Looking for some fashion advice and a familiar face to get your new look started? Check out 2003 graduate Lisa Feniola’s recently launched website ShopPolished.com
This young entrepreneur calls her new venture an “online shopping experience” in which she hopes to target Generation Y consumers. Feniola will serve as a virtual merchandiser and offer “unique finds from emerging designers,” which she hopes will inspire her shoppers. “I want to be able to share my styling skills and fashion advice through the product I offer,” she said.
Though Feniola is a little fashion icon herself, don’t underestimate her focus on making this business venture also financially viable. For that reason, she said she’s sticking with an online business based from her business partner and mother's home in East Haven verses seeking a brick and mortar shop. “Initially, I had produced a business plan for a brick and mortar location, although found it insanely hard to get funding to produce the store I had my heart set on. I didn't want to settle on a low-key location or cut corners here and there. That's when I took a look at my target market and decided I was silly not to start online,” she shared.
Feniola said she hopes ShopPolished, which went live in November, 2011, will have a similar following as sites like LuLu's.com and RevolveClothing.com. Future plans, she added, are to expand include a studio space where she can house and display merchandise and open to the public by appointment only. For an in-person sneak peek, check out ShopPolished’s at Leon's Restaurant in New Haven on Sunday, March 11 from 1- 5 p.m.
Now a resident of East Haven, Feniola grew up in Branford and was vice president of her class all four years. She planned prom, belonged to Peer Connectors and was an editor of the yearbook. After graduating in 2003, Feniola when to Lasell College where she earned a bachelor's degree in science for fashion retail and merchandising. During college she studied abroad for a semester in London and travelled all around Europe. Before launing ShopPolished, Feniola was a store manager for Hollister Co. and Juicy Couture.
Get to know this local fashionista and what keeps her motivated during tough economic times in a competitive industry.
Branford Patch: In a world where so much is available online, how do you expect your boutique to be successful? What sets you apart from the competition?
Lisa Feniola: My absolute favorite part of ShopPolished is the Favorite Looks link (changing to Styled Options soon). The idea behind it isn't fully developed because we are at the mercy of what my E-Commerce platform will allow me to do… this link is where I put my styling skills to the test and create different looks to show how the merchandise I find can all be put together. A lot of times when people go shopping, they find a piece they like but feel like they wouldn't have a clue what to pair it with. Here, I show you what I have and how it can all be paired together making it effortless shopping.
Also, I know what it's like to shop a super cute site and be so excited to receive the product just to be totally disappointed by the fabric and quality. We pick our brands specifically for quality and look for luxurious fabrics that will meet the expectation of the customer. Our price point reflects upon the value of the product and we hope our customer recognizes this as a differentiating factor of other online boutiques.
Branford Patch: Are your models local? Who does your photography?
Lisa Feniola: Everyone I work with from my models, to my photographer, [and] hair and makeup artists are all local. I think it is important when you are first starting out to find people who believe in what you are doing and are willing to support you. My photographer is Jeremy Martindale, who is also a very talented chef. I have paired with local makeup artist, Andrea DilLieto from MakeupbyDiLieto.com.
Branford Patch: Do you scout or look for local clothing designers?
Lisa Feniola: Funny you ask that; I have a strong will of supporting local talent, especially being a small-time girl living in a small town with big dreams myself. As ShopPolished progresses, there are plans to incorporate a "Local Designer" section where I will be scouting and offering a section of my site to showcase their designs. I have two close friends who are amazing and talented designers and I would love the chance to incorporate their work with ShopPolished.
Branford Patch: What brands are your favorite these days?
Lisa Feniola: I LOVE dresses, so I was so excited to stumble upon a brand called, Dresses and Other Drugs, which is as new as I am. The quality of fabric is amazing and the styles are very sexy and one-of-a-kind. I'm also loving Ark n Co for their flirty, trendy styles. We've become partial to celebrity lines such as Nicholai by Nicky Hilton, House of Harlow by Nicole Richie and Jessica Simpson shoes. The latter will be joining our inventory within the next few seasons! Of course, our premium denim line, DL1961 for its amazing 4-way stretch.
Branford Patch: How do you stay on top of trends? What do you read and who are following online?
Lisa Feniola: I go to as many fashion trade shows as I can so I can personally see what's up and coming for the seasons. I also flip through as many fashion magazines as I can get my hands on, and skim through the trend reports. Because I am glued to the internet, I subscribe to sites like Fashionista.com, Daily Candy and Accessories Magazine Newsletter to get the news delivered to my phone daily.
Branford Patch: Did holding the title of four-year class vice president at BHS prepare you to be a leader and start your own business? If yes, how so?
Lisa Feniola: Being Vice President was a great way to learn the basics of leadership. I think it's amazing that my class saw the skills in me to be their leader for four years. This kind of support helps boost your confidence and desire to play a certain role, and be successful. I enjoy working with people, creating an idea, and setting attainable goals to achieve along the way. My leadership is deeply rooted to my part in BHS and I am so glad I started taking part early in my life.
Branford Patch: Did you always have aspirations to be in the fashion merchandising industry? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
Lisa Feniola: To me, there wasn't a field out there I could imagine putting myself through school for and aspiring to work in my whole life, other than Fashion. I can remember the first time I realized I was really stimulated by fashion when I was young and drawing pictures of clothing like I'd see in magazines. Although, I loved art as a child, I did not have a knack for designing! I didn't know what I would do, but I knew my life would take me through various fashion-related experiences.
Branford Patch: How was experiencing fashion in London and Europe when you studied there, compare to what you have experienced here?
Lisa Feniola: Deciding on a college for fashion was really tough. Obviously the idea of studying in one of fashion's capitols would be ideal, but I just knew living in NYC wasn't for me and I had to gain my experiences in other ways. I can honestly say studying abroad in London was the absolute best thing I could have ever done both personally and professionally. My classes were hands-on with projects opposed to textbook-learning. I have portfolios of the work I produced in London that I am still so proud of when I look back on it. I gained this sixth sense of fashion recognition by strolling through different European countries where trends initially emerge from.
Branford Patch: Where were you a store manager for Hollister Co. and Juicy Couture? What did you like about those jobs and what did you dislike?
Lisa Feniola: Hollister Co. was my first full time job, and first management position. I learned a heck of a lot about working for corporate companies and matured in the way I looked at life as a working adult. I went through a lot in this first job and learned things about myself including what my management style is. I went on to work for Juicy Couture in Clinton in the land of all things girly and fun. I think I got a lot of my inspiration for the direction I took for ShopPolished from Juicy. They found their niche in the market for girly girls and I aim for my customers to feel the same feminine vibe with ShopPolished. I think when you work for retail companies it eventually starts to wear you down. You're always working for the man and even when you're on top, you're never on top. I just got sick of how I was feeling after long days, and holidays. I will say my favorite day of the year to work was Black Friday, such a rush!
Branford Patch: What prompted you to launch Polished Boutique?
Lisa Feniola: Motivation and encouragement from the people close to me. I received a compliment from my boyfriend's mother, Bernadette; she told me I have nice style and I should start my own business with my fashion sense. Being a strong businesswoman herself, I was intrigued and inspired that she thought I would be successful using my personal eye. This coupled with the support of my mother, who is my partner, has given me the guts to create this business. ShopPolished isn't just a website, it is a shopping destination with great potential. It is my baby, and I have a lot of ideas for the direction I want to take it.
Branford Patch: What’s your advice for other young entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?
Lisa Feniola: When you really know what field you want to work in, don't be afraid to explore all aspects of it. The more well rounded you are in that field, the more confidence you will have in yourself to persevere. Take a chance; believe in yourself. Know that you could fail, but if you put forth all your effort and all your might, you know you tried and know how to pick yourself up and move on. Just don't be afraid to try!