It’s Female Founder Friday, and I’m delighted to share the story of woman entrepreneur behind LePrix. Elise Whang’s company is a tech-enabled platform focusing on bringing the $20B brick-and-mortar designer consignment stores online and into the 21st Century. LePrix is a virtual mall of hundreds of pre-verified designer resale businesses in one place looking to be accessible to online customers. They are an early stage business to business and business to consumer brand with a mission to help get brick-and-mortar resale stores online to grow with the explosion of ecommerce.
Elise was a part of an accelerator that my husband’s startup was in, and as soon as I heard about what her company did I loved the idea! What woman doesn’t love designer consignment shopping without having to find time to shop in-person? Aside from her brilliant business idea, I am always impressed by Elise’s composure, tenacity, wardrobe (of course,) and generous spirit. She is forever helping others, and is someone I love watching succeed in business.
So, if you’re curious how a lawyer ended up launching a fashion tech company, or are living through a “candid feedback” moment in your business… don’t miss Elise’s candid answers and advice for female founders below!
What inspired you to create your company?
We started LePrix (formerly known as SnobSwap), out of our own frustration of not being able to easily access our favorite brick-and-mortar designer consignment stores online. I was a lawyer and my co-founder was a consultant who worked long hours and we simply could not make it to the stores before they closed. Part of the fun of going to these stores was the personal relationships with the store owner and their team. As we got to know them, we found that they also struggled to get their store online but really wanted to figure out how to do so efficiently. To be honest, I can totally understand why they were struggling. Setting up a website or a blog for an online store is not always easy! That being said, nowadays, it is possible to use web design tools like WordPress to make the process a little easier. As the video in this link explains, thanks to WordPress, you can get a blog or a website for your business online in minutes! But anyway, having listened to the struggles of my peers, an idea was set in motion to build a curated Amazon for the best designer resale boutiques, and we’re now making it a reality!
What was your biggest obstacle and failure in going from idea to business?
The biggest obstacles and failures have become our biggest accomplishments. We started the business as SnobSwap, where people could shop consignment stores and swap their clothes. Hence the “swap” in SnobSwap. Before launch we asked customers if they wanted to shop consignment stores online and there was a resounding YES. But we should’ve also asked potential customers if they liked the name SnobSwap and tested swapping with real life examples. We just ran with it but realized that in practice, swapping online was difficult to find a good swap match – kinda like dating. So we ran surveys and gathered data. About 84% of customers and stores hated our name. It was a big bummer to hear your baby was ugly but we needed to know that. The initial marketing and brand building was a strange experience. As a lawyer, I was more familiar with it in the context of law firm branding that doesn’t 100% translate to establishing a consignment store. But there were principles we could think about and use. Really, most marketing techniques are fairly similar. Even though I was using law firm marketing techniques every day, I could still use some of that knowledge to boost my business’ online visibility.
We decided to take a look at the data also saw that making a successful swap match was difficult. Fast-forward, we phased out the “swapping” part of the business and rebranded to better reflect our core business which is utilize technology to bring online access to the best designer consignment stores around the world. We recently rebranded to LePrix which means the “Prize” in French – perfect in describing the feeling of when you find that one special designer piece in a consignment store at an amazing price – it feels like you won a Prize. We have seen scalability and rapid growth ever since these pivots. Long story short, sometimes what seem like mistakes can turn into magic as long as you learn from them.
What are you afraid of?
Honestly, I’m afraid of being another female founder statistic who is not able to raise a Series A. Only 2% of female founders are given the opportunity to raise venture funding. However, I am grateful that we have current investors who are able to recognize that we have built a great business with huge potential, and can look past gender and the products (used handbags and shoes) on our site. The odds are against us, but that makes us stronger to work even harder to change that. I am excited to see this revolution in funding more female founders.
Now that we’ve rebranded to LePrix and have built a solid supply chain consisting of over 500 store partners and a scalable technology (i.e., inventory sync tools), we will be focused on growing the demand side of the marketplace with marketing. This is the exciting part where we get to tell the world about LePrix and help grow sales for the wonderful stores we now work with. We have had advice come our way stating that we simply must see this page for an example of an SEO-based marketing strategy that could have the potential to work wonders for a business working in ecommerce such as ours.
What is a life or business hack that you recommend to help other female founders?
Make sure you delegate jobs that will allow you time to be the CEO or even sleep a little more. I still have a hard time delegating or asking for help, but when I remember to do it, the results are usually amazing. You need to scale yourself and trust your team to run with it.
If you had a theme song what would it be?
Two songs come to mind, especially during fundraising:
“Titanium,” by Sia
“I’m bulletproof nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium”
Also, “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey.
Please share your best piece of advice for aspiring female founders.
Be excellent in your work and worship. Startup life will require more work than you can imagine and lots of praying – both will get you through the best of times and the worst of times and move your business forward.