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Showpo’s Jane Lu on bouncing back from failure

Jane Lu_Jules Sebastian_TWJFounder and CEO of fashion online retailer Showpo, Jane Lu, said learning from one’s mistakes can get one ahead in business.

In the latest episode of stylist and presenter Jules Sebastian’s Youtube series Tea With Jules, Lu opened up about how she quit her corporate job to start her own business only to fail and land herself in debt, but how her second venture became one of Australia’s biggest e-commerce success stories.

“I used to have a massive fear of failure, but now that I’ve failed, I realised it wasn’t that bad.

“It’s helped me to become more fearless, although I’m still risk-averse,” she said.

Lu started her career as an accountant and business analyst before landing a job with a big company at the age of 18. She had always thought the business finance world was a secure world, and as an immigrant, that’s what her parents had instilled in her.

“But once I started my job, I realised I hated it,” she said.

So when one of her friends asked her if she wanted to start a business with her, she jumped at the opportunity.

“It wasn’t a good business idea, but I hated my job so much so I used it as an excuse to quit,” she said.

One month into launching Fatboye Group, a concept store featuring emerging designers, her business partner told Jane she didn’t want to do it anymore.

“All of a sudden, I had no job, my business failed, I was in debt and all this happened in the middle of the global financial crisis,” she recalled.

Lu said luckily, she soon met another like-minded girl who wanted to start a business – an online store. And so Showpo was born in 2010.

“I wasn’t driven by business success, I wanted to prove people wrong because they thought I had been an idiot for quitting my job and when my first business failed, people were like ‘I told you so’,” she said.

She didn’t tell her parents Showpo was her full-time career until two years into the business.

During the interview with Jules, Lu shared how the first years of the business were very lean as she was in debt, and she had learned from her failure.

“We bought stock on consignment, which meant we didn’t have to pay for it until it had sold. We found photographer friends who took photos for us as favours, and models who would pose in exchange for free clothes, and I built the website up myself,” she said.

“One night, I was walking through Pyrmont after a night out when I remembered I had flyers in my bag, so I thought I might as well do some fly-dropping in the middle of night. I was constantly hustling and bustling.”

The business is now a global, multimillion dollar company and in 2016, Jane was listed in Forbes Asia’s ’30 under 30’ list.

“The best part is that my parents, who gave up so much for me to immigrate here, don’t have to stress about money anymore. I can’t believe I can offer them that,” she said.

Lu also shared some tips on how to succeed in business. “Make sure your business model works,” she said. “I failed with my first business because the business model didn’t make sense, so it wouldn’t have mattered how much money, PR and passion we would have pumped into the venture – it still would have failed.”

According to Lu, good marketing will help scale a business.

“Social media has been the most important marketing tool for us, and it’s even made Showpo a global brand.

“If you want to grow the business, take time to learn the different platforms.

“I was a Facebook fanatic which helped us in the start, but two years ago, we plateaued on Instagram, so I opened my own private account, which helped me figure out how the algorithm had changed and how we could use it to grow.”

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