After Michel Bezoza and Nicla DiCosmo became best friends as students at Rutgers, they set out on their own separate career paths but couldn't shake the feeling that the two women should be finding a way to start a business together. A few years later, they did it, launching Gypsy Warrior, an online fashion retailer in 2010, focused on hand-curated collection of clothing, shoes, and accessories and pulling inspiration from everything from high fashion to tattoo culture to New York street style, and especially their love of all things vintage. Though they promised themselves they would "go back and find jobs" if things didn't work out within two years, that hasn't been necessary.
The brand has become super successful, thanks in part to their killer Instagram feed that's edging in on a million followers. And while they do most of their business online, they've got a groovy brick-and-mortar boutique in Ridgewood that stocks everything a fashion forward gal could want. Fashion editor and celeb stylist Melissa Garcia (@melissagarcia) talked to fashionistas Bezoza and DiCosmo about how they managed to launch their dream company, balancing business with motherhood and what's up next.
Was one of you more into staring a business than the other? Was one of you more hesitant?
Michel Bezoza: No, it was the perfect time going through things in different aspects of both our lives, it made so much sense. We were 25 and we were so passionate about what we wanted to do. We spent a lot of time talking about the Gypsy Warrior “thing.” We know it was going to be something, we just didn’t know how we were going to get there.
How did you get started?
Nicla DiCosmo: We launched the company with $100 each in Michel mother’s basement. We started through eBay and etsy and went vintage and thrift shopping from 10 to 4 every day. People wanted more and we were selling things out of our closets. We were reinvesting everything we made and we took on two summer interns.
At that time were you still just doing vintage pieces?
MB: We realized we had a knack for repurposing so we would buy denim vests and stud them. We started selling accessories and would modify and resell them. We finally saved enough money to get out of the basement. We had created a foundation and customers were coming back.
What percentage of your sales is online versus in-store?
ND: Ninety-five percent is online. The store is our showroom for our website.
Do you want to open another store?
ND: Yes. We had a long term pop-up in Hoboken. We had a pop-up in Brooklyn and we're now looking towards a Jersey City pop-up. We love pop-ups. Stores get boring and things get old fast. Everything is so fast moving that the excitement and allure of traveling some place keeps it exciting.
What are your other dreams for Gypsy Warrior?
ND: We are focusing on our own branded product, coming out with strong, awesome products that everyone from the Ridgewood girl to the online girl is going to want. And we want more boutiques.
So who do you think your target market is?
MB: Someone who is young, savvy, fashion forward, edgy, and smart about how much things cost.
Michel, you’re a new mommy to a 10-week old son named Hunter. What is the key to balancing work and family?
MB: A great husband and a great partner. This is the first time I felt like we were in a partnership. I learned a lot through this business and partnership and best-friend relationship and I almost had to translate it into my [relationship with my husband] and partnership with our son. My husband has to support me at work and home. If I didn’t have them I wouldn’t have my whole life.
Do you think your style changed when you became a mom?
MB: No it didn’t. I think I was concerned it would, but I could relate more to moms – young moms who are still really cool and could be young, cool, and hip.
Anything surprise you about having a baby?
MB: The whole journey has been eye-opening. It’s just a very different experience; no one can explain it to you. You just have to live through it all … and learn how to do it without sleeping.
Have you already decided on Hunter’s style?
MB: I've decided I want him to be a little skater boy.
Does that inspire you to start a kids clothing line?
MB: Yes, that's on our radar.
What's your advice for people who want to start a new business but are scared to follow their dreams?
ND: You have to do it. Never take no for an answer, from anybody. Do it now, don’t wait, and have a plan. And be nice to everyone that you meet in this magical journey of life.
Gypsy Warrior, 125 E. Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood, 201.444.2770