With nowhere to go last year, many of us found ourselves lounging around at home—in Lounge Underwear.
The UK-based direct-to-consumer giant just closed out a banner year: they earned $19 million in sales, a 3X increase from the year before, and quadrupled their team to 80 employees. In this episode of Shopify Masters, we chat with the life and business partners behind Lounge, Dan and Mel Marsden, to learn how they created a brand beloved by influencers, and how they are incorporating sustainability and inclusivity into their day to day operations.
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Combining business savvy with female empowerment
Shuang: Take us back to 2015 when you first had the dream of starting this business. What inspired you to start Lounge?
Dan: I think the way Lounge was built was very different to other companies that were built at a similar time around the boom of social media because I think a lot of other companies were built around people finding a gap in the market where they couldn’t find a product that perfectly suited to them or they were really passionate about the product. Lounge was built in a different way because I’ve started up a load of businesses before Lounge. Lounge was reverse-engineered because we knew the perfect way to market a product but we didn’t have that perfect product. So there were loads of criteria that went into it. It had to be small to ship even down to the granular level.
It had to go into what was classified at the time as a large letter mail so we could go globally for relatively cheap. It had to be brandable so when people posted in it in social media, you knew who it was. Had to have large margins because we didn’t have any money at the time, we didn’t have any outside investment. Had to be cheap to store because we didn’t have any offices or warehouses at the time. Loads of criteria. And it just so happened that it was underwear and the first triangle design that we sketched up to fit around that marketing strategy perfectly.
This is a story of two halves. So you’ve got those business foundations and then you’ve got Mel’s side, the brand, and community, and the female empowerment side. But admittedly in the early days, it was about building a solid business, which in turn allowed Mel to build this amazing female community.
Mel: I think we essentially built meaning and realized what we wanted our values to be over time. The name Lounge was battered around and then we laughed when we came up with the name because we literally sat in our living room and it was like, “Oh, Lounge. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the one.” And I guess that story of female empowerment and inviting our community into this space that they felt safe and they felt like they were with their best friends even though it was in a social space. That came and has developed and evolved as the brand has and we’ve been scaling at such a pace the way that that journey has happened and the values that we can now share with massive social media and the wider community has become really powerful.
Shuang: Because there were already a lot of established global brands, how did you plan to differentiate your products and your service?
Dan: A lot of people obviously say it’s a very saturated market. I think when we started and even probably more so now, short of one or two brands, it doesn’t feel like there’s any competition out there. Five years ago, there wasn’t anyone. Obviously Victoria Secrets is of the big players, but they’re in decline. Short of that, every underwear brand out there feels very archaic. It doesn’t feel like they’ve got a strong brand. A lot of them feel like they’re in a mess so they don’t know who they cater for. It didn’t and it still doesn’t, feel like there’s any competition which I think is what makes lounge so exciting for everyone that works here because it feels like we’re scratching the surface, it doesn’t feel like we’re in a space where we wondered how we are going to compete with these guys?
Mel: But I do think that’s the underlying beauty of Dan’s personality. It sounds so cheesy as we’re a couple but he isn’t scared of anything. So the way we started our journey was with this really calm but underlying confidence that we will make this work between you and I with, you’re yin, I’m yang, we’re going to build something powerful here. And I think by having that mentality from day one, that was very humble, not arrogant, but just we were going to do this and we’ll have to figure out how we’re going to get there. I think that was a real golden nugget at the beginning of our journey.
Designing a brand based on first principles
Shuang: I understand Mel you have a journalism branding background and Dan has the business operation background, but the two of you actually didn’t have a design or fashion background. So how did you start to tackle design and production?
Mel: I think we’re both very in tune anyway as a couple. And although we don’t have a design background, we’ve got good taste so it meant that we knew what we wanted our product to look like and we knew what women wanted and we knew what do I like, what our community likes. And it started with literally just sketches and scrap pieces of paper, didn’t it Dan?
Dan: In the early days with the basic design, I think me and Mel got very similar tastes which flows through the brand. And even now with the design team, I’ll say to them, “I don’t know what it is that we need but when I see it.” Because we’re not designers but I think one of the beauties around the fact of being inexperienced and naive to an extent is you don’t follow the trends. I think if you’re brought up through another company, you get stuck in their ways. Because we didn’t have any experience. Everything we did was so fresh and it’s from the bat. We didn’t do a spring summer, autumn, winter collections, our collections lasts forever and I think that might have been probably a bit of a different strategy of what a lot of people do and they were bringing out seasons, they’d sell out, they’d bring out another collection. We don’t do that. We don’t work that way because we weren’t brought up in a fashion background I guess.
Mel: Five years in we’re still so ingrained in that design element of the brand to ensure that that vision that we had from day one doesn’t get lost when looking around and seeing what’s going on elsewhere in the market. We stay very focused on what it is that we want Lounge to be and what we want Lounge to offer.
Dan: Still to this day we don’t follow trends in any essence. So we don’t follow any kind of catwalks. We still to this day build what we think is cool and design what we think is cool and still go with that same strategy. We don’t get influenced by anyone so we just do what we want to do.
Selling through influencer marketing and creating an inclusive community
Shuang: So after those initial designs and you’re ready to start the store, how did you convince people to start buying their undergarments online and on your website?
Dan: In the very early days, it was pure influencer marketing. But the landscape of influencer marketing was totally different years ago to what it is now. We were very lucky in regards to we were brought up in a time where ecommerce and social media were blowing up. We’ve done a lot of things right and I think we’re very good at a lot of things, but timing plays a massive part in any company that grows at our rate and we have very good time in regards to there was a space in the market and I feel there still is because I don’t feel like there’s massive competition. You had social media that was about to boom, or was in the middle of booming and then ecommerce exploded at the same time.
Mel: And it goes back to what Dan said at the beginning of making sure that as soon as you saw that product and then feeling you knew exactly what it was, and that brand recognition was just there instantly and that was part of that power that allowed us to then build upwards from there.
Shuang: How did you start building this inclusive and empowering community of influencers?
Dan: This goes back to obviously being in a completely different landscape but I feel like now we’ve got the best influencer marketing strategy in the world because there’s not many companies that could grow up with it like we did. So five years ago, we didn’t have any money, there were very few brands, literally a handful that were doing influence marketing. So we could essentially test and learn from that space with little to no money, essentially just gifting products. Completely different to what it is now and just test and learn. So you could try different influencers, figure out what type of account worked with no real investment. If you came into it now you’d need to have a hell of a lot of knowledge of what you’re doing and a hell of a lot of money. We were very lucky to be in a space that was very new and essentially test it before it boomed. Now we’ve managed to build a massive knowledge base over five years in the early days without putting huge amounts of investment in, and we’ve been able to scale that knowledge and that investment as social media scaled.
Mel: It’s an element of consistency and making sure that from day one, we built relationships with these influencers that were just young women, at the time, they were still learning what it meant for them as well. But we introduced ourselves personally and we explained the brand to them, we tried to build a connection from the very beginning. So even now some of the girls that we worked with right at the beginning of our journey, they feel so deeply rooted and connected to what our values are now. The relationship is just so authentic and that then promoting our products just comes naturally to them because they actually love the product. And I guess making sure that that relationship was built right from the foundations through to where we are now, it was really important.
Shuang: How did you track all those relationships and ensure items were shipped to the right influencer and if the campaigns were performing as intended?
Dan: In the early days, we used to track shipments and if people posted by hand manually just from a database and the emails used to have almost a traffic light system.
Mel: We sat back to back with a different little database with different influencers.
Dan: Literally just an Excel document. And then in regards to an ROI, this is the real tricky bit because there’s still no perfect attribution system in regards to Influencer marketing. There’s obviously ways and means around it, some obvious ones like discount codes or affiliate links or swipe up links in [Instagram] stories. But because we were growing up in this time, you’ve got the knowledge and the experience of what works and what doesn’t work and to a degree, it comes down to making a call off the back of that experience of what you think works and doesn’t work. If you haven’t got a perfect attribution model and pixel like you can on Facebook or Instagram, you have got to make a judgment call to an extent and think, are they going to add value to my brand? Bear in mind, it’s not always just a monetary value, it’s a brand piece as well as an ROI piece.
Mel: It’s the best feeling, from the early days when you used to see an influencer posting your product, you’ll be like, “Oh my God, that’s what we designed.” But now the goodness comes when you see someone just organically wearing it. So they might just be peeking out of a sheer blouse or you see it poking out the top of their jeans and you think, “Oh, they genuinely love it.” I don’t blame them because I live in it too. They love the product which makes our whole strategy just that much easier.
Dan: There’s very few influencers that we work with just on a one-off basis. We tend to work on extended long contracts to actually build that authentication. I guess this isn’t just a business deal, it’s got value to it. We’d like to say we’re trying to build a relationship with these individuals and show that they have bought into the brand and it’s not just a one off deal. I think that’s where the real value comes into it.
Shuang: Why was it so important for you to make sure that it represents a very inclusive and safe community as well?
Mel: The way the brand was started to where we are now, we’ve been on a huge journey. But I think we wanted to offer more than just a product. We didn’t want to just offer underwear, it sits in your drawer and you don’t really have any real connection to it. I think what we’ve created is what we call our female family. At the end of the day, we are all different and I think that sounds like such a basic statement, but as a young woman, who’s grown through a world where you don’t love every single part of yourself. I think what Lounge has almost allowed me to do personally is grab my personality and push it out to a social audience is such a huge portion of women and speak to them in a very real way and just talk like you’re talking to your friends and make sure that they… Because you put underwear on every single day. You want to make sure that you feel amazing in it.
And if you can then also feel part of something that is more than just that project, that’s pretty powerful. Dan and I have just had a little girl which makes it even more important knowing that she can hopefully grow up in a world where women are celebrated in every single shape, every single size, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your story is, where you’ve been, there’s a brand out there that can speak to you just in a normal, authentic way that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable.
Building a business with sustainable practices and social impact
Shuang: Speaking of going beyond the product, there’s a huge component of sustainability and charitable giving with Lounge. Talk to us about the importance of being socially responsible within your business.
Dan: In regards to the sustainability side of stuff, it was probably about 18 months ago we decided a brand that we were getting to a size where we could start putting that investment into that side of stuff. We made a conscious effort to say, okay, we’re going to set ourselves some goals in regards to our product and packaging side of things. So I think within six months, we had essentially moved all of our packaging from virgin materials to either recycled or sustainable materials. So everything from the product, the mailing bags to the swing tags to the returns cards, all went to sustainable options and then we started to focus on the products. And we started to switch all of our products to either recycled or sustainable options, ideally recycled options which a lot of it is. In the past 12 months, about 60% of our product that we’re launching is made again from sustainable or recycled products. We’ve said to ourselves, “Listen, let’s draw a line in the sand. Everything we launched from now on has got to be sustainable or made of recycled products.” As a brand, that’s how passionate we feel about it. A lot of companies that will say they’ve got a negative carbon footprint but they’ll just buy the credits associated with that which is kind of a cop-out but we’re trying to make a conscious effort to actually make a difference as a brand. Personally we feel passionate about it not just from a corporate responsibility point of view.
Mel: Definitely. We talk about it as a brand, as looking after our mother nature, looking after her, and that’s almost inviting the world to search into our female family as she is a woman and she looks after us. As Dan said, it’s personal. The brand is so much bigger, the business so much bigger than Dan and I now, but some of those deep rooted decisions obviously naturally do still come from the two of us. We wanted to make sure at the same time that we didn’t lose that luxury feel about products. So we didn’t want to have to lose the quality and I think that it’s been really challenging but really exciting at the same time to know that we’re able to still offer such beautiful products, packaging, everything that we do is still really gorgeous.
And one way a nice touch that we have as an example of how we ensure people still feel that value is the bags of the products that they now come in is made from a recycled plastic and it might essentially on the journey get a bit bruised and scratched and we’ve got on the outside of the package, we say something like, “My marks and scars just mark a part of my journey to you.” And it’s reminding you as a woman that your stretch marks and your cellulite and all those natural things on your body are part of your journey. And then we’ve tied that into this green sustainability message. I think we try to make sure that people really engage with it and notice it so that they think, “I’m actually contributing myself now as a customer to the planet.” Which is really cool.
Dan: It’s also a real challenge being an underwear brand as well because I think there’s a lot of developments in regards to suppliers that go into general apparel and everyday wear, but there’s not huge investment in regards to other companies that make lace and embroideries that go into a bra because the more companies that do it, the more accessible this cost to stuff comes and the more commercially viable it is. At the moment we’re taking massive hits on our margins and not passing that onto the consumer. We’re actually swallowing that ourselves. Because not a lot of the big players are doing it, it’s still a very challenging thing to do but totally worth it.
Mel: Yeah. And being the brand that can lead the way in the underwear space for leaving a mark in sustainability is a golden ticket for us.
Dan: One of the biggies as well is, we’re not fast fashion. We market ourselves as the opposite of fast fashion. The idea behind us is that you buy something and it lasts which massively contributes towards sustainability as well. It’s obviously creating less pollution in the world from the off set.
Shuang: How do you take on different charities to support and align yourselves with an initiative?
Mel: So after the breasts campaign, which is the campaign we were in every October for breast cancer awareness, I suppose it feels natural as an underwear brand for one of the first charitable campaigns that we ran for that to be around breast cancer awareness, something obviously that’s pulling in for women and men but proportionately more for women. And I think that whole campaign essentially was built to raise awareness. We raised donations and raised incredible money for our two chosen charities, Trekstock and Coppafeel!. But the awareness that we can then push out across social audiences is just so powerful. And I think, again comes back to why we do our sustainability work as well is that it’s personal to be able to have that impact on young women and make them sit and think and realize how important this stuff is.
Our audience is really young and I think those people think that, oh, you only get breast cancer when you’re old and there’s this rhetoric around it that is so false that the relationships that I personally built with the girls in that campaign that we now work with every year that we call our legends is, they’re just incredible women and I think they’ve all had these experiences themselves. So to allow our brand to then speak out in a search, again, that authentic voice that says, look, just sit back and think about this and check your boobs, I don’t know how you word it down but it just felt like it’s something that we had to do. It was our responsibility to make sure that our community was looking after their health. There’s obviously other charitable campaigns that we do that maybe we don’t sing and shout about as loudly as we do with breast cancer awareness campaigns. We’ve got this huge voice now across social media. We need to make sure that we’re using it in a responsible way.
Growing exponentially while instilling culture virtually
Shuang: I know that Lounge had an historic year last year. How did you manage 2020?
Dan: We’ve seen unprecedented growth that very few companies have experienced over the past five years, but the last 12 months has just been a different animal. I think when you couple that with the fact that we’ve had COVID restrictions which has been massively challenging from a logistical point of view mainly. We’re very lucky in the fact that we’ve got a really young workforce. I think we’ve got an average age of about 25. So when we went into lockdown in the UK, pretty much a flick of a switch, everyone went to remote work in the office, short of the warehouse guys had to have to still work because they couldn’t do their job from home. But overnight, we went to remote work the next morning after we sent the message out, everyone came and grabbed their laptops, everything they need from the office and they’ve pretty much been remote working for I think the past 12 months.
It was seamless, which it’s just insane really because before that we were in-house five days a week. And to have that change but with no real stress on the workforce or our output is pretty magic, and a testament to the people that work here. But then from the logistical point of view, it’s a whole new bunch of complications because you physically need people to actually get that product out the door. You’ve got social distance and you’ve got massive problems with the couriers because they’ve got the same issues in regards to people in space and that nightmare. You’ve then got massive delays in regards to goods coming in on the seas and in the ports. So we’ve just gone a year where you’ve got massive logistical nightmares and we’ve grown over 250% year on year which is just insane.
Mel: I think the magic for me and I think the same for Dan is the way that we’ve managed to retain our culture within our team essentially. The way they have responded to the pandemic and essentially kept that business scaling at this crazy pace is seriously impressive and something we’re incredibly proud of. But I think we’ve put a lot of effort as well as founders and that with a few key people across the teams such as our head of people, Georgia, is to ensure that everyone still feels connected because that is really how we create what we do is the fact that our team is so damn good. We’ve done yoga from home, we’ve done tea at three which is where we all jump on with random groups because there’s too many of us with a cup of tea because we all love a good brew and just chat and play games. Just making sure that our culture stays sound to the moment we all step back into the office, there’s still that magic there between everyone.
But also we’ve recruited at such a crazy pace through the pandemic as well. Due to the growth that we’ve had over that period. But to then make sure that all those people feel connected in that group of Lounges was a challenge but I think one that hopefully they’d all say they’ve lived the experience even working at home.And I think something really exciting that is happening now is that we’ve just expressed to everyone at work that we’ve made a decision to move into a bigger HQ and we’ll be moving there early this summer. And now there’s this real buzz amongst everyone that one day we’re going to get back in the office and it’s going to be this beautiful, shiny new glass building that is built to be the best HQ in the world essentially. It’s been a really strange year but one way I think everyone just comes out stronger essentially.
Shuang: I read that beautiful article where you’re taking over the old Oracle building and there’s going to be a cinema and a yoga studio.
Dan: It’s probably the biggest risk we’ve taken as a company to date. It’s a huge I guess level up from a business point of view for us which comes with the overheads of running a really large company. But this is essentially future-proof, scalability is a brand definitely in the UK. We’ve had a massive growing pains where I think we’ve had five HQ moves in five years now which is a nightmare in itself so this is a huge step up to secure lounges future and we’re investing massively in the facilities and the culture that we can then breed this new HQ and it’s put an investment into the guys that work at Lounge and then also to attract that new world-class talent which is inevitably going to be needed to where we want to get to as an ambitious brand that we are.
Shuang: Lounge has about 100 employees and you’re looking to double the team within the next year. When you’re hiring, what do you look for?
Dan: It’s definitely, and it’s quite cliché. In today’s age, everyone seems to say the same thing but it’s definitely a culture first thing for us. Personally, I don’t look at people’s qualifications. It doesn’t make a difference if you are in a university or not. We hire a lot of young people like I touched on earlier, but we see if you are going to fit into the business from a cultural point of view? We’re very lucky in that we’ve built this community of people that are so close and have created such amazing friendships that when you work here, it just feels like a really energetic environment because everyone’s friends. It doesn’t feel like work and I think that’s one of the major successes to Lounge is growth because everyone’s so passionate about their jobs. So it’s a case of skills you can learn but you can’t learn to be a decent person. It’s definitely a culture first thing for us.
Apps and tools used to build Lounge Underwear
Shuang: And growing the business, are there any apps or tools that you’ve really enjoyed building your store or just operating the business to make it more smoothly?
Mel: We also didn’t have a tech background so having Shopify at your fingertips, that just adds to jump in so easy to learn and create a pretty cool looking website, even from day one. Obviously now it’s completely evolved and changed. I think one thing we always say about Shopify is that there’s a lot of platforms that over the years we’ve outgrown and you have to move on but with Shopify we know we can scale the same pace that we are now and Shopify will still be at the core, really which makes everything super easy for us.
Shuang: Are there any Shopify apps you guys have used in the past or currently that have been super helpful?
Dan: There’s apps that allow integrations to become a lot easier like literally a simple plugin with your accounting softwares and your CRM platforms. Most of them have partnerships with Shopify so it’s a case of downloading an app and just plugging it in which is priceless again. But like I say, it depends because there’s different apps that we used back in the early days. So the ones that we use now, we used in the early days even apps as small as, I think it’s called Orderly Emails which allowed you to generate a packing list and an invoice.
Mel: We would then walk around with a piece of paper around the warehouse with a couple of invoices and make sure we sent the right thing to the right people.
Dan: Yeah. It’s crazy because before Shopify you’d have had to be a techie to build those things in, but it allows people without technical background or specialists, that kind of stuff to do all this stuff with no real experience. It’s breaking down those barriers.
Mel: I think Launchpad is a big one in terms of an app that we rely on, especially as we start to scale and we start to launch more products. We used to do that very manually and I would literally take the products that we wanted to launch that particular time, make sure, okay, it’s 7:00 PM. Click. Go live. And now obviously the Launch Pad is great. You can make sure that everything goes live all at once and you’ve got this gorgeous launch because we’re launching a product that’s a couple of times a month.
Shuang: How did you manage campaigns and also the logistics behind the scenes for Black Friday?
Dan: From a logistical side it’s very hard because we can do up to 25% of our yearly revenue in a week and it’s that concept around scaling up massively over a short period of time and a lot of it comes down to in distribution these days. A lot of it’s still manpower so it’s how’d you go from zero to 100 times that in 24 hours. It’s a massive complication and stress on the businesses. But I think these peaks around Black Fridays are such a new problem as well. It’s not like it’s been going on for the last 50 years and people have come up with perfect solutions.
They are still headaches and ultimately even with the businesses that have got it down to a T, there are ultimately delays in those periods. You can’t physically scale up 1000% overnight. It’s just not possible. There are going to be delays but obviously we’re pretty good at distribution as a company. And we’ve had those growing pains over the last five years, but there is still an element of delays that I think there’ll be a way around that just because the peaks are so high.
Mel: I think the pressure from the consumer at that time of year as well is like, “Wow, if your website does crash or if you order takes X amount of time to get to that person, you can see, evidently a lot of brands’ reputation just falls through the floor. If you just have that one tiny error that happens throughout that sale period, especially at the beginning of that sale. You finish one Black Friday, you’re already thinking of what the hell are we going to do next year?
Dan: There’s the stress from a distribution point of view, but more so in the last couple years is then the stress from a technical point of view, can your site and systems then essentially feed through to the warehouse? Can they cope with that level of traffic and that volume. You’ll find that if you haven’t got the right systems in place that all connect to essentially put that product out the door. If they can’t cope with it, they’ll collapse and then you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands. It’s actually putting that infrastructure in place from a tech stack point of view to cope with it, not just a case of actually being able to pack and get it out the door. That’s obviously a whole of the problem in itself.
Mel: Yeah. And then on top of that, you’ve got the fact that social is so instant that the minute you… And we’ve built this community of people that feel like they can chat with us through DMs, through comments. We’ll reply we’re there for them, we’re here to chat, we’re here to hear your feedback. The minute you do anything wrong through that Black Friday week, wow, is that pressure and we’ve obviously then got this full team of people that are there ready to make sure that people don’t panic, you can’t, it’s not going to disappear or whatever their questions are.
On pricing for value and using sales sparingly
Shuang: These are great problems to have so a sign of the fact that you guys are growing so beautifully. Has there been ever a challenge with pricing around Black Friday?
Dan: I don’t think it’s Black Friday that does that. I think this is where a lot of brands go wrong and they’ll get themselves into a rut where they’re going from sale to sale to sale. We do essentially that we do two big sales a year and that’s it. We do Black Friday and our birthday sale. Short of that we don’t go into sales which I think builds that brand reputation and that real value that you get for your product. It’s a quality product. I think that is where a lot of companies get into trouble where they’ll see quick wins when they’re young and they go into sales and they make a lot of money and they’ll start to do it more and more often and you totally lose your brand authentication. The problem is, is it then your consumer is catching on and they won’t buy unless you’re in a sale because you go in it so often so they’re waiting for the sale. So you find that when you’re not in sales you haven’t got a business. We’re very strict in that essence that we’re not, I say we’re not a fast fashion brand, we’re not a brand that runs on sales. We do two main ones a year and that’s it.
Shuang: You are also looking to expand with offices to America and Germany. What are some things that you are prepping for as you’re expanding your footprint globally with offices?
Dan:I think places in Europe like Germany, France, and the US you can target them from the UK and do a good job in regards to localization, but you can’t really get the culture unless you’re actually German and you’re living in Germany. You can’t mimic that. It’s very hard for us to understand the German way of doing things and who’s popular or what’s cool over there, unless you’re actually on the ground in Germany. It becomes a case where if you really want to break that market and go big there, you need to be immersed in that market, you need to understand how things work and you just can’t do that from the UK. And being brought up in the UK, it’s just a different way of doing things so you need to have that perspective in the country hence why international offices start to build out.
Mel: And balance that obviously stay true to your core as a brand, but make sure that that tone of voice actually makes sense out there in that culture, whether that be in Germany or in the US or wherever that might be, having those boots on the ground, actually out there in that space and even people within your team then are from that, what’s the word, from that history I guess is that their livelihood was brought up there. It then allows you to really start to understand different cultures.
Dan: You’ve got obvious challenges in the likes of France and Germany because there’s a language barrier. But even if you go to the US where it’s the same language, they speak differently even when you go down to the East and West coast. It’s the same language but the way they speak is differently. It’s getting that real localization where it feels like a local brand.
From teenage sweethearts to business partners to parents
Shuang: I wanted to ask you guys about working together as life partners and how you intertwine personal professional lives so seamlessly together.
Dan: To be honest with you, it’s never… You hear about a lot of couples that go into business and they always seem to moan, but it’s never really felt like a challenge to be honest with you. Because we’ve been doing this for five years now and work together every single day and live together. It doesn’t seem to have caused us any problems. I think what helps is that we do very different parts of the business. Because Mel’s like I say is always on the brand side and the creative side nom and more than the numbers of strategy and scaling side. So what we do is very different so we’re not under each other’s feet all the time, I think that does make a big difference.
Mel: We knew each other back in primary school and then we’ve been together since we were teens. Prior to Lounge, we started a small fashion boutique together. It almost feels even weirder now because we’ve had a child together so I’m now working from home with the baby crying somewhere downstairs with my mom. And that is now the bit that feels weird is that we’re not together everyday. It feels really unnatural to begin with. It was kind of like losing a left arm.
Dan: I think on the flip side, in my eyes to get a brand like Lounge off the ground and to scale it at the rate that we have, you’ve gotta live it. It’s a lifestyle, it’s not a job. So if my partner wasn’t the other half of Lounge, I don’t know how it works because I don’t know how the other half would appreciate all the hours that go into it day and night, then you’ve got to come home and essentially still carry on working. It’s okay for us because we’re both under the same umbrella and we’re both creating the same situation but I don’t know how you balance that if the other one wasn’t in the same shoes as you. I think you’d have to have a very understanding partner.
Mel:Yeah, actually living and breathing it. Obviously having some balance in your life where you don’t just get buried in Lounge but honestly that’s just what happened.
Shuang: So you guys started dating when you were teenagers but at which point did you feel like we could actually be business partners and we can actually work together?
Dan: So what happened in the really early days where Mel came out of university, we started up a fashion brand that was essentially just bringing in off the line dresses from China and we’d just sell them on eBay. So it was a gradual process and then we built a website with that brand and then eventually started Lounge. So it wasn’t just a line in the sand, it was gradual so we started doing bits and bobs together and then eventually started Lounge so it was eased in.
Shuang: Do you have any tips or suggestions for other couples who actually want to start a business together?
Dan: Like I say, I think if you’re going to go into it, in my eyes, I know a lot of people go on and on about work life balance which I totally agree is usually important, but in the early days, and if you’re scaling a fast brand, this is a lifestyle, it’s not a job. It is day and night and that’s the reality of it and it might not be a reality to a lot of people.
Mel: And I think as a couple you’ve got to be prepared to challenge each other and we’ve been together for 12 years. So over that time, you learn what buttons not to press on a personal level. You know where you stand but from a business point of view, in a brand point of view, it’s sometimes you’ve got to press those buttons to create what we do so I think understanding that challenging each other does actually create the magic that we do at Lounge and I heard Dan said that we’re in different parts of the business, but there’s also a huge breadth of stuff that we work on together, obviously that’s natural. You see each other, respect each other and just know what you’re good at and know where you overlap and just ride the wave.