Streaming from the Launch Pad in South Street Seaport in NYC, Live Rocket merges physical and digital, launching new products, experiences and entertainment that can’t be found anywhere else. It is one of a kind live, immersive shopping hub. Watch our interview with Mark Bozek, Founder and CEO of Live Rocket Studios
Interview by :Tijana Ibrahimovic
Edited by : Basile Sampson
Tijana: Hello everyone. I am here with Mark Bozek, Founder and CEO of Live Rocket. Welcome Mark to POP Style TV.
Mark Bozek: Thank you. Thank you, Tijana. Very nice to be here. Thank you so much.
Tijana: So Live Rocket launched recently, sort of in the middle of the pandemic which could be actually good timing? So tell me a little bit about the concept and what was your vision for Live Rocket Studios?
Mark Bozek: Sure. Um, yes. I think that, you know, everyone has different opinions about, um, how, uh, COVID benefited people who were selling things from home or from their studio or from whatever and I think it has to some extent, but more over what COVID has really done is created possibilities of things that have never been done before and, you know, just like the pandemic, no one ever expected that to happen.
And so on, on really good days, when you’re working on your company or your life, you see the opportunity for amazing amounts of possibilities of doing things in ways that had never been done before and as it relates to Live Rocket, um, I’ve always been, having spent many, many years in the TV shopping space at QVC and HSN.
I’ve loved the the notion of live and impulse and buying something from somewhere, whether you like their products or you don’t like them, that you couldn’t buy anywhere else. And that was really what for a long time, kept them going. You’d wait four or five days because you knew you can only get it from there.
And that’s really, so the premise of Live Rocket, after having spent time in that kind of hermetically sealed TV shopping, as you’ve seen it for 40 years, pretty much hasn’t changed at all. I thought there was an opportunity to, to shake it up a bit. And do it at a location in New York that was at street level in our case, it’s the cobblestones of The Seaport that’s run by The Howard Hughes Corporation. And it’s so alive. It is that nature, the notion of live. And so what we’re doing as Live Rocket, our platforms are our studio at the Seaport. Which we’re going to be selling things from in real time live there. We’re going to be live streaming on all of these live streaming platforms come this summer that are going to start in America, then Europe and then in, uh, in Asia and in Africa.
Um, and then, um, and then on television as well. So there’s a lot of different ways that people are going to be able to find us, rather than it being based on how many Instagram followers we have or which influencer that we’ve hired, all of which are good, but we don’t, we don’t, we’re not settling on those being the only kind of places where you could create, you know, unique kinds of things.
Tijana: So you wear a lot of hats at Live Rocket. Um, and so what do you think you had to sort of tweak based on your previous experience with HSN and QVC? How is Live Rocket different?
Mark Bozek: You know, it’s funny you can’t do live television, um, and, and take it off of the PDF investor presentation deck, it’s not possible. So what you do is you turn the camera on. And in our case, it’s a little camera or some kind of, sometimes it’s been a phone and you do it. And what, and the, and the very nature of doing it and one of the biggest differences is we were successful at it. And so far, I think it’s working is that it’s not perfect, that it’s raw, that, that there’s stories and the discovery of the talent and the artists and the music that we’re finding.
Um, their stories are very real, but it’s not perfectly set like in a Good Morning America studio or a TV shopping studio, it’s just much more raw. And I think that rawness gives it, uh, an excitement, uh, and an impulse to buy, even if you don’t necessarily are watching to buy, but it creates impulse.
And that excitement, I think, is the real differentiator. And it’s also targeting a younger audience or a younger minded audience. Because the tv shopping customer, um, hasn’t really changed since I was running home shopping network. She’s changed. And the only thing that’s changed is her age. She was 52 and now she’s 72.
We love her and it’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s, there’s, there’s a way to do this. I think, we think that we can reach a big audience in a much more exciting way.
Tijana: And so how did you actually sort of launch, a Live Rocket? You had an exhibit about Bill Cunningham? Um, and you also did a documentary about him?
Mark Bozek : Yeah, so it’s not standard. It’s not a standard process at all. Having been in the shopping business for a long time and then I stopped and Bill Cunningham who was, is, uh, will remain one of the great fashion geniuses and historians and photographers, uh, ever, who was one of the wisest, you know, um, uh, people out there about his, the history of what he knew.
And then of course he would covered every day and discover new things and discovers Jean Paul Gaultier, and Azzedine Alaïa and a lot of really talented people. Um, and so I interviewed him 25 years ago. Uh, for something, he was going to receive an award from the CFDA and it was a 10 minute interview, it was supposed to be ten minutes to shoot a one minute film to present when he accepted the award.
Um, and instead he talked for five hours and he wouldn’t stop talking. And he, the first time ever in his life on camera told me who was a young rookie producer, his whole life story. Um, and I put it in, I did the one minute video, I put it in my basement, went back to TV shopping, and then when he died, I went in my basement , five years ago, six years ago. And I got the tapes.
These beta cam tapes. They’re not like little tape like these, these things anymore. And I said, you know what? I’m going to try to make a movie. So on this laptop, I learned how to cut on Final Cut pro. I got Sarah Jessica Parker to come in and narrate the film because she worshiped Bill and I got access to his archive of 3 million images that will become one of the great archives in the history of New York.
I released the film two years ago. Valentine’s day. It’s called the Times of Bill Cunningham. It opened great in New York at Angelica and Cinema Arts or Cinema One and Two, and then in LA in Chicago. And then we were scheduled for 75 theaters around North America, which was great for me. It was my first film.
It got great reviews, etc. And on that day, that Friday, March the 13th was the week that the world closed. So the movie never opened anywhere. And so rather than having it become just a streaming video, that’s nice for an IMDB credit. I wanted to do something different. So I pulled all the rights back from everybody that you can’t see it anywhere, except for the moment on LiveRocket.com.
But I wanted to as New York was reopening for fashion week last fall, and then it stopped again, briefly for the whatever was happening. Um, and we, we translated the film into this experience, right. And we blew it up out and it was all with AR and VR and all this really, really great experiential kinds of things that we partnered with another company called Ed Schlossberg Design.
And, um, we opened it. Um, during fashion week and it was a really big hit and I really want, we opened Live Rocket a week later, the studio in the space next door. And suddenly it wasn’t just the TV shopping hosts dare making a movie about Bill Cunningham, who the hell did I think I was. Um, and I understand that because New York is that way, but luckily that part worked, but then combining it next to Live Rocket as this sort of conduit for discovery was something that in the, in the subtext of my own approach was going to really feed into what Live Rocket is going to be, which is very much about Bill discovering great product, great talent, great trends, great food.
Tijana: So you’ve already sort of collaborated with some of, uh, New York, uh, legends. So let’s put it that way for, especially from the fashion scene. So how do you choose, who do you call, who you collaborate with? Um, some are more known, some are less known. I know you had a fashion show. Uh, a couple of weeks during NY fashion week. So I really love that. It’s such a combination of more than, um, one sort of
Mark Bozek : Yes. And thank you. And that’s, that’s that that’s intentional and some of it is, is serendipitous. You just, one thing leads to the other. And that’s why I always believe that even having discussions about what our business is, I’m not there today, but usually in the studio when you’re talking to vendors or people its really a cool and exciting kind of place.
And the more we do, the more attraction that it gets. And so we really, initially we chose from the people that we knew the best and Mickey Boardman being one of them having, uh, been a huge TV shopping fan and I used to send Mickey Suzanne Somers pajamas when he was working at Paper Magazine and he wear them out to the clubs and to work.
So launching him as our first brand was just kind of somebody that who’s got a good soul. Who’s really got a great eye and a great following. And then let that kind of feed into some of the other things that we are launching. It’s a lot of fashion now we’re going into beauty. Um, we’re going into skincare and food.
Um, Jean Georges who’s a very famous chef is opening the Tin building at the Seaport. That’s opening in about a hundred days, which is this place that will make Eataly look like a 7 Eleven. And that’s all part of our kind of backdrop. And so that’s really how, how we choose. There’s a great guy behind us named Christian Benner.
Who is a rock’n roll designer and he’s covered in head to toe tattoos. You would never, in a million years, expect his shop would be behind ours, on Front Street, in Seaport, but it’s like walking into a, uh, Jimmy Hendrix video. And so he does $2,000 custom jackets for Lady Gaga and for Guns N’ Roses and Axl Rose, and a lot of people.
So we had him interpret some of those designs for more affordable ones with, I love New York and kind of taking his version of those and doing them in really unique kinds of ways. So it’s really serendipitous in terms of how we’re doing it. But now that we’re becoming more popular, there are some reach-outs, it’s just happening from all over the.
Tijana: Uh, with such a great background when it comes to dealing with the consumer, how do you think the situation in the whole world in the past two years has affected the consumer?
Mark Bozek : Well, I think that the biggest way I think that they have is that nobody needs anything really anymore, right. Except pajamas and things from Live Rocket. But, but at the end of the day, I think that in the old days, if you just got a famous person and they had a decent story to tell like Joan Rivers or Suzanne Somers, who I launched in my days, but now they don’t want that as much. It’s not so much for a famous person just to put their name on a product.
They want the story behind it. And in many cases they want the creator behind it. And the creator, especially now the last few years has amazing have amazing stories. And those stories make, make the. It’s funny. Um, everybody that has ever asked me for 20 some years, um, what do I say first, when I go on TV shopping, or what do I say when I’m live streaming?
And I always say to them, the first thing out of your mouth or within the first five minutes should be, if you’re like me, if you’re like my mom, if you’re like my sister who lives in Chicago, if you’re like my brother who lives in London, if you can tap into those kinds of things, those things don’t need to be reinvented for the Gen Z consumer because they’re, they’re the same in that, in that respect, obviously they have much less attention span and I talk a lot about Gen Z. So I’ll be quiet for the moment.
Tijana: For a long time, HSN, QVC was considered to be more for women staying at home, right? Like during the day, kind of just shopping throughout the day. And, uh, so, so that, that changed definitely ?
Mark Bozek : No question. And that’s why we don’t, at Live Rocket, we don’t want to be linear this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We want to be targeting where we want. We’ll open our studio when we feel like opening it. And when we want to drop a product there, we’re going to drop a product and we’re going to create a lot of noise. That’s going to get people there and get people watching here. In a, in really fun kind of ways. And the bigger we get, the more we will have, but that’s kind of the, the it’s like, I always say to my gang, when you’re doing a startup, especially we have 50% of it figured out and the other 50%, we’re going to make it up as we go, because that’s how you do these things.
You, you, you get smart, talented people. When I say, you know, our motto is we launch things. Well, the, we is like, people like yourself or designer, we are launching these together and finding our, our beat, if you will, as we go.
Tijana: What was the biggest challenge so far?
Mark Bozek : The biggest challenge I think was, um, that nobody was going out. Right. And we were in our studio for since last fall and it’s um, and then it was winter and then it was COVID. And so that’s really been the, the, the biggest challenge. I mean, for a group of five people to build your site and to build a studio and to build the product flow and do all that it’s quite miraculous when you do it in a bootstrap kind of a kind of way.
I think the challenge is less of a challenge than it was even a month ago. As the weather starts to get better and people are not wearing masks anymore. They’re desperate to be out. And we want to create reasons for them to be out at our studio live events that can then translate into live events. If it’s four o’clock in Tokyo, that it’s cool enough that they’ll wake up at four o’clock in Tokyo.
Well, if anyone’s like, like my 13 year old son will wake up for cool live events anywhere on the planet, then why not this ?
Tijana: What do your supporters, buyers, um, those that, um, are living in different continents. Um, you said you are going to livestream all over the world. What do you think? Um, what do you, what do they have in common?
Mark Bozek : Yeah, no, I think they have in common for, they love exclusivity. They love the idea, not exclusive expensive. They love that they can only get it. That the notion that they can say, when somebody says to them, where’d you get that stripe shirt? Um, you can say, well, I got it on Live Rocket, and I think that that’s universal.
We found that when I launched shopping in Japan, I launched it in China. I launched it in Germany. Everywhere every other possible, almost every other possible language you can imagine. Um, and, and, and I think the consumers stay that if you, if you’re presenting something unique, right? If you’re these days, whether you’re a television show or a streaming service, or certainly a website, whether you’re Nordstroms or a new startup of some kind, if you don’t create excitement, and if you don’t create that enthusiasm, then it’s just stuff.
And guess what happens after 30 seconds, they’re on their computer. And they’re looking for it for a cheaper price. That’s just the way it is. And that’s how people, that’s human nature. It’s not even age, you know, split up its every age is, wants to get the best deal that they can. And so I think Live Rockets uniqueness is that the stuff that we’re going to launch, the products that we’re going to launch and the, some of the content that we’re going to launch is really, really special. And some of it you’re going to hear about in the coming weeks that I think is going to make it really, really exciting.
Tijana: Wonderful. And so do you think that eventually you will turn into more of a network thatwon’t just before shopping, but you might have some talk shows, maybe some guests etc.
Mark Bozek : A hundred percent. Yes. I mean, as you know, you know, the, the traditional TV shopping world and the traditional network worlds have tried forever to do this, to try to mix content and commerce. Right. And if you go back a couple of years, it was when Friends was really popular and a guy I worked for named Barry Diller, thought that you could put your remote and click the TV during Friends and Jennifer Aniston’s sweater would just come flying off the screen onto your back.
And semi metaphorical in, in, uh, in, in that sense, but I think that there’s room now, so that, so that from a business perspective, we’re not making money just from selling clothes, but we’re making money from really, really cool content and fun, not hour long necessarily, but there’s some series that we’re looking at doing and some personalities that we’re talking to about creating, you know, really fun kind of content that is all relatable, like POP is, it’s the same kind of thing. You target an audience and you want all their information, but we want ours to be really irreverent and fun and funny and stuff you can’t see anywhere.
Tijana: Amazing. I’m so excited to see what’s next for Live Rocket. And also, I can’t wait to get to Seaport to, to check it out live.
Mark Bozek : Please come, let us know at any time that you want to come and there’s going to be a whole bunch of stuff happening between now and the summer. That’s going to be really exciting. I’m excited, grateful that you reached out to me and thank you for this opportunity. Thank you so much. Okay. All the best.