"I started to realize that working on something intangible wasn't giving me the drive and the passion I wanted from a career, and I ended up meeting someone at Federated [Merchandising Group] who hired me into their training program," she said. "We created products and labels for Macy's and Bloomingdale's for their in-house brands, and I was immediately fascinated by the idea of being involved in something that started with concept and ended up on a customer."
After a stint as a product assistant, she then made her way to VF Corporation and launched brands like Nautica and Kipling in the United States until she was recruited by Victoria's Secret and worked on the digital side of a brand as a director and senior merchant.
"I instantly realized this is where I belong, where I can control and be a part of the storytelling and how the brand is portrayed," Grant said. "And Les Wexner, the CEO of Limited Brands, was probably one of the most amazing teachers I could've had. He shared with me the power of brand - more importantly the power of brand cohesiveness."
But after five years, Grant felt separated from the billion-dollar company and could no longer connect to its products. Sales of women's bras in the U.S. held steady at nearly $7 billion last year, according to NPD Group, but Grant felt the industry wasn't doing enough to cater to customers of different sizes.
"I realized that I was no longer a customer for that brand," she said. "So while I loved it from a professional point-of-view, as a consumer I didn't relate. I didn't like the product, and I started to realize that I was marketing something where it's like 'everyone aspire to be Candice Swanepoel,' and I wasn't comfortable with the fact that I would never be Candice Swanepoel and I couldn't relate to that."
Using what Wexner taught her, Grant left the company and created Lively in 2016, aiming to create a new culture around lingerie. She started from the ground up and called on skills from her previous positions to guide her. But finding startup capital was difficult.
More from The Business of Design:
Zero-waste stores pop up in the U.S.
Jimmy Choo co-founder reimagines the shoe industry
"The scarier part was the funding," she said, "but I was very focused on the fact that I needed my first investor to be a supplier, because if the supplier is invested in my idea, they're going to help me fund a factory, perhaps, and be a foundation I need to launch this company the way that I see it is necessary."
By luck, Grant encountered the CEO of Gelmart International, the largest privately held intimate apparel maker in the world, and began the collaboration necessary to launch her business. Gelmart became Lively's founding investor and manufacturing partner, giving it the means to go to market.
Since then, the brand has raised $15 million in three rounds of funding from three main investors: Gelmart, GGV Capital, which has also backed Airbnb and Slack, and former CEO and Chairman of Nautica Harvey Sanders.
Grant met Sanders during her time at VF Corporation. Watching him create Nautica and serve on the board of UnderArmour pre-IPO, she was able to learn how to build a brand from the ground up and calls him a "mentor and partner as to seeing the different types of ways a company can grow."
Within 45 days of its launch, Lively shipped to every state in the country, selling its products exclusively online. In July, it opened its flagship store in New York City and is continuing to see a positive ROI.