Full Name: Melissa Urfirer
Current Title/Company: CEO & Founder – www.RileyVersa.Com
Educational Background: University of Pennsylvania
Melissa, Thank you so much for doing this interview. Please tell us, what was your first job and how did you land that position?
My first job out of college was working for Edelman Berland doing market research. I have always been interested in what drives people to make certain decisions, so I gravitated towards that position. However, I’ve always known that I would eventually end up working in the fashion industry; so when I had the opportunity, I took it!
How have your designs evolved since your first sketch?
The details! My first sketch was a standard clutch. Then we went through numerous revisions, and the clutch ended up gaining a removable shoulder strap, a credit card holder, leather piping, etc. The list goes on and on.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
Since Riley Versa is a new brand, I think the biggest challenge is wanting to do everything at once. It’s hard, but you have to prioritize what really, truly needs to be done immediately and what can wait.
We want to hear about your inspiration as a creative! Where does your inspiration come from?
Everywhere! Art, fashion, interior design, nature…really everywhere.
How did you learn the ins and outs of owning and operating your brand?
Speaking to as many entrepreneurs as possible to learn how they run their businesses. Especially women in the fashion industry. Ultimately, I think the only way to learn the ins and outs of owning and operating a brand is through trial and error. What works for one brand isn’t necessarily what will work for yours, and half of the fun is figuring that out for yourself.
As a business owner, how do you achieve a work/life balance?
Still figuring that one out! It’s funny because you would think that being your own boss means more flexibility, but it’s actually the opposite. There is no clocking in and clocking out. It’s 24/7, but at the same time, you are doing what you love, which is incredible. So it doesn’t really feel like work. At least not all the time!
What do you see in the future for your brand? How do you hope to grow the business?
The main goal I have for Riley Versa right now is to expand both our marketing efforts and our product lines. We just launched this year, so I will continue to release exciting new covers for the existing bags and introduce new styles that incorporate the Riley Versa concept of one bag with removable magnetic covers.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing people wear Riley Versa!
What is a typical workday like for you?
There actually is no typical workday, which is part of what makes my job so great! I spend some days on the computer, focusing on accounting, finance, and marketing, and I’ll spend other days running around New York’s Design District picking out new fabrics, leathers, and meeting with the manufacturers.
Best moment of your career so far?
I was in the middle of a photo-shoot for Riley Versa and a woman came over to us and said, “sorry to interrupt, but I can’t walk away without knowing who makes that bag! I love it!” To hear someone have such a strong, positive reaction to your product is the most incredible feeling.
What advice would you give your younger self?
You’re going to be okay!
Go-to coffee order?
Large iced coffee with skim milk and a Splenda, although I’m trying to cut out Splenda!
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and what would you order?
Katherine Power. She is the co-founder of Clique Media and is the genius behind ‘Who What Wear’.
Best advice you’ve received?
Never save an outfit, make today worthy of wearing it.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Hmm that’s a tough one, probably Kristen Bell.
The Nolcha Shows are a leading award winning event, held during New York Fashion Week, for independent fashion designers to showcase their collections to a global audience of press, retailers, stylists and industry influencers. Over the past seven years the Nolcha Shows have become established as a platform for discovery; promoting cutting edge innovative fashion designers through runway shows and exhibitions.
The team at Chic Galleria is thrilled to again be collaborating with the designers who will be featured at the Nolcha Shows. We are looking forward to showcasing these talented designers and attending their shows this fall. – Beth Anderson, Founder and Senior Editor, Chic Galleria