Be Human. At the beginning stages, I had it all wrong! I wanted our brand to be an exclusive clothing brand for women without taking into consideration who the petite woman was. I wasn’t actively seeking and learning about the petite community, I didn’t know what they liked, disliked or where they were shopping online. I shifted my perspective as a business owner and placed myself in the real struggles other petite women were facing. By practicing empathy, I’ve gained a new perspective that has led us into a more purposeful path.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angelica Deleon. Angelica is the founder of Leon, an eCommerce petite women’s clothing brand she founded while studying abroad at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. As her company continues to expand through its partnerships with renowned models, photographers and social media influencers, Ms. Deleon remains at the forefront of her business’s digital evolution. Ms. Deleon holds a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University and a Master’s in Innovation Management from the University of International Business and Economics located in Beijing, China.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Angelica! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The pleasure is all mine, thank you for having me! When I set out to begin Leon, I knew one thing — I wanted to work in business yet I struggled to find clothes that made me feel confident while doing so. With little to no knowledge or experience in the tech and fashion industry, I ventured to conceptualize Leon. Through collaborations with my passionate team, YouTube videos, university courses, mentorship sessions and real time trial and error, I learned about business management, design making, supply chain operations and the inevitable ups and downs that the entrepreneurial journey ushers.
While my personal issue drove me to begin Leon, my parents were a huge influence in my decision. Growing up, I witnessed firsthand my parents build a company from the ground up. My mother wore various hats as an entrepreneur, wife and mother of six. Needless to say, she taught me early in life the value of creating your own opportunities.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Initially, Leon was a selfish project — it was exclusively for me. After learning that other petite women also struggled to find their true fit, I transformed the way I lead Leon. Now, I put myself in my customer shoes and everytime I publish a new product on the website I ask myself, “Would she (the petite customer) wear this, like this, use this product?”. I believe this thought process and approach speaks to the authentic nature of Leon, it’s made by a petite woman for petite women.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This may not be the funniest but it definitely was a unique lesson learned. This was almost five years ago — the first time I met Grace, our international supplier while studying abroad in China. I arrived at Grace’s warehouse, a bright eyed 19-year-old girl with a booklet of designs and a vision for Leon.
Grace was enthusiastic to share her prices with me and reassured me that negotiating is encouraged in China. Lesson here, research the business formalities of the country you want to do business in and keep an open mind about what is acceptable in other countries.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Ofcourse! The United States’ apparel market is currently valued at USD 225 billion dollars yet there are countless fashion stories that remain untold. In the U.S., 40% of American women are considered petite under 5’ 5’’, however, the fashion industry mainly accounts for the average American size 8. Department stores like Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, and etc. although provide exquisite petite women garments; lack a sense of modernity and consideration to the young to mid professional’s expected budget. Leon strives to fill that gap.
Our brand is a reminder to women that we have the power to transform our uniqueness into strength and build a business while we’re at it. At our core, Leon strives to redefine what it means to be a petite woman through our bespoke designs while harnessing the power of technology to personalize our petite women’s experience online.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Absolutely. We are currently scouting the world wide web for a petite woman influencer who will be granted the opportunity to become the new face of Leon. Our models have done a phenomenal job in reflecting our core values which are women empowerment, self-expression and uniqueness. Leon is ready to introduce a new face and we are immensely gratified by the responses we have received to date and look boldly into the future as we make our decision. If you or someone you know is fabulous, petite and feels in tune with our core values; join us at www.usaleon.com and apply to our petite influencer program, we cannot wait to hear from you!
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Surround yourself with people who are inspired, motivated and grateful. It moves business forward and and keeps you on your toes!
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Well, at Leon we are a small team of passionate professionals. I say, no matter how small or big your team is lead with humility and grit. Through my early professional career, I have had the distinct pleasure of working alongside bosses and mentors that have led with humility. I’ve made it a goal in my professional life to lead similarly and leading with grit allows your team to see that staying focused and relentless towards a goal pays off. In my opinion, humility and grit are key!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dear mother. My mother came to the United States of America with little to nothing but a support system and an American Dream. Over the course of her life, she has achieved many milestones including establishing a multimillion-dollar company, becoming a loving wife and raising six children. Her ambition, keen leadership and business skills have inspired me to follow in her footsteps. My mother taught me that with a strong support system and clear vision, anything is possible.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I truly do believe that every woman should feel empowered and confident in the clothing they wear without compromising their wallet, personal style and true size. For those reasons, I have intentionally built Leon to provide women a brand that has affordable prices, bespoke styles and petite sizes. Additionally, Leon garners opportunities for women to establish an online presence and become business women of their own through our petite influencer program. Through our program, Leon engages petite models on Instagram and forges a business agreement with them. In exchange for bolstering our online brand to authentic petite customers, we grant our models the opportunity to grow their social media presence and market to other businesses as influencers.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Harness the power of technology and data to learn, adapt and innovate your business. Starting an online business has been exhilarating yet heart-wrenching and at times, overwhelming. As technology improves, the Leon team has learned to adapt and leverage current technologies to enhance our online business. At Leon, learning who our target consumer is, remains paramount for the continued growth of Leon. Our team utilizes online tools like Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Google My Business and more to derive data driven insights that influence Leon’s marketing strategies. With the help of technology, the Leon brand can reach insurmountable heights. In many ways, technology feels like a breath of fresh air that is clear, focused and overall supportive of Leon’s continued success.
- Be Human. At the beginning stages of Leon, I had it all wrong! I wanted Leon to be an exclusive clothing brand for women without taking into consideration who the petite woman was. I wasn’t actively seeking and learning about the petite community, I didn’t know what they liked, disliked or where they were shopping online. I shifted my perspective as a business owner and placed myself in the real struggles other petite women were facing. By practicing empathy, I’ve gained a new perspective that has led Leon into a more purposeful path.
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. Although we can wear many hats, there comes a time when giving up a couple can be beneficial to your business. I believe this is something a lot of entrepreneurs deal with, especially in the early stages of starting a company. I still struggle with this because it is so easy to want to control every aspect of my business. However, I am not an expert in every area of business and in fact, there are people that are highly skilled and talented in the areas Leon needs improvement. I’ve learned to reach out to those people, learn from them and in unique opportunities, let them do their thing!
- Fight like hell for your idea. During my time in Beijing, China I worked at McCann Worldgroup on the global planning team. I will never forget one of the many lessons I was taught by my mentor. He said when you have an idea, you have to fight like hell for it! You should be well-researched and the last question you should ask your counterparts is, “what is holding you back from saying yes?” There are times when negotiating prices with suppliers or trying to convey Leon’s value to a potential investor, I have received push back. I’ve learned that when you truly believe in an idea you should do everything you can to galvanize your audience to buy into your vision.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
During a Summer college break, my father and I traveled to his hometown in the Dominican Republic where I learned where he went to school, El Viras Matos in San Juan, Dominican Republic. During this trip, my father shared with me his story of his poor upbringings and how education was important to him but because he had to leave school at an early age to work and support his sisters and mother, he was not granted the opportunity to pursue education. It amazes me every day to learn about my father’s story and to learn how many kids cannot pursue an education due to their socio-economic deprivation. I am grateful for my father to have at an early age placed the importance of education, hard work and resilience in my life. Now as a young professional, I feel compelled to give back.
Establishing a foundation with a mission to provide the tools, mentorship and funding for impoverished kids to pursue education at world class institutions is a good I would be honored to bring about in the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dear mother shared a quote that has stuck with me. She said, “ Mi Hija, don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today”. I learned by my mothers example, that I too could be many things. She leads a successful business, is a loving wife, a mother of six children and a kicka** cook. Juggling school and Leon at times felt overwhelming but with my mothers advice I learned how to integrate Leon into my everyday life. Now, Leon is not just a business I run, but it is an extension of who I am.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast with the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. I admire his business mind and fortuitous career. He is noted for his adherence to value investing and for his personal frugality despite his immense wealth and he seems like an awesome man to meet.