nuit party.
What is the concept behind Flora Nuit?
We started Flora Nuit because, after being in the lingerie industry for about 10 years, we were constantly struck by how many women we heard saying that they hated shopping for intimates – shopping in stores was often very uncomfortable and shopping online was a gamble since the product is so fit-specific. Since we believe that lingerie is such an important part of a woman’s wardrobe, we wanted to make the experience of shopping for it enjoyable, so we began exploring the idea of at-home parties. While the idea of lingerie parties already existed, we wanted to create something that was more sophisticated that what was out there and we wanted to offer unique, beautiful, wearable items – not boring basics, and not over-the-top sexy/unpractical items.
We wanted Flora Nuit parties to be a place where women could be completely comfortable while they shopped while also discovering really amazing, hard-to-find brands.
Can you tell us about the process that went from idea to actual online shop and events?
We began discussing the concept in April of 2013 and we launched in September of that year. Once we decided that we wanted to give the concept a shot, we began to work on our branding and mocking up our website. We then found a bunch of amazing small brands and designers we were interested in working with (many of which are located outside of the US and don’t sell their product here) and began reaching out to them. Everyone we reached out to was very receptive to the idea and loved the thought of being able to offer their products to groups of engaged women in their target audience. Once we had settled on the final product we wanted to offer, finished the website, and done all of the boring administrative stuff, we hosted our first party for friends and family. Soon after we got coverage on Daily Candy (R.I.P.) and things took off from there.
What was one challenge that you faced when you started Flora Nuit and how did you got over it ?
Lack of money! We knew that we didn’t have a tremendous amount to invest when we started Flora Nuit, but we really believed in the concept and felt strongly that we had to act on the idea quickly instead of waiting for the moment to be right. Having a tight budget is tricky, but it forces you to really focus on your main objectives and to become very scrappy, which has served us very well.
“We really believed in the concept and felt strongly that we had to act on the idea quickly instead of waiting for the moment to be right”
What is one accomplishment you are most proud of ?
We’re proud that people who attend a Flora Nuit event leave with a heightened appreciation for lingerie and how important it is for a women to have beautiful, functional and well fitting under-garments. We’ve had so many emails from women who hated the lingerie shopping experience tell us that they now look forward to hosting their own event and introducing friends to the concept and collections.
Who do you see as an innovator in your industry and why ?
We really love the brand Fortnight. It’s based in Toronto, everything is manufactured by a highly trained staff of seamstresses who take amazing pride in their work. The pieces are super high quality with amazing fabrics and they are engineered to fit beautifully, for all body types. We have a hard time explaining how much we love the product – you really just have to try it for yourself to see what we mean – the way their wireless pieces can support larger cup sizes is a feat of engineering. We also like companies like Knixwear and Thinx, who are introducing performance fabrics to the lingerie sector so that the pieces you wear are really doing a job for you.
What was the best life & business advice someone has ever given to you and why does it resonates with you ?
Laura: Trust that everything is going to work out and know that things happen for a reason. There are a lot of ups and downs when starting your own company and the downs can be really rough, but looking back you start to realize that they either led to something really great or gave you really invaluable experience.
Melissa: never, never, never and never give up.
Three things you learned while running your company?
- Your network is incredibly important, and working to build your network and cultivate those relationships is one of the best ways you can spend your time.
- It can get lonely. Make sure to surround yourself with people who are doing their own thing and who you can turn to for advice or to bounce ideas off of.
- Developing partnerships with complementary brands is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to introduce your brand to new customers.
What is your daily routine & what are your productivity tricks ?
Laura: It really varies. I usually get up around 7:00 and have coffee, but those are the only two constants. With phone calls and meetings, every day is different, but I try to work in 50 minute intervals, where I don’t check my email or phone, and just focus on one task. I also try to do Pilates or Barre 3-4 times a week.
Melissa: On days when I have someone watching my new baby, I try to get going around 9/9:30 with a walk to a coffee shop so I can gather my thoughts and fuel up for the day. Like Laura said, every day is different so there’s no set routine but usually I like to get through emails first and then brainstorm on a larger picture project without having my computer in front of me. Taking a break from having a screen in my face rejuvenates me.
What other creative/entrepreneur would you like freja to interview ?
The Lola founders, Eliza Blank of The Sill, Lisa Sun of Project Gravitas
Photography by Wynn Meyers