At 27, Jane Lu demonstrates how it’s done at ShowPo

2012

Jane Lu is the 27-year-old founder and chief executive of fashion retailer ShowPo. ShowPo began life as ShowPony when Lu started the business in 2010. She quickly rocketed onto SmartCompany’s 2013 Hot 30 list thanks to ShowPo’s savvy online offerings.

Instead of an online store ShowPo has a “community” portal with lookbooks, YouTube videos, bloggers, recipes, information about photos from events, images from fashion shoots and a collection of media articles featuring the store. The retailer has over 350,000 Facebook followers, more than both Myer and David Jones. Last year the business turned over $2.6 million and Lu is aiming to turn over $1 million this month alone.

Everyone told me I was an idiot for quitting my job and then my first business failed and everyone expected me to just fail again. You just have to back yourself.  

Yes you could fail but you could also be stuck in a job that you don’t like. 

My main motivation was not to go back to my job. [Lu worked for accounting firm Ernst & Young].  Having a business degree is meant to help, but if anything, university gives you life skills. There’s nothing directly applicable from my commerce degree to what I’m doing.

You shouldn’t wait to get everything perfect before launching because that is a waste of time. 

I never really had a business plan or planned exactly what to do. I just go day to day.

Women can be more critical of themselves and so don’t want to try and fail. They are worried about what people will say.

I just do really love social media and it is a way for small businesses to push themselves forward at a really low cost.

To succeed in social media you need to have a voice for your company. With bigger companies, I think they try to relate to everyone and in doing so they don’t relate to anyone as it is too broad. You need to understand your market and post good content and not make it too sales-driven. 

You just have to keep trying different things then you will find something that works. When you do it’s like a licence to print money. People will catch on.

Facebook advertising is easy and it converts into sales. It is very well suited to our demographic. It mightn’t work for other businesses as it might not be their target market

I have 18 staff now. It’s hard to find the right people and everyone complains about it. When someone isn’t right it is a big decision to look at getting someone new or to try and get someone better. But, if they are not right it is best to cut your losses. You have to think of it as a sunk cost and not commit anymore. 

In a nutshell you have to hire by cultural fit. At ShowPo, it’s fun, everyone gets along and it is quite casual. It is a very flat structure, there is no hierarchy. I don’t think people who pack our stock even realise that I am in charge. They think I am one of the office staff.

You have to reward [staff members] differently. Monetary awards are technically the easiest, but it’s just a case of knowing that some people want autonomy, others want career progression, others want to be doing what they love. It’s about understanding what motivates people. 

We go out for drinks to celebrate when we achieve goals. We have team goals and we also have personal goals for people to meet. I want everyone to have a work-life balance as I think that’s important. Say someone wants to run 5km; that is in their personal goals. 

We are trying to get into international markets, trying new marketing methods. There are economies as we grow. There is always the option of manufacturing ourselves, which we are not doing at the moment. 

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Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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