Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of real entrepreneurs. And joining me, I kind of feel, Jane, like, people are not going to take your interview as seriously as they are some of the more techie interviews. Even though . . .
Jane: We’ll show them. No. Go on.
Andrew: I think you’ve got higher revenue than anyone else that I’m going to be interviewing here.
Jane: Oh, amazing.
Andrew: Right. No outside funding?
Andrew: I think it’s because it’s fashion with social media promotion.
Andrew: Right? Social media is the engine which you do incredibly well and you send people to a website where they can buy clothes. Right? And both of those things feel flimsy. Fashion is not supposed to . . . except for a few fashion brands, you’re not supposed to do that well. The bootstrap entrepreneur world is not supposed to. And then the other one is social media is supposed to be a thing that’s just for fun.
Andrew: And you do have fun with it. All right. I should introduce who you are.
Jane: Yeah. Just this voice going, “Uh-huh, uh-huh.”
Andrew: The uh-huh voice is Jane Lu. She is the founder of Showpo. They’re an online store where you can buy clothing, right?
Andrew: And I should set this up. I’m here in Sydney to do this interview. We’re going to do the interview anyway.
Jane: Yeah, welcome. How exciting.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s actually kind of interesting that I’m interviewing you here because you were telling me that I want to do the interview remotely, but you’d have to wake up super early. I’d have to stay super late to do . . .
Jane: I’m not a morning person.
Jane: This is bright.
Andrew: Which is why I don’t end up getting a lot of entrepreneurs outside of San Francisco or outside the U.S. or outside of my time zone. I’m glad that you’re here. All right. This interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first will host your website right. It’s called HostGator. And the second will help you hire phenomenal developers. It’s called Toptal. Oh, you probably going to end up hiring Toptal. We’ll talk about them later.
Andrew: Blown away. No funding outside. No outside funding. No rev . . . But you do have revenue. What’s the revenue?
Jane: Yeah, 60 mil U.S.
Andrew: Sixty million dollars?
Jane: Run rate, yes.
Andrew: Run rate.
Jane: Yes, because we’re growing so much. It’s like at our current rate.
Andrew: You basically you’re taking the last month’s revenue and you’re multiplying it by 12.
Andrew: Okay. Profitable?
Andrew: How much money?
Jane: Well, we have to be profitable because otherwise where else will we get the money from?
Andrew: Right. Debt or something.
Jane: No. It’s a no debt. No investors.
Andrew: Wow-wee. All right. How profitable? Are we talking over 3 million?
Jane: Pretty profitable.
Andrew: Can you say over 3 million? Is that an appropriate ask?
Jane: Yes. Yeah, over 3 million.
Andrew: Wow-wee. You’re not stumped.
Andrew: They way that it’s done.
Jane: Yeah. No. I constantly pinch myself, but it comes with its own challenges and . . .
Andrew: Like what?
Jane: Just like, I mean . . . So, the fact that we’re at this size now, we’re dealing with just like growing pains, like a lot of the processes and the people are from when we were like three years . . . Like, right now we’ve got over 150 people. Three years ago, we had 12 . . . no, 15. And so we’re now dealing with like, the fundamental changes we need to the way we run things, the people that we work with, which I’m not sure if I’m the most equipped person to do it, but, I mean . . .
Andrew: It seems like a repeat. You did this video where you talked about how when you were starting out, you were doing everything yourself. I think your mom helped you for a little bit and then you said, “Wait, I can’t be the only person doing everything. I have to process and systemized and all that.” And you did. And you got here. You also have to deal with like, “Am I going to be able to do this?” all that internal chatter. And you got past it and now another level.
Andrew: At every level, it feels like this happens.
Jane: Yeah, absolutely. I think . . . And that’s the thing, it’s almost it’s like a computer game where you get to a new level and then there’s always a dip when you get to a new level because you’re like playing in a different league, so you are like on level five on this computer game. Of course, you’re going to suck a bit. And then once you get past it, you’re bored of it. You got to go to the next level because otherwise you just like excelling at doing the same shit, but until then it’s a bumpy road.
Andrew: Showpo because it was called Showpony.
Jane: Showpony. Yeah.
Andrew: Why Showpony?
Jane: Like, for no reason at all except for the fact that, like, just I heard of that term because I want to describe a friend as being a Showpony because she’s just like, really into it. She was really into herself, and at the time, we only retailed party clothes. And so it seemed like a really fitting name, but then through the power of social media, and this is Facebook back then, we started selling internationally mainly to the U.S. and there were already Showpony companies out there and sort of like even Pony the shoe brand and we were like, a simple Google search told us that, so I kind of like hate myself for not being . . . I just didn’t think the business would grow that big and they wouldn’t be really an issue. Anyway, and then we figured, like, “Look, we’re not very good at the law stuff, the legal stuff, so we’re better at marketing, so we’re better off just rebranding, focusing that money on rebrand rather than potential litigation.
Andrew: So here’s what I want to understand in this interview. I want to get to know you as a person, so we’ll talk about where you were born and all that. I want to understand . . . We’ll even talk about your Myspace days. I want to hear about some of the failures because you created this other company that was kind of similar, was also in the fashion business but it didn’t do well. I want to know why. And then I want to get to why in a world where people are not comfortable, it feels like buying off of anything other than Amazon, how are they buying from you? How did you get customers to your site? How do you continue to get customers to your site?
Andrew: All right. And we’ll talk about the evolution of you as an entrepreneur through it. Why don’t we talk about where you were born? Where was this?
Jane: Yeah. I was born in China in 1986.
Jane: Is that too detailed?
Jane: Yeah. So we moved to Australia when I was eight.
Jane: Because I think my parents wanted to give me, like, a better future. I think a lot . . . Honestly, I think . . . The situation is very different now, but like, at that time, I think everyone thought like, if you go to America, Australia, the UK, whatever, like you go to one of these places and you’ve got the chance for a brighter future, which when we came here, it actually all seemed a lot more grim. They had great jobs back home. We had family and friends. We came here, they had to work as cleaners and work in factories. We were so isolated.
Andrew: Literally cleaning.
Andrew: What did your parents do back home in China?
Jane: My mom worked in the bank and then my dad was a computer engineer. And my mom even, she was a cleaner for people that I went to school with.
Andrew: And so how did you feel about that?
Jane: They were really . . . I’m so lucky. Like, people actually were really nice. I still got invited to their parties, like the . . .
Andrew: And it wasn’t awkward for you?
Jane: No, I was really lucky because I was the only foreigner at school, like, not just the only foreigner. There was an English as a second language class and I’m like . . . But that’s why my English probably got so good. That’s really bad English.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s good.
Jane: But I would see . . . Normally I’ve seen in other areas as schools, sorry, there’s like these English classes and they’ve got 60 people and I was the only one.
Andrew: And you didn’t feel left out? You didn’t feel like . . .
Jane: People just . . . Actually, people were really nice. They were like, who is this?
Andrew: I noticed this area is very diverse.
Andrew: People do seem very open to it. Was it like that back then?
Jane: Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely like, still like dicks out there, but I was very lucky. My school was great. I was . . . Then everyone was really . . . Everyone is like, “Oh my God. Here’s this little black head chick.”
Andrew: Okay. Little what?
Jane: Girl with black hair.
Andrew: Oh, really? Why? Because everyone’s blonde here?
Jane: Yeah. Not just not black hair.
Andrew: Not this dark. Got it. Okay.
Jane: I mean, we had like, other like Australian races, I guess. I mean, when I came here, everyone looks the same, right?
Andrew: So in this world, you were a nerd, you were making your parents very proud, getting high grades. You ended up working with KPMG.
Andrew: That’s phenomenal. Were your parents proud?
Jane: Yeah, they were really proud. And that’s the thing about . . . I mean, I went . . . The whole academic route is like, you try and get into a selective school, which is the academic high school, and that’s kind of like everything that your parents care about, like, I know people that go to tutoring, like, every . . . Like, what kind of life is that for a kid? Like, you have school, and then after school, you do more school. It’s crazy.
Andrew: And did you do that?
Jane: I did it in my senior year. I had to. And like, the last two years. And then I got into the selective school and then to get a good grade, I think it’s like your SAT, I got like a 99 plus. You had to do another two years.
Andrew: Oh, 100.
Jane: And then other people would do it . . .
Andrew: What I’m getting at is you made your parents proud. They came here looking for this and they got it. You then met a boy.
Andrew: You end up because of this boy discovering entrepreneurship. Am I right?
Andrew: And then you go and you become an entrepreneur.
Jane: Well, no. So he basically is from this . . . Sorry. He’s actually very . . . I can’t believe how much you know. [inaudible 00:08:56].
Andrew: I feel like I’m skipping a few places there?
Jane: No, no, no.
Andrew: I got notes.
Jane: You’re very close. But basically, it took a few . . . It wasn’t like that much of a light bulb moment because he’s from Europe, he came in and started talking about . . . He’s a little bit older. He talked about traveling and he talked about entrepreneurship. And at this point, I was just like, “No. Why would you do that? It’s so risky, and blah, blah, blah.” And then all of a sudden, I caught the travel bug and I broke up with him and I went traveling.
And then when I came back . . . For nine months. And then when I came back from traveling, I realized that I was, like, I couldn’t adjust back to the corporate life, the little cubicle I was working in and thought I had to . . . I wanted to do more because I started to challenge the status quo. I realized that there was more to life. And instead of like . . . Before going out, I thought that was great because this KPMG job I got when I was 18, so I would study for part-time, work full time. And instead of looking at this . . . instead of having this secure job, instead of looking at my career path as safe, it became boring. I looked at it as boring. And that was the first time ever.
And so that was when I was like, “Crap.” I had everything planned out until this moment. And this friend [inaudible 00:10:14] during the global financial crisis came and asked me if I wanted to start a business. And then that’s when we started the first business.
Andrew: You said yes.
Jane: I said yes.
Andrew: This was you and your friend.
Jane: I’m like, “I don’t even care what the business model is. Let’s just do it.”
Andrew: “Get me out of the cubicle.”
Jane: And that’s when I learned my big mistake of like, the business model matters.
Andrew: By the way, I keep looking at your mic. I can’t believe the mic is working like that.
Jane: Is it? Okay.
Andrew: All I do is like monitor audio, but it feels kind of weird that I’m looking at your mic. I wanted to explain why I keep looking down. It was called Fat Boy Group.
Andrew: I like the model of it. How many times do I walk down the street and see a place that’s closed because it’s a bar, right? So close during the day, at night it’s open. I always thought, “Just make it into a place where I could sit and co-work, for example, and bring in coffee, right? There’s a place . . .
Jane: Yeah. They’ve done that. And . . .
Andrew: There’s a place in Berkeley that does that.
Jane: Sorry. I just had a sip of coffee.
Andrew: Do it.
Jane: Should wait ’till you’re halfway during the rant.
Andrew: No. And so you saw that and your idea was what to do with these places?
Jane: Well, what’s interesting is . . . So we both . . . So it’s kind of her idea to do this. And then we . . . But my plan is, we did it for six months, we had a place open in the city and one at Bondi. So pretty good locations and pretty good bars. And we stocked them with emerging designers. So we would physically go to my . . . And everything was kept in my parent’s garage. We’d rent a van and a driver, put it all in the van, take it to the bar, setup all the racks . . . Sorry, I touched the mic. All the tables, racks and shelves, and then just set up a one-day just to sell it, but that was just . . . It’s just not scalable. We got to two stores and we were like, “Huh.”
So my idea was . . . And I actually started building a website as she went . . . So, basically, she went away for a month and then that was when I was like, “I’m over this.” I quit my job to work in the business and I spent that whole month building a website. I took photos of over 1,000 products to put on the website to do it by myself. And then when she came back . . . And so my idea was without back then thinking like, “Oh, you’re pivoting. You’re just doing whatever,” because I never even read any books on entrepreneurship. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any friends who had their own business. Anyway, she wanted to use the pop-up store as always like an MVP for proper bricks and mortar store.
Andrew: Got it. Makes sense.
Jane: But then, like, why would you . . . I just don’t . . . I don’t get it. And so she . . .
Andrew: You don’t get it, why? Why doesn’t that make sense? Because she’s not testing the idea of a store that way?
Jane: She wants . . . Like, her goal was to open more stores.
Andrew: Why is that not a good idea? There are lots of clothing stores. I want your analysis. There’s an analysis here that I’m missing.
Jane: Yeah, I know. So she’s testing whether the product, like, works, and then testing if there’s any demand for the products we’re selling. And so basically when she came back . . . Sorry. When she came back from overseas, she wanted to shut it down because she wanted to get back in the corporate world and she was over it. And I was like, “Look at this website I just built.” And she was like, “No. No one shops online.”
And this is 2010 and she’s telling me no one shops online and she’s like, “No, I wanted to build out stores.” You should see the area where she wants to actually have these stores in [Willing Street 00:13:35], Paddington, not this Willing Street, a different one. They’re dead. There’s no foot traffic. There’s just no . . . Basically, the business model doesn’t work on so many levels. Like, I think it’s not even . . . I think the stores that are working now are flagship destination stores and it’s more experiential or their source . . . it’s such high foot traffic and there’s convenience.
Andrew: So here’s the thing that you did do well, though. So, this thing was not going out.
Jane: I’m just going to rant about her. Sorry.
Andrew: I could see . . . Are you guys still friends?
Jane: We’re on good terms.
Andrew: You are. Okay. It didn’t end well. The one thing that you did do well, though, was you got a ton of publicity.
Andrew: How? What did you do that got you so much publicity?
Jane: We just paid for a PR company which I don’t think is the best thing to do.
Andrew: How did you end up with money for a PR company?
Jane: We pulled in all of our savings.
Andrew: Did you go into debt as a result of this?
Jane: I’ve been working. I did. So, yeah, that was . . . It wasn’t that much money.
Andrew: How much money did you save?
Jane: I probably had 10 . . . I probably put in like 15K.
Jane: I was $60,000 in debt by the end of all this.
Andrew: Because of all this stuff.
Jane: I had 30K with uni. So this is Australian dollars, which is not bad [inaudible 00:14:46]. But like, 30K with uni, 20K . . . Because I quit my job and they made me pay it back this allowance that I got for travel debt because I end up staying an extra three months than I wanted to and Scandinavia is not cheap. And then also money from this business.
Andrew: You’re a really smart person. What got you to suddenly go from making money, putting into the bank to now being deep in debt and allowing yourself to do that?
Jane: I don’t know. I asked myself that.
Andrew: Was it a lot of drinking while you were in Europe? That’ll do it.
Jane: Yeah, there was a lot.
Andrew: There was?
Jane: But . . .
Andrew: Because you were chasing a dream?
Jane: No. That’s the thing about when I was in Europe. I didn’t find myself. I didn’t . . . I wasn’t . . .
Andrew: Lose yourself.
Jane: I was so busy just going along with it, rolling with it, enjoying the exchange life and I wasn’t. I didn’t think about the business at all until I got back.
Jane: Or like, wanting to start a business. I don’t know. And I’m so glad I had that, like, living la vida loco moment then so that I can like have my shit together now.
Andrew: You button up and . . . Yeah. All right. And so this thing didn’t work out. Do you remember when you finally closed it up?
Jane: Immediately when I didn’t have the confidence to do it without her.
Andrew: Because she said, “I can’t do this.”
Andrew: She wanted to open up stores.
Jane: No. She was like . . . She just like . . . Because the online idea was not hers and also never part on her radar, she was just like, that wasn’t enough to convince her.
Jane: And she didn’t want to do it anymore and so . . .
Andrew: Then you said, “I can’t do this by myself.” Even though I get the sense you took on more debt, you put in more money into this business than she did. Fair?
Jane: I mean, she wouldn’t say that.
Andrew: Wow. So you guys spent a ton of money. All right. You close it up. And then you can go back to work.
Jane: Yeah. So I quit in the middle of a global financial crisis. So no one was hiring. And then everyone was getting made redundant left, front and center. So, yeah. And then there’s just like, no other option, so I had to . . . I was literally rock bottom, like, I had the job that I wanted, I’ve always been like . . . I always . . . Like, my parents have been so happy. I went to the uni they wanted me to go to, the high school. Everything was beyond what they possibly envisioned for me in this whole moving to Australia thing. And all of a sudden, I just threw it all away to start a stupid business called Fat Boy Group.
Andrew: Were your parents proud?
Andrew: Were your parents proud?
Jane: Of Fat Boy Group.
Andrew: Yeah. When you were doing it?
Jane: No, but they were pretty great to let me do it, which . . .
Andrew: And you were living at home.
Jane: . . . I never thank them for because I always remind them how it happened. So basically, when I first started Showpo, which I started a month later, when I quit my job, the whole time I pretended I was still going to work for six months.
Andrew: You were living at home . . . You should adjust the mic, by the way. Just take it outside. It’s going inside your shirt right now.
Jane: Oh, no. Sorry, guys.
Andrew: Okay. There we go. That will work. We can keep moving it and even if we need to.
Jane: There you go.
Andrew: So you were living at home. You were going to start a new business. Your parents didn’t know you were starting a new business and you were hiding it from them.
Jane: No, I did tell them . . . I did tell them I’m starting a new business, but I was still pretending it was a side hustle.
Andrew: While you had a full-time job.
Andrew: And so you would get dressed up in suits.
Jane: In a suit, get up early. And as we know I’m not a morning person.
Jane: So getting up really early when you’re unemployed is probably the most depressing thing ever because at least the best thing about being unemployed is you can sleep in. But, no. So I had to get up, put on my suit, have breakfast with my parents. And then my mom worked in the city as well, so I had to get to the bus into the city with my mom, and I would be carrying around the empty laptop bag. And then for the first, like, month, I was just trying to figure shit out. And then like a month later . . . And I actually . . . That’s the thing, like, I had to get . . . I got a job as a receptionist at a laser hair removal clinic which doesn’t seem like a great natural progression from the degree I had in my previous job.
Andrew: No. It seems like a step-down.
Jane: But there’s no shame in needing money, like, when you’re trying to get by.
Andrew: And so you did it. You were a receptionist.
Jane: Yeah. So I look at businesses, people are like, “I’m going to quit my job cold turkey and blah, blah, blah.” And I’m kind of like, “No, you need money to get by in this world. And if you want to keep following your dreams, you need to just do other things to supplement an income.”
Andrew: I think you called your boss a bitch.
Jane: She was a bitch. Yeah.
Andrew: She was tough. All right. Let’s talk about how you ended up with the idea for Showpo. First, I’m going to talk about my first sponsor. It’s a company called HostGator for hosting websites. Let me ask you this. If you had to start from scratch today and you had nothing but a hosting package, you could host any kind of website, what would you host? What’s a new business you would build today?
Jane: Probably the same. It’s all I know really.
Jane: Clothing, yeah.
Andrew: You think we can . . . Like, if someone’s listening to us today, they can go and get a new website and sell clothes online?
Jane: Okay, yeah. Maybe probably not.
Andrew: No, it’s a little challenging. Why? Why is it challenging today?
Jane: Because you need to be I guess doing something different and just doing plain retail. If you want to do Showpo now, you need to have like operational efficiencies, which means you need a lot of money. And then you need to have . . . And then you need to gain the market share and then you can build a brand. Whereas like if you’re just going to come into the market now, then how can you do it better than the existing? It will be very hard to do it differently to the existing players in the market and even now, we’ve pivoted into designing our own products. So just doing plain retails can be very hard. You need to be doing something that’s really different.
Andrew: All right. Is there something that you would do? Is there something like in the back of your head that you say, “Okay, if I had to start over . . . “?
Jane: Yeah. I always had these ideas and I always . . .
Andrew: Throw one out.
Andrew: Mine is always like . . . I always run through San Francisco and see homeless people on the street and I imagine, “I’m going to be homeless just like them at some point. I better watch out. Work harder, run faster.” And I don’t always have an idea, but I know I’ll come up with something if I need to.
Jane: If you need to, yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. Do you have one that’s like your own little fantasy that’s what you do?
Jane: Like a recent one. It’s just like there should be steamers everywhere, coin-operated steamers like at airports . . .
Andrew: Instead of irons. Instead of irons.
Andrew: Yes. Forget . . . Airports would be nice. It’s just the freaking hotel.
Jane: Hotels, yeah.
Andrew: Just every hotel should have a steamer. It’s so much easier than . . .
Jane: They should be mainstream.
Jane: Maybe I will do that.
Andrew: So then what will you do with the website? Sell steamer, your own steamer?
Jane: Yeah. Just make them really super mainstream. I think that’s the thing in the States. They are pretty easy. They’re a little portable. In Australia, they’re like this big and no one has them.
Andrew: Bigger than a person. Right.
Andrew: Taller than a person anyway but thinner obviously. Yeah. So you’d say you would create steamers that are travel and all those . . .
Jane: And make it just part of like a thing that you will just . . . I wish probably shouldn’t have said this. It’s brilliant.
Andrew: This is brilliant. Yeah.
Jane: Like how every girl has a curler and hairdryer, you should just have a steamer. And not everyone does.
Andrew: Even like a small one that you . . .
Jane: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m totally with you. I hate as a man who’s now old enough that I shouldn’t have to ever iron anything to sit like I’m go, go, go, go, going, and then have to stop and do my ironing because this shirt . . . If this is not the type of shirt you need to iron. I had to freaking iron it last night. I’m an adult. I shouldn’t have to do this anymore.
Jane: And there’s always an extra crease you think you got it. No, there’s more.
Andrew: Yeah. And this is like a long-sleeve t-shirt. Essentially, it’s actually intentionally ripped at the edges, right? Do you like the shirt, by the way?
Jane: Yeah, it’s great.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s not too bad. All right. I like that. So whatever your idea is bring it to hostgator.com/mixergy. You should do it too. If you ever need to start over, a friend wants to copy, send them to hostgator.com/mixergy, they get the lowest hosting package price available from HostGator, one-click install of WordPress and a bunch of other stuff.
Jane: Right. Easy.
Andrew: And it’ll frankly be great for me because I get credit every time these people sign up. I love it. And that’s why I want to make sure that I only signed great sponsors. hostgator.com/mixergy. By the way, I should say, the steamer . . . The reason I . . . now I’m on this. Because it’s so brilliant. You just plug it in, wait for the steam to go up, hold it next to shirt, no need to get the details. It just evens itself out unless you have a real dress shirt that’s like a man’s dress shirt where everything needs to be ironed exactly right.
Andrew: I’m going off on this.
Jane: Even men. I mean . . .
Andrew: Where did the idea come from for Showpony?
Jane: Ah, for the steamers? Showpony, so basically, I never even really cared about retail or fashion to be honest. It was just because this girl with the first business wanted to run these pop-up stores. So basically, I had this . . . And as you mentioned, we got all this PR because that’s . . . I think the reason we even got PR in the first place is because she has a very like traditional way of looking at things and because she got made redundant during the global financial crisis that she had a chip on her shoulder and wanted to really just like, prove to people that she used to work with and her friends how well she’s doing. So, we hemorrhaged all this money to PR.
Andrew: Oh, got it.
Jane: And then when we decided . . . But then . . . So all of that became useless because the Fat Boy was gone, but then I just spammed all of my friends on Facebook with like this article, just like . . . And back then it was like . . . I mean, even now, but back then it was even a bigger deal because I feel like this current wave of entrepreneurship has been quite, like, is a lot later . . . Has come a lot late in Australia. So back then I didn’t even have . . . I had one friend that had his own business. And like it seemed . . . People were like, “Wow, you’re some kind of a retail guru.”
Andrew: So you’re saying you were posting on Facebook and social . . . I guess it was largely Facebook at the time. Posting on Facebook that you’ve got this new article about your new business and there’s another article about your new business, and so people started to see you as someone who was in the fashion space and good at business and other people are saying that you’re good at business, people who can actually write on paper-based magazines. It was that type of thing, right?
Andrew: And you got a bunch of it. Okay. So you said, “I have all this publicity. How do I use this? I’m already in this space . . . ”
Jane: No. You’re giving me way too much credit.
Jane: So basically, I had one friend who had his own business. And I hit him up because I thought, “Look, no one else is going to give me a job. Maybe he will give me a job, and then I can probably like . . . ” I’m a quick learner and a good operator. Maybe he will give me a job. I can work my way up really quickly. And then he could also give . . . I can really learn about how to start a business from him. And then because he . . . And he kept insisting that I meet his other friend who wanted to start a business, a fashion business. And I kept saying, “No.” Like, I was insisting that I didn’t want that because the last thing I wanted to do was a Fat Boy 2.0. I literally just failed at a retail store.
Andrew: And now you want to get me back into this again.
Jane: Yeah. Which now it makes sense. Yeah, you just made those mistake, take those learnings and do it better, but at the time, like, this is the last thing I want to do because I already failed. And then so . . . But then he kept insisting because he has the impression that I’m a retail guru. And he told his friend and she’s actually really interested in meeting me because she’s seeing these articles which . . . and also like the marketing side is probably not her forte, so she thought I could bring something to the table.
Andrew: Got it. So she’s just wooing you and pushing you and you finally say, “Okay, fine. I’m going to the cafe anyway. I’m wearing a business suit. I got to have something to do with all this.”
Andrew: So you start to do it and the first version was on what website? It was . . .
Jane: Big Cartel.
Andrew: Oh, Big Cartel, the hosting platform.
Andrew: That’s what you hosted on?
Andrew: Okay. All right. So you went to Big Cartel. You got clothes from where?
Jane: So my new business partner had a supplier contact.
Andrew: Okay. Where?
Jane: So she’s already in the fashion industry, but she wasn’t in retail. So she wanted to get into retail with someone, so she already just had the contact. That’s probably like so lucky because getting supplies is hard and takes time, it takes money. But basically, when we were doing Fat Boy, we learned about this term that was called consignment, which I’d never even learned about and now I was like, “Well, why don’t we just pitch consignment to this supplier?” And because she had a relationship, she probably showed them the articles. And then they were like, “Okay, we’ll try consignment.” So it meant what was . . . It was very manual because every day I had to go in and physically pick up all the items to fulfill the orders from the last 24 hours. So it was very laborious and manual. And as soon as we made enough money to actually just buy stock outright. We stopped doing that. But really, I was $60,000 in debt at this point.
Andrew: Technically, that’s not consignment though, right? Consignment is they give it to you and then you only pay for what you sell. You were basically getting to buy after the fact versus before where you are buying the product, keeping it in your parent’s garage, taking it out when you need to sell, putting it back in the garage when you’re done for the day. Got it. All right. That’s the way the model was working. How did you get customers?
Jane: So our first customer was via Facebook from one of the models that we got for free. It was one of her Facebook friends. So it wasn’t . . . But getting that first sell was amazing because even though it was just one of the model’s friends, it proved like a month after my ex-business partner told me that no one shops online, that in fact, people do shop online. So I was like, “Fuck it.”
Andrew: Did you feel competent at this point because you were deep in debt . . .
Andrew: No, you didn’t.
Andrew: And so the fact that this sale happened help to revive a little bit of your self-esteem.
Andrew: It did. Okay. And so then what did you do to get more customers?
Jane: We started just pushing things more on Facebook.
Andrew: You were big on Facebook. Let’s go back to this Myspace thing. Were you big on Myspace?
Jane: No, no, I wasn’t. Sorry. I wasn’t big on Myspace. I just spent a little time on Myspace . . .
Andrew: Designing it, making it look good.
Jane: Yeah. Like, I had the slideshows, music. You just play around with all the features. So that’s how I knew how to use HTML which is how to build a business.
Andrew: Did you like the tech part of the business? Did you like this social media part of the business?
Jane: I think I didn’t even fully understand social media back then, but yeah, I liked how it connects people because I was an only child, so growing up, especially when we moved to Australia, I felt very lonely. And then also, we actually lived out west for a few years, so then it wasn’t . . . I was very far away from everyone. So besides school, you can feel very alone, so I just loved how social media connects you with people.
Andrew: Got it.
Jane: So that’s what I loved about it and that’s what I love about Myspace. You can constantly be in MSN and ICQ. You can constantly be talking to someone.
Andrew: Meanwhile, now you guys have how many Instagram followers?
Andrew: Isn’t that huge?
Andrew: And Facebook fans, is that still a thing for you?
Jane: Yeah, we’ve got like 1.2 maybe. Now I’m just like . . . Now it’s like, Oh my god, so much stuff to check.
Andrew: Oh, to keep going back into social and checking.
Jane: Yeah. The CMs and there’s private message, and blah, blah, blah.
Andrew: Yeah. You’re doing Facebook Messenger. It’s significant portion of your traffic. Look, Facebook, I wouldn’t have brought up except 65% of the social media according to . . .
Jane: Yeah. We’re Australia’s most engaged brand on Facebook. Yeah.
Andrew: It’s unreal. Okay. And so this was you, in the beginning, doing that, and then you created your own model competition.
Andrew: What was that?
Jane: So I was watching America Next Top Model one night and they have this . . .
Andrew: Yeah. Let me stop on that. Why were you watching that? You’re not a model, like, obsessive person. Were you trying to learn the space?
Jane: Reality TV . . . No, I just love reality TV shows.
Andrew: It’s just reality TV shows.
Jane: I love reality TV shows.
Andrew: You know what? When I’ve been in hotels, I also will end up on that freaking stuff. It’s that and house flipping and anything where you’re just kind of making something and progressing, add some competition. I’m with you. Okay. So it wasn’t the fashion, it was just reality TV.
Andrew: Okay. So you’re watching it and what’s the idea that you got?
Jane: And then . . . So they had this new category where they had an audience favorites that they asked people to vote on Facebook for their favorite. And so, this is when Facebook fan gate was on. So it meant that you had to like a page in order to engage with it. So I thought . . . And also we needed models, anyway, that we would get, ask our followers who are all and mostly in our demographic to enter this competition. So, the first few entries were quite easy. They would enter themselves and then they started sharing this competition with all their friends to try and get votes.
And so . . . I mean, this thing became quite common afterwards, but we had a first mover advantage. So they would get all of their friends to do it, and then some of their friends would enter themselves, and then reach out to their entire network to vote for them. Some of them created Facebook events, Facebook groups, and then so it just had this amazing ripple effect and so we paid nothing. It cost nothing. And then in the space of a month went from 3,000 followers to 20,000 followers.
Andrew: And this was at a time when on Facebook, if you had a follower, you could post something and it would show up in their feed.
Jane: They would actually show them.
Andrew: And so would you sell in the feed to that group?
Andrew: You would.
Andrew: You actually got sales that way.
Andrew: You hit how much in sales? I think it was $20,000 from that.
Jane: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: A month.
Andrew: That’s huge.
Jane: Which is fantastic. Yeah.
Andrew: Did you feel great at that point?
Andrew: You did. And you and your co-founder, were you friends at that point?
Jane: Yeah, we were great.
Andrew: You were good. Okay.
Jane: And I think the best thing was, so not only did it . . . It was great for social proof at that point because this is when like you said for like how do you get people to believe in this, like, no name brand. We were lucky because we did have a store as well. So we did have a physical presence in the city and as well having the 20,000 followers.
Andrew: How did you get roped into having another store? I thought you were like, all online?
Jane: It was . . . I like low-cost investments. It was $600 to fit out and then $2,000 in rent a week.
Andrew: And what were you thinking? You’d get customers from that or was it just to show that you had a store to buy . . .
Jane: I wasn’t . . . I still didn’t fully . . . The online model, like, that’s the thing. It still felt quite fresh at that time, so I didn’t . . . I was still dabbling in online, like, I wasn’t like, 100% backing it, I guess.
Andrew: Got it. And did people actually come into the stores?
Jane: Yeah, but it wasn’t definitely. Online was way better.
Andrew: Yeah. And by the way, this isn’t like olden times. We’re talking you launched a company in 2010.
Andrew: So people were buying online, it just wasn’t . . . It didn’t feel real to you, not for clothing, not for fashion.
Jane: Honestly, like in Australia, I hate to say this, like, it wasn’t that obvious.
Jane: Yeah. It wasn’t . . . Like, my business partner didn’t think that anyone shop . . . Like, honestly, I don’t want to talk . . . But the thing is, I wasn’t part of like any, like, business communities. So I’m just there with my friends who are either corporate also at uni. And people didn’t really believe it. And I think that’s what’s great about surrounding yourself with like-minded people, people who also like . . . people who are more connected to this world. That would have probably really help but it took me at least a year of deciding before finding business friends.
But, yeah. So the competition was amazing and also for the fact that it really validated that social media works. And just having . . . And also, again, giving myself that confidence that I’m not like an idiot because the business failed and I was really like . . . I just thought I was an idiot for quitting my job as well. So you kind of sometimes just need that confidence boost.
Andrew: Who was managing the website?
Jane: I was.
Andrew: You were?
Andrew: And you weren’t on a platform that was easy to use.
Jane: It’s . . .
Andrew: Easy enough.
Jane: There wasn’t that much you can do with it, but it was enough at that time.
Andrew: Are you still on Big Cartel?
Andrew: No. Okay.
Jane: I think it has 100 products maximum.
Andrew: Okay. What platform are you on now?
Andrew: Oh, wow. Okay.
Andrew: That’s not an easy platform, but it’s . . .
Jane: No, it’s not.
Andrew: It’s made for huge companies, though.
Andrew: Okay. I should have said Magento too on ad for HostGator.
Andrew: Next time. Next time because they do hosting. All right. So I see where you were. How did you go down from that? You hit 20,000? Is it the Facebook algorithm change?
Jane: I think just like . . . I think sometimes with all businesses, you try all your ideas at the very start and you kind of exhaust all of your business ideas that you have when you first start the business. You’ve already spammed all your friends. You’re just kind of like run dry of ideas. And I think also at the time, we actually opened our second store, and that became a cash cow. It was making 10K . . . It was three racks of clothing in the Westfield, but it was making like $10,000 a week which is a lot.
Andrew: Wow. Westfield is that . . . Is that tall building with the thing at the top?
Jane: Yes. The Centrepoint. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Was it called? The eye tower something.
Jane: The Centrepoint tower. Sydney Eye, is it?
Andrew: Yes, Sydney Eye. Yeah, yeah. I think so. Okay. You had a place in there.
Jane: At the very bottom.
Andrew: And it wasn’t expensive?
Jane: It was like $1,000 a week in rent.
Andrew: Okay. That’s . . .
Jane: Note for that cost, three racks of clothing making 10K. And because I was just making so much money that I think that was distracting my focus as well. So online got as low as . . . And over the next seven months, it got down to $5,000 a month which is two orders a day, which is . . .
Jane: . . . nothing.
Andrew: Okay. And then your business partner, she had another business at the time.
Jane: Yeah. It was her the business that she already had . . .
Andrew: What was that?
Jane: . . . that started taking . . .
Andrew: What type of business?
Jane: Just in fashion.
Andrew: Manufacturing or selling?
Jane: Yeah, something along those lines.
Andrew: Okay. So she had that and that was taking off. Meanwhile, Showpony was not taking off. Was it still called Showpony?
Jane: Yeah. It was still Showpony at the time and she just really needed to focus. It would not be fair on her business and the people that worked with her if she kept devoting time to this store that was making two orders a day.
Andrew: Okay. So she said, “You know what? I’m done.”
Andrew: It was a little acrimonious, though, right?
Jane: Yeah. It got a little bit, but I think . . . I mean, we’re very good friends now.
Andrew: You are?
Jane: She just like [fed 00:36:30], like walk away.
Andrew: You are. If you called her right now, would she take your call?
Jane: A hundred percent.
Andrew: She would. A hundred percent. Okay.
Jane: A hundred percent.
Andrew: Is she kicking herself?
Jane: I went to her wedding. I went to her [hands 00:36:36].
Andrew: Is she jealous a little bit?
Jane: No, I don’t think so. I think she . . . And that’s what’s really amazing about her.
Andrew: But you’re doing well and you’re online famous. No?
Jane: I don’t think she . . . Yeah. I mean, I don’t think . . . I’m not sure if she likes what . . .
Andrew: More reserved?
Jane: She’s not shy which I don’t think she would like. She would hate to be like, just . . . She gets nervous . . .
Andrew: She doesn’t want as much attention.
Jane: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andrew: Really? Okay.
Jane: And I think she’s just like . . . I mean, her business is doing well and I think she also . . . I mean, I think maybe the first year after we parted ways, we didn’t really speak, and then I think she was the one that reached out and I think that was really big of her because I kind of always felt a bit . . . No. I think it was very big of her and . . .
Andrew: Because you felt what when it didn’t work out? You felt like she thought she was too good for this business and she was wrong for leaving you alone?
Jane: No. I thought . . . I just as . . . I think maybe because of my ex-business partner, I thought like, it just would . . . Because at that point I hadn’t rekindled with my ex-business partner, but we have since then as well. So I wasn’t sure which way I was going to go and I think she’s just been so . . . I think we both realize how hard it is to find like-minded people and that we’ve been through something really amazing together and that what bonded us in the first place we still have.
Andrew: So then you are alone? Did you feel insecure again? Did you feel like, “Oh, this is all on me”?
Jane: I did because all of a sudden I was like, “Well, if I fail now, then like . . . ”
Andrew: And now I’m a real failure.
Jane: And I’m the common thread and everything will be back on me and I will get blamed for both businesses failing.
Andrew: And that’s a big thing in your head if you fail, it’s everyone else . . . Who is it? Is it your parents blaming or your friends?
Jane: My parents, everyone. When I quit my job, everyone thought I was an idiot. They were like, “What do you know about fashion?”
Andrew: Was there a specific friend who thought that?
Jane: All of them.
Andrew: All of them. Specifically, they said, “What do you know about fashion?” told you you were wrong.
Jane: Yeah. No one was like . . . No one . . . And even if it was . . . Even if they said, “Good on you,” they wouldn’t have believed it because I felt . . . It really seemed stupid at the time. I don’t honestly . . .
Andrew: Was that a motivator for you?
Jane: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: It was. Like, you go work every day saying, “I’m going to show them.”
Andrew: This specific person and that specific person. Really?
Jane: Spite definitely, like, gave me the first 5 mil rev.
Andrew: Really? Oh, that’s great. That’s a line right there. That should be the subject line, the headline. All right, let me talk about my second sponsor. Imagine, for example . . . You guys have mobile app?
Andrew: You don’t. All right. Imagine you said, “Look, we need a mobile app or . . . ”
Jane: Oh, sorry.
Andrew: Is there a mobile app?
Jane: Mobile app. Sorry.
Andrew: What do you guys call it?
Jane: A mobile app. You said mobile, right?
Andrew: Oh, I said mobile . . . Whatever. You have an app for the iPhone?
Andrew: You do. Okay. All right. All right. Let’s pick another topic. Imagined you say, “You know what? Magento is good, but it’s actually not working for us. We need to create our own platform and here are the things that I would like. I’m the boss, I need it.” And your people on team said, “We’ve never built that before, but we can figure it out.” You say, “No, I don’t want people who are figuring it out on my dime.”
So you go to Toptal and you say, “Toptal, I want people who built this type of platform exactly like this, my ideal thing. And I want people moved from Magento to something else. Bring them to me.” Toptal will then go bring a bunch of developers who’ve done this maybe a few different times, you get to talk to them, you get to interview them. If you’re happy with them, you get to hire them and say, “The same thing you did over there, do for me this way with my own needs, and then my people can take over. Make sure they can because I like my people.” And you could do that. Or you can say, “I like some of these Toptal people. I’m going to keep some of them on and have the rest go.”
Jane: Oh, you can keep some of them?
Andrew: You can keep them long-term, you can actually keep them and say, “Forget Toptal.”
Jane: That’s great. We have such a big depth and strength. So, this is like . . . I will really go and Google this.
Andrew: I’ve interviewed several entrepreneurs, I said, “Why are you hiring from Toptal? You have so many developers.” They say, “Yeah, but we have ideas that are for the side projects. I don’t have enough people to do that, so I go to Toptal.” So for you, anyone else who’s listening, if you need to hire developers, really the best of the best, we’re not talking about cheap developers, we’re talking really high-quality developers at a reasonable price, don’t go to toptal.com, go to toptal.com/mixergy. They’re going to give you 80 hours of Top . . . This is a big one. Eighty hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first hours.
Jane: Oh, wow.
Andrew: I talk very fast, don’t I?
Jane: That’s right.
Andrew: In addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks no-risk trial. By the way, that makes sense. Like, if you had to repeat the name of the company, could you with my fast-talking ways? What is it called?
Jane: Is it toptal.com/mixergy.
Andrew: Mixergy. So toptal.com/mixergy.
Jane: T-O-P-T-O what?
Andrew: Yeah, I need to talk . . . Top like top of your head, tal like talent.
Jane: Oh, tal.
Jane: That’s like Toptown, Toptal . . . Okay.
Andrew: Yeah. You know what? I actually will listen to my own interviews. And when it’s recorded on these mics I kind of like it. But then I go, “I don’t even know what you’re saying, Andrew. Slow the freak down. What is this? Top what?” For everything else I kind of like it because I usually listen to podcasts and other stuff on 1.5 speed or 2 speed, so you don’t need to deal with me, but when you need to enunciate, Andrew, stop for a second. You’re a fast talker too. Australians are not fast talkers like us.
Jane: I like, interview people and I’m sitting there with someone else at work and they’re like, “After that it’s like, you didn’t like this person, did you? They talk too slow.” I’m like, “Oh, man. I was so bored.”
Andrew: And so will you not work with them if they talk too slow?
Jane: It depends if I have to work closer with them. I mean, ideally not. I just think it’s . . .
Andrew: I need the speed.
Jane: I mean, it’s [inaudible 00:41:56]. I don’t want to say like . . . I just think I can’t . . . Yeah, I can’t see myself working with someone slow.
Andrew: I noticed. You walked in here and you said, “I’ve got a phone call to take.” You took the call. I didn’t pay attention to what you said because I don’t know what. I think I was just exhausted and I enjoyed having a little bit of time. I said, “This woman talks fast like me.” And that’s just a regular call. I thought maybe you were talking fast because you had to talk with me, but no, that’s just your speed.
Andrew: I’m with you on that. All right. Here you are alone, business is doing two orders a day, you’re now stuck in a retail store when you don’t believe in the future of retail stores. What do you do to turn things around? How do you suddenly go from that to something that’s doing well?
Jane: So, I mean, I literally then did everything because I didn’t have the luxury of time to like . . .
Andrew: Meaning like a lot of experiments.
Jane: Yeah. Yeah, so we started running. We started running Google ads. We optimized . . .
Andrew: Let me pause you. It’s you. When you buy Google ads, what were you doing that was working for you? What . . .
Jane: Oh, man, this is like, 2011, so I have no idea. I just put $50 in . . .
Andrew: Fifty dollars.
Jane: . . . just to start and then just kind of went from there.
Andrew: And you were saying, “Look, let me see what could happen. Maybe somebody is looking for dresses,” or it wasn’t dresses. What was it . . .
Jane: And it’s not easy to use the backend. Like, man.
Andrew: No, it’s not.
Jane: It’s crazy. But my business . . . I remember my business partner I told her I want to run Google ads because I’ve read about them, and then she’s like, “Let’s just start making money before we keeps. . before we spend more.” And I’m like, “Well, God.” Anyway, so then once I was by myself, I started doing a bunch of things. And I think ultimately, that’s what it was because I one, had a fear failure and I didn’t want to like . . . It’s hard to explain your actions and your mistakes to someone else. But then once it’s myself, I only had to answer to myself. And then I just kept . . . I tried all those things, what seemed to have worked. You just kind of test really quickly and then just double down on whether it’s working.
Andrew: So here’s what I got. I got a list of things you did in my research here. Remove free shipping, meaning free shipping.
Andrew: Did that work, by the way?
Jane: So the problem is we did so many things.
Andrew: And you can tell what worked and didn’t?
Jane: I don’t really know exactly what it was, but it was all working.
Andrew: Because that’s pretty risky.
Jane: Yeah. But no. But the thing is, like, what we’ve got now is like $50 shipping, but minimum product talk back then because it wasn’t a big store. It’s not like we had a lot of accessories. It’s actually not that big of a loss.
Andrew: Because people aren’t buying that much.
Andrew: Okay. All right. So free shipping . . .
Jane: No, no. Sorry. The minimum product, the average product value was relatively high because we didn’t have any low-value items.
Andrew: Okay. It’s not like you’re giving free shipping on a tiny item. People were spending a lot of money. So how much . . . Like, what was the price?
Jane: Oh, not that much [inaudible 00:44:39]. Everything was like, $50 to $70.
Andrew: And what kind of things were you selling back then?
Jane: Just shirts, pants, mainly dresses.
Andrew: Okay. Optimized Facebook ads. Did Google AdWords . . . You got better at buying clothes for the store. You said you improved packaging to make it look nicer so people want to reorder. Is that what you meant?
Andrew: Okay. More frequent social posts. Did that work for you?
Andrew: It did.
Andrew: And you’re the type of person who has the patient to go and post online all the time?
Andrew: You do?
Andrew: What would you post?
Jane: Like back then it’s like cat memes.
Jane: Just like . . . I mean . . .
Andrew: Just anything to be public.
Jane: No. It’s a mix of like . . . You want to do a mix, but like, it’s got to be fun, it’s got to be . . . There’s definitely a little lifestyle posts.
Andrew: About your lifestyle.
Jane: No. Just like whatever . . . Like, honestly, whatever gets good engagement because that’s what people want to see, and that’s the best thing with social media. You don’t need to like work it out. You just post it and then you can kind of . . .
Andrew: And if it’s dead, you didn’t feel bad about it? If no one liked it, you didn’t say, “Ah.”
Jane: Well, no one saw it.
Andrew: Okay. Because your stuff is really well done. But you know what’s well done about it? It’s just beautiful photos? Right? I’m looking at it. Let me see. I got to find your Instagram. I’ll find it in a second. You don’t link to it from your . . . Oh, here. I thought you did. Okay. So I want to go to Instagram right now and I’m going to describe what I see. And it’s just instagram.com/showpo. It’s just like photos of beautiful looking women wearing great clothes in interesting environments. That’s it.
Jane: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: That’s good shots. Are they sending it in or are you guys doing professional photography?
Jane: We do our own.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s great shots.
Jane: And then it’s like some influence [every grands 00:46:15].
Andrew: It feels like it’s fairly easy now. What was it in the beginning? You wouldn’t go to Instagram and do a cat photo, would you?
Jane: No, but we’ve got that like, funny posts, like really relatable posts. I think they were really big back then and not everyone was doing them. It’s a lot more common now.
Andrew: Got it.
Jane: I think what’s great back then it’s like, we were just like, the big companies were reluctant to try these things and we were like, “Whatever, just do them.” And now kind of it’s harder because everyone’s doing them.
Jane: So we’re going to keep taking risks. I think you just go to . . .
Andrew: What’s the risky thing now?
Jane: More like video content. It’s . . .
Andrew: More like what content?
Andrew: Oh, video content.
Jane: Just trying to set as different . . .
Andrew: Why is that risky?
Jane: It’s risky more, like, it takes more time. Like, the actual effort because everything comes to that opportunity cost doing something else.
Andrew: But you know what? So I saw some of your videos. There’s some that were good and had like 100 views or something random like that. And then you have some random one where you’re doing hot sauce which I didn’t hit play on because who cares? You’re having hot sauce. That got tons of views. Right? And that’s the stuff you were talking about? You could spend a lot of time on it and get nothing.
Jane: Yeah, exactly. So I think you’re just going to keep doing them.
Andrew: Oh, look at this. Top quote . . . I just went to Lazy CEO which comes up you. I’m going to ask you why in a moment. Top question on Google is, “How much is Showpo worth?” Is this right? Is Showpo worth sales of $30 million last year? No, they’re already wrong. Impressive Instagram following. Ms. Lu herself is worth an estimated $32 million.
Jane: I didn’t know why that . . .
Andrew: Right? Because you’d have to figure out how much the company would grow. Are you still the only owner of the company?
Andrew: I just saw you get uncomfortable for the first time in our whole conversation as I showed you that, right?
Andrew: What’s the deal with The Lazy CEO?
Jane: Yeah. I mean, I started my Instagram account pretty late in like, 2004, 2005 since Jane Lu was taken.
Andrew: But you weren’t late to the wordpress.com world. Look at you.
Andrew: Okay. So you started Instagram late.
Jane: Yeah. And so yeah, I had to just think of a unique URL.
Andrew: Got it. And so that’s what it became and then it also became your Twitter account and everything.
Jane: It kind of seemed fitting and I think people just really liked it. People really responded well to it.
Andrew: Why do you feel you’re lazier? What’s the point of . . . What were you trying to say with the lazy part of it?
Jane: Just . . . I mean, it’s kind of about finding the right people to do stuff for you to do . . . Like, to work. Like, you find people who are better at what you can do in different areas.
Andrew: That’s what it is, then you went to a period of, “I have to do everything. Damn it. Nobody else is going to understand how to do Google AdWords and that it makes sense even for business like me. I’m going to prove them right or I’m going to prove myself wrong and do something else,” to a place of saying, “Jane, settle down for a minute. Let other people do it.” And that transition, you felt . . . I feel like internally . . . I’m psychoanalyzing you, but I’ll let you know when it’s like an hour of you. But I feel like internally you were thinking, “I can’t pass this on to other people. That’s lazy. That’s wrong. I should be doing it. I’m the person.” Right?
Jane: Yeah. I think growing up in China it’s very much about working harder, not smarter necessarily.
Andrew: Right. And the fact that you’d have to . . .
Jane: It’s about work learning and like, you’re just like pulling in long the hours.
Andrew: You know what? I get it. What was the point where you finally had to say, “I got to stop this. I am not going to continue. I need to bring someone else on to do something that’s a little menial, but I’m going to do it.”?
Jane: So it actually . . . It’s pretty stupid. So, it was like two months after . . . So, basically, my first month after I took over, we went from $5,000 to 9,000, so almost doubled. And then the next month, we made $40,000.
Jane: And at this point, I was like, “Wow, I had a trip booked the next month to go to Miami Ultra Music Fe . . . No. Ultra Fashion . . . ” Oh my God. Why am I saying fashion? Ultra Music Festival.
Jane: I wonder why the word fashion is in there. Anyway. And then . . . Well, I booked this trip when things weren’t even going that well, which is pretty stupid. I couldn’t really afford to go. Oh, no, I was . . . But then I told my friends, I’m like, “Look, I can’t really go. I’ve got this business to run. Everything’s taking off and I’m the only person I can do this.” And then I’ve got like a really [inaudible 00:50:31] and they convinced me to go anyways, so I’m like, “Oh, crap. I need to hire someone.”
Andrew: Okay. Can do this while I’m away. How long were you going to be away?
Jane: Like, almost two weeks. I literally went just to go party which sounds so stupid. I’m negligent.
Andrew: Is this the photo from that?
Jane: No, that’s one just camping.
Andrew: Okay. All right.
Jane: But yeah . . . No, we just . . . I got this girl who was working in one of our stores come in, she would go down to my parents’ house and then into the garage, and then she had to work in my parents’ garage. And then when I came back, like . . . She definitely made mistakes, but then I realized I came back, nothing was really broken and I realized that, like, I had come back to a business that had systems and processes so that it could scale and grow. And so that was like a turning point, like it was a pivotal moment in our growth journey just like raving in [October 00:51:26].
Andrew: And she’s running the business. Did you have systems before?
Andrew: She created systems?
Jane: No, I had to . . . I mean, I just . . . Yeah.
Andrew: You came back, things were working, you said, “You know what? Things are working okay. I’ll create some systems so that we can do more on this, but I want this and in order to get, I need systems and processes.”
Andrew: How did you know that you needed that? Sometimes you act like you don’t know much about business and I think the woman who worked for major accounting firms doing auditing, she knows business.
Jane: Yeah. I think it’s just about problem-solving and not necessarily like reading or applying the time that you’ve read ahead about. Sometimes it’s . . . Ultimately, if you’re just problem solving, like, I look back with hindsight and I can see all these things that I learned from the first business failing and how that’s turned into what we have now and how all these things that we’ve done are things that, like, I’ll read a book, and I will be like, “Oh, that’s what we did then, that’s what we did then. It actually applies.” I can apply theory to the chaos of what we were doing back then, but ultimately, it’s just problem solving and I’m just responding quickly to mistakes and obstacles.
Andrew: You’re not figuring it out for the first time and coming up with a solution that maybe works, maybe doesn’t. You’re doing something to, like, shortcut, aren’t you? No.
Jane: I mean . . . I guess a bit of both.
Jane: I guess . . . I mean . . .
Andrew: You’re not the person sitting around googling and saying, “All right. Other people solve this, how do I solve it?” You don’t have friends from your old accounting days who you were going to?
Jane: Yeah. I mean . . . I think about putting in systems?
Andrew: Yeah. I’m just looking at it as one example of how you work. I’m trying to get a sense of who you are.
Jane: Yeah. I’m just trying to think back then . . . I think I just . . . I mean, there’s a few things . . . I mean, I definitely . . . So, actually, my general manager who’s our [2IC 00:53:14], she joined a few months later and she’s like the queen of systems and processes. So she definitely came in and built out all these foundations and that’s something . . . we were butting heads at first because I just wanted to keep growing and I’m like, “Oh, my God. Let’s just chase the money.” And she would be like, “No, no. Let’s slow down. Let’s write a manual.” I’m like, “Who has time to learn a manual? Just learn it.” And then I remember we had like, our first staff meeting, I’m like, “Oh, my God. Do we need the staff meeting?” Yeah. So we . . .
Andrew: That person is wonderful. How did you find her?
Jane: She’s so great. I just met her through . . . That’s when I first kind of joined like an entrepreneurial, a startup crowd. And then I didn’t really like her at first, but yeah . . .
Andrew: Then why did you hire her if you didn’t like her first?
Andrew: Why did you hire her if you didn’t like her first?
Jane: No. I’m sorry. I didn’t like her first and then I ended up having to drive her to . . . We were both invited to this holiday house and I was just making business friends and I thought, “Hey.” I was doing everything to try and make more friends and I was being sociable and I’ve written in this Facebook group, like, “Hey, does anyone want a lift? We’re going up to Palm Beach.” And she said, “Yes.” I’m like, “Oh, crap. This is so boring. I have to sit in this car with this boring girl for two hours,” because I met her at a party and I didn’t think . . . I’m like, “Oh, she’s pretty boring.” And she just was a bit cold towards me. Anyway, so I even got another friend who, like, invited to this party just so he can sit in this car and just keep the conversation going. So I picked her up, I picked him up, and like, me and her end up hitting it off so much that he fell asleep in the back and we just didn’t stop talking the whole time and we just bonded.
Andrew: Got it.
Jane: And that’s when it kind of like . . . So it’s interesting, like, how . . . I think the thing is, there’s no proper route to doing anything, you just have to like . . . It’s almost like, everything is like a steppingstone from one thing to another and, like, when you look back, there’s like, probably a direct path that you can see how everything has fall into place, but when you’re like forward-looking, you’re just literally going from the one thing to the other, if that makes sense.
Andrew: Yeah. It doesn’t make sense by taking time off would someone lead to one of your biggest business discovery. It doesn’t make sense why having one business fail would lead to this business succeeding. But you couldn’t have had Showpo without . . . What was it called? Big Daddy.
Andrew: Is that what was called?
Jane: Fat Boy?
Andrew: Fat Boy. Fat Boy. Where did you get the name Fat Boy?
Andrew: Where did you get the name Fat Boy?
Jane: This business partner was like, “Did you have any nicknames in high school?” and I was, “Yeah, Fat Boy.”
Andrew: Fat Boy?
Jane: And she just loved that. And then we just did it.
Andrew: I liked it because it was a nickname, but isn’t that like a type of motorcycle?
Jane: Yeah, I think it’s like a . . .
Andrew: It is a type of a lot things.
Jane: It’s like a couch thing that’s called Fat Boy.
Andrew: You should adjust the mic again.
Jane: Oh, sorry.
Andrew: No. I should be micing people better, but it’s uncomfortable for me to reach into people’s faces and just . . . No, no, you’re fine. I want you to get comfortable with that. I need to learn how to do it better. But it is kind of awkward. I don’t like touching people like that.
Jane: At the start of the interview as well.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly right. And then what I refuse to do is . . . We’re talking into lavalier mics for anyone who’s listening to us. We’re at an Airbnb in Sydney. And the reason I don’t want a mic that sits on a table is I want you to do what you did before. There are times when you just lean back when you’re thinking about something, sometimes when you’re leaning forward when you’re like in your face about something, and I want that movement without you thinking about it.
Jane: No, that’s fine. Yeah.
Andrew: So I’d rather deal with the issue with lavalier.
Jane: Plus you have like these two microphones in front of us so it doesn’t feel as natural of a conversation.
Andrew: Yeah. Does it feel natural that I’ve got earphones in?
Jane: Oh, yeah.
Andrew: Yeah, nobody seems bothered by that.
Andrew: Good. I’m glad. I am monitoring our audio for that reason. I’m looking at like your top referring sites. I get AfterShip. Right? This is your shipping tracker.
Andrew: Your people want to know where their package is and come back. You like this?
Jane: Yeah, yeah, this is great.
Andrew: You do. It’s kind of weird that you can see my data. BuzzFeed, you got article written about you and about lots of different fashion stores. Afterpay. I was going to get the founder of Afterpay to do an interview with me because I didn’t understand his thing.
Jane: Yeah. Nick. He’s great.
Andrew: He is great.
Jane: He is amazing.
Andrew: He’s going through something right now like a business thing. It’s not a bad thing, so I couldn’t do the interview. I don’t understand Afterpay. We don’t have this in the U.S.
Jane: Afterpay was launched in the U.S., actually. They launched last year.
Andrew: They did?
Andrew: So here, I was fascinated by what he did to spread. So the way Afterpay works is, how does it work?
Jane: So it’s basically, it’s just spreads . . . It’s really funny, actually. It spreads out your payment over four payments, four fortnights over eight weeks. And what’s different is there are actually a few other products like that, but not as simplified, and just they do not have the same cult following like people love Afterpay. People go . . . There’s literally cult following, people go crazy for.
Andrew: And so the way it works is I can’t afford to buy something or I’d rather not pay for it all at once. I say, “I want the shirt. And I will keep making payments until I’ve covered the payment plus a little bit of extra, and then I get the shirt.” Right?
Jane: No, you get it immediately.
Andrew: You get it immediately. Okay. So, the way I’ve been seeing it in like Forbes was they called it layaway for the online generation. The layaway would work where you keep putting money up and then you get it.
Andrew: Okay. So what they’re doing is they’re saying, “You get to buy it on credit. We’ll send it to you, you pay it, and we’re capping how much you can pay.” I mean, “We’re capping our interest on you.” So it’s not like it can go forever and ever.
Jane: There’s no interest. So I think that’s why their model is great.
Andrew: But they call it interest, don’t they? They don’t call it interest but . . .
Jane: I think if you’re late.
Andrew: Got it. Got it.
Jane: Whereas the other businesses have like a fee, so then it feels like a credit card. And I think in this . . . So the thing about Afterpay is we were actually really late to the Afterpay bandwagon and it’s because I . . . And this is why this is my mistake of not really understanding our customers. I’ve always had credit cards because I started working when I was 18. And I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t have . . .
Andrew: Right. Me too.
Jane: Why you would just not put everything in a credit card, but no, this generation people have debit cards and people really just like don’t trust credit cards. We’re in a generation where people like . . . We’re in that generation, they don’t really trust credit cards and that’s why Afterpay is great because other companies, even their signup form feels like you’re applying for credit, whereas Afterpay, it’s like a culture of shopping online, and so they don’t even need to really bother especially in Australia signing up new companies because their customers will just go . . . Like, their customers like voluntary will [hound 00:59:38] a particular company.
Andrew: I saw that. That’s part of their movement. They created this . . . No one was using them, then they got people to start demanding it. I even found . . . I was pitching the founder to do an interview here. And I even found old articles on development sites about why is it that big commerce won’t accept Afterpay? I got to switch away because I won’t do Afterpay, and stuff like that. It was fascinating. So, they’re sending you traffic.
Andrew: I wish I knew they were coming to the U.S. That would have been my hook to get him to . . . Or that they were in the U.S., that would have been my hook to get him on. I get that.
Jane: He’s in San Fran.
Andrew: He is? Okay.
Jane: I’m pretty sure, yeah.
Andrew: So maybe I’ll just do an interview there. I’ll just go into his office with the video of you talking it up. Okay. Then I see rstyle.me.
Andrew: This is what? It’s a promotional company.
Jane: An affiliate. Yeah.
Andrew: It’s affiliate management company.
Andrew: So affiliates are sending you traffic?
Andrew: And doing what? What are they doing? What are these affiliates doing that they’re sending you so much traffic?
Jane: So they get . . . Affiliates basically get a commission for sending traffic.
Andrew: And so they’re bloggers who are doing this? They’re Instagrammers?
Andrew: What are they?
Jane: So this is . . . Yeah. Essentially, yeah.
Andrew: It’s everything. It’s all that.
Andrew: What’s big for you? What are the biggest affiliates doing that’s interesting?
Jane: I mean, UNiDAYS is one that gives discounts to students. That’s a pretty big affiliate.
Andrew: Got it. So if they buy from your store, then the student gets the discount.
Andrew: And they’re kind of splitting their commission with the student [inaudible 01:00:56]
Jane: Yeah, because they have a directory and like, yeah.
Andrew: It’s a good idea. What else?
Jane: In terms of affiliates?
Andrew: Yeah, because it looks like affiliates are sending you a considerable amount of traffic.
Jane: Oh no, that’s just that specific affiliate.
Andrew: Oh, really?
Jane: Oh, these are all [inaudible 01:01:09].
Andrew: No, that’s rewardstyle.com.
Jane: Yeah. Can we go back?
Andrew: Oh, here. There you go. Look at my notes. I love that you get to see my notes. There’s so much work I did on this.
Jane: I mean, I don’t think these are . . . I think that’s the only affiliate.
Andrew: Okay. Here’s the other thing that I thought it was interesting. You’ve got a messenger bot.
Jane: Yeah, we just started. It’s good to see it’s on.
Andrew: And it’s kicking off a considerable amount of traffic.
Andrew: What are you doing with it?
Jane: Oh, man. I’ve wanting this messenger bot for three years.
Andrew: This was you pushing for it?
Jane: No. I mean, I didn’t do it. I pushed it three years ago and we didn’t go anywhere. I’m so glad that’s doing well.
Andrew: Wow. So how did you come up with the idea to do that?
Jane: Just as a consumer, I think most of it is, not necessarily just myself, not to take credit, but like, we have a whole team of people that are consumers in our demographic. So we will say something like, “Oh, why don’t we do this? Why don’t you do that?” And I think even as I was coming in, I was like having a bitch about my life right now. Before we started, I was like, “Yeah, we got too many competing projects right now. How do we prioritize?” Which is the biggest project I’m working on right now, but basically, how do you know what to really push through?
Andrew: And that’s one of the things that you thought could go through.
Jane: You can do anything. It’s just what do you do?
Andrew: I love this. I’m hunting down info on you as we talk.
Andrew: It’s kind of weird because you can see me. Usually, people don’t know what I’m doing this. But look, I’m seeing you do visual website optimizer?
Jane: What website are you on? BuiltWith.
Andrew: Oh, BuiltWith. You’re doing visual website optimizer because what you want to do is do a lot of A/B tests on your site . . .
Jane: A/B test, yeah.
Andrew: . . . that tells me that you’re still heavily into marketing. Got Hotjar and all that other stuff. What else do I want to find out?
Jane: So what does this tell you because I feel like this company, I thought were weren’t using anymore?
Andrew: I’m sure you’re not. And it’s kind of weird people still keep code on their site from old software that they don’t use anymore. And then the companies behind them still get that insight. Like, you’re not using AddThis anymore. AddThis is dead. It’s not dead, like, dead, dead, but you’re not using them.
Andrew: It’s kind of interesting. So I can see you’re using Magento. I think that . . .
Jane: I’m learning here.
Andrew: This is fantastic. Look, I can see what kind of payment you take. What I think is being done that’s interesting with this is one of my past guests, a guy named Nathan Latka. I get emails the from freaking guy all the time. Here’s what he does.
Jane: You just like map out what everyone is using them and what’s the common thread, like, what are we not using? Sorry. That’s the obvious thing, isn’t it?
Andrew: Oh, right. You look at your competitor and you see why are we using this when they’re using that? Should we actually continue doing this one thing? Like I can see you do Taboola ads, right? You probably don’t even know this stuff anymore because you’re not that deep into this. So here’s what he does. He saw that there’s this piece of software . . . I think this is what he did. A piece of software called Proof. You shop on the site and it says, “Jane from Sydney just bought.” Boom, the thing goes down. A little pop up comes up, “Andrew from San Francisco just bought.” You’ve seen that.
Andrew: It’s fairly easy to copy.
Andrew: I think what he did was he copied it, then he went to BuiltWith and he bought a list of all the sites that are using Proof and their email addresses. And since I’m using it, I got one of his emails, he says, “Hey, Andrew, I saw that you’re using Proof? Did you know we’re using . . . We have a competing piece of software that’s actually cheaper and has these extra features? Do you want to sign up? Click here.”
Jane: Yeah, wow.
Andrew: That’s what being done with this. All right. I could talk about this forever. Let me close out with something personal. Do you do anything personal anymore for fun? Look. Your stuff goes on forever. Yeah. This is literally the longest BuiltWith that I’ve ever seen.
Jane: Is this slowing down our website? It is, isn’t it?
Andrew: It’s probably slowing down your website. I love that you care about this. This gives me a sense of your management. You still knee deep in this. What time do you end working at it?
Jane: I’m going through . . . Probably right now I’ve been working . . . Wait. Did you asked about my working hours [inaudible 01:04:30]?
Andrew: No. Oh no, not working out, but . . .
Jane: Working hours.
Andrew: Yeah. When are you done?
Jane: I’ve been like just in the last month going to midnight, but I pretty much I’ve been 9:00 to 6:00 for a while, but just recently I’ve been going to midnight.
Andrew: Going to midnight. Why?
Jane: There’s just a lot of changes and I honestly, I think I got really like, excited . . . I got too caught up in the whole Lazy CEO thing at the start of this year, like Q3 I was traveling for work. I was away for half of the quarter. And I actually think it probably did take a toll on the company to not be around and so . . . Oh, I’m sorry. Microphone.
Andrew: You just bring it back up.
Jane: But then I think I like . . . I don’t know. I think got . . . I think I’m just like . . . I think for a while because I saw that like as a business grew, when you start you’re a jack of all trades and you’re doing everything and they you hire one person to take a function, you hire someone else who’s like to take a function, you get all these experts doing these functions, and it’s quite an addictive thing to be like, site delegating and have like other people doing things. And then I was like . . . And then it kind of . . . And then I kind of just like, wasn’t as active in the business and I realized that that’s kind of like boring, so now I’m like more active in it, but now, like . . . Sometimes you start too many projects at once.
It’s because I started too many projects at once. And also one of the things is we’re having too many meetings. If I showed you my calendar last week, there’s one hour of the of the 9:00 to 5:00, 9:00 to 6:00 that I’m not in the meeting. So when do you actually do work? So we’ve actually just started this 15-minute meeting rule at work. And also we have this award at the end of the week for like . . . So we have like the I shit rainbows awards for anyone who does great.
Andrew: The I ship what?
Jane: I shit rainbows.
Andrew: I ship rain . . . Oh, I shit rainbows.
Jane: Yeah. Like, you celebrate your [inaudible 01:06:24].
Jane: And then we also have shame shot, so anyone who does something stupid gets a shame shot and now there’s going to be like, “I host shit meetings.” So they’re just going to be shame and one who does a . . .
Andrew: I hold shame meeting. So if you spend too long in a meeting . . .
Jane: Oh, you have a meeting that . . .
Andrew: You will shame your people like that?
Jane: Yes. It could be done via email when we said it.
Andrew: And so people will take it and you’re okay with them like being hurt for a day because it means that no one’s going to do it again.
Jane: Yeah, and then we’ll shit meetings.
Jane: Well, hopefully.
Andrew: I host shit meeting. So somebody has gotten that?
Jane: No, we started this week because it’s getting too long in meetings.
Andrew: And you will be okay giving that to somebody?
Andrew: Wow-wee. All right. You have a personal life? Is that a wedding ring? Is that wedding ring?
Andrew: It is. You’re engaged.
Jane: Yes. So I met him when I was on exchange in Sweden. So when I . . .
Andrew: Wait. You were with someone in Sweden?
Jane: I just dumped someone to go to Sweden, and then at the end of that exchange, which is great because that’s . . .
Andrew: This is the thing where you finally got to party and then you came back home and you started your business.
Andrew: This is a long time ago. Okay.
Jane: So I party, party, partied, and at the end of that exchange period, holds up this guy and he’s great because I put on 13 kilos and he didn’t . . . So I’ve got like, a lot of buffer at the moment.
Jane: And then . . . So we were just like students. And then what was crazy is like when we first met, I had my job at EY. And so I looked great on paper and he was just a student. And then when . . . He’s from Brisbane, so we probably would have never met otherwise. But then when he ended up moving to Sydney, not just for me, because he wanted to get into investment banking and there’s no investment banks in Brisbane. So then he had this amazing investment banking job. He’s surrounded by other really smart and just like, go-getter people, but I had my failed business and I was trying to start this new business.
So I was at rock bottom, he was doing really well, and then Showpony took off and he was working in private equity, and then Showpony kept taking off. And then he worked in strategy and planning with Uber. And then basically did rent like did all the budgeting and like, pricing for Uber. And then all of a sudden, I was like, “I need a CFO. I need Head of Data.” And he is literally fills in all those gaps and now we work together. And that’s why I think I also . . . We love staying at work because it doesn’t really feel like work. It’s probably made our relationship stronger.
Andrew: You bring your laptop to bed both of you?
Andrew: You don’t. Intentionally you don’t. Okay.
Jane: We do bring our phones, though.
Andrew: You do. I’ve been lately just putting my phone on a drawer since I get home. That’s okay. I got the Apple Watch, I get to see what’s going on. Wow. All right. Congratulations on the relationship. I like actually being with someone when they see you as a failure just to see will they stick around?
Jane: Yeah. We’ve been . . . And that’s the thing, I think, like, you need to have fights, see how you deal with hardship to know . . . Because everyone is great when things are going well.
Jane: And we’re launching bridal wear on Thursday, which is exciting because we’re doing the whole bridal thing as well.
Andrew: What the hell are you doing here? Why are you doing this interview with me? Why are you going out doing interviews? You don’t have time. You’re about to launch something. You’re shaming people who host shit meetings. Why are you doing this?
Jane: No. I actually love podcasts because I used to do . . . Actually, I’ve stopped doing public speaking because public speaking you reach a much smaller audience than the podcast. And then I’m the perfectionist and you hate to go on stage and just be like, “Oh.” And I like to cater . . . Otherwise, just watch my YouTube video. I want to cater for a specific audience, so I write everything fresh and you got to practice a few times. You got to do your slides. You’re not putting like 20 hours into a thing. And also after you do it, it’s gone forever, whereas like, how great our podcasts. They’re the best hack because . . . And also you don’t really need to like prep when you’re talking about yourself. It’s just about . . . And every podcast is different because it’s how we, like, mesh.
Andrew: Yeah. I do feel we mesh better because we’re in person. Don’t you think?
Jane: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: I think it wouldn’t have been good in Zoom remotely, but this is way better.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Thanks so much for doing this interview.
Jane: Thanks for having me.
Andrew: I don’t think people are going to . . . I don’t think we should send them over to showpo.com, though they might be interested about the products that you’ve got. I actually think if they’ve stuck around to the end of this, they should check out your YouTube channel. Where is that YouTube channel? I didn’t think to link to it.
Jane: Just search The Lazy CEO.
Andrew: Right. I like when . . .
Jane: There’s a business channel. There’s a lot of like stupid blogs, but if you want to just as a business playlist.
Andrew: I’m going to go right now. Let me see it. It’s The Lazy CEO. Here’s what I like about it. It’s you fast talking and you have an editor who will just like splice in videos fast. So, if you say, “I was a nerd,” for example, which you said at one point, there was a Homer Simpson calling his daughter a nerd. Right? And then boom, right back to you. We’re not fucking around here. We got stuff to do, but we also want to entertain a little bit. So, that’s The Lazy CEO. That’s how I ended up on there.
Andrew: Lazy CEO.
Jane: The Lazy CEO.
Andrew: The Lazy CEO.
Jane: Not just any. The Lazy.
Andrew: Imagine if somebody else has Lazy CEO and you got a . . .
Jane: There’s a bunch of lazy . . . Like, it’s become a thing now.
Andrew: Lazy CEO, let me see. Here’s the thing.
Jane: There’s a guy at work who became the lazy employee. I’m like, “It doesn’t really work like that.”
Andrew: No, it sure does. Yeah. But now you get to see it. Now, look at this. So, look. Some of your best stuff, I feel like . . . I feel like some of your best stuff needs to get hundreds of thousands of views. I don’t know what it is. Okay.
Jane: Well, thanks for the plug. Maybe it will now.
Andrew: Right. Go check out The Lazy CEO on YouTube and everywhere else, showpo.com. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first will soon host a website for somebody who’s selling steamers that will blow people away. Steamers are way easier than irons. Hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second one . . . I’m just going to talk to you.
Andrew: Toptal. Exactly. toptal.com/mixergy. Thanks so much for doing this.
Jane: Thank you. Thanks for having me.