From Finance to Fashion (and Acquisition) and Now… Food!
By Suzanne Xie (Co-Founder & CEO, Lollihop)
I got the idea for my first company, Weardrobe, in college when I developed an obsession with spreadsheets and tracking my closet for purposes of efficiency. It wasn’t much of a surprise when I joined the world of finance after college to work with Excel some more. After a year at Goldman Sachs, I had some extra time after-hours, and the spreadsheet seemed like a fun project to pick back up.
We originally started Weardrobe to give girls a virtual closet, similar to the one Cher had in the movie Clueless. In less than a month, we created a functioning site for our friends to test out. We then sent it around to some fashion bloggers to get their input. It became clear pretty quickly that there weren’t many girls excited about organizing their closets online, but they were interested in sharing their personal style through daily outfits.
The more we learned from potential users, the more we worked on Weardrobe instead of our full-time jobs. Fast forward a couple of months, and both my cofounder and I had quit our jobs, raised money from friends and family and bought a one-way ticket to Palo Alto.
Focus On Your Core Competency
Coming from a background in finance where you’re constantly told what to do and how to do it perfectly, building a startup from the ground up was a world apart.
Back in 2008, there was an opportunity to build a platform that brought together the best voices in the fashion community, while still having a down-to-earth conversation with each person and reader. By doing this, everyone benefits and there is more engagement and relationships formed from it. It still makes me smile to think that our first fashion blogger conference was literally the first time that some of these bloggers had met each other IRL.
While it was good to be analytical about to how to build our company and scale the product, it was more important for us at the time to do whatever it took to get to the next step. When we originally started Weardrobe, we had no idea that it would become a fashion community for individual style expression but that’s what it was two years later. We didn’t have the luxury to pace ourselves. It was a good example of a scrappy, nimble team that took feedback from the community early on — and let that drive product direction.
From The Early-Startup Days to Our Acquisition
Luckily, a mutual friend and mentor introduced us to the CEO of Like.com when we first moved out to the Silicon Valley. So by the time Weardrobe had a solid community of users and a large database of user generated content, we had already been in touch with Like.com for close to a year before they acquired us.
It wasn’t necessarily a standard acquisition story since we we had been building the relationship for many months before the acquisition by Like.com, which was eventually acquired by Google.
Startup Lessons Learned From Weardrobe
If I were to do things differently, I would:
- Focus on revenues sooner rather than later. We spent a lot of time on improving the product and building the community, but not much time on how we were going to build the business. It was always something we were asked about but didn’t take the time to test out.
- Build the team early. With Weardrobe, we kept the team small and lean for financial reasons, but we were much too trigger shy about bringing people on to join us, which in the long run, slowed us down. This time around, I will be looking to bring on the best people all the time.
On To My Second Startup — Lollihop
Lollihop is all about bringing healthy eating directly to people. We offer a monthly subscription service to people who want to discover new and fun ways to eat healthier. Every month, we send our members a box of healthy snacks selected and screened by our team of nutritionists along with tips and articles about healthy eating. All the snacks are organic or natural, and always delicious.
We launched less than a month ago and are now getting new subscribers daily as well as inbound interest from corporate partners that want to bring Lollihop to their employees as well. It’s been an exciting few weeks, and there’s such a rich and lively community around healthy eating that constantly inspire us.
I first met my co-founder, Tamara, awhile back when I was still working on Weardrobe, and we immediately connected over our corny humor and our shared passion for making healthy living more accessible. It took us a couple years of friendship and lots of tea to get to where we are now. Eating a tasty snack is a small start, but it’s also fun and easy and can lead to so much more.
Editor’s note: Got a question or answer for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Suzanne Xie is Co-Founder and CEO of Lollihop, a social health startup. Prior to Lollihop, she started Weardrobe, which was acquired by Like.com and then Google. Suzanne loves what she does, and listens to a lot of techno who doing it. She blogs at SuzanneXie.com. Follow her on Twitter at @suzannexie.