Jane Lu, CEO and Founder of Showpo is the very definition of self made. The fast fashion retail business now turning over in excess of $30 million annually and shipping to over 80 countries was started from her parent’s garage in 2010. The odds were stacked against her, but sheer determination won out. She had $60,000 in debt, a previous failed retail venture, was living with her parents and had quit her job in corporate finance at EY when the GFC hit. Taking what she learned from her previous experience, Jane saw opportunity in fast fashion retail, and taught herself HTML so she could build Showpo’s website.
Jane was an early adopter of social media marketing, crediting her use of Facebook for Showpo’s incipient retail success. Initially she worked on the business from cafes, because she hadn’t told her parents she’d quit her corporate accounting career, marketing stock on consignment. From this humble start, she has grown a retail empire and a social media following of 1.6million. Jane has won a slew of awards, most recently: Pearcey Tech Entrepreneur Award 2016, Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016, SmartCompany Hot 30 Under 30 2013-2016, Cosmopolitan’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 and BRW Fast Starters 2014. She’s a keynote speaker and well known across the Australian retail and start up sectors, especially for championing female entrepreneurship.
What were the key stages of growth for Showpo? What changes did you make to people and systems during these stages to meet market demand?
There have been so many growth spikes. We’re currently going through one right now as we expand into the US, but a particularly key moment was in January 2012. This was when my business partner and I amicably split and Showpo became all mine. Once I took over, I was able to do whatever I wanted! So I removed the shipping charge and optimised the Google and Facebook ads. I provided impeccable customer service and packaging, scheduled frequent social posts (with a strong brand voice), a LOT of which went viral. I made better buying decisions, expanded on inventory and started doing my own PR. From this time, sales just kept doubling month on month.
We went from $5k, to $40k, to $75k, to $140k within the space of 4 months. It really wasn’t any one thing, but incremental changes that grew the business. But one major hack I did was running a model search on social media. Not only would it mean that I could find a model, but also allowed me to get the brand in front of thousands of girls. In the period of a month, without having spent any money, we went from 3,000 followers to 20,000 followers.
35% of your customer base is international. How have your designs and processes changed to accommodate new markets, and inspire customer loyalty?
We’ve recently opened a warehouse in LA, which allows for faster delivery for that side of the world. We also offer in-country returns in certain countries. With the expansion of international sales, we’ve also hired a US-based buyer who understands that market directly. Our design team produces ranges specifically for the Northern Hemisphere and we now have dedicated shoots for that market. You can also see if you visit our site that we have specific US, EU, NZ & AU sites, all merchandised to the climate.
How do you balance your dream to become and live like a Lazy CEO with the amount of personal branding and Jane Lu magic that ShowPo requires?
Unfortunately, @thelazyceo isn’t really true. My team wouldn’t find it strange to receive emails at 2am in the morning on the reg! I think it’s more about being able to delegate the jobs I don’t want to do to team members who are experts in that field, so I can concentrate on the big picture stuff and parts of the business I really enjoy. I love getting my hands dirty and being part of all aspects of the business, I just try to make sure I don’t micro-manage, and trust the people I’ve hired to do their jobs.
You started Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine with Gen George and it’s currently at over 33,000 members with upcoming events in Bangkok, Shanghai and Dublin to name a few. What are some of the trends you are seeing with female led businesses and what do they need assistance with?
Women need support from other women which is why groups like LMBDW are so important. There is still a bit of a stigma about women CEOs and we need to continue breaking the stereotypes and negative connotations associated with it.
What has been your greatest challenge?
The ‘lull’. Every business goes through this period after the initial peak. You’ve gotten over the initial high, you’ve hassled all your friends, you’ve pulled all your strings, and the business plateaus, or in my case, it starts dropping significantly. But little did I know at the time, all the mishaps and misfortunes that created the lull, all turned out for the better and forced this massive change on everything.
What are you most proud of?
Showpo‘s success, my incredible team and knowing my parents will always be looked after when they sacrificed so much for me.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
It doesn’t matter how many people do what you do, no one can do it like you, so be bold and be brave.
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