Meet Jane Lu, founder and CEO of Showpo, an online fashion brand for women. Jane has grown Showpo exponentially by leveraging her status as a social influencer to drive sales. She also founded Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine (LMBDW), a community of entrepreneurial-minded and business-savvy women who love wine. LMBDW has regular events in more than 25 cities around the world, and its Facebook group of more 85,000 members is a hub for business-savvy women to collaborate and share ideas. LMBDW is about bringing women together to hear (and give) real, honest advice; to be inspired; and to join forces — all over a glass of wine of course! Jane is also the subject of our latest installment of the Inner Circle Q&A!

Inner CircleWhy did you start Showpo? What was the white space you saw a need to fill?
Jane Lu: Showpo is one of Australia’s fastest-growing fashion e-commerce retailers, and it started off in my parents’ garage in 2010. After starting my career in corporate finance, I decided to ditch the “cubicle life” to start my own business. My first business actually failed. It was right around the time of the global financial crisis, and all of a sudden I was unemployed and in debt. There was no way I could get back into the workforce, so I knew I needed to start another business. I had experience in fashion from my failed business, and I took a lot of learnings from the experience and started Showpo. As for the white space, I spent a lot of time shopping online when I was in the corporate world and saw a gap in the market for affordable apparel and accessories for women.

ICI know you’ve used social and influencer marketing to build your brand. Why did you go this route? And can you offer any examples of particular social and influencer marketing campaigns that have been successful?
JL: When I first started out, I was broke and a Facebook addict, so social media was the obvious (and only) option for growing the business. We started using social media at the very beginning when none of the traditional retailers were taking it seriously yet. So, we had a first-mover advantage. Social media and influencer marketing are a major part of our story, and they’ve allowed us to grow our business quickly and organically.

We’ve been working with influencers for quite a while now, but have found it particularly effective in helping us tap into new markets. We can leverage the reputation and brand of these influencers to not only access a new audience, but also build our reputation and brand loyalty. For example, for the launch of our Coachella collection, we’ve partnered with American DJ Chantel Jeffries, who is the face of the campaign. We’re also are rolling out a series of content in the lead up to the festival. While it’s still early in the campaign, we’re already seeing some really great results, including significant follower growth on social on the day of launch.

ICI understand you’ve started launching pop-ups recently. Can you tell us about them and why you feel they’re important for Showpo?
JL: Since we had experienced such organic growth in the U.S. market, a pop-up space in California was an opportunity to connect with our customers on a tangible level. When we first launched Showpo, we opened three stores in the first year as our primary sales channels in Australia. In 2013, however, we decided to close them down and go all in with online. We now look at pop-ups as a marketing channel and brand extension, rather than a sales channel. It’s a place where our customers can see and feel the products, meet the team and, of course, have some fun with Showpo.

ICCan you give our readers any tips or best practices around how to use social/influencer marketing to help grow their brands?
JL: Be authentic. People trust people more than they trust companies or brands, which is why creating an organic connection is so important. Social media is a great way to engage with customers and receive real-time feedback. However, if you put yourself or your company out there on social media, be sure to be responsive. It’s not a one-way street.

We also try to formularize the process as much as we can to help us best measure the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns. So with influencer marketing, we use our cost per engagement calculations (which you can derive on your own) to work out what we want to pay for our collaborations. However, marketing is as much an art as it is a science, so it’s important to be pragmatic about it and sense check the brand alignment of an influencer to yours.

ICWhat advice would you give to women thinking about starting their own businesses or side hustles?
JL: Take risks and don’t wait to get started. You learn so much on the job. I think the most important skill to having your own business is problem solving, not research and reading. Be collaborative, network and surround yourself with the right people.

ICWhat’s next for Showpo? What are your goals for 2019 and beyond?
JL: Our focus now is on further product diversification, international expansion, and improving our user experience through our website and app as well as through the fulfillment process and customer service. There’s a lot of competition, which means you need to constantly innovate and take risks, which is what we love.