I connected with Andrea Gouw, the founder of ShopperSeeks.com, on Twitter (thank you social media), when reaching out for women CEOs and founders around the country. Andrea and her team are awesome and provide such a great service for those who want the right type of shopping experience. I must say I’ve become a regular user of ShopperSeeks every since this interview. And you will to after this interview. Enjoy.
Kyle: Andrea, tell me a little about yourself:
Andrea: Right out of College I worked as an assistant buyer for May company in Boston. Then moved out to San Francisco to work for walmart.com. I enjoyed it there, but they eliminated the apparel category so I decided to worked for a family owned apparel company.
I went to business school at Northwestern and there discovered that I wanted to focus more on technology. So I did an internship in digital media space and then worked at Global Grind, a content media Hip Hop site, after graduation. From there I decided I wanted to do my own thing but wasn’t sure about the digital media space and exactly what to do with it. I looked at my skills and past experience and noticed a need in the online clothing market.
Kyle: How did you get started in the entrepreneur world?
Andrea: At May Company, they sold me on the buying career path by saying it was like owning your own business without having to raise start-up capital. That was half-true. Since then I’ve only worked at start-ups and small business enterprises.
Kyle: Is this your first company?
Andrea: It is, yes.
Kyle: What made you want to start ShopperSeeks?
Andrea: I wanted to get back into e-commerce and wasn’t thrilled with the existing options. Which got me thinking about how I would go to a store and find something I liked, only to be disappointed when they didn’t have it in my size or color. I would come home and look for it online, click on a link and it would be sold out in my size, click on the next link and it would be out of stock in the color I wanted, and so on. I wanted to make the online shopping experience better and more efficient than having to go to fifteen different stores just to find that one item in your size and color.
Kyle: Tell me a little about how ShopperSeeks works.
Andrea: Anybody who’s looking for clothes, shoes or accessories can come to our site and put up a post of what they’re looking for with the size, price range, etc., and the ShopperSeeks community will go out and find it.
(Note: After talking with Andrea I tried ShopperSeeks out with a few items I had been looking for and ShopperSeeks was amazing at finding all of them. They even found a particular pair of shoes I had been searching out for over two years).
We’re not just helping consumers, but also smaller boutiques who may not have the level of exposure as larger shops or may not even have a website. By using ShopperSeeks, a boutique can expand it’s footprint and reach new customers across the country. For example, here in NYC it’s almost impossible to find shorts in August. Most stores have blown them out to turn over their inventory for fall. But in California there are tons of places to get shorts at that time. So I thought, how can I access that inventory in California for those shoppers in NYC.
Kyle: What’s been your favorite part about developing the company ShopperSeeks?
Andrea: That it’s all about me. – lol
The exciting thing for me was when I noticed a friend was looking for a VERY specific pair of sneakers (silver and gold hightops to be exact), which validated what I was doing with ShopperSeeks. I went out and found the exact pair sneakers she had been looking for and after finding them she was so happy and excited about it, that she went on to post about it on Facebook. Another exciting thing is just the pure thought of helping people find that specific item they’re looking for or have been searching for.
ShopperSeeks is currently more focused on women because they traditionally have a harder time finding specific items, but anyone can post something. (Note: Again I put Andrea to the test on this with my search for more shoes and then the suit Tom Cruise wore in the MI:4 movie) We’re soon adding a gender field that will help distinguish between men and women’s clothes. (Which has since been added)
ShopperSeeks works by users posting particular items that they’re looking for with all the specifics: (size, color, etc.), and other shoppers/users searching for and finding the particular items. We use the crowd source model. I wanted to take some of the technology that other sites and companies use (image recognition) out of the equation so the user gets a better result.
Kyle: What’s been the most after sought category of items?
Andrea: Definitely shoes, women’s shoes. Nude shoes to be even more specific for the Summer 2011 season.
Kyle: How many members are rocking out at ShopperSeeks?
Andrea: Well we just launched over a month ago and we’re seeing steady growth.
Kyle: Rather than change my set of questions based on your last answer we’ll just keep going. Ha. Did you ever expect such growth?
Andrea: Just launched and growing steadily.
(Note: When this interview took place ShopperSeeks had about 60 Facebook fans. Less than three weeks later they are rocking an ever growing 1,100 fans).
Kyle: What was has been your biggest hurdle to overcome?
Andrea: Putting together a team. Right now we’ve got: an intern that started on Thursday, a designer, a developer, and myself.
(Fun Fact: Andrea took C and has developed. Calm down guys.)
Kyle: As I’m sure you’ve seen recently in startup news outlets there’s been discussions about the the bias some VCs may have towards investing in women, what’s your opinion on the discussion about VC/Angels holding back from investing in women founders/CEOs?
Andrea: I would think you would want to invest in a leader who really understands the market. With the overwhelming majority of internet users being women who better to lead an internet company? If you are referring to the blog post about being a mom and a CEO, studies have shown that women are far better multi-taskers than men. That said, I want, and all founders should want, investors who invest based on merit, not gender.
Kyle: What other issues/hardships do you feel women founders face in today’s entrepreneur world?
Andrea: The lack of female developers. You want to find someone who is as passionate about an idea as you are. With sites like ShopperSeeks that are geared more toward women, it is often harder to get male developers genuinely excited about the vision.
Kyle: What advice would you give to a woman looking to start her first business?
Andrea: Find a network or group of women that you get along with, receive support and resources from, and can network with. Look for other great founders.
Kyle: What’s next for you and ShopperSeeks?
Andrea: We’re launching a new UI on Tuesday. There are some great UI changes coming, more sharing functionality, and general building up the product. We’re also going to be focusing on growing our blog and social media prescence. And of course, we will be working on increasing our user base!
ShopperSeeks is also looking for developers in the NYC and SanFran/Bay Area if anyone out there in those areas is looking to join an awesome and exciting startup.