Melissa Gonzalez is a fearless woman in her own right. Founder of The Lion’esque Group, an experiential retail pop-up shop agency helping brands reimagine and reformat their retail touch points. She’s also Co-founder of The Market Pop-up spaces at the Roger Smith Hotel. She offers her insights on all things retail and innovation on her ABC LA Radio segment #retailwithmelissa and retail expert on Cheddar TV. She’s grounded, she thinks outside the box and has become an influence in the retail space.
What’s your connection with the Roger Smith Hotel?
I was introduced to the Roger Smith hotel ten years ago via Brendan Crane and John Knowles, Founder of The Market Pop-ups. I have been a partner to John and the hotel since launching RSPOP together in September 2009
How do you get your week started?
In the past year my husband became my business partner. We made a commitment to start our weeks and days with a focus on family time with our daughter and our little dog. Making space for a personal life helps reinvigorate energy for the work days ahead. On Sundays I also like to find an hour of time to go through emails, organize key goals for the week and organize my calendar the best way possible to start my week with clarity. On Sunday nights I like to fall asleep to a guided Inscape meditation.
Women empower women! Is there a woman in your life you consider to have been influential to you?
I would have to say that my mom is on the top of this list. She is my rock and the most driven person I know. She has always been a self motivated person and was never one to be discouraged, which was an admirable quality I observed growing up. I saw my mom create her own path, all the while ensuring her children had the opportunities she was not fortunate to have in her childhood. I admire women who are fearless and relentless, not allowing their past journey determine their possibilities of a better future – learning from experiences and using those life lessons as fuel to continue on the mission for success.
How do you manage to stay engaged in your field?
I always carve out time to read (online and offline), visit stores, and attend industry related conferences. In order to be good in our fields, it’s important to make time to learn, stay on top of trends and allow ourselves to also be inspired by others.
What barriers do you experience in leadership as a women and how do you manage?
Before starting my company I worked on Wall Street, a very male-dominated industry. In that environment I was constantly trying to prove myself and fit in with the “boys club”. Today, I feel my biggest barrier is my own comfort, especially when it comes to making decisions that involve seeking capital for a project. I remind myself of my finance background and I quickly change gears. The more comfortable I am with how the numbers flow the more confident I have become in pitch meetings.
What advice would you give to women entering your field?
Take it all in strides and give yourself breathing room to learn and iterate along the way. There is so much I have learned over the past 10 years and it’s easy to get caught up running a million miles an hour without taking pauses. It’s often when we come to a full stop, and in these moments of silence is where the best ideas are generated.
What’s unique about what you bring to the Popup Experience?
When we work with our clients, our goal is to bring their story alive. We dive in from day one into who they are as a brand, their voice, their goals, their target customers. We never pitch concepts or ideas without understanding that first. Our mission is the personification of them in a 3D world.
Some of our favorites at the Roger Smith hotel have been:
Ode a la Rose: where we created an immersive sensory lab around the variations of roses available from Ode a la Rose
#PeanutPower: where we worked with the national peanut board to drive awareness around the nutritional value and diverse benefits of peanuts and peanut butter. The people of midtown were very excited for complimentary peanut butter sandwiches each morning!
Name three women lead brands that are paving the way for the other women.
The Wing – a work and community space for women, which is also dedicated to creating programming, volunteer opportunities, and initiatives dedicated to the advancement of women in our wider community
Stella & Dot – an accessories company that supports women by giving them an opportunity for flexible income, Stella & Dot is more of a community than a company
Lively– I love their podcast series, “No Makeup Needed” where female leaders speak on building a biz, making an impact, and how to juggle it all.
For more info on Melissa visit Lionesquegroup.com