The Business of HYPE With jeffstaple, Episode 6: Melody Ehsani

The designer explains how she broke into Fairfax’s infamous boys’ club.

The Business of HYPE With jeffstaple, Episode 6: Melody Ehsani
Business of HYPE
13,162 Hypes 5 Comments

The Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders and entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. On this week’s episode, Jeff sits down with Melody Ehsani at Sole DXB in Dubai.

Melody’s hustle is practically unmatched. When she was starting out, she personally flew to Guangzhou province in China to oversee production and sourcing, storing all of her stock — thousands of pairs of women’s shoes — in her own apartment. Her shoe business took a major hit when customs seized an entire collection at the border, claiming her factories had not used authentic YKK zippers. The devil, as ever, is in the details.

Ehsani quickly pivoted to jewelry and garnered some major fans and customers. She contributed costume design and jewelry to poet Saul Williams’ Niggy Tardust persona during the The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! era. Her rings eventually caught the eye of Erykah Badu, who brought Ehsani on to design a dozen pieces of jewelry. When Melody showed up on set, Badu wore each piece in a major press shoots. All of a sudden, Melody’s work was on the front of not just one, but several magazines. Badu ended up wearing Ehsani’s rings on the cover of her fourth album, 2008’s New Amerykah Part One (4th World War).

When Reebok contacted Ehsani to do a footwear collab, they were more familiar with her rings and jewelry than they were with her shoes. Ehsani’s team went to work crafting a short run of fifty pairs. Because most of her jewelry business was made-to-order, Melody and her team left the shoes up online without a product counter over the weekend. The team put the shoes up at midnight on Friday and came back to find that they had accidentally sold 3,000 pairs out of fifty. These are good problems to have, but Melody needed stock, and fast. Orders kept pouring in, so Ehsani called Reebok; she was told that they could get her 2,000 pairs, but she would have to wait a month for the final thousand. Ehsani started filling orders and kept her customers in touch as far as their deliveries were concerned. In the end, only five people canceled their orders after a month of delays.

The streetwear scene on Fairfax is an infamous boys’ club, and Ehsani knows it. Her namesake store stands in sharp contrast with much of the machismo around it. On this week’s episode, she explains how she was strolling along Fairfax with her friend Frank Ocean (casual) when she decided to open a storefront after stumbling upon a FOR RENT sign. She applied for the property, despite having no line of credit — Melody explains that she was conducting all of her business to that point on a debit card. Miraculously, she was approved.

Nowadays, Ehsani’s shop hosts talks with powerful, dynamic women like Master of None‘s Emmy-winning actress and creator of The Chi Lena Waithe. The event opened up to RSVPs and over 800 people showed up and lined up around the block outside of Ehsani’s storefront (maximum occupancy: 100).

Here are some of the topics referenced in the episode:

Check the full conversation out above. The Business of HYPE is also available on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, and wherever else podcasts are found.
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Episode Transcript

The Business of HYPE With jeffstaple, Episode 6: Melody Ehsani

The designer explains how she broke into Fairfax’s infamous boys’ club.

Melody Ehsani: When I have those moments where I could sit back and look at it, it really feels like a blessing. I don’t think I would do anything else, but it is still surreal. I still haven’t slowed down to the point where I can sit back and really think about it that way. I still have so much more that I want to do, and I still don’t feel like I’ve gotten anywhere close to where I want to get to. I still have those doubts in a sense where I’m like, “Okay, this is cool, but we still got work to do.”

Jeff Staple: Yeah, you’re 10 years in on day one basically.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, exactly.

Jeff Staple: From HYPEBEAST Radio I’m Jeff Staple, and this is the Business of HYPE, a show about creative entrepreneurs, brand builders, innovators and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. On this episode we have Melody Ehsani, a jewelry fashion and footwear designer that for the past 10 years has managed to carve out her own way in this male-dominated streetwear scene.

Melody Ehsani: I don’t believe that we’re just this. We’re not just physical. I definitely think that we have some kind of spirit that animates us, and I think that there’s more to us than just this. I think learning how to meditate and communicating with myself in that way opened me up to that because really when I meditate it feels like I’m going in, and I’m asking myself questions, and then a different self is answering, if that makes sense.

Jeff Staple: Not to me, but it can to you. It’s fine. I get it though.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, I just feel that way.

Jeff Staple: Melody, like a lot of young people that I talk to, didn’t have any formal training in art or design, so I wanted to find out how she got her start.

Melody Ehsani: When I started I was so just enamored with making things and learning how to make things because even from a design or a creative standpoint it’s the way that my mind worked. I had the ideas, and I knew what they looked like. That kind of stuff came very easy to me, but technically speaking, I had no skills, so I didn’t know how to draw. I didn’t know any of that stuff. To me, all that stuff is technical. It’s not creative.

Melody Ehsani: Some people love sketching and drawing. I don’t like it. I learned how to use an illustrator, so I was so enamored and occupied with how I was going to be able to put these ideas down and then communicate them to somebody that can make them for me, but I wasn’t really even thinking about the business aspect of it, so often times it was like I make it, and then I’d be like, “I made it,” and then I’d be like, “Oh, shoot, what do I do with all this stuff?”

Jeff Staple: You were so impressed that you got it made.

Melody Ehsani: Yes, exactly. What I realized really quickly was that women really know how to spread word about something they love faster than the internet around the world, so if it’s new lip glosses, like the lip gloss, I tell my friend, she tells her friends, tomorrow everybody and their moms has this lip gloss. It was the same with me. I started making shoes, and I posted the shoes on MySpace at the time, and then it just became a thing, so I had them in my kitchen and in my little studio apartment, and people would just come in my apartment and buy them.

Melody Ehsani: I knew every month I needed to sell 20 pairs to make ends meet, so that was my goal. I was like, “If I sell these 20 pairs, then I’m good,” and then I knew like, “Okay, if I sell 100 of them, that means I’ve broken even on my investment, and then anything I sell past this is profit,” so it was very basic. I only knew how to calculate and do the basic, and that’s all I cared about because I was so excited about doing it that I just needed to figure out how to keep doing it.

Jeff Staple: Got you. And shoes was the first product that you had your name on.

Melody Ehsani: Yes.

Jeff Staple: Making shoes is not making a t-shirt. How did you go about not being a shoemaker to making your own shoe?

Melody Ehsani: I took a class at Art Center in Pasadena about shoe-making, and I became obsessed with it. Growing up I was a sneaker-head for lack of a better word. I really hate saying that, but it was my transition stage where I was just coming out of sneakers, and I was really into being a girl. I wanted to wear heels, but I wanted them to be comfortable and all that stuff, so I did an internship.

Melody Ehsani: My friend, Mikael, at the time he got me an internship with Creative Recreation, and they had just started their brand. It was like maybe three-months-old. They had no employees. It was just the two partners. I would drive there every day, which was an hour away, and [Rich Sommer 00:05:09] taught me how to use an illustrator, and I would learn about what I could just from being there. And then after I was done with that, I knew the city in which a lot of this stuff happened in China. There’s this city, Guangzhou, that I had researched, and I was like, “There’s a bunch of factories there.”

Melody Ehsani: I hit up a friend of mine. I was like, “Yo, do you know anybody in Guangzhou?” She lived in Hong Kong. She was like, “Actually, I do. I know this family that lives there.” I was like, “Cool, do you think they’ll host me if I came down?”

Jeff Staple: Wait, you just wanted to pick up out of L.A. and move to Guangzhou?

Melody Ehsani: Well, I didn’t want to. It was kind of like I was at rock-bottom. I had dropped out of school. I had a small savings from working since I was 15. That savings wasn’t going to last me very long, so it was I either had to do something. There’s nothing else for me to do. It seemed like the only choice like, “I have to do this now. I have to make this happen now,” so I did. I moved to Guangzhou, and this family hosted me. They were incredible. They hosted me for like five months. I went out there. They helped translate, and they did everything, and I came back with my first collection.

Jeff Staple: That is seriously some balls. Excuse my French. You don’t speak Chinese I assume.

Melody Ehsani: No, I didn’t know anything. But it was-

Jeff Staple: When you went there, did you already know the factory?

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: So, you went there with just nothing.

Melody Ehsani: Nothing.

Jeff Staple: Like, “I’m just going to figure this out.”

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Wow, but you came back with a shoe collection.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, I came back with a six piece collection.

Jeff Staple: And was it sneaker-driven or shoes-driven?

Melody Ehsani: No, it was heel.

Jeff Staple: Wow, and you were selling them out of your home.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: When I started out I had no investors and maxed out eight different credit cards. By any means necessary is the name of this game. Melody explains what she needed to do to get by.

Jeff Staple: You said this before a little bit, but you mention your baseline metric for avoiding starvation, like 20 a month, and I can live.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: And you were hitting that?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: What year is this?

Melody Ehsani: This was 2008.

Jeff Staple: Okay. Is that what you credit as the start of the brand?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: How were you spreading the word to get people to come to your home to buy a shoe?

Melody Ehsani: Word-of-mouth.

Jeff Staple: Okay.

Melody Ehsani: That’s what was incredible about it. It was like women. I was like, “This is what we do. We do this. We talk about stuff.” Guys they don’t have that same sort of network. Anybody that would try to talk to me about putting together a business plan, they were like, “Well, how much do you have for marketing?” And I’m like, “I don’t have anything for marketing. I don’t need marketing. I just need to connect with my girls, talk about it, show them what I’m doing, and then it’ll do its own thing.” That’s exactly happened and still happens to this day.

Jeff Staple: Give me an idea of what that initial production run was? How was that first quarter?

Melody Ehsani: What do you mean? Like how many?

Jeff Staple: How many pairs-

Melody Ehsani: Oh, it was a lot. I think I convinced the factory to do 12 dozen of each style, so I had 144 pieces, and I had six styles, so it was almost a thousand pairs, and they were all in my apartment.

Jeff Staple: I love it. You had a thousand pairs of shoes in your apartment-

Melody Ehsani: Yes.

Jeff Staple: … that you were moving individually one at a time to women.

Melody Ehsani: Yes.

Jeff Staple: Did you open wholesale accounts like a little store to come and by your stuff?

Melody Ehsani: I tried to, but it was really hard. The thing is because I was selling it out of my house, there’d be like no size eight of this style left. It wasn’t like I was going to not sell them to people to sell into a store. It wasn’t really set up for that, so I couldn’t really fulfill store orders in that way.

Jeff Staple: At this point I want to go back to your family a little bit. Is your mom now proud of you for what you’ve done?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, absolutely. It’s relative. I still don’t think that they really see me in a sense, but they’re very proud of me. For the first four years that I was doing it, she would still bring me job clippings and be like … She had gotten to the stage where she’d bring me designer job postings and be like, “Look, so and so is hiring,” because I just didn’t understand how I would be able to do it by myself. And then after I bought my house, I think that was a big turning point because they’re like, “Wait, what? What did you do?” And I was like, “Yeah, I bought a house.”

Jeff Staple: How did that happen? You do this a thousand pair run. Were you able to move all of that product?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, I moved it all, and then after I did that I was like, “Well, what do I do now? Do I have to go back to China now and do this all over again? How many times a year am I going to have to do this?” I got bored, and I started making jewelry at home because there was such a big gap between everything.

Jeff Staple: Waiting for shoes to get made and stuff.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. At the time I had just become friends with Saul Williams. He’s a poet. Saul was doing his first music project with Trent Reznor, which was a big deal. I was out with him one night, and I had had this dream about him, and I told him the dream, and then he just stared at me. He was like, “I want you to design my wardrobe and all my stuff.” He’s like, “Your dream is exactly what I’ve been working on.” He showed me his vision board, and it was literally this whole thing that I had dreamed of.

Melody Ehsani: He had created this character called Niggy Tardust. That was the first time I decided to make all the stuff that I grew up not being able to afford into affordable jewelry pieces, so I would make three finger rings out of plexiglass, and oversized hoops, and crystal bamboo earrings by hand, and just all this stuff. I made it for his character. Erykah Badu is a good friend of his and saw his rings and wanted them, so she reached out to me, and I was like, “What? You want what?”

Melody Ehsani: And then from there I just catapulted. I met her in New York, and I had designed maybe like 10 pieces just for her, and I had brought them for her. And then the shoot that I brought them to I had no idea where I was meeting her, where I was going. It was the main shoot that she was doing for her new album, and then it was blah, blah, blah covers of these five magazines and all this stuff. She wore my stuff in each image, and it ended up being her album cover where it’s like the whole cover is her holding at my rings, and then she adopted the font that I had created and all this stuff for her packaging. That was-

Jeff Staple: Which album was that?

Melody Ehsani: New Amerykah.

Jeff Staple: Yeah, so she’s just prominently rocking it.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, and she was really supportive. I think she does that with artists that she really likes. She just looks out. She was really dope in that way. And then after that happened everybody wanted a custom three finger ring. Some of the pieces that I made exclusively for her I started to turn into collection pieces because so many people were requesting them.

Jeff Staple: Were you making one-offs for people at the time?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: You weren’t making these in China. Were you?

Melody Ehsani: No, all that jewelry I was making.

Jeff Staple: How were you making this jewelry.

Melody Ehsani: When I was at Art Center, I fell in love with laser cutting machine. I was like, “This is amazing. What does this do?” The main thing that I wanted to make out of it was jewelry because there were so many things that I wanted but that I couldn’t find in the market. I became fascinated with cutting and drawing something two-dimensionally and then making it three-dimensional. With the rings, it’s essentially like three or four two-dimensional objects that you glue or assemble together in way, so that it becomes a ring. With earrings, it’s the same thing. It just depends on how you cut them and then how you assemble them, and then it becomes this 3D looking thing. The concept of that was beating me creatively.

Jeff Staple: Laser cutting machine it forms the material too, right?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Were you using any precious metals back then?

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: Because you couldn’t put that in the machine.

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: But plexi you could.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: That made it unique at the same time.

Melody Ehsani: Totally.

Jeff Staple: That’s cool.

Melody Ehsani: I started to source really cool plexi, so I would find mirrored gold, which looked like gold, but it didn’t fade, and it was cheap. And then because it was affordable, it was so fun because I could do whatever I wanted, and I could make as many mistakes as I wanted, and it didn’t matter whereas if you’re making ring out of gold, it’s like you basically have this one shot-

Jeff Staple: One time to get it right.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Talk about the line now. You’re making customs for people. You’re turning some of the successful ones into your line essentially, and you still have the shoes.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: This is the breadth of your collection basically.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. I’m doing all of this, and then I think I did that for a good two years, and then two years in customs confiscated my entire shipment of shoes.

Jeff Staple: That whole shoe run.

Melody Ehsani: A whole shoe run.

Jeff Staple: Every entrepreneur is going to face a moment of failure, a moment when you ask yourself if it’s time to throw in the towel. The good entrepreneurs they’re able to climb out of that hole and persevere.

Melody Ehsani: One collection would support me for a year. Again, that’s all I knew. I didn’t know the business of anything other than how do I survive, and what does this mean? They confiscated the entire shipment, and the way-

Jeff Staple: Break that down to someone who doesn’t quite understand what customs confiscated means because it sounds like some cocaine shit.

Melody Ehsani:  It is some cocaine shit.

Jeff Staple: But what does that mean? What is customs, and why would they confiscate your stuff?

Melody Ehsani: Because I was making stuff in China, there’s millions of packages that come here from China. I believe that they have a quota where they have to go through them and make sure that everything is legit. There’s very harsh criteria around what you can bring in, what you can’t bring in, how you bring it in, how it’s packaged just because it’s also China, and I’m sure a lot of people are bringing in counterfeit goods and all kinds of different types of things. They confiscated my stuff because they said that my factory didn’t use authentic YKK Zippers, so that was the thing.

Jeff Staple: You were using YKK branded zippers.

Melody Ehsani: Yes.

Jeff Staple: But it might not have been real YKK.

Melody Ehsani: Well, yeah. That’s what they claimed. I contacted my factory. I got a authentication letter from YKK saying that they were … Customs wouldn’t accept it. I don’t remember the exact details of it, but the way that it was it was like a set up because it was like I had to put a $15,000 bond down just to contest them taking my stuff. And then after that-

Jeff Staple: If you win.

Melody Ehsani: If I win, it’s one thing, and if I lose, I have to pay all the legal fees for the customs department. It was just something that was like-

Jeff Staple: Wack traditional customs stuff.

Melody Ehsani: It was so wack. I couldn’t afford it, and I thought that it was really unethical. Anyway, it caused me a lot of stress. If I hadn’t started making the jewelry, I would have had to stop doing what I was doing because that’s how much of a hit I took. After that I was like, “Fuck China. I’m never making anything in China again, and I don’t want to deal with customs. I’m not doing anything with customs again. I’m just going to make this stuff here.”

Jeff Staple: It must have been a harrowing experience.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: You don’t want to ship anything [crosstalk 00:18:27].

Melody Ehsani: Anything. I was like, “Never.”

Jeff Staple: You were like, “Laser cutting machine.” You were like, “I’m just going to laser cut everything.”

Melody Ehsani: Everything. I’m like, “Can I laser cut these shoes?” Which you can’t.

Jeff Staple: Which you can’t. You were 10 years ahead of your time.

Melody Ehsani: I just focused on the jewelry. I was like, “Okay, now that this has happened, I really have to grow the jewelry,” so then I started making more and more. I maybe had like a 30 piece jewelry collection, which for me was a lot. And then it did really well. It just started growing, and growing, and growing. And then a year later, by the grace of God, Reebok contacted me. There was somebody there on their team that was a fan of my jewelry and wanted me to do a shoot for them.

Jeff Staple: Was that based off of your shoes or your jewelry?

Melody Ehsani: Jewelry.

Jeff Staple: Okay. They weren’t a fan of your heels.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, they didn’t even know about them.

Jeff Staple: But this goes back to your sneaker-head basketball roots.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. It was kind of incredible. I couldn’t have set it out in a better way.

Jeff Staple: What year was this when Reebok hit you up?

Melody Ehsani: This was 2012.

Jeff Staple: A lot of young people ask me because I work in shoes a lot too. How does a company like Reebok just hit you up? Was it an email or a phone call?

Melody Ehsani: I got an email, and then they were like, “Can we set up a call?” And then I was like, “Sure.” When Erykah Badu called me, I didn’t think it was really her, so I was like, “Who?” I was like, “Yeah, right.”

Jeff Staple: Her people called, or she called?

Melody Ehsani: No, she called. I was like, “Yeah, that’s cool. Bye.”

Jeff Staple: You were like, “Wait, sing On & On, so I know it’s really you.”

Melody Ehsani: That would have been dope. I actually should have done that.

Jeff Staple: I think a lot of times there’s these moments where Reebok emailed you. There’s that moment. Erykah calls you, but people don’t realize what’s under that, like how did that happen. I think a lot of people think like, “Well, you’re just lucky, and they just called you.” But there’s a wealth of pushing that occurred in order for that to happen. It was maybe you working with Saul and your dedication to his vision that got Erykah, right?

Melody Ehsani: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Staple: And it was your pushing of the jewelry that made a fan at Reebok that finally they hit you up.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: But you didn’t do it with the intention of that happening.

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: You weren’t trying to get a shoe collab out of a jewelry line.

Melody Ehsani: No. Even when Erykah hit me when I was doing stuff for Saul, I never imagined celebrities wearing my stuff. That was so far from my mind. I was trying to figure out how I could sell it to people, but I never thought that somebody famous would wear it because I’m like, “I’m making shit out of plastic.” I always thought celebrities as like, “Oh, they’re going to Tiffany or whatever.” But then when that started happening I was like, “How the fuck? So and so is on the red carpet wearing a $10,000 outfit with my $30 rings.”

Jeff Staple: It’s so dope. It’s [crosstalk 00:21:40].

Melody Ehsani: That’s the highlight of their outfit. That’s what people are talking about. It was just that moment that was like everybody around me was like, “How did you do that? You’re so lucky.” And I’m like, “It’s not quite luck. I worked really hard.”

Jeff Staple: What percentage is hard work versus what percentage is luck?

Melody Ehsani: I don’t like the word luck because I think luck means that it’s a happenstance. I really do believe that there’s some kind of divine intervention. I think that when you really pursue something that’s within your calling it’s part of a divine blueprint that you have. I think that you receive support for that by whoever, whatever you want to call it, the universe, or whatever your paradigm is.

Melody Ehsani: Literally, my dreams started playing out, but it was so much better than I could have planned. It’s all the things that I knew I was, and I knew I could do, but I had no clue how, and I didn’t have the vision for it because I didn’t have any reference point for it. Nobody had ever shown me. I never had seen anybody else do it. I just didn’t know what happened or how it happened. I just worked hard, and then I did what I could, and then I think just by virtue of me doing the best that I can, and then these other things started to open up.

Melody Ehsani: I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s not a formula. There’s no prescription for it. When you just do things that you know and that naturally come to you and that you’re good at, there’s something else I think that steps in and helps.

Jeff Staple: Was there a lot of struggle while you were doing that?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: It’s not like-

Melody Ehsani: Absolutely.

Jeff Staple: There’s someone listening right now that says like, “Melody says believe in yourself. Do you, do what you love, and then the White House will call, Erykah Badu calls you, and Reebok calls you.” There’s like a lot of-

Melody Ehsani: Totally.

Jeff Staple: … just heartache, headache, right?

Melody Ehsani: Absolutely. I remember actually just last year looking back and being like, “Where did the last 10 years of my life go?”

Jeff Staple: 10 years.

Melody Ehsani: 10 years.

Jeff Staple: A decade.

Melody Ehsani: A decade of my life I’ve been doing this. I’ve really dedicated myself to it. I’m not married. It’s like-

Jeff Staple: “Mom, I’m not married.”

Melody Ehsani: Right. It’s not that I don’t want to be. I actually want a partnership, but it’s like I’ve been working so much. I really have been working hard at it, so it does definitely take a lot of work, but more than anything for me I think it’s taken a lot of self-work, and it’s what I’ve noticed is the difference between myself and other people that want to do things but they don’t is that we’re so good at talking ourselves out of it, and we’re so good at being scared and then not doing it.

Jeff Staple: Right, self-doubt.

Melody Ehsani: Exactly. The thing is I am just as scared if not more, but I’ve pushed past those things. Anytime I fear for my life about anything, I just do it anyway. I think that’s the only difference between saying all these inspirational things and making them happen versus making them not is that you really have to conquer yourself.

Jeff Staple: And it’s tough as a creative because to me … Let’s say you’re an accountant or you’re a lawyer, and you want to do the best you can. You can justify it numerically. You could be like, “I’m a great accountant because I did these many bookings, and I’m this good at my job of balance and taxes.” But to say you’re a good creative and a successful creative is very subjective.

Melody Ehsani: Totally.

Jeff Staple: And no one’s telling you like, “Yeah, what you just did for the last five years check, check, check it’s all great.”

Melody Ehsani: Totally.

Jeff Staple: It’s every single thing you create is like this could be the worst thing ever.

Melody Ehsani: Ever. Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Staple: There’s no valid right or wrong.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Even something that you think is right could be received really poorly. I often find in my stuff the stuff that I’m most proud of performs the worst.

Melody Ehsani: Same.

Jeff Staple: And the stuff that I’m just like whatever it [crosstalk 00:26:01].

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, same.

Jeff Staple: Why is that? Why does that happen?

Melody Ehsani: I don’t know. I always think. I’m like, “Are people behind?” I think that’s what it is. I think that part of your job is to forecast, and you probably pick up on trends intuitively or however you do, and you put them out, and you’re like, “Ta-da, look. I brought it to you.” People are like, “What? We’re still on that.”

Jeff Staple: Yeah, two year ago thing.

Melody Ehsani: That two year ago thing, yeah.

Jeff Staple: The Reebok collaboration started as what, a shoe, or you were an ambassador at first?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, it was like an influencer program, so they chose a girl from each continent, and they gave us all the same shoe, and we basically had to do whatever we wanted with the shoe. I did the shoe, and the shoe did freakishly well. Back then on my website I didn’t have like a counter because we were making all the jewelry in-house, so we had no inventory. It was like we’d make a few of these things that we thought were popular, and then if somebody placed an order, we’d just make it that same day. It was kind of like that.

Melody Ehsani: We got the Reeboks. I think Reebok had ceded me 50 pairs or something like that, so we put them up on the website on Friday night or whatever. It was like at Friday at midnight. And then we came back to work on Monday, and we had sold 3,000 pairs of shoes over the weekend.

Jeff Staple: Out of 50.

Melody Ehsani: Out of 50. And we had no accountant-

Jeff Staple: To stop it.

Melody Ehsani: So, there was no way to stop it, so orders were just continuing to come in. I was like, “Oh my God.”

Jeff Staple: You just pissed off 2,950 people.

Melody Ehsani: I was like, “What do we do? How do we do this? Where did these people come from?” I called Reebok, and I told them. I was like, “Do you guys have 3,000 pairs of shoes that I could buy off of you? What can we do?” They were like, “Well, we have 2,000 pairs, but we can order them from I don’t know wherever and get the rest to you in a month.” I was like, “Cool.” I bought the 2,000 pairs off of them, and then I shipped it out. I think we got like five cancellations or something. Everybody else waited a month and a half for their shoes.

Jeff Staple: Wow, what a great story.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: And that led to more.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. I hate to talk shit, but you know how companies are like, “Oh, that happened, so let’s just kill this thing now.”

Jeff Staple: [crosstalk 00:28:49].

Melody Ehsani: They were like, “We want to do the same shoe in these colors now. Are you okay with the re-release?” And I was like, “No, it’s not going to be special anymore,” but they did it anyway. The second one did really well as well.

Jeff Staple: But you eventually said yes.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. Well, I didn’t really have a say. Under my contract they had rights to it.

Jeff Staple: In your contract whatever you designed for them was the ownership of Reebok.

Melody Ehsani: It was theirs, yeah.

Jeff Staple: So, they were asking you for permission, but technically they didn’t need it.

Melody Ehsani: They didn’t need it.

Jeff Staple: Okay. But was your name on those shoes too?

Melody Ehsani: Yes.

Jeff Staple: Okay.

Melody Ehsani: They put it out. It was fine. Again, it did really well. And then I think it was the perfect timing because all the people in the classics department that were making the decisions were all women, and they had been waiting for something like this to happen it seems so that they could do something for women. Especially with Reebok’s grand heritage, it’s all about aerobics. That’s really where they-

Jeff Staple: Killed it.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. I think that they saw it as an opportunity, so they signed me to a deal.

Jeff Staple: A longer-term deal than that to create more collections.

Melody Ehsani: They signed me to a three-year deal, which at the time I was like, “Great. Cool. I can do two collections a year for you guys and do whatever I want.” It was great.

Jeff Staple: Did that help financing of your brand?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. Well, in a sense that I learned … Thankfully, from that first experience that I had I learned that I needed to buy the shoes and sell them myself, so that was part of my contract is that I had them set me up as a vendor in their account. I was getting their little design [inaudible 00:30:51] on the side. That’s what my deal was with them, but then I had access to purchasing the shoes, and I was able to drop them a week before anybody else. That was my deal with them, and then that’s how I made money. That really helped me financially.

Jeff Staple: Did you have a lawyer at the time?

Melody Ehsani:  No.

Jeff Staple: I want to drill down a little bit into the art of the deal. First, the negotiation of the terms. For people who don’t really understand, before you sign a contract, there’s just the discussion of the bullet points of the deal, right?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Like who gets what, how much are they going to pay, stuff like that. And then it goes into a contractual thing. In that negotiation process, that was just you and Reebok hashing it out.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Did you feel intimidated in talking about how to price yourself for design fee, how much are you buying the shoes for, how early you get them?

Melody Ehsani: Absolutely.

Jeff Staple: You were just freestyling.

Melody Ehsani: Well, yeah. Again, I had no reference point. I didn’t know anybody at the time that had ever done anything like that outside of professional athletes, so I was like, “I don’t know what a design fee looks like,” so I was calling my friends and asking some of my friends that I think would know, but nobody really knew. When they offered it to me, I was just like, “Okay, great.”

Jeff Staple: When they offered it to you, were you pleasantly surprised, unpleasantly disappointed? Were you like, “It’s about right.”

Melody Ehsani: Again, at that time it was like I was just so excited to do it that I would have done it for nothing really.

Jeff Staple: For the exposure.

Melody Ehsani: For the exposure, for whatever. I just would have done it just because I thought it was an incredible opportunity for me. Looking back I really wish I had somebody helping me.

Jeff Staple: But you learned as you went along.

Melody Ehsani: I learned a lot.

Jeff Staple: How about the contract? You just read your own contract.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: You didn’t show a lawyer?

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: What?

Melody Ehsani: I got advice from a couple of people I knew, but none of the lawyers that I knew … Fashion is really specific contractually. I knew an immigration lawyer, and my best friend is a civil rights attorney, so they understood things, so I got help, but no.

Jeff Staple: When I see young creatives start getting called upon by bigger corporations, you always hear about people getting caught in a bad deal. The truth is, a bad deal happens when someone misses out on the finer details.

Melody Ehsani: It was pretty straightforward. There were certain things that I saw in there, and I’d be like, “I need you to take this out,” and they would. It was fine.

Jeff Staple: You had your law-ish degree.

Melody Ehsani: Kind of. I kind of understood what I was doing to some extent, but what I didn’t realize, which I wish I had earlier, was as I was doing all this stuff I saw all these other designers. Gosha Rubchinskiy is a perfect example where he had a shoe with Fila, Reebok and Nike all in the same year because however he had structured his contract obviously he didn’t have like a non-compete whereas when I signed with Reebok I was deadlocked in with them, so I couldn’t explore any other opportunities-

Jeff Staple: For those two years.

Melody Ehsani: … which really pissed me off.

Jeff Staple: You saw that, and you just figured, “This kind of makes sense. I should be exclusive to them.”

Melody Ehsani: Well, yeah. I was really dedicated to them just because of how much access they were giving me, which is also another thing that I learned through the process. Different brands have different things going on. If I were to go to Nike, I think they would probably be like, “These are the two silhouettes that you could work on, and this is your color palette.” Whereas Reebok basically was like, “Here is our entire archive.”

Jeff Staple: [crosstalk 00:35:04].

Melody Ehsani: “Here’s our materials library. Do you want to us to source anything for you?” I was like, “What? Okay. Can you do this?” And they were like, “Yeah, we could do it.” I had a whole team there that just did stuff for me. That’s what really made me excited about it, and that’s why I made peace with it.

Jeff Staple: Let’s talk about your store. What year did the store open in L.A.?

Melody Ehsani: The store opened in 2012.

Jeff Staple: So, it’s been there five years now.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: If I can recall now, five years ago E-commerce was a thing, Amazon was a thing. The state of brick and mortar retail was probably already shaky at best. Why did you decide, “I’m going to open a free standing store in L.A.?”

Melody Ehsani: It was like that voice in me that just kept pestering me about it, and I didn’t understand it because I hate retail. I grew up working in the mall. I’ve worked in the mall my entire life, and I hate retail. I hate it so much. I hate being in a retail store. I just don’t like it, but there was something about it. There’s something about the stuff that I made that I felt like needed interaction. It just kept coming to me where I was like, “Ugh, I think I have to look at this.”

Jeff Staple: How were people buying your stuff at the store?

Melody Ehsani: Just online.

Jeff Staple: They couldn’t go to your apartment anymore.

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: Those days are done.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, they were done.

Jeff Staple: Okay. Did you have a showroom?

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: So, you had your home. Did you have an office?

Melody Ehsani: I had an office.

Jeff Staple: Okay. You had a home and an office, but people couldn’t go there to just shop.

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: Okay.

Melody Ehsani: Say I just feel like there needed to be some kind of interaction, so I knew a lot of the guys on Fairfax like Nick from Diamond. We all clubbed together when we were younger, so I knew them. Actually, Frank Ocean is a good friend of mine, and I was with him. He took me down to the Odd Future store. Everybody would hang out there all the time. He took me down there, and I remember being like, “Wow, Fairfax has really changed, but in a good way.”

Melody Ehsani: I was like, “If I were to ever do something, I think I’d do it here,” just because I liked the vibe around it, and I knew everybody there, and I was like, “This feels right.” A week later we went down there again, and I saw for rent sign on one of the stores, and I was like, “Huh, I wonder …” I took down the number, and I called. Mind you, I didn’t have credit at all. I had put everything on a debit card. Nobody had taught me about that even.

Jeff Staple: You didn’t have a credit card. You had a debit card only.

Melody Ehsani: I had a debit card, so I was putting everything on debit cards because I didn’t want to spend more than I had. I saw that as noble.

Jeff Staple: You didn’t want debt.

Melody Ehsani: Right. I was like, “This is great. I’m doing great.”

Jeff Staple: That is very commendable to be honest.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, but I didn’t know that you needed credit for stuff like this, so I remember talking to my accountant at the time, and he was like, “Again, nobody is going to rent you anything because you don’t have credit.” I was like, “Well-

Jeff Staple: Unless you paid like five years upfront or something.

Melody Ehsani: Right. I was like, “I can’t do that.” I was like, “Well, whatever. I’ll just try it anyway,” and then he was like, “Yeah, just submit the application, and then if they come back to it, then we can negotiate and see what terms or whatever they want,” so I did. I submitted an application. They got back, and they were like, “Okay, you’re approved.” I was like, “What?” I was like, “They didn’t [inaudible 00:39:02] my credit.” They could not. There’s no way they could have. And then the process of it was like the most effortless process I’ve ever gone through in my life.

Jeff Staple: To get the keys for your place.

Melody Ehsani: To get the keys to my place. I was like, “Okay, I get it. This is why this shit keeps coming to me. This is just supposed to be something that I do.” Now I-

Jeff Staple: For the people who don’t know, you’re on Fairfax, which is a very testosterone-driven boys’ club, right?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: It’s Diamond, Hundreds, Supreme, like HUF, Odd Future, and you were just, “I’m going to open like a for female by female retail store.”

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. That’s what got me excited though.

Jeff Staple: Why not like Larchmont, La Brea, Melrose where the women shop?

Melody Ehsani: I just didn’t connect with them. It’s not somewhere I would hang out, and I just felt like … I don’t know. I was born and raised in L.A., and I feel like there’s very few places that really capture L.A. I felt like Fairfax in a sense was still very untouched in that way. It wasn’t like Hollywood. It wasn’t made to be anything it’s not. It was still very true to itself. Now it’s changed tremendously in the last five years, but even now still it still has-

Jeff Staple: [crosstalk 00:40:40].

Melody Ehsani: … a certain quality about it.

Jeff Staple: Have you felt the hits and challenges that everyone talks about with retail?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, absolutely. I think the hardest part for me is when you have a brand and then having to grow publicly. You know what I’m saying?

Jeff Staple: In front of everyone.

Melody Ehsani: Exactly. Like making mistakes. When I look at pictures of my store when I first opened, It looked like an art gallery. There’s nothing in there.

Jeff Staple: It had little pieces of jewelry.

Melody Ehsani: Right, it was like little things here. It’s embarrassing whereas now I feel … Even now it’s still not where it needs to be, but now I feel like I’ve collected more of what a brand identity would look like in person and how to execute that. Challenging-wise there’s so many things. The toilet floods, and all of a sudden you have all this product that’s damaged.

Jeff Staple: In toilet water.

Melody Ehsani: Right, and what do you do?

Jeff Staple: These are things they don’t teach you in college.

Melody Ehsani: No, it’s not.

Jeff Staple: What are the pros of it then?

Melody Ehsani: I think for me the biggest pro has been I’ve really been able to … When I was working at an office, I was very isolated, and now that I have this store, I have an opportunity to really involve the community in doing different things that I really want to do. An example is Fairfax High School is down the street, and there’s all these girls that are on Fairfax all the time but can’t really hang out at a lot of these guy stores, so they come and hang out at our store, which is so great, or they’ll come in and talk to the shop girls about what’s going on. It’s just so sweet to create that sort of community.

Jeff Staple: It’s like a club house.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, and then I get to host different things. We have a speaker series every month. I have the privilege of establishing all these incredible relationships with cool people, and then I now have a place where I can be like, “Hey, can you come speak?” Kind of what we’re doing but do that. It was actually so dope. A couple of weeks ago I had Lena Waithe who’s the first black woman. She’s on Master of None, but she was the first black woman to ever win an Emmy for comedy writing, and then my friend, Melina, who directed the episode that she won the Emmy for and Michael Ealy who’s an actor, and they talked about women of color in Hollywood.

Jeff Staple: They all together had a talk.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, we had a panel at the store. We received 800 RSVPs, which was a lot for us. It was unheard of.

Jeff Staple: Your store can fit how many people?

Melody Ehsani: 100. We had a line of like 200 people down the-

Jeff Staple: That’s awesome.

Melody Ehsani: Down the street. And the next day everybody on Fairfax was like, “Yo, that is so dope. What did you drop last night?”

Jeff Staple: [inaudible 00:43:56].

Melody Ehsani: Right, that’s what I said.

Jeff Staple: That’s dope.

Melody Ehsani: That was really cool. That was probably the highlight of my year where I was like, “This is what I really want to do.” It was mostly girls like all girls. You never see girls line up for anything, but when it’s this kind of stuff, I would line up for that. I would definitely stand in line for something like that.

Jeff Staple: These are things that still can’t happen on an Instagram post.

Melody Ehsani: Right.

Jeff Staple: This has to happen in real life.

Melody Ehsani: Right, and it’s just so special. I really like creating, especially in the state of the world right now. People, including myself, feel so helpless. Often times we’re like, “What do I do? Where do I go?” I’m fortunate enough where I have a community that really supports me, but a lot of people don’t. A lot of my friends don’t have like-minded people that they could go to all the time or that they can hang out with. It’s so cool to create a space for like-minded people, and it’s all based on fashion. Who would have thought?

Jeff Staple: What Melody has done here for the community and the culture is absolutely amazing. There’s no arguing that, but now I wanted to get into the actual state of her business and quantify where she’s at. I have four major categories. To me, when I see a successful business, they’re checking on all of four of these categories, so I’m going to say them to you, and you tell me how you’re doing in them.

Melody Ehsani: Okay.

Jeff Staple: To me, in a business like ours the first major category is creativity. To me, I put design and marketing even into that whole bucket because nowadays marketing is like a creative endeavor really.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: I feel like you have that. That was the start of it. You had that in spades. The other three to me that are really important, I’ll reel them off first, is sales. It’s great to be able to make stuff, but to me selling them is the next challenge. It’s not enough to just make it, so selling, production, the ability to scale the thing that you’re making and deliver it on quality, and on time and on budget. And then the fourth thing to me is what I just call logistics and backend, which is everything from the ability to ship it on time, not have stuff get stuck in customs, make sure that they are paying for the goods, or if they want to return it, that it can be returned. Just the moving of it is another issue. Sales, production and logistics, how do you fair in those categories?

Melody Ehsani: How do you want me to answer that like in a percentage?

Jeff Staple: 0 to 10, 10 being best.

Melody Ehsani: 10 being best.

Jeff Staple: Sales.

Melody Ehsani: Sales.

Jeff Staple: Let’s start with creativity.

Melody Ehsani: Creativity isn’t an issue for me. I feel like I always-

Jeff Staple: You’re [crosstalk 00:46:49].

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, it’s just a matter of creating time.

Jeff Staple: Let’s call that an eleven.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, that’s my favorite part. If I could just do that, I would be the happiest person on the planet.

Jeff Staple: Let’s go through the other ones.

Melody Ehsani: For sales, I think it’s probably like a six or a seven. I think that I have a solid customer base that is very supportive and that buys our stuff, but trying to figure out how to scale that is the hard part. It’s like, “How do I find more of these people in other places of the world?”

Jeff Staple: If you can answer that question, it automatically now goes to the next question.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Let’s say you find a million other people who want to buy your brand. Now are you ready for-

Melody Ehsani: Production.

Jeff Staple: … production?

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: Are you still laser cutting pieces out?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Get out of here.

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: You still haven’t gone back to China in Guangzhou or whatever?

Melody Ehsani: I did expand to metal, so now we also do like … I work with brass a lot, and we make molds, and then that kind of stuff is easy.

Jeff Staple: Locally in California.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: So, everything is in California.

Melody Ehsani: Everything is in California.

Jeff Staple: Wow, made in the USA.

Melody Ehsani: Made in the USA.

Jeff Staple: That’s pretty awesome.

Melody Ehsani: I don’t know what I would do. Well, it depends on what it is. With the acrylic stuff, it’s all hand-made. It’s all happening in-house, but it’s not hard. I would have to hire some more people to assist, but I could do it. With the metals it’s easy, but with the apparel, I just started doing apparel in the last couple of years. That’s a little bit of a challenge because there’s so much that goes into it like sourcing the material. We found this incredible material, but we only found 300 yards, which could probably make like 200 pieces. If we got an order for it, if we had more demand, we wouldn’t know what to do.

Jeff Staple: Is all the apparel made in America too?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: What made you want to go into apparel?

Melody Ehsani: I got bored with accessories. I was like, “If I make another earring, I’m going to shoot myself.”

Jeff Staple: You just wanted to expand your repertoire basically.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. Even now I’m like, “I want to make furniture so bad.” Every chandelier I see I’m just like, “I want to make lighting.” It’s just about wanting to flex creatively in different ways. I don’t want it to become a routine ever.

Jeff Staple: Rate production.

Melody Ehsani: I would say a five.

Jeff Staple: Okay, because you’re good at what you do, but God forbid if you got like a 10,000 piece order, which is sort of-

Melody Ehsani: I wouldn’t know what to do.

Jeff Staple: Right, and then-

Melody Ehsani: The hardest part about production is timing because a lot of times I can get it done, but it’ll take like six weeks to eight weeks.

Jeff Staple: And then the opportunity is lost.

Melody Ehsani: That opportunity is gone.

Jeff Staple: Yeah, and then logistics, which goes right hand-in-hand in that. You get an order for 10,000 pieces, and now you got a house 10,000 bolts of yardage or material. How is your logistic situation?

Melody Ehsani: I would probably say it’s a six. That’s one step above. Well, it’s interesting because with the Reeboks it’s a prime example. With the jewelry we move … It’s a steady thing. We sell it all year round, and it’s a steady thing, but when we do the Reeboks, we’re selling like 3,000 pairs overnight usually or throughout the course of a weekend. Logistically, it’s really challenging because we have to house 3,000 pairs of shoes, which is so different than jewelry. Jewelry is like a little-

Jeff Staple: Tiny box.

Melody Ehsani: You can put a thousand pieces in a box in the corner, and you’re fine whereas with shoes we’re living in the shoes for like-

Jeff Staple: But you do it all out of your space.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Wow.

Melody Ehsani: And then it’s creating the labels, finding the packaging.

Jeff Staple: Different sized box.

Melody Ehsani: Everything. We’re able to handle it with that kind of rush, but I would really be worried if that was consistent and anything more than that.

Jeff Staple: But the clothing is around the same bulkiness, right?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, the clothing-

Jeff Staple: What kind of clothing are you doing?

Melody Ehsani: We’re doing simple cut and sew like hoodies, and sweats and tees. We’ll do the occasional dress or things like that.

Jeff Staple: That’s all being housed out of your store office too.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: Do you have a warehouse?

Melody Ehsani: We do. We have a small storage. Not even a warehouse, it’s like a storage unit.

Jeff Staple: That’s an honest rating I think. That’s pretty good. You mentioned you had 15 people. Can you breakdown their roles?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, five of them work in the front of the house, and they’re shop girls. And then I have an office manager, a production coordinator, a newly like in the last six months a business advisor who’s positioned to be a CEO potentially. I have three people that work on jewelry production in-house, and then I have two people that do content like our weekly mailers, take photographs, run the Instagram, and then customer service.

Jeff Staple: I don’t think you mentioned assistant designers.

Melody Ehsani: No.

Jeff Staple: All you. All OCD.

Melody Ehsani: I’m doing everything.

Jeff Staple: You still design every jewelry piece, every apparel, every shoe.

Melody Ehsani: Everything, including packaging. I do everything. That’s why I need an investor.

Jeff Staple: I have to admit, as an outsider, I have to say that’s almost insanity.

Melody Ehsani: It’s crazy. Well, again, it was another one of those things that I didn’t know. I didn’t know that that was-

Jeff Staple: That was insane.

Melody Ehsani: No. I just thought that that’s going to be [crosstalk 00:53:27].

Jeff Staple: Do you have issues where you don’t trust someone with your brand because it has your name on it?

Melody Ehsani: It’s a combination of that, but it’s also I didn’t know that I could be Melody Ehsani, and everything in the store wouldn’t be Melody Ehsani. You know what I mean?

Jeff Staple: Yeah.

Melody Ehsani: I thought Marc Jacobs does everything.

Jeff Staple: Like draws every single thing.

Melody Ehsani: I thought every single thing is his. I didn’t know that there is a team of designers that do that for him.

Jeff Staple: Got you. But now you understand.

Melody Ehsani: Now I understand.

Jeff Staple: So, you’re looking for the growth.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. Now it’s just about finding somebody that gets it because I haven’t met anybody that does.

Jeff Staple: But it took the 10 years now, so that when you do find that magical design director or creative director they have the blueprint whereas if you did it too early it’d be their blueprint.

Melody Ehsani: Totally.

Jeff Staple: Right?

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: It’s amazing. I think that really blows people away that you’re crafting this thing for 10 years just off intuition.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah. Well, it’s a trip. I’m angry at myself that I didn’t learn quicker or investigate more earlier. I just feel like now I’m behind in a way.

Jeff Staple:  But something is sacrificed when you structure too early too.

Melody Ehsani: Totally.

Jeff Staple: I think brand DNA, essence, spirit. These things are squashed in an Excel spreadsheet inevitably, right?

Melody Ehsani: Totally. Well, that’s happening now.

Jeff Staple: The Excel spreadsheets are coming up.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: What are you doing now to strategically be a more structured business? Give us some examples of that.

Melody Ehsani: Well, I need investment, which is something super foreign to me. I literally started with nothing and built this whole thing by myself, so it’s really interesting trying to pitch that to people because it’s like I’m not a fucking like a hot dog stand. It’s not like I’m buying hot dogs and putting my logo on them. I’m literally creating. I’ve created every single thing from the furniture in my store to the fixtures, to the packaging, to everything.

Melody Ehsani: It’s interesting trying to explain that to people who have money. I need support. I need senior level staffing, and I need to grow tech. Up and until a year ago I didn’t even have Google Analytics on my website, which is crazy. I’ve never spent a dollar on marketing. I met with one person, and they were like, “Your PR person sucks,” and I’m like, “I don’t have one.”

Jeff Staple: That could explain why it sucks.

Melody Ehsani: I’ve never had one. It’s just really interesting when somebody looks at your business from that standpoint and picks it apart in that way where I’m like, “Yeah, but I built this.”

Jeff Staple: Well, it’s almost a double-edged sword that you’re at a point now where you’re ready to share what you’ve created with another person that hopefully you can trust a lot.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah.

Jeff Staple: How does it feel for you now that … IF you look back on the days of you getting a thousand shoes from China, that you lived there and you brought over and are selling out of your apartment to now employing 15 people that are reliant on you to pay rent, eat food. You’re obviously sustaining yourself too. You have this whole brand organization. When you think back to those days, how does it make you feel now?

Melody Ehsani: It’s surreal. It’s weird because it’s not what I … I think I just didn’t think about it, like I said, because I was so excited about just making stuff, but I didn’t anticipate being in this position. Sometimes I still fight it. I’m like, “I don’t want to be responsible for all these people.” I really have days like that or where I’m like, “I wonder if I could just go somewhere and get a paycheck.”

Melody Ehsani: Obviously, I know I’ve chosen this, and I really love it and enjoy it. When I have those moments where I could sit back and look at it, it really feels like a blessing. I don’t think I would do anything else. I still haven’t slowed down to the point where I can sit back and really think about it that way. I still have so much more that I want to do. I still don’t feel like I’ve gotten anywhere close to where I want to get to, so it’s weird. I don’t think about it that way yet.

Jeff Staple: You’re 10 years in on day one basically.

Melody Ehsani: Yeah, exactly.

Jeff Staple: Do you have anything else you feel like you want to add to this?

Melody Ehsani: No, I think you asked me everything.

Jeff Staple: You got it out.

Melody Ehsani: Are you bored?

Jeff Staple: No, I’m not. I’m fascinated by this stuff. That’s why I wanted to do the show.

Jeff Staple: Thanks for listening to the episode. You can find out more about the show or listen to past episodes at Subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcast. I use Overcast, and you can reach out to me on Twitter @jeffstaple. You could check us out on the web at businessofhype.come, and you can email any questions to The Business of HYPE is directed by Daniel Navetta, edited and produced by Bright Young Things. You can check them out at This was recorded at Sibling Rivalry Studio in New York City and on location at Sole DXB in Dubai. I’m Jeff Staple, and you’ve been listening to the Business of HYPE on HYPEBEAST Radio.