Jessica Wilson is the founder & CEO of online shopping app, Stashd. Her advice to aspiring tech entrepreneurs is simple…
WHAT IS STASHD?
“Stashd is an online shopping app connecting western fashion brands to the China millennial market.”
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
“Before Stashd I was working throughout Australia, New York and Paris fashion weeks – on everything from seating plans, model castings, model fittings and strategy for designers buying seasons – being in the centre of the industry from the age of 18 and watching how trends started to change over 3-4 years I realised that mobile was going to eventually overtake and have the ability to scale globally more so than e-commerce (hence deciding to build an app), and that designers needed more data insight before going into a buying season (So we landed on “Tinder for Fashion” to begin, which was essentially gamified market research on products.) China came after a spontaneous appearance on China’s version of Shark Tank – which we’ll touch on!
HOW DID YOU CREATE THE APP?
“I was one of two halves, I had the fashion and vision for the strategy and my co-founder at the time had the coding know-how. It’s always good to have a mix in the founding team, someone who can build the vision and understand the technology and someone who understands the pain point and market more than anyone else and then establish a strategy from there.”
WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED, DID YOU IMAGINE IT WOULD BE SO SUCCESSFUL?
“I wouldn’t have taken a risk of moving from where I was working into tech unless I thought it would work. I think you have to have a little naivety when you start – if you knew how hard it would be I’m sure a lot of people probably wouldn’t take the initial jump.
I didn’t think we would be looking at and working with the China market so soon, but am glad we are as it has re-shaped our entire business due to the size and hunger of the market (Just a casual 300M in the China middle class). An investor said something really cool to me the other day – “Stashd is like TMall, Shopify and Farfetch had a baby”.”
AT WHAT STAGE OF YOUR JOURNEY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO FULL TIME ON STASHD?
“From the get-go. Apart from having a few side projects I was way more focused on Stashd to get it to the point where we could raise some funding. Once we built the MVP (Minimum viable product – essentially the skin and bones of an idea to test with early adopter users) we then took that data to a handful of angel investors who decided to give us some angel funding to see where we could take the business.”
WHAT WAS THAT RISK LIKE?
“Scary. But everything’s scary the first time you do it. I think I was more excited and very naive as to how much work and time it would take to really build something people liked. I wasn’t necessarily scared from the beginning. The second-guessing comes when you’re 6 months in and still testing things out – that’s when you have to call on your vision and reason why you started to keep your resilience up. Now, three years in – I find risks like a muscle, the more you do the more used to the feeling you get!”
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS?
“It sounds a little over stated, but you have to love what you do and you have to solve a real problem (make sure it’s an actual problem for people, not just a cool idea.) You need both – because it will get hard, you will likely want to give up at some stage, but those are the times you have to keep going – so if you love what you do, and it’s solving a real problem for people now and in the future you’re tied to something bigger than yourself and you enjoy doing it!
Oh, and don’t let anyone tell you that you “can’t” do something – I can’t code, speak mandarin or graduate from university. Yet have an app in China. Go for it!”
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THE NEXT UNICORN IN CHINA LIKE?
“It was insane! The Next Unicorn was a mix between Shark Tank and The Apprentice. The TV show selected 60 global tech teams and flew us to Shanghai to pitch to the ex CEO of Alibaba, seed investors in Baidu (China’s version of Google) and seed investors in Paypal. We had to pitch our business in different ways, verse different teams and were given challenges and mentorship about the China market as a western company. Long story short, Stashd placed with the bronze trophy and made the grand finals! The series then aired to 15 million people in China. It was just another level!”
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU LEARNT ON THE SHOW?
1. I learnt an incredible amount about the market in China, the millennial market and their buying trends and also the social media landscape in China, which validated my decision to push forward and look at launching into China seriously.
2. It was a mind game. You have to have a LOT of mental strength to go far in a competition style TV show. There are other teams that may be more funded, generally bigger or seem more impressive than you but focusing on what everyone else is takes the focus away from my business and the game I was playing. It taught me to focus more than ever, to not be intimidated and to back myself. I was the last female founder in the competition pretty early on, which at first was a tad intimidating. Then I learnt to embrace my differences and that having a different point of view isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
WERE THERE ALWAYS SIGNS YOU WERE ENTREPRENEURIAL? TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
“Haha, yes. My first business was derived from a tad of rebellion. I started an event business on the farmland I grew up on in Coffs Harbour (Karangi). The principal at my high school banned formal afterparties so I rallied together a group of my friends and we used the farm as a venue, found lighting and music suppliers and held an event. We then scaled that business and ran other schools after parties, 18ths and 21sts throughout my senior years of high school.”
“There’s a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. – Rumi”
FANTASY DINNER GUESTS…
“Jack Ma, Ma Huatong, Robin Li, Angelica Cheung, oh and Oprah.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR STASHD?
“Growing our userbase in China, collaborating with fashion and cosmetics brands in AU and the US who would like to launch a store on Stashd and tap into the Chinese millennial market and generally building an experience that people love. We re-launch towards the end of this year which will allow brands to design and launch their own store on Stashd and then trade and ship into China via Stashd.”
HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED?
“I meditate and practice Reiki everyday. I also go back to the farm in Karangi as often as I can as I find it SO grounding. I’ve had a pet cow since I was 13 called Suzie who when you call her names comes running towards you, I still love that type of thing and taking time out with family at the farm.”
SPOTLIGHT ON YOUR FAVOURITE:
Apps: Spotify, TimeBuddy, Uber, Stashd
Podcasts: Tim Ferriss
Blogs: I’m not overly into blogs, more so Podcasts and YouTube
TV Series: Orange Is The New Black, Project Runway Startup (A fashion focused Shark Tank)
Documentary: The First Monday in May, The Cosmos
Books: Zero to One, Conversations with God, Lean In