Running a side hustle on Shopify

an interview with Melissa Lorenzo-Hervé.

With over a million merchants, Shopify stores come in all shapes and sizes. While we don’t have actual statistics on this, we'd guess that over half of Shopify merchants are running their online business part-time (feel free to fact-check us, Shopify).

This week on the podcast we’re talking about side hustling on Shopify - how to balance a full-time job with running a Shopify store, and how to scale your business while keeping your time commitment low.




Melissa Lorenzo-Herve

If Olympic running meant from work, to her kids’ stuff, to check on a fabric, to a networking event, she’d be a medalist. She’s been at it (joyfully) her whole life. And she wondered: why does it have to be so hard to dress for the way we really live?

Melissa grew up staying with her Cuban grandmother in Miami after school, where the Singer sewing machine was the center of everything. Her Aba (short for abuela) could recreate a dress based on a glance into a shop window. The magic of a perfectly made dress is in Melissa’s very fibers.

Since graduating from law school, Melissa began a balancing act that’s never stopped. And it doesn’t for most of us. She wanted to create dresses that make us feel unstoppable.



Octane AI enables fast-growing D2C brands to increase revenue and collect data from the marketing channels your customers use.

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show notes.

  • [06:17] You’re still a legitimate business owner
  • [08:36] Kelly's side hustles
  • [12:00] Handling customer support
  • [14:33] Why Gorgias is so great
  • [16:40] Introduction to Melissa & Pirouette
  • [19:12] How Melissa learned to design and make dresses
  • [24:21] Supply chain management
  • [29:00] Fulfillment
  • [33:42] The history of pockets
  • [35:54] How Melissa started selling on Shopify
  • [37:36] Favorite Shopify apps
  • [42:19] Being an ethical and elevated brand
  • [47:01] Store shoutouts
  • [51:25] Where to find Melissa on the internet




Kelly (00:00):

With over a million merchants, Shopify stores come in all shapes and sizes. While we don't have actual statistics on this, I'd venture to say over half of Shopify merchants are running their business part time. And that includes myself. This week on the podcast, we're talking about side hustling on Shopify. How to balance a full time job with running a Shopify store and how to scale your business while keeping your time commitment low. We also speak with Melissa Lorenzo-Herve, an entrepreneur who is doing just this. Let's dig in.

Rhian (00:33):

Welcome to Commerce Tea, a podcast to help you succeed on Shopify. I'm Rhian.

Kelly (00:38):

And I'm Kelly. Grab a mug and join us as we talk about all things commerce.

Rhian (00:42):

Hey Kelly, how can merchants get more out of their Facebook Messenger and SMS marketing campaigns?

Kelly (00:58):

I recommend OCtane AI, the leading Facebook Messenger and SMS platform for Shopify and Shopify Plus merchants.

Rhian (01:04):

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Kelly (01:20):

What kinds of returns can I expect?

Rhian (01:23):

Merchants using Octane AI report 80 to 95% open rates, a 7x increase in click through rates, and even a 7% to 20% increase in revenue.

Kelly (01:32):

This sounds great. Where can I learn more?

Rhian (01:34):

You can start a 14 day free trial by requesting a demo at or by visiting the Shopify App Store and searching for Octane AI.

Kelly (01:44):

Good morning, Rhian.

Rhian (01:44):

Good Morning, Kelly. How are you?

Kelly (01:47):

I am doing great. I spent the entire weekend listening to Taylor Swift's new album Folklore.

Rhian (01:54):

And what are your thoughts?

Kelly (01:57):

It's amazing. I love it. I love Taylor Swift because every single album she puts out is different.

Rhian (02:03):

Yeah, she's so versatile.

Kelly (02:06):

She really is. She's so talented. She writes all of her own lyrics, which I absolutely love, because there's much more meaning to each of the songs. And she's just, I don't know, everything is great. Folklore is a really good album. Also, it's just a little intimidating, the whole like, what are you doing over this pandemic? Oh, I'm just writing and recording an entire album.

Rhian (02:28):

A fully produced.

Kelly (02:29):

Fully produced. I expect nothing less from her I guess.

Rhian (02:35):

I have an admission to make about Folklore. Two things. One, I learned how to play the 1 on piano and the drums.

Kelly (02:45):

Love it.

Rhian (02:45):

Two, I bought a cardigan from the song cardigan.

Kelly (02:49):

You did?

Rhian (02:50):

I did. I did. And then I bought vinyl in two different colors.

Kelly (02:55):

I love that and I am not at all surprised. I kind of wanted to buy the pullover that they had, it was available for one day. I'm so bad at shopping online. I have trouble spending money.

Rhian (03:10):

Well, it's fair. As I think we've talked about before on here and if we haven't, now you all know, if it's later at night, I make purchasing decisions I wouldn't normally make to a point where my husband and I have developed a rule called nothing after midnight, because if you buy something after midnight, you'll either forget about it or it may be more of an impulse buy than a really that you need buy because your inhibitions are already lowered because you're tired.

Kelly (03:43):

That's right. I love that. I love that you had to implement a rule.

Rhian (03:46):

Well, because we were just getting so many boxes and we were like, what are these boxes? I think our neighbors think we are batty. I'm fine with it.

Kelly (03:55):

I have one more thing to talk about with Taylor, it's just kind of funny.

Rhian (03:58):

Miss Swift.

Kelly (04:01):

So the same day that Taylor launched her new album on Spotify, she launched a store on Shopify. For people who get Spotify and Shopify confused all the time, it's a funny thing to see. And I know the Shopify Twitter account was making jokes about it. Also, Shopify and Spotify did their earnings calls on the same day too.

Rhian (04:25):

Just upping the confusion. If we weren't already confused. I've worked on a platform for going on seven years and my mom still sometimes is like, "So how's things with Spotify going?" I'm like, "Well, it's Shopify still."

Kelly (04:42):

I've been asked to create many Spotify stores.

Rhian (04:45):

Yeah. Although now, that's an integration I could get behind. What if there was a merch store integration directly from Spotify into Shopify?

Kelly (04:54):

Oh, there absolutely should be. That would be a wonderful integration.

Rhian (04:58):

Product idea for those listening.

Kelly (05:00):

Somebody make it.

Rhian (05:01):

Someone make it. Someone from Spotify or Shopify probably.

Kelly (05:06):

Maybe work together.

Rhian (05:08):

We're going to take a step back from that and let the big bosses handle that relationship. But I think it would be great to be able to shop-

Kelly (05:16):

They cold create a new startup and just call it Shpotify.

Rhian (05:20):

Shpotify. Ooh, we get IP take downs from places.

Kelly (05:26):

It's a different business.

Rhian (05:30):

Oh my gosh, that seems like an IP nightmare, but what do I know, I'm not an attorney. I just hire them. They just represent me.

Kelly (05:41):

Good. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Rhian (05:44):

So we're talking side hustles today. And I want to say one thing, I don't like when side hustle is used as a pejorative because I think that side hustles are really good and can also become something full time. My company was a side hustle to start with and now we are most certainly not a side hustle. I think in tech and in the DTC space, there's a lot of like, well, if you're not doing it full time, it's not legit. But I totally disagree with that. It just means that you're not taking venture capital so you can't just go into it full time. Often we see people bootstrapping who are side hustling. I love bootstrapping, that's what we did, that's what you've done.

Kelly (06:28):

Yeah, exactly. There's nothing that makes you a less legitimate business owner because you're not running your business full time. That's just stupid.

Rhian (06:36):

That is so stupid. So, Kelly loves side projects.

Kelly (06:44):

I do. My friends joke that I collect LLCs for a living.

Rhian (06:49):

That's fair.

Kelly (06:50):

I create a lot of companies.

Rhian (06:54):

I'm like that with domains. I've got a few LLCs, I got like two LLCs, C-corp.

Kelly (07:00):

My domain list is literally just my to do list, just side projects.

Rhian (07:05):

I have a great idea-

Kelly (07:06):

I pay $12 a year for them.

Rhian (07:08):

At some point I should do, you know what Rhian, you are not starting that company that you thought was funny six years ago. All of mine are like jokes too, like funny things that I think.

Kelly (07:19):

There's a website that already does this, but I wanted to create a website that has filler text like lorem ipsum but for kittens, and I was going to call it Lorem Kitsum.

Rhian (07:29):

I love that.

Kelly (07:30):

So I had the domain.

Rhian (07:32):

It's just meow, meow, meow, the whole time, hiss.

Kelly (07:35):

Meow, meow, meow, step on table, get in your way. I want [inaudible 00:07:38], no I don't. Claw your furniture. Oh, look, a bird, all the things.

Rhian (07:45):

So, this is totally a sidebar, but I fostered kittens during quarantine. I've fostered five so far. And four of them were bottle babies and I did a really great job of adopting all of them out, two of which to my mom and dad. Those two kittens, they were born in the dumpster, bless their little hearts. They like to drink human drinks, including coffee. If they see an open container, if you've never seen a kitten try to drink, they just drink by dunking their whole face in. And so, my parents have two kittens who are just running around dunking their faces and beverages all day long.

Kelly (08:32):


Rhian (08:33):

Normal, normal. I think you should do your Kitsum idea by the way. What are your current side hustles?

Kelly (08:44):

So currently, I have this podcast. I have another podcast that's called the ladybug podcast, which is me and two other women in tech talking all things tech career and code. And then I have two Shopify stores. So, that's [inaudible 00:08:58] relevant.

Rhian (08:57):

Not one, but two.

Kelly (09:01):

Yes. I have two Shopify stores. So, the first one is a merch store that I created. I'm a developer so I decided to create a bunch of merge for developers. It's all print on demand so I'm not doing any of the shipping or packing or anything like that. I'm creating the designs, and I'm using Printful for fulfillment and it works great, super easy. The second one, it's a little bit less traditional of a Shopify store, but I decided to do it anyway because I only use Shopify for everything. My pandemic project was writing a book.

Rhian (09:34):

Yes it was.

Kelly (09:35):

And I decided to write a book about freelancing because I started freelancing when I was 14 years old and did it for a very long time before I transitioned from being a freelancer into running an agency. So, I wrote a book about how to get started with freelancing. It's called Start Freelancing Today, and Rhian very kindly edited the book for me because I sometimes struggle with words.

Rhian (09:57):

Kelly is great at words, but she does love idioms.

Kelly (10:01):

I do love idioms. Exactly. So, I'm running the ebook on Shopify as well, so you can purchase the ebook. And I'm using the SendOwl app for digital downloads. So it will automatically send a zip file to the customer as soon as they purchase it that contains like a PDF, EPUB, mobi format. I think there's one other that I'm forgetting. And yeah, it works really seamlessly. If an order comes in that's marked with a high chance of fraud, it doesn't automatically fulfill the order. Instead, I get an email saying, hey, you might want to check into this. And then you have to manually approve the order. So, I run both of these Shopify stores.

Rhian (10:43):

Anything else?

Kelly (10:44):

I also have a Patreon that is basically like a community extension for Start Freelancing Today. So I have a Discord server that you can join. Get access to private channels. I do one on one coaching through the Patreon as well. I also do consulting on the side for merchants, for agency owners. And that is available through my own personal website at And then I do the taproom. Those are all on my things.

Rhian (11:19):

Casual, casual question. When do you sleep?

Kelly (11:25):

You know what, I get a good six and a half to seven hours of sleep every single night.

Rhian (11:30):

Okay, okay, that's great.

Kelly (11:32):

That's my limit. I can't sleep in past like 6:30, 6:45. And I usually go to bed somewhere between 10:30 and 11.

Rhian (11:40):

That's not bad.

Kelly (11:42):

It really isn't bad.

Rhian (11:43):

No. I love to sleep in.

Kelly (11:45):

I'm thankful that I don't have other responsibilities. I don't have kids. I am only doing things at home right now so I don't have the outdoor responsibilities either. So, it definitely makes it easier for me to be able to balance so many things.

Rhian (12:03):

For sure, that makes a lot of sense. So, okay, question. So you've got all of these irons in the fire so to speak, speaking of idiomatic phrases. How do you manage customer support because customer support is paramount right to running any business?

Kelly (12:20):

It is. And I would venture to say that I don't get too many emails for the merch store. Most people who buy from my merch store are following me on Twitter or find the products on Twitter. So they might just send me a DM with a question. It's rare that that happens, maybe once a week tops. I get more emails about my book, though, in which case, maybe one a day, maybe like five times a week total. Again, it's not a terrible lot. But that does mean that I need to spend some time on the customer support side of things.

Kelly (12:56):

One of the things that's made that very easy for me is putting all that information front and center on the website on an FAQ section. One thing you'll notice about the Start Freelancing Today website, it is one single page. So, you don't have to browse various pages to find the different information. Everything's on that one page. For the merch store, I have a separate FAQ page just because there's a lot more products on there. But most people are able to get their questions answered right away because that information is always immediately available to them.

Rhian (13:28):

I think you just touched on something super important, and that is with customer support and trying, it's not that we don't want to talk to our customers or our merchants, but it is important to serve to them what they probably want to know so they never have to email again. And it makes a huge difference in their interaction with your store or your app or whatever it is that you sell online. And that's something that we have found is having an extensive FAQ, knowledge base, all that stuff. It's like okay, you can always tell, and we track metrics on what pages are getting looked at. And then oh, if people keep looking at this, does that mean that inside of our app or if you have a product, is there something UX wise broken or not totally intuitive that requires people to continue to look at this specific FAQ? Why is that? I like that kind of insight because it can make your site and product better.

Kelly (14:31):

For sure. I also want to take a moment to plug one of my favorite Shopify apps which is called Gorgias, G-O-R-G-I-A-S, and we'll link to it in the show notes. This is basically an all in one customer support solutions. So, you get questions on Facebook, on Instagram. You get emails, you get phone calls, you get contact form submissions, live chat. Wherever those questions are coming from, you can answer all them all under one roof. What's really cool also is that you can automatically pull like customer data. So, if somebody sends you an email saying, hey, where's my order, it'll pull up the order information and you can automatically create a response that contains their tracking number and things like that. So you always have that available to you.

Kelly (15:18):

I haven't personally used it for my own site just because I've noticed that the customer support requirement has been very limited. But once you find that you're starting to get more and more questions and it's harder for you to manage all of that, definitely look into using something like Gorgias. And this is not just for a side hustle kind of business, this is like enterprise brands are using Gorgias. I can't say enough good things about them.

Rhian (15:44):

I've heard nothing but great things about Gorgias as well. I love automating things in general. And customer support is great to automate as much as you possibly can, while still creating that personal touch.

Kelly (15:58):

So, we didn't create this podcast to talk about me and my million side businesses. So, I think this is now a good time to introduce our guest for this podcast and hear about her story and how she manages running her business while she has a full time job as well.

Rhian (16:24):

Today we have Melissa Lorenzo-Herve. A legal editor at Thomson Reuters by day and entrepreneur at night. Melissa, how are you doing?

Melissa (16:32):

Doing great. Thanks for having me.

Rhian (16:35):

Thank you so much for coming on Commerce Tea. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Melissa (16:40):

Sure. I live in Marblehead, Massachusetts, which is just a little bit north of Boston. I'm from Miami. I'm Cuban American like most people from Miami. I went to law school at Penn. I went to undergrad at Amherst College, and that's in New York, for a while, which was my dream since I first visited the city when I was seven years old. Had my daughter, then I had my little boy. And worked at law firms for a few years. Then went into legal publishing, which is what I've been doing for over 13 years now. And I love what I do at Practical Law, which is part of Thomson Reuters. I publish legal guides, I update them when the law changes. I work with a fabulous team. I love that what I'm doing gets to tangibly help lawyers and save people so much time and get up to speed.

Melissa (17:31):

And then I've always been into fashion, I've always been obsessed with dresses and fashion magazines and different styles from different eras. And so, I created this line of wear anywhere dresses, all made in New York in the garment district. And I just wanted to solve this problem that was bothering me and that was women missing out on things after work because they weren't dressed for that event or that going away party or that spontaneous get together. And a few years ago, you might remember, we were hearing a lot about pay inequity, women making so much less than men for the same amount of work for the same amount of time. And I was seeing a lot of time inequity. I was a mom already and I was seeing women missing out and just spending more time getting ready to leave to go to work and getting ready to go out after work.

Melissa (18:24):

And so I thought, there's a way I can design a dress based on this shirt dress I had and based on the typical men's shirt that he wears to work, the button down, and make a really refined version of that, and make it so that it's classic and you can wear it today, tomorrow in a few years. And so, that's what launched this whole idea to create Pirouette and to create a line of dresses that are transformers in a way and that adapt to the woman's style whether she's wearing it to work or whether she's wearing it after work or on the weekend to an event.

Kelly (18:59):

I Absolutely love that. I think that's one of the best ways to start a business is there's a certain problem you have in mind and what is that problem you're solving. And it's amazing. How did you learn how to make dresses?

Melissa (19:13):

I'm still learning actually. I wish I had a sewing machine, I could just push them out all day. I grew up with a grandmother who had her little Singer sewing machine right next to the kitchen counter. So every day after school, we'd go to my grandmother's house, who lived just a block away. My grandmother grew up very poor in Cuba, very poor. If she wanted a dress, she basically had to make it. And so, she would tell us about looking at dresses in the windows in Havana. And then based on how the drape and the fabric was on the mannequin, she would then buy the fabric and recreate that dress without a pattern. Her and her sisters would make these dresses just to have something to wear, not even something fancy.

Melissa (19:57):

And so, when she came as an exile to New Jersey and ended up working in factories, she ended up learning more about sewing with different machines and getting access to more fabrics. And so, growing up, she would make us Halloween costume, she would take in the hems for school uniform skirts. And so she would make quilts and blankets and all these little things. And so, I just grew up seeing it without learning how to do it, but understanding a bit, and then also being very short myself and very petite, I constantly had to go to tailors to have things taken in. There you'd learn a lot when you see what the tailors do when they add darts in the back or different things they do to make a dress fit you. And so that helped me learn a bit. And then just reading and digesting as much as I can from fashion magazines, I learned what works and what doesn't work and the lines that look best on different body types.

Melissa (20:48):

And so, I really didn't know much at all. I had no reason to go into this. But I thought this problem isn't going away. It's not just for me. Other women need this. We would save so much time if we had dresses that we could just keep wearing to more than one occasion. And I was always very attracted to that whole Marie Kondo mindset of having things that make you happy but that are multifunctional that have more than one purpose. And also, I think I had some closet envy just looking at my husband's closet and knowing that what he has in there could work for anything. And women sometimes we open our closets and we're like, I have nothing to wear, even though there's like 80 things in there.

Kelly (21:31):

My husband's side of the closet, he buys button downs for every occasion, perfectly separated out with an inch apart. It looks so good. And then you look at my side of the closet and it's just like, it's just a mishmash of everything. And with this tiny little section for dresses that are mostly not for everyday occasions. So, I'm going to be doing some shopping.

Melissa (21:54):

That's the thing that we're sold to in a way that's very different from how men are sold to, and that bothered me a lot. So I thought, no, we deserve this too. We can have a dress version of that button down shirt, a really well made version using really, really nice fabric so that we feel good. It's almost like the alternative to a suit sometimes. You feel like when you're wearing a certain power dress that you can just take on the world or kill that presentation, or make sure that when you walk into a room, I think this is also important for minorities and for women who are on the shorter side of town like me, that's a big deal for us. We need to wear something that gives us that extra boost of confidence. And that's going to present us in the light that we want.

Melissa (22:38):

I one time was mistaken for the delivery person at my firm in New York because I had my coat on and my hat I guess, and the secretary thought I was delivering lunch because I was holding my lunch. And I'm like, I work two floors above you. I'm an associate here. It's crazy. But it's a reminder that we're being judged by how we look and we're sometimes judging ourselves by how we look and we need to feel good about ourselves. And sometimes just having that right dress on that fits well and looks great can give us that boost of confidence that helps us do what we want to do in the way that we want to do.

Rhian (23:09):

First of all, that sucks that you've had that experience. I do want to acknowledge that. She's shrugging her shoulders, we can see each other.

Melissa (23:20):

It's so much worse for so many other people. So many other people had worse experience. But I just remember that specific moment because it was so weird to me. I guess all these other things don't count. If I'm carrying a brown bag and have a winter wooly hat on with my blue pea coat, I guess I look like a delivery person to you because of my height. I don't know.

Kelly (23:42):

It's the question we're all asking.

Rhian (23:45):

Yeah, you're like, I went to Penn.

Melissa (23:47):

Because I don't have it written on my forehead. A lot of women have that kind of, they walk into a room, they have those stories and they're asked to go get the copies. And they're like, no, I'm on this deal, I'm not the secretary, I'm not the intern. I'm here to edit the merger agreement. Just because [inaudible 00:24:08] doesn't mean that I'm just assisting someone else.

Rhian (24:16):

So I have a question for you. We've talked a bit about how you design your dresses. What is your supply chain like? I know you say that you're made in New York. Can you walk us through how you got from concept to product?

Melissa (24:31):

Sure. And I think the main theme here will be hashtag slow motion startup because it took me so long to figure things out since I don't come from that world, I didn't go to FIT, I don't have friends who graduated from Parsons. I don't have that big network. Now I do but back then I didn't. And I was working on the east side. And when you're launching a fashion company, it's a much better idea to work on the west side because that's where the factories are, that's where that's textile mills have their reps. So I was basically taking the seven train across town during lunch so that I could meet with someone who would be willing to sell me fabric or someone who would be willing to create a sample for me.

Melissa (25:11):

I guess to make it a super, super, super short story, I had this idea. I was talking to friends about it. One of my friends works at small consumer driven VC firm. He recommended I speak with someone else. That woman is a serial entrepreneur. I joined her boot camp. There, I met other people who were trying to launch a fashion-centered company. And then one of those women used to work for Macy's and Tommy Hilfiger. So working with her, I was able to meet with and figure out how to draw, how to create the first template. Actually, the person who made my wedding dress made our first template, made our first sample, then I had to remake it. And basically, someone said, follow the crumbs.

Melissa (25:56):

So basically by talking to more people, even people who weren't in fashion, I was able to meet more people who could guide me and say well, meet with this person or go talk to this person, he does samples for these brands. And then someone from law school recommended I speak with her friend. That woman is a production manager. I ended up hiring her. And she introduced me to a lot of other fashion people, textile reps. And then little by little, putting the pieces together and getting the first template done, making all the samples, and then creating more versions of those samples in local New York City factories.

Melissa (26:29):

So my supply chain, you couldn't really say it's very direct. It's like I found this mill in Italy, I love their fabric. Let's import that fabric. I found this sample maker, let's send the fabric to that guy. And it's just like little by little. Days, sometimes weeks apart, because I'm a full time job and two little kids, I'm commuting from Manhattan to Hoboken back and forth every day. So, took a long time just to get it started, just to launch, just to create the website. Everything took so long.

Kelly (26:56):

I love that hashtag by the way. Can you say it one more time?

Melissa (26:59):

Hashtag slow motion startup. It just occurred to me the other day, and I feel like that's what I'm going to start mentioning when people are like, oh, when did you found your company? We've had it for a while, but I've been doing this in slow motion.

Kelly (27:15):

And I think that's actually one of the things we talked about with [Yelitsa 00:27:18] on our previous podcast episode, that we often see when businesses take off and expect them to have always been like that. And there's so much work that went in on the background of just getting to where you are today that people just don't really respect I guess. There's not enough focus on all the hard work that goes into building a business. We're only looking at, now we're like a so-called overnight success.

Melissa (27:42):

Right. And consumers and people in general in media, they are interested in that BTS, that behind the scenes story. We should be talking about that. Founders should be putting that out there. But then there's also this, you know how there's this hustle porn, there's this almost glorification of the don't sleep and drink your lunch and work all the time. And then raise your friends and family round. And that doesn't apply to a lot of people. We can't think that there's just one avenue to success or there's just one avenue to scaling a company. There are a lot of great ideas out there that are not going to launch with a friends and family around because the person who's building that company doesn't have that type of friend and family.

Kelly (28:24):


Melissa (28:25):

Right? Or even how to pitch and all that or have a Kickstarter campaign. That was something that people recommended to me, and I was like, it sounds like a third job actually. I can't have a Kickstarter campaign. I'm just going to use part of my salary to fund this. It's something when I think about slow motion startup, I think about how I can just help other people understand that there's more than one way to do this. You don't have to quit your job, you don't have to have friends and family around. You don't have to immediately seek VC funding if you have a good idea that you want to test or that you want to maybe launch a direct to consumer company or something like that.

Kelly (28:59):

For sure. I have a question about how you manage fulfillments. I know we've talked a little bit about the supply chain. So on the other side of things, how do you manage the fulfillment process?

Melissa (29:11):

This is so funny because yesterday I got an order and I went down to the basement to fulfill that order. I basically have in my basement racks and racks of clothing, and then I have bins where they've been put into poly bags by the manufacturer by the sewer in New York. And so as soon as I get an order, I just go, I use Shopify Of course, thank god, they're the best at everything. That removes that size from that inventory so someone else can't order it. But then I just go and I pack it up myself and print it out and drop it off at the post office or at the UPS that's a few blocks from my house. Eventually, I should say when it gets too big and too busy, then maybe I would have a third party shipper. But I'm nowhere near that point yet. I'm packing everything up myself and shipping it off and including little notes and hoping it doesn't get returned because it fits just right.

Kelly (30:11):

Let's talk about that little note. Those are one of my favorite parts of receiving a package from a company. It's like a little handwritten touch of a thank you. Have you always done that?

Melissa (30:23):

Always. Always done that. Signed it myself. I want them to know that the person who made this is the one who's sending this to you. It's in purple ink usually because that's the same color as our logo. I didn't even do it originally as a branding idea. I just thought, oh, this is nice, I'll just include this. And yeah, you're right, it does resonate. When I receive things like that, I almost feel like oh wow, almost as if a celebrity had signed the note. The person who founded the company sent me this. The reason I was doing it and the reason I keep doing it is because I want that person to know, every single time I want that woman to know, you're the only Woman in Illinois with this dress. You're the only woman in Switzerland with this print. And that's special and that's another value. And that should be something that you know about so that when you wear it, you have that extra reason to feel good about it.

Melissa (31:15):

And it's true, it's a big deal to me that I can produce as many as I produce and people are used to this mass merchandise world where, oh, the size 10 in Navy is sold out. When is it going to be back in stock? It's not going to be back in stock. When they're gone, they're gone, and then I'll move on to other fabrics and other prints. So you need to know that when you get something from Pirouette, you're really lucky that you were able to be one of the three people who could have that dress in that size because our runs are just so limited because that's what I can afford. I can't afford to go to India and produce thousands of every piece and every size.

Rhian (31:52):

I love that. I love buying things that are exclusive. At the risk of sounding, Kelly's laughing because I'm really into fashion. I love having something, like when I go to a conference, when conferences come back, I will wear something I know no one else is going to have on their body because it's something that I really enjoy, and that is part of my personal brand. It's just an aesthetic that I really. Also, I do want to call out the fact that that shirt dress has pockets. I just want to say that out loud because a dress with pockets to me is the perfect dress. Otherwise I'm like, where's my phone, I have to wear a handbag, there's so many things. I love that shirt dress. I also wear a lot of black so I'm like black shirt dress, yes, that's very much on brand for me.

Melissa (32:52):

I was so obsessed with getting the pocket to be where you didn't know there was a pocket unless you use the pocket. It's like invisible and functional, because sometimes there's a fake pocket in a dresser or in a skirt and you're like, why is it here.

Kelly (33:06):

That is the worst.

Melissa (33:10):

Why did you tease me with this nonfunctional toddler pocket? What am I going to put in here, crayon? I'll put a quarter in my fake pocket so I pass by a gumball machine, I can take out my quarter.

Kelly (33:23):

That's exactly it.

Melissa (33:23):

You never seen men's jackets or pants with fake pocket. Here's your decorative pocket on your left butt cheek. That never happens. But for women, it's like, we're going to put a cute little pocket over your right boob. Isn't that cute? No, take the pocket away then if you're just going to put it there. You know when I really got into pockets? When I really got into pockets after I had already made a few dresses is when I learned about the feminist history of pockets and how they were illegal for a long time in England and in other parts of Europe. Because if you were a woman, men didn't want you to have a way to carry political pamphlets or information. You could be a spy if you had something in your pocket. So if you are a woman and you are carrying around money or whatever it is, poison, whatever, you were going to carry it in the way that was visible in your purse, so that if the police or anyone stopped you, they could look inside your purse without touching you.

Melissa (34:24):

There weren't any laws against men having pockets. So men were able to be spies and have papers and money and stuff on their person. But women had to always have it in a separate thing that could be taken from them. And once I was hearing more about that, I was like, all the more reason why we need to have pockets. My phone and my credit card and whatever I want is in my pocket.

Rhian (34:48):

Your vial of poison.

Melissa (34:48):

Vial of poison. My Hamilton papers, my political pamphlets. Mini version of the Constitution. I want to hide it in my pocket so you won't know about it.

Rhian (35:04):

I love the thought of having a pocket constitution, just like ready to go. [crosstalk 00:35:14]

Melissa (35:14):

[inaudible 00:35:14] rights when you arrest me.

Rhian (35:17):

Thank you for sharing the history of pockets with us. I actually didn't know that and I have an entire degree in women's studies.

Melissa (35:24):

There's a podcast about it. You can look it up. That's how I found out about it. My brother sent it to me. There's a whole podcast that explains the entire history of the feminist background of pockets and how crazy it was. Yeah, it was crazy. It was really daring. So then when women did have pockets, it was like a secret pocket.

Rhian (35:42):

Oh, well, there's no pocket like a secret pocket. Okay. So question for you, you've mentioned that you sell on Shopify, and that it took you a little while to get up and running. Can you talk to us about how you got started selling on Shopify and what that process has been like for you?

Melissa (35:59):

Sure. So first we were on Squarespace and I can't remember why.

Rhian (36:02):

I'm not laughing at you, but we've heard that before.

Melissa (36:09):

But even now, when people tell me, I'm on Squarespace, I'm like, but you're not a dentist in Idaho. You're selling something, get it on Shopify, that wasn't built for you. So anyways, I had the whole site built on Squarespace, not myself, I had someone do that. And then when I transferred to Shopify because I saw that it was going to be easier and they had a bunch of apps that I wanted to use that weren't available in Squarespace. It ended up that Squarespace had like an app or something where they read all of your inventory and information on Squarespace and they transfer it. And I swear, it cost me like $63 and maybe 12 minutes to transfer everything over and then just have edit supplied by a web designer.

Melissa (36:48):

And then I kept just using more Shopify apps and more things that Shopify offers to just enhance the site and make it so that there's as little friction as possible. And I still haven't done everything I want. You might have heard recently, with that big town hall that they did, they're now offering gift cards without purchasing the app. There's all these other things now you could do for free on Shopify so I still have to take advantage of all that and upgrade it but I couldn't be happier with them and then with everything that they offer and how streamlined everything is.

Kelly (37:23):

For sure. And also, if you're tuning in and you did not listen into the town hall, we recap all of the releases and all the announcements that were made on our first episode of this podcast. So, we will link to that in the show notes.

Melissa (37:35):

Oh, cool. Great.

Kelly (37:35):

Yeah. So speaking of Shopify apps, what are some of your favorite apps that you use?

Melissa (37:43):

Where to start. Well, the most recent one I learned about is Kit. Have you seen this one?

Kelly (37:51):


Melissa (37:51):

Automated ads and promotions. I think that's brilliant. What other apps do I have there? I don't have the messenger one. For that I used Drift. I don't remember all the names. I'd have to go into that.

Rhian (38:08):

We totally put you on the spot too. This was no warning. We're just like, hey, what apps do you use?

Melissa (38:14):

Because you know why, they're so streamlined that they're there and they're almost invisibly working behind the scenes so I'm not hyper aware of them.

Rhian (38:23):

That's the perfect kind of app.

Melissa (38:26):

Maybe I added it at one point and then I forgot about it because it's just running behind the scenes. The reason I know about Kit is because they send me text messages and I have to respond. And then the gift card one, I was going to add that and then they made it free, so I'm not adding that one. I'm trying to think, what other ones. There must be some that are for the way that the website actually looks with the color options. You can choose whether it's petite or regular and then choose your size.

Melissa (38:52):

Oh, the scarcity. I think there's one that highlights scarcity. So let's say there's only three left of a certain dress right and a certain size, it'll mention that so you know whether you should move now to place your order so it doesn't get sold out. There must be another app that I'm not using where if its size is sold out, you can just get on the waitlist and then you can add your email.

Kelly (39:11):

Sign up like a back end stock notification?

Melissa (39:13):

Yes. I need to add that. I saw Mara Hoffman has a really, really good one because as you're selecting the size, it's already letting you know. Before you've even put in your size, you're just scrolling down and you're seeing that that size is sold out, but it doesn't say sold out. It says add to waitlist or get on waitlist, something like that. I need to do something like that for Shopify.

Rhian (39:35):

What email client do you use?

Melissa (39:38):


Rhian (39:39):


Kelly (39:41):

So are you using the ShopSync app to connect your customers over into MailChimp?

Melissa (39:46):

Yes. And I didn't even know that that was the name of that app. [inaudible 00:39:50] what about you guys?

Rhian (39:53):

It's our jobs to know the name of [inaudible 00:39:54].

Kelly (39:54):

That's what I do for a living.

Melissa (39:58):

I've been using the ShopSync app since the beginning. There's another app I think that just made it onto the Shopify universe. Octane OI or Octane AI.

Kelly (40:11):

Octane AI. They're actually sponsoring this episode.

Rhian (40:14):

Yes, they are sponsoring this episode.

Melissa (40:16):

No way. Are you kidding me? I've personally spoken on the phone with their founder.

Rhian (40:27):

That's awesome.

Kelly (40:28):

This was like the perfect sponsor plug. I think they're going to love this.

Melissa (40:31):

He's the nicest guy. He's the nicest most generous guy in the world. I just set up something to see how it worked. I didn't know anything about it. And I was expecting a demo from a sales rep, right? And it was him. I was like why are you doing your own demos? Do you not have enough people working for you? He's the founder and the CEO, and he's like, oh, no, I like to do some of these. It keeps me in contact with the customer. And then we ended up speaking about Arlen Hamilton and we ended up speaking about [inaudible 00:40:59] add Klaviyo. And then you want to add this. And he was sending me all these things, he's like, and this you can't afford yet, but when you have these many shipments, then you add this. And it was like, I was writing everything down. Okay, one day when I'm selling tons of dresses, these are all the apps that I'll have to get. But I saw his announcement the other day that they became part of the Shopify world.

Kelly (41:22):

They're now a Shopify Plus app partner.

Rhian (41:25):

Yes, they are.

Melissa (41:26):

Well, well deserved because they're doing amazing things.

Rhian (41:30):

I am so happy to hear that you had that experience that you're able to talk to their CEO. That's such a great experience for apps to do. I try to take three to five merchant calls a week, just to check in. And I think it's such a great practice for app companies to have because it makes sure that you actually know what's going on and you're not just in your ivory tower building an app being like, oh yes, I'm building apps for you. As opposed to, hey, let me get this feedback in real time. I already was a huge fan of Octane. We love them. Obviously, they're sponsoring us, but I loved them independently of that. So I'm so happy to hear that you had such a positive experience with them.

Rhian (42:15):

Okay, so quick pivot. I know that your brand is centered around being ethical and elevated. Can you talk to us more about those core pillars of your brand?

Melissa (42:29):

Sure. Can I do it in reverse?

Rhian (42:32):


Melissa (42:33):

The elevated part came from being sick and tired of buying things that look cute on the rack or maybe look cute on the website, but then when you actually feel the fabric or wear it a few times, it was no longer looking that way or it didn't have that integrity of the fabric. It would pill, even if I had only dry cleaned it. It didn't perform in the way that I would expect a dress or let's say a pair of pants to perform at that price. So the more you learn about fashion and the more you learn about the different things that go into the price, you learn about how you're paying for things that you're not benefiting from. You paid for that ad in that magazine or you paid for something that isn't directly related to the dress you're wearing. And some of that you understand like when you buy a perfume bottle, you know that the majority of what you paid didn't go into the juice, it went into the packaging.

Melissa (43:25):

But I wanted to make it so that when you bought a dress, the majority of what you paid went into the fabric, because by creating a dress that had the best fabric available on the market, you are going to get a dress that you can wear over and over and over again. And that was necessary, that wasn't a choice because the entire branding, the entire reason behind the styling was I was saying, these are classic styles, these are timeless styles. You can wear these dresses today, you could wear them in five years, you can wear them in 10 years. Your mom can wear them, you can wear them. I can't say that with a straight face if it's going to pill after you've dry cleaned it five times. Great. The style held up. It's not the cold shoulder sweater that you're not going to keep growing next season. But it doesn't look nice anymore. It's falling apart. And I had had that with fast fashion type clothing I had bought.

Melissa (44:16):

So that's what informed the elevated. I wanted it to look really nice and professional and sort of not needing translation. You could wear it in France, you could wear it in Miami, you could wear it in New York, you could wear it in Hong Kong, and you would transmit that energy of I look really nice, I can go anywhere in this, I look polished, I can go into any restaurant, into any party and feel good and look great. So that was something that I couldn't deviate from. It ended up making everything expensive. It ended up making just the dress way more expensive than I would have liked. But I had to just accept that.

Melissa (44:57):

And then the ethical part just came from wanting to work with people in a way that I could respect myself. I wasn't okay with sending this off to some random factory that I had no idea how they were treating their employees, and then working in these small little garment factories in New York and meeting these people. And some of them didn't speak English, and learning about them and their families and their problems with immigration and visas and all of these things. I just felt like this is the right way to do this. I only want to make sure that I'm working with factories that treat their people well, that care about what they're doing, that are happy doing what they're doing. And so, that informed again, everything else.

Melissa (45:44):

And then I worked with Nadiyah Spencer Bradshaw, who's production specialist, production manager. And that was always her thing and that's what she's always focused on in her career and with the brands she works with. So, it was all very aligned and one thing fed into the other. Just something I was already interested in before it became sexy or yet another marketing talking point that more companies were interested in pushing. It was just something that was inherent to me, and I didn't even know that it was something I should talk about. It was later working with branding agencies that I was told you need to mention this, you need to mention that they're made in New York City. You need to mention that you're working with these small production sewing and cutting companies sometimes owned by a single woman or owned by a husband and wife team. And so, that's when it became part of the three main branding pillars, ethical, elevated and easy.

Kelly (46:40):

I absolutely love that. I think it's really important to have those types of people in your circle to kind of help, especially when you're new to eCommerce and in particular, just running a business entrepreneurship, having that guide to talk you through what is the best practice here, what is going to help me with my sales. So, I'm really glad you have that.

Melissa (47:00):


Kelly (47:01):

So, we are going to shift a little bit to what we like to do at the end of each of our episodes, which is a store shout out. So, if there's an online store, a brick and mortar location, or even just somebody who's inspired you, I'd love for you to give somebody a shout out.

Melissa (47:20):

Yes. I want to give a shout out to a very new company also direct to consumer and they're called Brown Girl Jane. They're actually out of California. They are owned by three women. They were recently founded to help women have access to the highest quality wellness and health products that include non-THC CBD in them. So they have creams, they have tinctures, they have a glow serum. And they have this very limited group of products. And their website is Brown Girl Jane.

Melissa (47:58):

And one of their founders, Tai Beauchamp, who's also in LA, has been doing a lot to help people understand what it takes to found the company, what it took for her to join the two sisters who also founded the company with her. And when you go on their website or on their Instagram, you actually learn way more than you thought you would learn. Not just about health and wellness, but mental health, for example, or what these ingredients are, what we should be thinking about with the current conversations with Black Lives Matter and with everything from working from home to figuring out how to manage our crazy days. And it's all very on brand with their products, but it also feels like you're getting more out of it than just another place to buy a skin cream, for example.

Kelly (48:44):

I think that story component is so important for brands. And I'm looking at their website right now and they nail it.

Melissa (48:50):

You see them. It's not just beautiful, but you're like, I want to hang out here.

Kelly (48:55):

Exactly. That is your end goal for your website. This is the Amazing.

Melissa (49:00):

If you go to their Instagram, you'll see things like, sometimes they'll do lives with different people and you're like, I'm so lucky, I'm part of this conversation. And really you're not. You're listening in but you still feel like, oh, I'm lucky I got to hear this tidbit of this person speaking with this other person.

Kelly (49:16):

I love it.

Rhian (49:17):

That's wonderful. So Kelly, why don't you share your store of the week?

Kelly (49:23):

Yeah. So my store this week is called Luella, it's L-U-E-L-L-A, it's I think their stuff is super cute. They have a bunch of shirts that are support women-owned businesses, and sisterhood is powerful. Just really uplifting kind of things, especially for other women. And I am totally going to be buying one of their support women owned businesses shirts because I've been staring at it for like two weeks now.

Rhian (49:52):

You got to do it. You got to it, it's time. My store of the week is I was remarketed to very successfully on Instagram. And it's essentially a deposit only conditioner you can put in your hair. So, I'm immunocompromised so I'm not going to a hairstylist or anything for a very long time. And my color was looking a little bit weak. And it just oomphed it up, and you just put it on once a week and that's that. I think, not only A, is it a timely product, but B, is a really cool product because let's say you have a teenager or you, for instance, want to try rose gold hair or blue hair. That's not something I would personally would do for a long time but total respect if that's your gig. I'm a redhead pet girl. It's a way to try new things out that you might not have tried before. I like that they've given that moment. And also it smells great and it works great because, I've done it twice now.

Melissa (51:05):

Does it work on hair that hasn't been dyed?

Rhian (51:08):

It does. They have a line for darker hair. It's just deposit only. And it just adds a little from what I understand, adds just a little bit of hue to your hair. So it just oomphs it up, [inaudible 00:51:20] it up. Last question. Where can we find you on the internet?

Melissa (51:29):

So happy you asked. The website is And that's And on Instagram, it's @pirouette_NYC.

Rhian (51:45):

Phenomenal. Thank you so much for coming on our show today. We really appreciate your time.

Melissa (51:50):

Thank you for having me. It's been so fun.

Rhian (51:53):

Of course. It's absolutely been our pleasure.

Melissa (51:57):

Thank you so much.

Kelly (52:01):

Thanks for tuning in, and thanks again to our sponsors for supporting this episode. You can subscribe to Commerce Tea on your favorite podcasting service. We post new episodes every Tuesday, so grab your mug and join us. See you next week.

Rhian (52:21):

ClockedIn is a time clock for Shopify. With ClockedIn, your team members can easily clock in and out of their shifts from anywhere. You can manage your team's hours as they work remotely with an intuitive interface that can be used from desktop, tablet or mobile. Check it out a or in the Shopify App Store.


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