We talked to Suzanne Barker about When I Shop brand finder and she said the following about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Suzanne Barker: We are incredibly thankful to be based in New Zealand right now. With no cases and the border closed, we are able to go about our daily lives with complete freedom. We are gearing up for a normal Christmas, a summer holiday, and America’s Cup. I almost feel guilty saying that, but I assure you our situation is not lost on us. People here often remind each other how lucky we are.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded When I Shop.
Suzanne Barker: I’m creative. I started my career as a picture editor in the media industry, moved into trademark portfolio management, and then started my own online e-decorator business. I realized I was missing crucial expertise to build a successful online business, so I up-skilled in a range of areas like SEO, pay-per-click ads, analytics, and influencer marketing. It was during this time that I recognized the struggle brands and shoppers have in finding each other. I convinced my husband and co-founder, Max Loddo, to start When I Shop with me. Our main driver is to help people consciously find quality brands in niche areas and shop in a more informed way.
How does When I Shop innovate?
Suzanne Barker: We created a proprietary categorization tool to make e-commerce fashion brands easily discoverable. The tool categorizes brands in their specialty areas, like working with denim, leather, or designing sleepwear, for instance. We tag brands with extended plus size, petite, and maternity sizes, highlight those that manufacture responsibly and add transparency around where brands make their products. We basically emphasize the identity of the brand and put them at the center of the shopping experience.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Suzanne Barker: It feels like exactly the right time for us to be starting and building When I Shop. While the pandemic is, without doubt, one of the bleakest times our generation will ever see, it brings about unprecedented opportunities. Rapidly changing behaviors and ways of thinking are what I get excited about every day.
The pandemic has highlighted fundamental flaws in the ways we consume and manufacture. Retailers are more open to alternative ways of reaching their customer base than what they might have been in the past. And shoppers are also reassessing what they spend their money on and with who.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Suzanne Barker: Our first difficult choice was figuring out how to bootstrap When I Shop. Thinking big and acting small is a hard skill to learn. Our breakthrough came once we broke down every step of the shopping experience into bite-sized chunks and decided to apply a laser focus on awareness. When I Shop is firmly in MVP mode, and we expect to be doing things that don’t scale for a while.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Suzanne Barker: I have always been pretty good at putting boundaries in place. I always turn my cellphone off early in the evening and mostly have notifications permanently off.
I’m an introvert, so I know I need a lot of alone time to maintain my energy. I do have a tendency to suffer insomnia, so I try to be proactive in dealing with issues during the day that might keep me awake at night. I recently purchased a weighted blanket, which I enjoy.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Suzanne Barker: We consider Instagram to be our main competitor because it is the preferred platform that brands and shoppers use to find each other. Of course, Instagram wasn’t built with that purpose in mind. It’s clear from spending time on the platform that people are crying out to discover new brands.
Your final thoughts?
Suzanne Barker: Seize the moment and start building! People are reassessing how they spend. Companies are re-evaluating how they operate. Because the old model isn’t working so well anymore, I believe a lot of the big players are ripe for disruption. Change is afoot. Anything is possible right now.