Take 5 With... Jane Lu, Founder Showpo
Fun-loving Showpo CEO, Jane Lu, reveals how to turn failure into success, work smarter not harder and her three top tips for startups...
If you're not familiar with the name Jane Lu, chances are that you are more than familiar with Showpo, the fashion business she founded (while 60K in debt!) in her parents garage in 2010 and grew into a multi-million dollar company over the last seven years primarily using social media.
At just 29 years of age, the young CEO - who also fronts the latest Holden commercial having been chosen as one of six influential Australians to launch the brand's inaugural ‘CARstodians’ campaign - has amassed a string of accolades. In fact, just recently she was inducted into HerBusiness 2017 Businesswomen's Hall of Fame and named on of the 10 Inspirational Women In Business on Kochie's Business Builders. And while the accolades are nice recognition, the straight-talking entrepreneur is the first to tell you they can be distracting.
For Jane, her focus is always on the core business, which she stills plays a very hands-on role in the day-to-day runnings of even though to date Showpo now employs 19 staff. When she is not immersed in all things Showpo, Jane can be found championing other entrepreneurs and startups through the 30K+ strong Facebook group Like Minded Bitches Who Drink Wine (LMBWDW), which she co-founded with Gen George.
We were lucky to catch up with the busy business woman and fun-loving social media maven for her advice on how to turn failure into success, work smarter not harder and her three top tips for all future entrepreneurs.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to start Showpo
I’m the founder and CEO of Showpo. I was originally working in corporate finance but realised that I hated what I was doing so quit my job to work on a side business. Unfortunately within one month, that side business (we ran pop up stores) failed and all of a sudden I was unemployed with a failed business in the middle of the GFC. I had no other options to turn [to] as it would’ve been impossible to find another job in that economic climate, so I decided to start another business. And so, out of desperation, Showpo was born.
What hurdles did you overcome being a startup business?
When I first started I had no money at all, in fact I was over $60k in debt. I managed to build the business regardless by buying stock on consignment, building the website by myself and using social media to market the brand. The hardest part about starting a business isn't taking that plunge to do it, it's being able to back yourself day after day, knock-back after knock-back, a year into the business.
Working to the point of burnout is a challenge for most entrepreneurs/ startups. What are your tips for working smarter not harder?
Create systems and hire someone to do anything that is repetitive so you can work on the business rather than in the business. Hire a VA (Virtual Assistant) from Freelancer. But remember – delegate don’t abdicate. Don’t give someone a decision making responsibility and thinks the onus falls on them – ultimately you are still in charge and everything falls back on you.
Many people let the fear of failure stop them from trying something new or launching their own business – what is your take on the concept of failure?
I used to have a massive fear of failure, but having spectacularly failed in my first business, I realised that it’s not the end of the world. Even though at the time I thought it was a complete waste of time, I realised that I’ve learned so much from it and there was absolutely no way I'd be where I am without it.
What are some of your greatest business acheivements to date?
We made our first $1m month back in may 2014 and we’re about to reach 1 million followers on facebook. But the thing I’m most proud about is that people tell me that they use my story to show their parents that there is more to life than the corporate path.
What’s top three tips to fellow entreprenuers or startup businesses?
1. Don’t start a business for the sake of it. If you don’t know what business you want to create, get a job working in a startup even if it means taking a pay cut. It’s better than staying at your corporate job and going to “entrepreneurship” classes.
2. Start with a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and always test and validate what you’re doing at every step along the way. Remember you may think you know what your customers want, but you need to test to be certain.
3. Don’t wait until everything’s perfect because by then it’ll be too late.
You utilise social media as your main form of marketing – what’s your secret to building an organic following, and using this to grow a business?
Good content is key, but honestly, the secret is to be obsessed with social media and understand how to use it. The answers are all there and people are just looking hard enough.
Where do you find / look for inspiration to keep you motivated and hitting your career goals?
By reading about other people’s achievements. It really makes me think that I’ve barely scratched the surface at making an impact and there’s still such a long way to go!
What items do you treasure most?
Nothing really. I’m don’t put much emphasise on material items. I would hate to lose my phone, but you can easily replace it.
What beauty products can’t you live without?
What are some of your fave podcasts / books?
I don’t listen to podcasts because I’m not very good at listening, I get distracted way to easily. Books: Delivery Happiness - The Zappos Story, Unwritten by Jack Delosa, chapter one the Thankyou Story by Daniel Flynn. (These are the only books that I’ve actually read since Year 6).
How would you describe your style?
I’d like to think I’m a bit of a chameleon and I dress to suit my mood. And with the endless wardrobe that I have, it’d be a shame to pigeon hole myself into one particular style.
How do you unwind?
Watching tv and drinking wine.
Are you a bag or shoe girl?
You have a very profitable business, were recently inducted into HerBusiness 2017 Businesswomen's Hall of Fame, fave made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, been crowned Cosmo Girl Boss of the year and BRW fast starters what’s next for you?
Awards and titles are great for brand awareness, pr and social validation, but can be distracting. So for now, we’re focusing on the core business.