Monday, January 30, 2012

A Telstra Business Woman of the Year 2011, Jodie Fox

Annually Telstra hosts the business woman of the year awards. It's a reasonably big deal to be nominated, let alone make it any further in the process. This year, our Jodie Fox was a finalist for three of the five categories at a state level for her work with Shoes of Prey (Marie Claire Young Business Woman, Nokia Innovation and Hudson Private and Corporate).

The Hudson Private and Corporate award is entered by women who own up to 50% of their own company, or whom are not business owners, but are nominated by the businesses that they work for. A big category! And against very stiff competition Jodie took out this prestigious award both in NSW and nationally.

The effect of winning this award is not just the recognition that comes from it, but the induction into an organisation of high profile business people who are actively fostering a better environment for businesswomen to succeed. Without leading down a particularly feminist path, there's a lot to be realised from just recognising that men and women are different and those differences make for varying career experiences. One of the best addresses to women I have seen on this topic was a TED video Jodie sent to me, by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg back in December 2010. She talks about the perception changes that are important for women to make for themselves, if they intend to be career focused so that we can have more women leaders. The three main points she covers are:

  • Sit at the table: don't underestimate yourself or attribute your success to others. This is difficult for women particularly because studies show that success is negatively correlated to likeability for women, where it is the inverse for men.
  • Make your partner a real partner.
  • Don't leave before you leave: stay focussed and driven until it is time for you to take timeout if you have to - for example, to have children.

They seem like pretty simple messages but we're so steeped in the way things are that these simple ideas are the most powerful tools for change. I'd strongly encourage you to watch the Ted talk as it really draws the points out so well.

We're really proud of Jodie for winning this award and as a mostly female tech start-up, we're proud to be part of helping to make a better future for business women.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Customer focus groups on a shoe-string

This post was originally published by Dynamic Business.

As a retailer, we at Sneaking Duck are obsessed with knowing our customers and potential customers – who are they? What do they and don’t they like? Why do they choose to buy, or not to buy? Being an online retailer means that we need to make an extra effort to collect this feedback as we don’t have a steady supply of customers walking into stores, as a bricks and mortar retailer might. A traditional approach would be to get a customer focus group together – however, as a bootstrapped start-up this wasn’t an option for us.

Therefore, we recently decided to get a stall at the fabulous Bondi Markets. Our aim was to get the chance to talk face-to-face with customers and potential customers, with any sales being an added bonus.

For those of you who haven’t been, Bondi Markets is a Sunday event where a plethora of awesome stalls sell designer clothing, exotic imports, hand made jewellery, arts, crafts, homewares, retro furniture and more. It’s always busy, and attracts a crowd that we felt was well aligned with our target market.

Across the four Sundays we spent there, we spoke to hundreds of people who shared enormous amounts of incredibly interesting and useful feedback. We learned what people thought about our range – what’s good, bad or missing. We gained opinions on pricing, interesting details on how complicated our sales process can seem and hard information on how important health funds are. As a result of this focus group, we changed our online messaging, check-out process and internal prioritisation of projects.

To get these sorts of learnings from a focus group or survey would have taken many hours and potentially cost a lot of money. By going to the markets, we actually made money – we offered a discount for people who purchased on the spot and healthy numbers of people chose to do so.

I’ve put below my key learnings of how to have a successful experience:

  • Know the exact details of how stall allocation works – a good position is vital, and the process by which they’re allocated can be mysterious. Arrive early, be persistent and pay attention!
  • Be in front of your stall, not hidden behind it – we set ourselves up such that our tables were around the edges, then we as stallholders were in amongst our customers.
  • Have an attractive stall, but not too neat and tidy – you need to be appealing, but it seems that nobody likes to mess up a tidy stall. When our frames were all arranged perfectly, nobody wanted to pick them up!
  • Enthusiasm is infectious – I couldn’t help but notice that when I was feeling a bit tired and low energy this was reflected back by stall visitors. It’s hard work, but it’s definitely better being high energy.
  • Have a good opening line and practice – your first few words will set the scene for your whole interaction, so getting the tone right is essential. We weren’t on a hard sales drive, so generally use a short intro and a question.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people about what they like and don’t like – nearly everyone is incredibly happy to share their thoughts and feel part of something new and exciting.
  • Don’t forget to close the sale – people generally need a little push ‘would you like to buy those?’...
  • …however, if people aren’t going to buy, there’s no point pressuring. Instead, when it was clear a sale wasn’t on the cards we immediately flipped to asking if they’d like to join a mail list or at least take away a card.

Learning about customers is really important. By treating markets as a focus group we were able to get incredibly useful feedback without having to spend money.

What other ways of getting quality customer feedback without spending a fortune have you tried?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Welcome to the team Ritwik and Chung!

This post is a little late coming, but back in November Ritwik Roy and Chung Ho joined us at Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck on a summer internship.

Chung is entering her 4th year of a Bachelor of Commerce(Finance) / Science(Computer Science) at UNSW.

Chung, like many of our computer science interns and employees, is heavily involved in the Computer Science and Engineering Revue, a comedy show put on by the CSE students at UNSW. Chung is part of the tech crew and video effects teams. Chung has already launched Shoes of Prey Live - which shows shoes that have been designed mashed up on a Google Map to show the country they were designed in, and just last week launched a new feature that allows customers to chat while designing shoes together.

In her spare time Chung enjoys swimming and listening to K-pop music, and in particular, is an avid supporter of the girl group Girls' Generation. (Don't click that link if you don't want K-pop stuck in your head for the rest of the day!)

Ritwik is currently studying a Masters in IT (Artificial Intelligence) at UNSW. Prior to this Ritwik studied a Bachelor of Mechatronic Engineering (Hons.) at Curtin University in Western Australia winning the Best Thesis Award in Mechatronics for his honours project. Ritwik is also heavily involved in the CSE Society as the head of the Tech Working Group, and the CSE Revue as part of the video and special effects team. Ritwik has been working on adding an inspiration page to the website as well as some new social features that he'll be launching soon.

In his free time Ritwik enjoys gaming, photography and rock climbing. Ritwik is working on adding some social features to the Shoes of Prey website

A belated welcome to the team and it's been fantastic having you so far!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tech Talk - Ivan Rubinstein - Legal issues for startups

On Monday 30 January we'll be hosting our next Tech Talk. Commercial lawyer Ivan Rubinstein will give us an overview of legal issues for startups to be aware of. His presentation will cover:

  • Business structure
  • Seed Capital – what are you giving away?
  • Shareholders agreements
  • Obligations on directors
  • Employing staff
  • Intellectual Property – what do you have to protect?
  • Consumer guarantees

Ivan is a senior associate in the corporate group at Freehills, an international law firm based in Sydney. Jodie, Mike and I all met Ivan while we were studying law when we were all involved in the Australian Law Students' Association.

Ivan studied Arts / Law in Melbourne and has a Masters of Law from the University of Pennsylvania. He has worked for global law firms in both Sydney and New York, and also at a Houston based global infrastructure company. During his time in practice he has represented a wide range of companies and private funds in purchases, sales and restructures in transactions valued up to approx $5b. A deal junkie, Ivan is enthusiastic about his job, despite his self professed inability to adequately explain to his friends exactly what he does all day.

In his spare time Ivan enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter and reading, and is currently on a Words With Friends winning streak.

Join us from 5:30pm on 30 January at our offices for a 6:00pm presentation start. RSVP either in the comments or to michael@shoesofprey.com.

Image credit

Monday, January 16, 2012

Good luck Ken and welcome to the team Dave!

Ken, our operations manager in China has his last day with us today. :( Our loss is the startup world's gain as Ken is leaving us to set up his own business producing and wholesaling women's shoes for the comfort segment of the Chinese market. Ken has been a fantastic member of our team helping to grow and support our team in China, as well as working closely with Jodie on a new range of shoes we'll be launching on our site shortly. We're sad to see Ken go but we wish him all the best in his new venture.

With Ken's departure we're excited to welcome Dave Knapp to the team on a 6 month contract to take over the management of our operations in China. Dave completed a Bachelor of Business at the University of Queensland and has spent the last 4.5 years working as a Commercial Property Sales and Leasing Negotiator based in Brisbane. His excellent people and negotiating skills will hold him in good stead for working closely with our team and suppliers in China. Dave spent the first week of January with us in our Sydney office and flew to China just over a week ago. In case you spotted the resemblance and surname, Dave also doubles as Mike's brother. :)

We'll start the process of hiring a permanent replacement for this role shortly.

Please join me in wishing Ken all the best and welcoming Dave to the team!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Creating a media list with zero $

I was asked the question: I have no money for a PR agency and need to get in touch with the media to promote my brand. How do I put together a media list?


We created our media list without any budget at all, so it is possible. Here are some tips I learnt: The great news is that you don't need a PR agency to build an exciting media list. I will confess that in markets where I am not well-networked I would consider this to be a good approach, but there are plenty of other ways to go about this without paying a monthly retainer. Remember through this whole process, you want to make a very relevant media list.

Here's how I made ours: make a list of the media outlets you want to be covered by. Then, pick up recent issues, episodes or posts and get to know the outlet. Specifically, get to know the style and tone and think through how your brand could relate to the outlet's audience. Try and get a sense of what the editor is interested in and what each of the writers cover. Remember, while it would be incredible to be picked up and championed by the editor, they are not the person your pitch should be going to. Instead, look for writers that cover your category or feature writers. Once you have identified these people, then go to the outlet's website and do some sleuthing to find their direct email address. There are some databases online through which you can pick up writers email addresses, but they are often a paid service so if you have more time than money put on your detective hat!

It's also worth making some educated guesses - if you know the format of the email addresses for that organisation, you can probably make a fairly educated guess as to what that writers email address will be. ;)

Another method of building your media list is to do a media event with a brand who has a media list you'd love to get a hold of! This is also a great way to be personally introduced to the people on that list. The only thing that I would caveat here is that editors and writers are asked to go to a lot of media events, so make sure that there is a very compelling reason for them to attend yours. Also invite strategically - it's likely that senior writers field invitations all of the time, but is there someone more junior who has influence on content, but isn't receiving these invitations and would love the chance to attend an event or two?

When we first started Shoes of Prey some very generous friends gave me their media lists, however I quickly learnt that the value of your media list can really only be measured by the relationships that you have with the people on it. So, once you have compiled it, develop more memorable and personal relationships by: being introduced to the person by someone whom already has a relationship with them; finding a way to introduce yourself to the person; finding unobtrusive ways to stay in contact; find valuable reasons to stay in contact.

Once you have a established your media list and you have a good snapshot of their content, start to marry this up with the messages that you want to appear in the media about your business and be creative! Your best pitches will be the ones that create a newsworthy story that would only require very little from the writer to run it as a story. Good luck!

This was cross-posted to Smarter Business Ideas

Monday, January 9, 2012

Zynga - Ghetto testing and minimum viable product

Fantastic presentation by Zynga's Mark Pincus discussing Zynga's use of 'ghetto testing' and 'minimum viable product' to test new game concepts and game features, without investing significant engineering resources. Once they've tested and proven the concept, they then invest engineering resources to build the game or the feature.



via @nativedigital

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mobile Sales

Over the Black Friday - Cyber Monday weekend in the US two weeks ago, 20% of Fab.com's $1.1m in sales came from mobile devices. 12% iPhone, 6% iPad, 2% Android. This was 6 weeks after launching their mobile apps.

Wow.