Brooke Moreland is Changing How We Dress
Game Changers is a series of interviews with awesome women who are changing the landscape of the web.
Does this look good on me?
We've all asked ourselves that question. And, if you're like me, you spend minutes (okay, let me be honest, hours) in stuffy dressing rooms pondering this question. I used to wish that I had a portable style consultant in my pocket. Thanks to Brooke Moreland, I now do.
A frustrating dressing room moment in 2009 led Brooke to seek out a solution for her sartorial indecisions. She was shopping with her husband (girl, we feel your pain) and needed advice on how an outfit looked. Like 99.9% of the husbands in the world, he gave the standard "looks great," which, in man-speak, means "I have no idea how it looks. Can we go to the Apple store now?" Frustrated, Brooke wanted a way to snap a photo with her smartphone and ask her friends, "Honestly, does this look good on me?" Not able to find an app or site to help her, she created her own, Fashism
Fashism is one of Silicon Valley's hottest women-centered tech startups. Brooke, a former TV producer whose childhood dream was to be an actress in a toothpaste commercial, is the head of a global community which has raised over 1 million dollars in funding from the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Nina Garcia (yes, that Ashton and that Nina).
I sat down with Brooke to chat about creating and funding a women-centered tech company and how a simple idea led her to become a Game Changer.
What's the story behind Fashism?
I, like many women, agonize over what to wear and what to buy. When I go shopping I always ask others around me if things really look good. One day when I was shopping, I found myself wishing that there were a way to sort of poll the crowd, and get a scientific answer to my question. No service like this existed at the time, so I decided to create it. Fashism was born.
Fashism is a website and iPhone app that lets users get instant feedback on their outfits. You snap a photo, post it with a question ("Does this go together?" "Should I wear this to my interview?" "Is this skirt too short on me?"), and the community weighs in.
Fashism gives you the most important accessory -- confidence. When you feel confident in your choices, everything about you is different. You stand taller, you feel good, and people pick up on it.
Fashism has been able to raise money from a diverse group of investors (Ashton Kutcher, Nina Garcia). What were the steps you took to prepare your company for investment?
The most important thing we did when raising money was practice. We showed our pitch to anyone who would listen -- our friends, other entrepreneurs, and investors. We took their feedback, reworked our pitch, and re-pitched the idea. Even when we got rejected, we asked for feedback and then improved our business based on that feedback. Plus, we weren't afraid to ask for introductions. Sometimes it sucks to ask for favors, but you don't get what you want if you don't ask for it!
As a woman-created and woman-led internet/social media company, did you face any barriers because of your gender? If so, what were those barriers? And if not, how were you able to avoid those barriers?
I don't think I faced too many barriers because of my gender, but then it's hard to know, because I've never gone through this process as a man! I think the important thing to remember is to explain what you are doing in terms that your audience can understand. So if you're a woman pitching a product designed for women to a room full of men, speak in terms that they understand.
Women engage in mobile usage at higher rates than men, yet there's not as many mobile apps targeted to women as there are for men. What opportunities do you see for women-led companies in the mobile app space?
That's a great point. Women are more active on social media sites, buy more on ecommerce sites and play more games online. I think focusing on women is a great business strategy for any internet company and female entrepreneurs are in a unique position to do this.
Many women-led businesses have difficulty scaling their companies. You were able to rapidly scale Fashism to over 50,000 users. Do you have a couple of tips for scaling an online business?
Well, there are lots of ways to scale and different things work best for different businesses, but my main pieces of advice would be to make your site "sharable," so you get free viral growth. Make sure you have Facebook and Twitter buttons in logical places. Also, look at developing as many meaningful partnerships and promotions as you can. Get other companies talking about you, get your name out there. Have a presence and be part of the conversation.
What was a "game-changing" moment in your life?
The game-changing moment in my life was when Fashism was featured in the New York Times. The site had had some popularity, but this feature catapulted us onto an international stage and from that point on, everything was different. The morning shows called, investors called, people began to take us seriously.
For more thoughts on women, technology and business, please follow Kathryn on Twitter at @KathrynFinney
[Do you want to start something? Whether your goal is to strike out on your own with a brilliant idea, or to bring an entrepreneurial approach to innovation within a company, you should attend BlogHer Entrepreneurs '12 -- register now!]