A Day in the Life: Interview with Jennie McGinn, CEO and Founder of Opsh
A day in the life: Interview with Jennie McGinn, Founder of Opsh
Jennie McGinn is the Founder and CEO of Opsh.com, an Irish tech startup that has developed an exciting and convenient way for women to shop all their favourite brands under one virtual roof. She runs the company with her two sisters Sarah and Grace which has evolved from their two previous fash-tech initiatives, early entrant and riser within the fashion blogosophere, What Will I Wear Today and shoppable magazine Prowlster. We were delighted she took the time to share some insights on her life as a CEO of a startup to watch within the ecommerce sphere.
1.What time does your day start?
7.30am if I’ve had a good night sleep. 5.30am if not…
2. Are you a tea or coffee person?
Both? My day goes like this – coffee, tea, coffee, tea, coffee, headache, tea, tea, tea. I try drink de-caf at home and have no more than 2 coffees a day. I drink coffee during the week as a crutch, but drink coffee for pleasure at the weekend. God, I sound like a real coffee addict, trying to justify my addiction!
3. Tell us a bit about your job.
Firstly, Opsh is a disruptive fashion e-commerce platform. We’ve created a single online shopping destination for Millenial Females who love to share, hype and engage, but demand everything instantly (for sharing on Snapchat obvs) and need one place, one account and one checkout to shop all their favourite brands. As CEO (like all start-up CEOs) my role is varied – from leading up fundraising efforts and maintaining investor relations, to representing Opsh at conferences and networks right through to helping test new platform features, to stocking the toilet with loo-roll!
4. What does your company do?
Opsh is a single destination for Millenial Females to shop all their favourite High Street brands with one account and checkout. We have created a marketplace with a universal basket technology, so the front-end offers an inspiring, engaging and sale-driven environment for the youth market, while the backend does a complex job in presenting multiple data points to facilitate a seamless checkout experience.
5. What brought you to this area?
Myself and my two sisters founded Opsh; it is our third venture in the fash-tech domain. We started fashion blogging in 2008 when WordPress has just launched. We quickly built up a strong community of female consumers and realised we had a great ability to engage female audiences, but saw on opportunity to create the missing link in the feed-back loop. Why create all this inspirational content if a consumer cannot purchase a product? We teased out the concept of a “shoppable” magazine called Prowlster, but focused on a smaller customer set – independent boutiques and designers. We recognised a much bigger opportunity to disrupt the High Street market and the mainstream consumer requirements and we went on to found Opsh.
6. What does your typical work day schedule look like?
Right now, we’re launching a new version of the platform, so it’s all hands on deck! The founders get right down into the nitty gritty, so we are testing, designing content, building out launch strategies, press events, doing media interviews. It’s a bit of everything, all concentrated into round-the-clock activity. On a normal week, I might set up pitches with investors, coordinate with mentors on different aspects of the business, casually meet potential new hires for coffee. Much of my week can also be spent on operational activity – assessing cash-flow, working with our accountant or any of our funders. I’ll be checking in on sales and marketing activity and performance checking in with product team on updates and generally ensuring people understand what they need to achieve.
7. When is your most productive time of the day?
Morning for sure. Generally, I come in delirious because I couldn’t sleep at night (damn coffee) so I come in buzzing with ideas. I’ll have the usual 4pm slump, but pick up again. You are forced to have boundless reserves of energy as a start-up as you are forced to work around the clock. I can survive on adrenaline alone for weeks on end. Really unhealthy, but that’s the price of start-up life.
8. What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
Securing our first round of external investment was a huge achievement, not least because it was from Sir Philip Green’s stepson! Our first paying retailer and our first Opsh customer order were pretty significant moments. Having our first staff member join us at Prowlster and stick with us right through to Opsh. Being listed as one of the Top 50 Retail Innovations in the UK, alongside Asos, Amazon and John Lewis! Being interviewed on the Saturday Night Show… The greatest achievement has to be having a singular vision, and together with my sisters, pursuing it through the rollercoaster that is start-up life.
9. If there was any other job you could do, what would it be?
I’d love to run a surf shop in Summer Bay. I’m a long-time Home and Away fan and I’m very envious of their lifestyle.
10. How does technology support your work?
Technology is the whole fulcrum upon which Opsh works. Although Opsh is deceptively “fashion-y” at the front-end, it is very complex at the back-end. We are a very tech-focused company. As a team, we use Slack, Intercom, Zero, Mailchimp – if there’s an app or a tool for something, we’re all over it.
11. What is the one app you could not live without?
Personally, I cannot live without Hailo, Uber and Evernote. Also the Dominoes app is used very regularly on my phone…
12. What’s the best thing about working at OPSH?
I work with my sisters – and that is quite honestly, the best thing. I can’t imagine being on this rollercoaster without the support of my family. I also really get satisfaction from supporting other women in business and young entrepreneurs and seeing our team grow within their roles. Finally, I genuinely believe we have built something brilliant – we know our audience inside-out – and delivering on our mission to them makes me very excited.
13. How would you describe the Dublin Tech scene?
The Dublin tech-scene is very friendly, open and honest. There is a lot of mentoring, information-sharing and collaboration. We have great support via the Irish Government Enterprise Ireland programme, but it can be a huge challenge for Dublin tech start-ups to raise money post-seed. There’s often a mass exodus to London, Berlin or San Fran. But we have a very active start-up scene; we have an array of accelerator programmes, networking events and pitching competitions.
14. Where is the after work hangout?
Bed? If we’re in need of wine, it’s House on Leeson Street. Our office is two-doors up!
15. Who is your professional role model?
Like any CEO working in fash-tech, I do admire Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal and Natalie Massanet, ex CEO of Net-a-Porter. I also really admire Paula Fitzsimons of Going for Growth, at home here in Ireland. She has voluntarily set up a programme to accelerate female CEO’s in business and she’s an absolute powerhouse.
16. How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I don’t. Honestly. I don’t know how other start-up founders manage it! I work with my family, so that itself means the business is all-encompassing. But Opsh is a digital business, a social business – and that means you are constantly “on”. The only way I can relax is by returning home to my parents house in the country – it has terrible wifi!
17. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
Attitude, attitude, attitude. We have hired and parted ways with a lot of people over the last few years, and the only thing I am interested in now is attitude. Are they positive? Resourceful? Full of energy? I’m less interested in skills-fit – that can be taught. I also really value friendliness and compassion – you spend more time with your colleagues than anyone else, so it’s important to know they share the same values as you.
18. What is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Revenue and cash-flow. There is a lot of focus on “ideas” “disruption” and “tech”, but they don’t pay for overheads and staff costs, certainly in the early days. One thing we have learned (the hard way) is to be on top of cash flow at all times – know about every grant, fund and investment opportunity available to you and have a plan for generating enough revenue in the business to keep you cash-positive as the fundraising process can be fickle and protracted. Also, do keep a note (an actual physical note) of all the milestones, big and small, as running a business can be so fast-paced and hectic, it’s easy to forget the journey along the way!
To find out more visit Opsh.com