Lisa Alpern is the founder and creative director of one of the largest online directories for plus size fashions, with over 600 listings organized into 15 categories. Beauty Plus Power (BPP) was started in the summer of 2003 after Lisa's attempts at online research yielded a unique array of shopping choices she never heard of. Her experience brought on an eureka moment: Why not bring all these choices under one roof for her plus size sisters. At 28, Alpern, a plus size sister, has done just that. This soon to be married New York fashionista took a few moments out of her dynamic schedule to talk to us about being an online entrepreneur, and of course, fashion.
Moe: You've been running Beauty Plus Power (BPP) for three years now. Did you ever think it would become as successful as it is from the onset?
Lisa Alpern: When I started Beauty Plus Power I wasn't exactly sure what it would turn out to be - whether it would be a magazine, or a shopping site, or a springboard to books and speaking engagements. So pretty much everything that has happened has been surprising to me! I have loved seeing the site grow and continue to reach more women. I am really proud of its success, but it's definitely not at the level I want for it - I have so many new things planned for the business over the next few years!
Moe: Your background is in Fashion Design, specifically you have a BFA in Fashion Design from Washington University and a Cosmetology License. How has this helped your current project?
Lisa Alpern: I think my fashion degree has been tremendously helpful in running this site. From styling early photo shoots, to knowing what items to suggest that flatter the bodies of my readers, my fashion background has really assisted me. It was also one of the reasons I felt I needed to start the site - I knew all the top straight size designers and what they were doing, and I wanted to help plus size women find better fashions for their size.
Moe: Has it hindered you in any way?
Lisa Alpern: I have first hand knowledge of how much the general fashion industry looks down on plus size women, which I think has disillusioned me a little, but also inspired me to break the stereotypes out there!
Moe: What do you wish you knew before you started on your current path?
Lisa Alpern: I don't think I was informed enough about web design, search engine optimization and such. I think that would have helped my site reach a wider audience earlier on. But I had so much enthusiasm for the site that I just dove into it headfirst. I do think my web designer did a great job with it, although we are considering a full re-design now to address a new direction for the site.
Moe: What is the most important thing you have learnt about this experience?
Lisa Alpern: I've learnt how important it is for women to have sites like this, which show full figured bodies in a positive and fashionable way. I get so many emails from women who tell me that the site has positively impacted their self esteem. It makes it worth it to go on when I am struggling to know I am helping women feel better about themselves!
Moe: How do you decide what company makes it onto your directory?
Lisa Alpern: I would have to be willing to wear the clothes, or believe my target audience would (ages 15-35, stylish women).
Moe: You focus mainly on the size range of 12-24. How did you come up with that number and why did you stop at 24?
Lisa Alpern: Most standard plus lines stop at a 24. Some now are doing 26/28, but I wanted to address the general plus market. Although I know there is a need for information on super size clothing, that is not the reader I am marketing the site to.
Moe: What do you think are the top three mistakes plus size women make when it comes to clothing?
Lisa Alpern: 1)Being afraid to take risks! Not everything is going to look good on every body. But just because women are plus sized doesn't mean they should not try some of the hot styles. They just need to learn to make them their own. If you love a trend skinny girls are wearing, see if you can find a way to incorporate an aspect of it into your look, in a way that's appropriate for you.
2) Not knowing their bodies. I can't tell you how many women I see wearing dumpy, frumpy things they must think are hiding their size, but are actually accentuating it! Or wearing clothes too tight because they are afraid of admitting they've gone up a size. It's not the tag that matters, its how it fits you that's important.
3) Not doing the research/work it takes. So many women just go to Lane Bryant, or wear all black, because it's easier. Many women feel like there is nothing out there for them because they don't see it in the few stores we are given to shop in at the mall. But there is a world of great clothing waiting for you online. Use my directory, do the research, you'd be surprised what you can find in your size. We do have more choices than we ever had before and more stylish ones too. It's not always going to be easy to find, but if you want to look good, it takes work!
Visit Beauty Plus Power.