Looking back at interviewing Manish Chandra, founder and CEO of powerhouse app Poshmark.
Feature Photo: Poshmark’s Founders Clockwise From The Upper Right: Manish Chandra, Tracy Sun, Gautam Golwala And Chetan Pungaliya
By Min A. Lee
“With the holidays fast approaching, shopping for gifts can be stressful especially if you’re working with a budget and a short timeline. However, we found a great solution for those on the hunt for womenswear, accessories, and shoes to give: Poshmark, a smart phone, as well as web-based, selling platform founded by CEO Manish Chandra, Gautam Golwala, Chetan Pungaliya, and Tracy Sun. First released in 2011, Poshmark now boasts over 10 million items from over 5000 different brands that are available for sale and continues to gain new members rapidly.
You know how friends love to share their closets with each other? Imagine being able to look through hundreds and thousands of closets full of designer brands, many of which are new and still have their tags. We even found a lovely, brand new Rag & Bone leather trim moto jacket that originally retailed for $660 available for only $200! Even if you find a hidden gem that isn’t quite within your spending range, there are on-going sales and promotions and a streamlined option to negotiate with sellers on their listed price. The ease, accessibility, and fast shipping make it highly appealing for shoppers. You’ll be able to find that last-minute present just in the nick of time! Also, some of our favorite style bloggers, like Wendy Nguyen from Wendyslookbook.com, can be found on Poshmark selling some of the luxury pieces seen on their popular blog posts.
While other shopping apps do exist, Poshmark is a leader with annual sales reaching to the hundred million range, all while being just four years in since its launch. To learn more about this highly successful app, we asked CEO and Founder Manish Chandra to share with Audrey readers more about what inspired Poshmark’s creation, early challenges in development, and the future he envisions.
Audrey Magazine: When did you first find an interest in fashion and e-commerce before tying it to your technology, education, and background? Was there any specific inspiration behind Poshmark?
Manish Chandra: My first foray into fashion was through my first company, Kaboodle, the first social shopping website. The idea to build that company came to me as my family was redecorating our house and found it challenging to share inspiration, ideas, and products with each other online. As Kaboodle began to take off and find success, we saw it was mostly women who gravitated towards social shopping, specifically around fashion which became a huge category for us. Beyond sharing inspiration and products, we saw a lot of women wanted to buy merchandise directly from each other, but the site wasn’t really built for that. Hearst Magazine eventually bought Kaboodle to add social and commerce into their media properties. After a few years with Hearst I knew I wanted to create a community-centric marketplace for fashion where women could easily share, buy , and sell all in one platform. The concept of Poshmark came to life one day in my wife’s closet when I saw how many of the items she had bought had never been worn, yet they still sat in her closet with tags on them. Fashion is a $350 billion industry in the U.S. alone and once items are bought and worn, they really don’t have an easy exit. The idea came back to me to create a social platform for buying and selling fashion but I felt like the technology wasn’t quite there yet. Then in summer of 2010, when the iPhone 4 came out, I saw within it the key to creating a community-centric marketplace – from the phenomenal quality of the camera to the the 24/7 real-time connection that the proliferation of smartphones provided. I assembled a small team and we launched Poshmark in December of 2011.
With Poshmark, we set out to build a very engaged community of women who would come together in the app to shop each other’s closets. We took away all the pain points associated with buying and selling (payments, shipping, customer service, and marketing), creating an engaging and fun shopping experience that women could participate in no matter where they are. We made it simple and fun to take what’s in your closet and create your own boutique on your phone – leading women to upload the equivalent of an entire Nordstrom’s store worth of inventory into the marketplace every week.
AM: What were some of the main challenges during Poshmark’s early days, from initial ideas to planning and finally launching the hugely successful app?
MC: The biggest challenge we faced early on was building an entire marketplace within a mobile app. At that time, many people believed that a mobile app was just an extension of the web property and while important, was not critical to success. We placed a huge bet, not only to go mobile first but to go mobile only. Fortunately, we saw where the fashion consumer was heading and knew that in order to be successful at social commerce, they needed to be able to connect with one another and transact seamlessly from their phones.
AM: Poshmark is built around not only consumership, but social networking. There’s a heavy amount of user-to-user interaction. Do you feel that the “community” aspect is a large part of your app’s success?
MC: Our community is at the core of everything we do at Poshmark. We took a very people-centric approach to building a marketplace. It’s really engrained in our culture. For example, when we first started Poshmark, we used to host small events to recruit the first community members to learn from and listen to. In the early days, we were excited to have five people show up to one of our events. It was really about connecting around style and shopping each other’s closets. We’ve implemented a lot of those opportunities to meet and connect in the app, for instance our virtual shopping parties which we host three times a day around different themes and categories. The importance of nurturing this type of offline, personal connection has scaled as we’ve grown – participating in the Poshmark community is a lot like shopping with friends, giving you plenty of opportunities to discover and meet new people whose style you’d like to shop. Sellers also help one another become successful, sharing each other’s items to their followers and mentoring new sellers as they join the platform. And for the parties? We still host them all around the country, with attendance reaching up to 350 people. Our community has also begun throwing their own meet-ups, taking relationships that start Poshmark into the real world, and supporting each other beyond just buying and selling.
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All photos courtesy of Poshmark and Audrey Magazine.