Starting a successful app is something that many dream of, but only a few people actually pursue this dream. Jess Wilson, founder of Stashd, is one of these few. At the age of just 23, Jess has already been pinned by Forbes as one of 1,000 entrepreneurs under 30 to change the world in the next 50 years.
Originally dropping out of university after a career advisor told her she would never land an internship in fashion due to her lack of contacts and because she ‘just didn’t have it in her’. Three years later Jess works at Australia, New York and Paris Fashion Weeks. Now, connecting the dots between the fashion and tech worlds Jess has launched online shopping app Stashd, which has users in over 80 countries.
1. For non-techie people, starting an app sounds daunting. What advice would you give to a non-technical person with an idea for an app if they don’t know where to start?
Firstly, surround yourself with opportunity – different tech co-working spaces, seminars and meet-ups. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and ask questions, you need to understand the basics before you can figure out a move forward. Let go of any ego and be willing to learn. Secondly, if you already have a concept, don’t be afraid to share it with people. No one can help you if they can’t see your vision.
The startup community in Sydney is generally helpful and supportive. Don’t be afraid to ask. Thirdly, mentors. If you can find a mentor who has been there and done what you are looking to do, this will cut your learning curve in half.
2. You have generated over $800,000 in free PR for Stashd. Can you share some of the strategies you used to do this?
I always get a little carried away here! PR in my opinion is taking yourself out of entrepreneur selling mode and putting yourself into the mindset of the journalist. Think: Why is this relevant to their readers? This isn’t about you or your business. This is about content for their publication. If you want to get in front of their demographic to ultimately plug your business and offer something of value to a mass audience, you better understand who you’re speaking to. Here are some tips for getting your message out there:
A) Tailor: A pitch to GQ Magazine and to The Australian will be completely different. Here’s an example I use:
Introduction: “I saw your previous piece in (insert) and thought (insert) may be of interest because of (insert) relation to your readers/demographic.”
Relevance: outline why your company is relevant to their readers
Gain traction: 5 dots points on why you are relevant now.
Suggest article topics: this will change depending on what the publication regularly writes about.
Sign off: provide link to your website and a press page with high-res images.
Remember to send a follow up 3-4 days later via email.
B) Leverage: Follow what’s happening in the media (setting Google alerts will help). Piggybacking off a current issue with either a viewpoint from yourself as a founder or from your company to either go against a topic, or affirm a current topic will give your company a voice. Always request plugging a direct link through to your website or app download page when online.
C) Top Down Approach: Go for the heavy-hitters, think outside the box when locking in articles. You need to have Step A and B down before doing this. Once you lock in a top-tier publication in your industry or your sub-industry then fellow publications will follow suit due to the brand draw of the top-tier publication. Stashd’s ‘industry’ is fashion – whereas ‘sub-industries’ are tech, startups, entrepreneurial, personal branding, women in tech and fashion tech. Stashd was covered in Forbes and the brand draw resulted in Channel 7 News and the front page of The Australian!
The ‘subcategories’ approach also allows you to think more laterally ultimately securing a lot more exposure in relevant target markets. Target markets aren’t always just users or customers, they can be investors, potential partners, people passionate about one of your subcategory industries who may spread the word of your company via word of mouth. You want to ultimately either increase leads; sales or downloads, or increase credibility providing you leverage when locking in partners and deals. If you target subcategories simultaneously they will all leverage off another. Include the top-tier publications’ logos along with ‘As seen in’ in your email signature and your website’s press page.
3. You recently spent time on Necker Island with Richard Branson? Rumour has it you’ll be working on a new project with him… can you tell us more about this?
You sneaky Entourage team! I can’t say too much right now, but when I can, you will hear about it.
4. Some people believe that successful apps just ‘got lucky’, while others credit success solely to hard work. What’s your take on this? What do you credit the success of Stashd to?
I’m a firm believer that ‘luck’ is a by-product of what happens when preparation meets opportunity. The reason why a lot of apps and companies, in general, are successful in my view is because the founders know their market well enough (preparation) to see ‘dots’ before others do (opportunity) and have the courage and resources to connect them and act on the opportunity before others do.
In turn, others who can’t see their own dots label those who can as ‘lucky’. Stashd has definitely come by a degree of luck, being the above definition. Although luck only attributes for the initial contact, idea or connection – hard work gets you over the line. In my mind, Stashd is just getting started.
5. If you were starting out in business again, what would you do differently?
I would try and fast track myself to trusting myself in a new and foreign industry. As much as you come to a blunt realisation that you don’t know everything you thought you did when you’re initially starting out – you get a lot of external advice from others (family, friends, mentors). Earlier in my journey, I took on what others thought too much and justified it to myself because I was in an industry which was new to me. Learning to take on that advice as ‘data’ and filtering that data through your internal compass and learning to trust yourself is a big one and can take some time. Once you can trust yourself, making decisions and mapping out a way forward becomes clearer. Probably one of the most confusing, emotional and powerful lessons I’ve learnt thus far.
6. A lot of our audience at the Unconvention will be in the early stages, say in their first 1-2 years in business and trying to gain some traction – what would be your advice to them?
Gosh, I’m still in the first two years of this business! Know your product or service and know the target market you are selling to, if you can be your target market that’s even better – then you can literally feel the pain point and genuinely feel passionate about what you’re doing. I wouldn’t recommend getting into starting your business just to make money or because there is a large market, you need to feel something for the problem you are solving. Secondly, if people keep saying ‘no’ keep iterating until you get a ‘yes’ – it could be something as simple as a wording change. Persistence is key.
7. What do the next 6-12 months look like for you?
Growth! Collaborations, new app features, Stashd store launches, new partners, funding and ultimately expansion. Short-term wise, we’re off to Paris in October, introducing some retail partnerships we have been working hard on and filming the pilot for a reality TV series based around my journey in the fashion tech space. Crazy!
8. Can you give us some insight into what you’ll be sharing at the Unconvention?
I’ll be covering how to bootstrap your way to $800k+ in PR coverage, getting started with an app and reflecting on the journey and key steps from dropping out of university to now.
*Disclaimer – This article was originally published on August 24th, 2015. Unconvention has come and gone, however, the 2017 version will be even better and bigger. Click here to find out more.