Reimagining tastemaking within a trusted and rewarding community circle
- Founders Michelle Lee and Jules Worring about ensō collective
by Nina Knaack
Michelle Lee and Jules Worring have both carved out successful careers before turning their focus to ensō, a venture that aims to redefine social influencing by fostering a trusted and rewarding community circle. As they sit down for an interview with Nina Knaack, they explain why ensō is about reimagining the concept of influencing and how it shifts the focus from numbers to people, from quantity to quality.
Derived from Zen Buddhism, Enso (officially spelled as ensō) is a sacred symbol that signifies a circle and symbolizes the essence of unity and wholeness. The tradition of painting this symbol in a single, unbroken brushstroke serves as a meditative practice, promoting the release of the mind and empowering the body to express itself freely, accepting that the art produced is irrevocable and uniquely beautiful in its imperfection. Inspiringly, Michelle Lee and Jules Worring embraced this philosophical concept while establishing their venture, ensō; a curation platform that bridges the gap between brands, designers, and their tastemakers through a digital, social closet and incorporates on-chain attributions.
The serendipitous founding story of ensō traces back to April 2022, when Michelle and Jules crossed paths at NFT NYC. "Michelle was impossible to miss, donned in a striking outfit that immediately caught my eye," Jules fondly recollects. Fashion served as the catalyst that propelled Jules to strike up a conversation with Michelle, a brief yet impactful exchange that lasted no more than five minutes. "What began as a shared passion for fashion quickly transcended into discovering a profound synergy in our thought processes," Michelle shares. "We found ourselves delving into conversations about societal impact and the importance of education in branding, identifying a glaring void in these areas."
In the ensuing months, Michelle and Jules found themselves drawn into long conversations about the creation of a space - a space that promised safety, trust, community, and the thrill of discovery. The synergy between them was palpable, with Michelle's extensive experience in brand building complementing Jules's in-depth knowledge of the web3 landscape. Jules reflects, "The business landscape, especially in the fashion industry, is riddled with challenges and pain points. And then, there's the stigma associated with many of the processes, exacerbated by industry developments in recent years." Michelle adds, "Jules and I have both navigated these challenges. This shared experience ignited in us the passion to spread a new narrative."
Ensō's vision heralds a shift in the way we perceive communities - a renewed emphasis on integrity, on collective action rather than individual gain. "Imagine a world where your passion for fashion can be a source of income, and yet not compromise your well-being," Jules contemplates. "Thanks to web3, there's a newfound freedom in not being tethered to a single brand." Michelle chimes in, "Our collective drive stems from a shared desire to make a difference. We believe the best way to achieve this is through community. Listening to our audience is paramount. After all, who is this for? Who are the voices clamoring to be heard? It's the everyday users of the items."
The benefits for brands are just as profound. Jules breaks it down: "With ensō, brands no longer have to play the guessing game about who their authentic users are or what they desire. This platform allows brands to identify their superusers and reward them accordingly." Michelle chimes in with an engaging analogy: "Think of it as flirting," she suggests. "As a user, you're essentially saying, 'Hey, look at me! Over here! I'm interested in you.' Ensō acknowledges this user interest, making them feel seen and valued. It paves the way for brands to establish a long-lasting relationship with their users, fostering engagement that could potentially span a lifetime."
Web3 can provide exactly that: a platform for immediate interaction, enabling users to participate, provide feedback, reap rewards and access utilities. "It’s a haven for both active users and those who prefer a more passive role – those who are simply looking for inspiration," Jules explains. "In today’s digital age, most people hunt for new brands on social media, while also keeping tabs on their existing favorites. However, this venture can be time-consuming and overwhelming due to the sheer volume of advertisements, making the decision-making process a daunting task."
Imagine the scenario: You're socializing at a bar or conference, and you strike up a conversation with a stylish woman over her beautiful dress. We've all been there. It's a connecting thread among women, this shared interest in fashion. But how often do we recall the origins of the admired outfit? More often than not, we don't. What if we could change that? What if there was a way to simply tap into a person's profile and have a peek at their wardrobe? This not only allows an immediate transition from inspiration to purchase but also paves the way for a more profound connection between individuals.
Therefore the reality that Michelle and Jules find fascinating, is one where sales can be traced back to the individuals who made the fashion statement. Ensō's founders believe that such organic and genuine marketing deserves to be rewarded. To make this vision come through, they've gamified the process, creating a fun, interactive platform that allows users to showcase their favorite brands. Michelle explains, “For us, it’s more than just inventing new selling strategies. It’s about creating a transparent platform where everyone's voice is heard. You're part of a collective, and your contribution matters. Ensō is designed to acknowledge your influence and to bridge the gap between brands and consumers by fostering a sense of community and loyalty.” Jules adds, “We envision a space where you can find your tribe and be rewarded for your role in curating and attributing.”
Over time, Michelle and Jules anticipate a platform where users can nurture ideas into fruition before they hit the mainstream. We want ensō to be a place where users create miniature mood boards, and can collaborate as a group to curate wardrobes, fostering a sense of collective style development. Besides that, Michelle emphasizes the importance of collective learning about consumption. “Brands often make educated guesses about what their users want, which can lead to a disconnect where users don't feel seen or understood. In this day and age, authenticity is key. Brands must learn to truly listen to their audience—the people who are actively engaging with their products and making purchases,” she shares. Jules echoes this sentiment, adding that their vision for ensō is to provide a robust product that not only meets user needs but also brings joy. “We want our platform to be an integral, yet enjoyable part of our users' daily lives. We prioritize community engagement and focus on creating a platform that complements, rather than complicates, the everyday,” she articulates.
A notable hurdle for Michelle and Jules so far has been navigating the male-dominated landscape of web3 and sifting through a deluge of generic projects. However, it is this very lack of female representation that fuels the fire for the co-founders. "Consider this - women are responsible for 70% of all purchases, so why aren't we seeing more female-led funds?," Michelle posits. She goes on to add, "And let's not forget, women are experts at building communities."
In the dynamic duo of Michelle and Jules, there is a harmonious blend of experience and audacity. Michelle, equipped with a wealth of knowledge in web2 branding strategy, provides a steady hand, while Jules's adventurous spirit propels them into uncharted territories. This striking balance between risk and safety is underpinned by a deep mutual respect. Diving deeper into their relationship and building ensō, Michelle shares, "We are the embodiment of yin and yang; distinct yet perfectly in sync. We are tireless workers driven by the desire to build an infrastructure that puts people first. We believe that the world of consumerism needs more compassionate voices, and that's what we aim to provide. While we began with fashion, we envision this ethos permeating broader horizons over time. For us, this is merely the beginning."