In a StartupSmart episode The Audacity to Fail, Stylerunner co-founder and CEO Julie Stevanja reveals her startup’s earliest flop and the crucial lesson it gave her in building the world’s first pure play active wear aggregator platform for women.
Stevanja reveals practical tips on the lean startup approach, using failure as a process of discovery and how she shifted her perfectionist mindset to get things done.
“One of the things I say is fail quickly, and it’s just data,” she says.
“Within three or four months we had to figure out everything we could – we had to build an online store, create a brand, contact suppliers, place buyers, have that product shipped to Australia. We were lucky that we were first in this market, but making mistakes is all part of it.”
Diligently assessing the data is what really helped Stevanja stay on track.
“When you start to see something that is not looking right, investigate what that is and make those changes, or if you’re experimenting and things are going well remain agile – mistakes are going to happen but be prepared to be responsive.”
But Stevanja’s first failure cropped up at launch time.
“When we first launched we had to make some assumptions around the sort of product that we sold - we wanted to be quite wide and offer a lot of variety and one of the assumptions we made was that with the likes of Lululemon, there would be a demand for yoga apparel.”
Stevanja says the product was quite beautiful quality and notably soft to the touch, but quite traditional in terms of plainer colours and was convinced it was going to be a success.
But that category failed to get any traction and customers just weren’t interested.
“At first I didn’t expect that anything would fail to that extent. I thought it would pick up and we could reposition it on the site, or need a new homepage title for it or push it more on social media. For quite a while I didn’t accept that it wasn’t working.”
After a few months in, Stevanja realised the product sold better in-store because customers were more likely to buy it if they could feel the quality. It’s solid, plainer colours was another factor that didn’t translate well to an eCommerce store.
This fail not only helped her understand what sells well online, but armed her with ideas of where to focus her efforts.
“When something’s not working, it’s more productive to let that go.”
Remain strategic, resilient and see failure as a scientific process or discovery, says Stevanja.
Today, Stylerunner has shipped over 50,000 parcels to 100+ countries with a growing social media following of over half a million people.