23 Sep 2019
When we met Mélissa Lambert, the founder of the eponymous company which offers an entire range of vegan bags and accessories that are only growing in popularity, she welcomed us with a smile on her face and her baby Thomas in her arms. Standing there in the Saint-Jacques location, we learn that this is not the first work/family rodeo for the businesswoman and mother of three, nor for the boy listening to his mom speaking. Ready to conquer the rest of the country, starting with Toronto, the CEO reflects on her achievements and shows us her projects.
Mélissa sees a big future for Old-Montréal. “I would love to make this place a fashion destination. I think that there are many here that share this mission: Denis Gagnon, SSense, OTH, Harricana, John Fluevog, Maison Pepin, etc. In all the big cities there is a neighbourhood touted as their “5th Avenue, New York” of their town, and I think we can do that here,” she tells us excitedly. And she’s not missing a thing in her projects, and they really make the neighbourliness and vibe of the Vieux come to life: “I would like to maybe develop more soirées or VIP days with Cookie Stéphanie or Tommy, for example, and offer a unique shopping experience here in the boutique.”
And does Mélissa have any general advice? She thinks for a second before saying, “Surround yourself with the right crowd, evaluate your risks, and dive in. Me, I always ask myself, ‘Okay, what is the very, very worst scenario?’, and if I can take it on, I jump in! And also, invest. Including your personal funds. I know that it’s scary, but when you believe in your idea, you need to give it all the chances you can.”
Lambert was born from a winning combination: a need and a desire. The need? That of a young, active mother in her early-thirties, wanting to keep a professional demeanor without sacrificing the practicality of her baby bag. The desire? Again, Mélissa’s, who was then employed as brand manager for Vidéotron and felt herself capable of applying all the business strategies that she had put in place for her employer toward a product or project of her very own.
But an idea is not itself a mark of success. She needed to work, invest and reinvest. “During my maternity leave, I could not stop working. I was even working overtime,” she explained. “I had talked about it with my partner, also a businessman, and I told myself: ‘I need to try this!’” And Mélissa didn’t launch an amateur project – from the logo to the design, she put her whole efforts into it from the start. “I thought of thousands of names before finally choosing Lambert. It’s funny, I thought that couldn’t really use my own name as a brand,” she admits, as she looks upon the name displayed everywhere in the store.” But, I wanted a name that could evolve. I launched the brand with a baby bag model, but I wanted to leave myself the opportunity to develop my line. And that’s what we’re doing to this day.” Visionary? Absolutely. Strategic? Most assuredly. Lucky? She had a chance and she took it.
While Mélissa tasked a designer with creating her bag models, and a team was busy on her logo and site, she invested her personal funds and ordered 2,000 bags. The first ones came in three different models. “I wanted to use three, because if I only had one, and the customers didn’t like it, then they would never come back. So I said, ‘let’s go with three. Let’s make an investment’,” she remembers. Her first sales started out among her friends and colleagues who wanted to support her.
“At first, I sold door-to-door, with my son in the back of the car. But then after having sold a hundred, I still had bags and I needed to find a more adapted sales solution,” Mélissa explains. And that’s when the calendar gave her a little bit of a hand. Christmas 2017 was approaching, and she started a pop-up store, as a way of testing what owning premises would be like. By chance, a local store on rue Saint-Jacques had opened up in Old-Montréal.
And success came soon after, as clients were happy to be able to see and hold the bags in real life. “The boutique is still our flagship location,” Mélissa proclaims. “We have all models there; everything on our website is also sold there.” If the volume of online orders go up drastically, then our boutique is open six days of the week in the afternoon. “I particularly like this area,” she admits. “It gives me access to a clientele of mostly businessmen and businesswomen, especially from the courthouse, but also from the nearby hotels.”
The airing of “In the Dragon’s Eye”, at the end of spring 2018 was a real plus. “That really helped and brought some notoriety. I recommend every entrepreneur starting out try this, if not just for the experience and the resulting benefits.” The offer had not yet concluded, but the relationship still clicked between the two businesswomen, both mothers of three. “When you start building relationships,” she clarifies. “You really need to ask yourself, ‘as an entrepreneur, how will this partnership improve my business?” Leave sentiment behind, and think business.
And then her notoriety has grown, notably thanks to collaborations with influencers like Mitsou, Sara Couture, Jessie Nadeau, Maman Caféine, Noémie Lacerte, Justine Brouillette, etc. A current collection is actually signed by Élie Duquet. A good work content and indexing took care of the rest. But Mélissa emphasizes the importance of her team. “Without them, I would not have been able to have my third child in the way that I did. The girls kept the boutique running and really helped me out. I feel so lucky to have them!”