Michelle Cordeiro Grant knew the odds were not in her favor. She'd always been statistics-minded: So when she read that 90 percent of startups fail within 10 years of their creation, that number stuck with her.
But, in 2016, armed with insider industry knowledge, an investment, and a supplier, Cordeiro Grant decided anyway to start the bra and apparel company of her dreams, which she called Lively. To cope with the possibility of failure, she took an unusual and audacious approach. "In my mind, I was like, this is doomed to fail. Let me do everything backwards," she told Inc.'s What I Know podcast.
First, she launched without a product or a brand identity. Instead, she started with an idea--and a community of women online to help workshop it. They would, with any luck, become the first fans, supporters, and brand ambassadors for the Lively brand online. She brainstormed with them and took feedback on campaign images and tag lines. One struck a chord: "Wild hearts and boss brains." They created a refer-a-friend email campaign around it, starting with 250 emails. By morning, they had 133,000 emails--a viable group that had opted in to be the first to hear about the company's launch.
Another "backwards" move: Cordeiro Grant started by setting the prices of all of Lively's bras at $45 apiece. They didn't all cost the same to make, and doing so wouldn't give her consistent margins--but simplicity in pricing seemed to be a factor in customer satisfaction for other DTC startups, so she went with it.
Within three years of the launch, Cordeiro Grant was entertaining offers for the New York City-based company. In 2019, she sold it for an estimated $105 million to Japanese lingerie-maker Wacoal.
For her full story, listen to What I Knowin the player below, on Apple Podcasts, or anywhere you get your audio stories.