Sophia Matveeva talks to BQ about her business, Enty, which acts as a "personal stylist in your pocket", giving users mobile access to supportive fashion advice.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Enty is a platform where women discuss what to wear and buy with stylists and a community, supported by machine learning. We are the world’s only troll-free online environment, which is a result of our unique design.
What did you do before you started this business?
I worked in another digital media start up, where I focussed on scaling audience – a very useful experience for my current job.
What inspired you to start up?
I saw a huge gap in the market for a tech platform where women could discuss fashion and style. Since most tech platforms are built by men, they serve male interests. For example, Twitch is great for gamers, and Vivino is fantastic for wine lovers. There are fewer platforms aimed at women because most people who make them or fund them are male. This is a great gap in the market for us, because there are lots of people who love clothes and want the answer to the question “Do I look okay?” –this is a massive potential market!
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
Enty is your personal stylist living in your phone, ready to answer your outfit dilemmas 24/7, wherever you are.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
We have a fantastic advisory board, with people who are professional investors, successful tech entrepreneurs and some representatives from Snapchat and Facebook. I have a call with the entire board every month and individual meetings with them for specific issues.
Books and podcasts are also my source of knowledge and inspiration. I’m a fan of the Tim Ferris Show and the Masters of Scale podcasts.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
I raised money from angel investors, most of whom I met through my previous jobs or via my MBA at Chicago Booth. Fundraising isn’t easy for anyone, especially for a female-focussed product, since most investors are male and do not understand the use or potential scale of products for women. I came up against this issue, but it turned out well – most of our funding comes from women, so we are a female funded, female ran tech platform for women. This is very rare.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Building a product that users pay for. We have a freemium app, which means that most of the functionality is free, but if you want to get personalised stylist feedback to your questions, you need to pay. Most tech platforms start off as free and insert payment options much later, but we wanted a sustainable and scalable business model from the start. I remember when we got our first customer payments in the bank – it was a brilliant feeling!
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Honestly, we have no competitors. Nobody is doing the same thing. If you are a wealthy woman, you have a personal stylist, but rich women are not our target market. The Zara and H&M shoppers we target send photos in dressing rooms to their friends instead when they need shopping advice. In fact, 80% of millennial women use mobile when shopping for clothes in store! But relying on friends for all your style choices is not great – friends don’t respond in time, they don’t want to offend, so are not always honest and they can be indecisive. On our platform, you can send a photo and get professional advice within five minutes.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It is a big responsibility and one I don’t take lightly because very smart people have chosen to trust me. Great professionals have chosen to work at Enty, as opposed to somewhere else, so I owe them the best performance at work that I can possibly give. The same is true of investors – they had many options of what to do with their money, so my work gets my peak performance.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Running a FTSE 100 company called Enty and expanding it in China!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Firstly, entrepreneurs must be resilient because disasters and bad news are a daily occurrence. You cannot let that debilitate you, so you have to learn to manage your own psychology. Secondly, make an effort to build and maintain your network. I wouldn’t be anywhere if I didn’t have great support around me. Finally, make sure you carry on learning. Even if your to-do list is endless, take time out to read, learn and reflect, otherwise you can end up chasing your own tail.
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