Do not make assumptions about Jane Lu’s Instagram handle, @thelazyceo. The founder and CEO of the Sydney-based online fashion brand, Showpo, has already been named as a Forbes “30 Under 30” (she delivered a presentation at the Forbes Asia Summit called “Inspiration and Drive”) , while Showpo won top honor as “Online Retailer of the Year” at 2018’s Online Retailer Industry Awards (along with three other awards).
Lu launched Showpo in 2010 from her parents’ garage in Sydney, after walking away from a career in accounting and corporate finance. She jumped head-first into entrepreneurship after a year abroad, but that venture was a flop. Undeterred, Lu founded Showpo the following month and it quickly garnered a cult-like following among fashion-loving millennials.
The e-commerce site now has an online global fashion empire, shipping to 80 countries and boasting over 1.5 million engaged Instagram followers. Showpo has long leveraged a micro influencer strategy, which might be among the reasons the brand currently generates $60 million in sales. Next up for Showpo? All eyes are on a U.S. expansion, which started with a Coachella collection, a Los Angeles pop-up pre-Coachella, and an affordable bridal collection that’s launching in May.
I chatted with Lu about attracting millennials, working with micro-influencers, and her ultimate productivity hack.
Karin Eldor: Tell me more about the Showpo pop-up you launched in March, in Los Angeles. Did this tie into the Coachella range you created?
Jane Lu: We’ve experienced such organic growth in the U.S. market, so we wanted to connect with our customers on a tangible level. We know our audience craves novelty brand experiences and social moments, and the pop-up was the perfect way to bring this to life.
We launched the pop-up on Melrose Avenue in the heart of L.A., giving our audience the chance to see and feel our products and have some fun with Showpo! Items from our 2019 Coachella range were featured in store before they were released online, so our L.A. visitors were the first to get their hands on the new range.
Eldor: As someone who has gone from brick and mortar stores to purely online, what are your current thoughts on the retail landscape, especially when it comes to targeting millennials?
Lu: For any business to be successful, you really need to know your audience. You need to know where they are and how to reach them. When we first launched Showpo, we grew to opening three shop fronts in the first year, but we saw the huge growth potential in the online space and decided to go all in with online. We were still in our start-up phase and had limited capital and resources, so we decided to shut down the brick and mortar stores to focus on online. This was a decision that paid off, as it took us only two months for online sales to make up for the brick and mortar sales.
For brands targeting millennials, I think the key is to look at how you bring digital experiences into the brand, whether that be through the website, on social media, or how you incorporate it into a physical store.
Eldor: What do you think retailers and brands need to consider when opening a pop-up activation?
Lu: Be really clear about what you want to achieve through opening a pop-up and make sure the timing is right. One of our key goals for Showpo is to grow the brand in the United States. Since we’ve organically grown significantly in the market, we see pop-ups as a marketing channel and a brand extension rather than a sales channel.
Eldor: I know Showpo has a strong influencer strategy. Can you tell me a bit about the micro-influencers you work with and why this is so important to the brand?
Lu: Social media and influencer marketing is a major part of our story, and has been for a while. They’ve allowed us to grow our business quickly and organically, and working with influencers is effective in building brand trust. People trust people, not companies. And it’s particularly effective for tapping into new markets.
We love working with micro-influencers because they deliver creative content that their audiences are really engaged with. With such high engagement, we can leverage these relationships to build our reputation and brand loyalty. It’s also really exciting connecting with micro-influencers early and to be part of their growth.
Eldor: Your first entrepreneurial venture didn’t take off: what’s your best advice for someone who doesn’t succeed on the first try, but wants to get back up and try again?
Lu: If you haven’t succeeded on the first try, don’t be afraid of failure but prepare yourself for it! It’s all about how much and how quickly you can learn from your mistakes and bounce back from them.
When my first business failed, I learned that if the business model doesn’t work, then hard work and passion is not enough. In the end, the business model needs to work. This was a huge learning for me so when I started Showpo — I was constantly testing the model and learning incrementally at every stage of the business.
Eldor: What do you believe are the 3 most important character traits for a female founder?
Lu: I think three of the most important character traits for any founder, regardless of gender are:
1- Be persistent: you need to keep pushing yourself and keep being innovative even when times are hard.
2- Be resourceful: you need to hustle and figure out how you can make the biggest impact with the resources you have available.
3- Be authentic: stay true to yourself, own up to your mistakes, celebrate your successes and be real with your colleagues and customers.
Eldor: You manage and wear so many different hats as the founder of Showpo, not to mention as someone who’s also engaging with and maintaining an Insta account with 164K followers, and the founder of the female entrepreneurship community Like Minded Bitches. What’s your favorite productivity hack?
Lu: It may sound pretty simple, but my productivity hack is “get shit done” — it’s actually one of our company values here at Showpo. We have some big ideas, so we get everyone that can help into a room, and work out what we need to do to make it happen. And then we follow through and actually do it.
I’m all about productivity hacks, that’s why my social media alias is “thelazyceo.” It’s like Bill Gates said: “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” The best productivity hack has been to work on being a good delegator and on finding great talent that you can trust.