Ask any Fashionista and they would tell you the same. A bond made over similar fashion choices is the best and the purest kind of bond you can see. Fashion buffs are constantly trying to buy from each other directly but there lacked a platform built just for that type of interaction.
Something clicked when Manish Chandra realized that inside of social shopping was the key to creating a scalable platform for buying and selling fashion. His wife’s overflowing closet played a small role too and so did tons of inventories sitting in closets across the country just waiting to be sold. It is here that a very vibrant community-based business started in 2011 we today know as ‘Poshmark’.
But times were hard then given people were still skeptical about online shopping and building the entire marketplace on the mobile phone (in an app) which now seems comical but at the time was met with a lot of disbelief. From there to having 1.5 million sellers on the platform and 3 million dollars worth of inventory, we asked Chandra, CEO and Founder of Poshmark, how he managed to effectively grow a social community online
Embarking on entrepreneurial journey:
While growing up I spent a lot of time during the summer breaks with my grandfather at his wholesale shop in Delhi. My grandfather had opened and operated the largest wholesale and resale marketplace in India and lucky me, I had a front row seat to watch and took in many aspects of how to operate this model. They way he interacted with customers from the surrounding neighborhoods and supplied them with what they needed to be successful for their own businesses was inspiring and I was able to tap into these experiences and draw from them on my entrepreneurial journey later in life.
When I was in my teens, I was already fascinated by community building and created for my neighborhood what would now be the equivalent to People magazine. It featured kids from the community and published twice a year. From a young age, I was able to see how I could create things that would leverage the power of community to encourage social connections that would link people together.
When I started Kaboodle, my first venture, I was able to apply my experiences and learning growing up to create a massive community platform where people could discovering products from one another and connect around shopping. I knew from my time spent in my grandfather’s store that shopping was inherently social, and therefore there was huge potential for the development of a similar type of social shopping on commerce platforms, it just hadn’t been created yet.
My Eureka moment:
Well, a few things came to fruition around that time that ushered in the concept of Poshmark. First, my wife’s closet was overflowing with items she wasn’t wearing. There were shopping bags just sitting there, tags still on them, never being worn. Then I was at my son’s homecoming and the homecoming queen was wearing a yellow dress not that she bought at a fancy boutique, but she bought at a consignment shop. It soon clicked that there was tons of inventory sitting in closets across the country just waiting to be sold. For a casual seller, eBay was hard and consignment shops usually devalued things in good shape.
As all this was coming together, so was the perfect platform that would make my idea into a reality. The iPhone 4 hit the market and within it I saw an end-to-end social commerce platform. It was then I gathered a group of people around me (my co-founders Tracy Sun, Gautam Golwala and Chetan Pungaliya) and we built out the concept even further.
The market I’m addressing:
My rise to Poshmark has slowly evolved combining the two things I love: building community and technology. Now I get to combine everything I’ve learned in my life to connect people to things they love: fashion and each other. Some people, like my PR person, like to call me the “Godfather of Social Shopping” which I guess is true since I’ve been innovating in the space for some time, launching my first venture in social commerce, Kaboodle back in 2005 - three years before Pinterest. I knew that there was the potential for exponential growth in the space as we’ve seen with popular social discovery companies but by combining social + commerce from the beginning, we shine where they fall short when it comes to seamless transactions and fulfillment.
This is what future holds for me:
We’re rewriting retail in a way that hasn’t been done before, to become the largest fashion platform in the world that is powered by social. As we continue to fuel our community with features that focus on connection and discovery, we’re generating an entirely new type of marketplace where everyone’s style is shoppable, from anywhere and at any time. Over the next few months, we’ll continue to focus on building out our retail business, growing the kids and men’s categories, and looking into international expansion over the next year.
I’ve evolved as an entrepreneur:
Definitely it’s the ability to balance the demands of a 24/7 business while still being able to do other things. I’ve also seen that my reactive speed grew from just focusing on the short-term to being able to look longer-term. A very vibrant community-based business like Poshmark has a lot of ups and downs in a short period of time, and while it’s key to dial into what’s happening in the immediate, you must also have the ability to take a step back and look at problems periodically from a long-term perspective. In being able to do this, I’m able to make better decisions for the company.
We’re different because:
We consider ourselves a hybrid between social companies like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and commerce companies like Amazon, eBay and Nordstrom’s. Where commerce companies like eBay and Amazon have built massive marketplaces that provide access to products from a multitude of categories, these companies haven’t been able to crack into the fashion and lifestyle industry in a way that really resonates with consumers.
At Poshmark, we built social and commerce side by side and in turn created an infinitely scalable marketplace where people help each other discover new items, leading to an order being placed every two seconds.