From crippling debt to social media powerhouse: How Showpo's founder turned it all around

From crippling debt to social media powerhouse: How Showpo's founder turned it all around

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 13:54
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How Showpo's founder Jane Lu turned it all around

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Jane Lu ticked all of the right boxes growing up: she was incredibly academic and moved into an accounting career at one of the top law firms in the country, and financial security seemed to be a sure bet. 

Except there was one problem: Jane hated her job. So she left it all behind to pursue her entrepreneurial passion, but there have certainly been a few bumps along the way.  The first few months of her fashion company Showpo were even shrouded in secrecy.  

“I was living at home when I quit my job, but for the first six months of Showpo, I told my parents I was working at the accounting job. Then I told them I was on leave for a year. And I think there was a limbo period where they may have turned a blind eye, but I didn’t tell them about it for another two years.”   

“There was the expectation that I would get a good job with financial security, and when I was back in China it was expected that I would help my parents pay off their mortgage, so I had to not let them down. But my parents didn’t really understand how starting a business worked. And every day, they put pressure on us. I didn’t want that pressure on myself, so I didn’t tell them. I ended up moving in with my boyfriend, who moved down to Sydney from Brisbane, and I avoided that problem for a while.”  

This wasn’t Jane’s first foray into small business, however – her first attempt ‘failed spectacularly’, and as a result she was in quite a bit of debt when Showpo began: roughly $60,000, in fact.  

Now, seven years later, it’s a very different story: Showpo has a social following of almost 3 million, and they ship to 80 countries worldwide.  

Jane and her team at the ORIA's. Image: supplied.

The achievements of Showpo have been extraordinary, considering its humble beginnings: from her parent’s garage, with a website Jane built herself. Her stock was bought on consignment, which meant she didn’t have to pay for it until it had been sold. 

“There are people who are entrepreneurial, and then there are people who are innovative or people who are good at execution. Some are good at creating a product for the market. Every entrepreneur is so different, but having that drive and resilience when times are tough, and being able to hustle, is very important.” 

Jane also considers social media a key factor in her company’s success, and it’s also helped establish the brand globally.  

“It’s easier than ever for entrepreneurs. If it were traditional marketing, many wouldn’t be able to afford it. But the thing about social media is the algorithm is constantly changing, so you have to keep innovating and keep trying new things. It’s one thing to copy; but you need to stay ahead of the curve. And being a consumer of social media yourself, you can see the trends.”  

“I approach everything as a consumer, rather than someone with experience in retail or fashion. Not having fashion experience may have been a disadvantage, but it’s all worked out!”  

For Jane, it’s never been so much about the destination – but more about the journey and the lessons she’s learned.  

“My parents taught me to not give up, never quit, and have a good work ethic. I didn’t really know what it was I wanted to do at first, but I figured it out along the way.”  

“You can be from any field, as long as you’re passionate and interested. Work your way up, and work your way through different experiences. Work smarter, not harder!”  

So what do her very traditional parents think of all of her achievements?  

“My parents were quite shocked. They’re not entrepreneurial, and they would’ve never expected this to happen. So they were very shocked and surprised – but pleasantly surprised!”  

You can follow Jane on her Instagram