Drinks With Showpo Founder Jane Lu
Jane Lu and her creation of online boutique Showpo is the ultimate success story. Don't be fooled by her Instagram handle @thelazyceo, as her ability to live a lavish lifestyle filled with travel and parties, as seen on her social media, has stemmed from years of hustling and hard work. Read on as she details the hurdles of creating Showpo, her secret weapons of success and tips for maintaining a happy life filled with entrepreneurialism and wine.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Showpo.
Well, I'm the founder and CEO of Showpo :p In quick summary, Showpo’s a pure play online fashion store, though we’ve dabbled in bricks-and-mortar (which failed lol). We’re based in Sydney but sell to over 80 countries globally (and we've recently opened a warehouse in LA). We’re a team of 40, which has grown from just 14 this time last year. We have over 2.8 million followers across our social media channels, we’re now doing $30 million in revenue, and our goal is to get to $100 million by 2020, with no external funding!
You have mentioned in interviews (Mamamia, News.com.au) about how the failure of your first business venture led you to creating Showpo and what it is today. What were the biggest initial hurdles to building Showpo and how did you overcome them?
I was over $60k in debt from university, the business failure, breaking a work contract and travelling. Not the ideal place you want to be in when you’re 24, or when you want to start another business. So I bought the stock on consignment, which meant that I didn't have to pay for it until it sold. I built the website myself by googling how to use HTML. Postage was pay as you go. And I marketed our products using Facebook. It's funny that I used to avoid doing work and spent most of my work days on Facebook and would have to hide it by quickly hitting the Alt-Tab button on my computer anytime someone walks past my desk.
And it's funny that the time I "wasted" on Facebook allowed me to understand the platform inside out, at a time when the big companies didn't bother with social media because they thought it was just a fad, or they just simply didn't know how to use it. It's ironic how I used to have to hide my obsession with social media, and now I’m being commended for our 1 million Instagram followers. I think that really goes to show the power of working with something you're passionate about.
Are any of those hurdles still present? If you cannot afford them, what are your processes to best mitigate them?
I've always been a really good problem solver so whenever hurdles or issues arise I can generally sort out a solution pretty quickly. Or just drown them with wine :p
Who/what has helped you in making Showpo into what it is today/Who and what are your secret weapons of success?
Hiring the right team! I think every business owner will say that hiring the right people is one of the hardest parts of the business. And I think regardless of how much you’re told otherwise, you never learn these things until you experience it yourself. Like:
Not hiring someone just because they look great on paper
Not hiring someone because you’re desperate at the time
Hiring friends - now I’ve made some of my best friends through work, but it’s actually never worked out once where I’ve hired a friend to work at Showpo. It’s always been fine the other way around.
And most importantly, not letting go of the wrong staff member when you think you’ve already sunk so much into training them and it would be such an effort to restart, rehire and retrain. I’ve learnt the hard way, and now will always abide by, if they’re not right, to let them go.
How did you build a consumer culture around your products?
Social media :) It's helped grow our brand and create that Showpo culture more than anything else we've done. Whether it be aspirational Instagram pics, hilarious Facebook memes, relatable blog posts or helpful videos, we are always trying to encourage a kick-ass culture of fun, bubbly gals.
Showpo seems to amount a lot of its success to extensive social media and marketing techniques. What is the strangest marketing experiment you have ever done? Was it successful?
Through a Facebook hack I came up with, we were making up to $22k a month online. The idea came to me one night whilst watching America’s Next Top Model, on the couch in my tracky dacks with a glass of wine, feeling like a real bum. But then I was like, why don’t we make a Facebook version of this and get our Facebook followers to enter for a chance to model for us. Girls would enter the comp, ask their friends to vote for them, some of them even created events and groups, then some of their friends, in turn, would enter and do the same, and there was a massive ripple effect. We went from 3,000 followers to 20,000 within the space of a month, and it cost nothing. And this was back in 2011 when 20,000 followers was seriously a lot! It gave us, this little business, run by someone who still didn’t really know what they were doing, so much credibility.
Gen George and yourself founded entrepreneurial group Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine mid 2015, which now boasts over 80,000 members of girl bosses and wonder women. What do you believe has allowed it to grow so quickly? Lack of female groups/free options?
Women just want a safe place to chat with each other and bounce around ideas. I think it started small but because of the support and advice they get, they then recommended it to other women and that's how it's grown so quickly!
The group’s name boasts Gen and your love of networking and wine drinking. How much is wine apart of your life- is the secret ingredient to successful business (happy wine happy life)?
I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule except I apply it to my life, not food! So 80% of the time, I work my absolute ass off, getting shit done and building the business. Then 20% of the time, I make up for that hard work by partying. I love going out with friends, boozy long dinners with my partner and 4 pm drinks on a Friday with the work girls. I feel like the wine I choose often reflects the situation, so I might share a few glasses with my partner at home if we're working late but it's generally a deep red. Drinks with the girls ALWAYS involve Rose (YUM) or a fruity white.
Future plans for Showpo and LMBDW?
So what’s next on the cards for Showpo? Our vision is to be her go to place to shop, and our mission is to get to $100 million by 2020 with no external funding and to have a lot of fun on our way there. Our main focus is building out the right team and focusing on expanding our product range and our geographic footprint. Gen and I are doing talks in other counties and cities to spread the LMBDW word and we're just hoping it continues to grow and be a useful networking tool for fellow entrepreneurs.
Last but not least- Top entrepreneurial tips for start up girl bosses and wonder women starting up?
Something I’ve learned over the past few years is that it doesn’t matter how many people do what you do, no one can do it like you, so just get out there and do it and be bold, be smart and be brave.
Thank you to the awesome Jane Lu for sharing her entrepreneurial marvels! We look forward to new and exciting developments for you, Showpo and Like Minded Bitches!
Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine
Originally posted on Le Plonque