Shoptiques, a Fashionable Start-Up
Start-Up Week is upon us here at Penn State, showcasing the “success of young entrepreneurs and innovators in technology and security.” But did you know that some start-ups go beyond all of that? That’s where Shoptiques comes into play.
Shoptiques, a website that focuses on bringing the best fashion from all over the world to one place, is fairly new to the Internet world. During just the past year alone, Shoptiques has been recognized by the New York Times for the advantage it has over places like Amazon in the world of online shopping. It brings the best clothes and accessories from boutiques all over the world, from Paris to L.A., to one convenient place online.
It also has a few Penn State ties.
Chelsea Burka, Valley Magazine’s Fall 2012 cover girl, along with Dani Cohen and Simone Paklaian, are the three campus reps for Penn State. Arianna Simpson, former Onward State staffer, works as the Head of Business Operations for the site. I spoke with Chelsea and Arianna about their roles in the company, which they both love!
Arianna got her start in the company in a completely unexpected way — She was a customer of the site, and won a Facebook contest they held. Instead of having her package mailed to her in Pennsylvania, she took to her motorcycle and traveled to New York, where she met with Olga Vidisheva, founder of the site. Unfortunately, her trip up to NYC did not go as planned.
“I got off to a really rough start: during the 4-hour drive, my GPS and cell phone both ran out of battery, and my cell charger even broke (I seriously couldn’t make this stuff up). But the worst had yet to come–I pulled off to the side of the road to ask for directions, and my motorcycle refused to start! Taxi horns blaring, I ended up having to push it for several blocks going the wrong way down a one-way street to find a spot to park it. I then sprinted to my meeting with Olga, which luckily was the only part of the day that went well, and eventually returned to the bike to wait four hours for a tow-truck. The fact that it started to drizzle as I was sitting on the curb waiting was really the icing on the cake. It was actually such an absurdly awful situation that at one point I just started laughing!”
From there, her future got brighter. She helps build and maintain the relationships Shoptiques has with the various boutiques from around the world. Right now, the number of boutiques featured on the site is over a hundred, but is constantly growing. She also gets to travel to the different boutiques and help pick out items to be sold online.
To be featured on the site, boutiques fill out a questionnaire, and following that, a rigorous screening process takes place, just to make sure the boutiques have the best fit for the site. Since many of them do not have an online presence, Arianna gets to scout them out as well. Shoptiques looks for three things for the best possible experience: Quality, exclusive and differentiated merchandise, and store ambiance.
“Working at Shoptiques has really been an amazing experience so far, because I’m lucky enough to be entrusted with a level of responsibility that would take me years, if not decades, to achieve in a corporate environment,” Simpson said, adding, “I can see the effects of everything I can do reflected in the company on a daily basis. That’s the beauty of a startup! It’s not for everyone, and it is certainly intimidating at times, but I thrive off the excitement that comes with it.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s job in the company is to be a campus rep. Shoptiques’ campus rep program is still fairly young, but has been showing some great results. Brand ambassadors help set up trunk shows, and raise awareness about the site to many women who would be interested in shopping at the site…without ever leaving their apartment or dorm room!
The campus reps’ jobs are simple: They help manage the campus Facebook page, take photos of various fashions seen around campus, write articles about current and upcoming fashion trends, write for the Shoptiques blog, The Edit, and help spread the brand’s awareness around campus.
Campus ambassadors also go out to boutiques in their respective college towns, like State College’s own Mr. Charles.
For Chelsea, working with Shoptiques has been a great learning experience, as well as inspirational. In fact, it has shifted her career path just a little from a corporate one to more of an entrepreneurial one.
“When working with a young company, it can either be a huge, overwhelming challenge, or an opportunity to take charge and be a leader.”
Burka also noted that it is “important for students to know that jobs aren’t just with big companies, but small startups and smaller companies.” Startups are younger companies, that tend to be more accepting of diverse, creative paths.
She and the other campus reps have been busy putting together a trunk show for the brand, which will be held some time in April. She has been reaching out to many sororities to get people excited, as well as local businesses, who might be interested in having their clothes featured.
Shoptiques might be a company that focuses mostly on fashion, but technology is at the heart of it. Burka and Simpson both are excited to see how the brand will grow and evolve over time, and be innovative in their sphere. Eventually, the site hopes to possibly grow from being just a site for women and women’s fashion, and incorporate men’s fashion as well.