The Lionesque Group Founder & CEO
A former Wall Street Executive, Gonzalez is the founder of The Lionesque Group, a firm of award winning retail strategists and pop up architects™ who have strategized and produced more than 150 retail experiences in major cities across the United States. In 2017, she also launched Clark, an interactive platform for physical retail that empowers consumers to truly connect the online and offline worlds while giving brands real-time transparency into store performance. Some of her clients include major brands such as Amazon, COTY, Estee Lauder, Intel, M.Gemi, The RealReal, YUM brands, and others, as well as property groups such as GGP Properties (now Brookfield) and Steiner & Associates
She reflects on her work in her book, The Pop-Up Paradigm: How Brands Can Build Human Connections in a Digital Age. Melissa is also a regular contributor on ABC LA Radio, Cheddar TV and Advertising Week 360.
In 2018, she one of LinkedIn’s top 10 must-know writers and creators breaking down everything about the present and future of retail and was named one of designs:Retail’s Top 10 Retail Design Influencers of the Year. In 2017 her teams work was selected as a Glossy Award’s finalist for Best New Pop-Up Store Concept for IRL at home. In 2016 she was awarded Design:Retail’s 40 under 40. In 2015 she was awarded Innovator of the Year for pop-up retail experiences by Retail Touchpoints. And, in 2014, her work was honored with the CLIO Image Award for experiential engagement, and was a finalist for the New York Design Award for marketing and branded experiences. She has also been awarded the Wall Street Journal’s Donor of the Day, one of the top 20 Most Inspiring People in New York City.
I am an energetic, driven entrepreneur as well as a fiercely loyal mom and friend. Since childhood I have always loved to create and build things. At my parents wedding I took over the dance floor with an original rendition of Flashdance (I was 8), when I was a junior in high school I built my own radio out of a piece of wood, wires and a few resistor and capacitor chips (I got 3 channels), while working on Wall Street I produced indie films and hosted a TV show for 3 seasons on BET. I am a true Leo to the core – protective of my friends and family, dedicated to my commitments, and a lover of the sun.
Shortly after leaving Wall Street a serendipitous opportunity presented itself to me to experiment with a brick and mortar space in midtown Manhattan. We started with a 4 month experiment where we curated brands like NFP and offered them a one month lease to test physical retail. In the early days brands paid me in clothes because it was so experimental. By month 2 we started developing a waiting list of brands that were interested in rotating into the space for a one month pop-up. From their RSPOP, the first revolving storefront was officially born.
It’s such a transformative time for retail as a whole. We are seeing the average lease term lessen, the average square footage shrink, the purpose physical retail plays evolve, the level of technology investments in physical retail increase. You are seeing a more nimble approach to physical retail and brands and retailers are also being more mindful on investments and rethinking ROI metrics.
We sit in an opportune seat as we walk the line of experiential yet functional stores. Our clients on average aren’t doing pop-up retail just for the gram or media impressions. Most of our clients need a noteworthy destination that also accounts for customer journey and sales conversions while also garnering mindshare and deepening the human connection with their customers. As so many of our clients are now starting the transition from pop-up to permanent we also have the opportunity to stay engaged with them as they scale and their technology and operational needs become a more significant part of the equation.
I left Wall Street to pursue my creative soul. While working on Wall Street, I was also producing independent films and hosted a TV Show called Latin Beat. What inspired me by the opportunity of pop-up retail was the opportunity to bring both my business acumen and creative heart to work. On Wall Street I also always had interest in retail and tech stocks so fuels my affinity to be interested and learn about how the consumer, tech and retail industry continue to evolve. As our company continues to grow I am excited by the opportunity to serve as partners to our clients in a thought leadership capacity, in addition to a design & production agency. We are already seeing significant growth in that vertical in the past year.
I am a true believer that if you empower your team to be entrepreneurs within your organization and give opportunities for growth with you, you keep your team motivated. We hold weekly ideas meetings, where I encourage my team to bring big ideas to the table for consideration or to educate each other on what’s happening in the world of retail. We also try to do quarterly outings to laugh and let off steam, like a class at Rumble, a mediation at Inscape or an afternoon at Escape the Room.
I am constantly learning how to be the best version of myself, but what I have learned with age is that it’s when I allow myself to celebrate my accomplishments as well as recognize my defeats. So often we focus on our “failures” that we also let them overshadow what we have achieved. Self love is important.
My family. Technically I have two families: my personal family and my work family, and I am proud of both. But, being a mom has been my proudest accomplishment – a job that is always evolving. When I witness my daughter’s growth, see her come into her own, read books, stun me with her knowledge – I smile from the inside out.
Life if a journey, not a race. It’s not always easy to remember when you are in the heat of the moment but it’s an important reminder to level set and put the moment into perspective.
Big Sur treehouse
My Daily Thoughts:
Goal of the Day: To make my daughter smile.
Thought of the Day: What can I help create today?
Tip of the Day: Keep it in perspective.
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
It’s diversity. New York can be a gritty city, it’s definitely not the easiest living – its expensive, relatively dirty, people can be harsh – but it rules when it comes to diversity in people, food, cultural events. Having that “in our backyard” is priceless.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
Currently obsessed with yogurt, lemon and granola.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Hopefully sleeping until 6:30am
10:00 AM – Reading over the latest news
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
Hooked on chicken poblano tacos from Oxido.
7:00 PM – Wrapping up dinner with my family
11:00 PM – Sleeping 🙂 I need 7-8 hours per night to function properly.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Every morning I need a Grande Chai Skim Latte- it’s my ritual. At night I hydrate with water.
What should everyone try at least once?
Skydive! It’s exhilarating and freeing.