How Lively’s Founder Fostered a Community of 65,000 Brand Ambassadors in Just Three Years

Headshot of Nadine Dietz

From a career in merchandising for Victoria’s Secret to starting a new kind of lingerie brand, Founder and CEO Michelle Cordeiro Grant credits Lively’s success to one main thing… a strong community. And that community, now 65,000 and growing, has helped take this online shop selling $35 bras to a lifestyle brand backed by more than $15 million in capital funding.

Tell us about your background and why you chose to start Lively.

I was lucky enough to find a role in fashion at Federated Merchandising Group, where I was able to create brands and products for one of the biggest retailers in the world. I instantly fell in love with the entire process — from concept to customer. But in the back of my head, I was still not convinced that a career in fashion could be my life’s profession. After applying and attending law school — 2 weeks in, I realized my passion really was supporting, creating, and developing these amazing brands. I finally realized that your passion could actually BE your career.

While at Victoria’s Secret, I saw that this $13 billion lingerie category in the U.S. alone was dominated by this one brand, with one POV. I knew that one day I was going to create a completely new experience for the bras and undies category, that was inspired by real life… one that could inspire women to embrace their human uniqueness, their individuality, and in doing so, allow them to live life passionately, purposefully and confidently.

What defining characteristic has made your brand successful?

Even though by definition we are a DTC brand, we’ve invested a lot in human capital by creating connections through community events and pop-ups that foster human emotion and ultimately help us build our brand. From day one our community has made us who we are and brought our brand to life. They (currently 65k strong and growing) continually help us refine our brand and make products that enhance the lives they’re already living.

From a product perspective, we’ve created something entirely new. We create bras and undies that blur the aesthetic lines of lingerie, active, and swim, taking the best elements of high-style and comfort from each category. We call it Leisurée. In fact, 70% of our what we sell does not have wires; our bras conform you, not the other way around.

What major challenges did you have to overcome to address the opportunities?

It takes 25-40 suppliers to make one bra because of the different components; setting up a strong supply chain and finding a manufacturing partner was crucial to launching our brand. Luckily, I found an amazing partner who ended up being our first investor and they built a factory dedicated to LIVELY. In starting LIVELY, I began to prioritize networking – through this, an introduction was made to a third generation CEO of a lingerie manufacturer. Together, over almost a year, we built out a relationship and crafted an arrangement to bring the brand to life.

From a community perspective, we learned very quickly that it was difficult to scale without technology, but technology in and of itself can be intrusive and clunky which puts the community at risk at the same time. Our community is our most important communication vehicle and the exchange of content and ideas requires a human touch to safeguard authenticity. So we tried many different methods to appropriately scale past 1000 ambassadors that included hours of interns, our full staff and sampling the right technology as well as the right processes. Nadine Dietz is chief community officer at Adweek and host of the CMO Moves podcast.