Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at SoYoung and how you got started?
I’m Catherine, founder of SoYoung, a Canadian brand of elevated lunch bags on a mission to spread the message of transformation through incremental change. We believe that the simple practice of packing your lunch can create a positive impact in all areas of your life: from your dietary choices, to your finances, to reducing litter on the planet.
Our products are constructed of natural textiles such as raw linen and washable paper. They combine a minimal aesthetic with purposeful design details like removable insulated inserts, messenger straps, and accessory pockets.
One might ask what lunch bags could possibly have to do with transformation? My story is that, 20 years ago, I got clean from a drug addiction which started me on a journey of personal healing that continues to this day. It is the journey of how SoYoung came to be, and why we do what we do in the name of living a healthy, empowered life.
Outside of running a successful business, I am a Mom to 3 wonderful children and a rescue puppy that goes by the name of Velvet, a wife to a great husband and a Torontonian that originally hailed from Montreal. I would also label myself a health, wellness, and spiritual seeker of sorts, always open to new experiences that will further my own personal development on this adventure called life.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
Our first round of products was a small test run that was sewn by a master bag maker in Montreal. However, they were so expensive that there was no way I could build a successful business without taking our manufacturing overseas, which introduced a whole new set of problems!
Our first order to a Chinese manufacturer was a complete disaster - the entire run was unsellable and I was extremely fortunate to have the manufacturer offer to remake them or the business would have been finished before it had even started!
We have had other quality issues since then but we have become much better at managing the process and now we have several factories that we know and trust and with whom we are able to go through the prototyping process
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
Managing money is always a challenge when you are running a business. For many years I struggled to make sense of the numbers in an attempt to ensure we were actually making money at the end of the day. Sometimes it feels like I spend half my time buried in spreadsheets.
Fortunately, I have made a fair bit of progress in terms of financial planning, partly because the business has become more stable and predictable, and partly because I’ve gotten some invaluable advice along the way about what numbers to focus on.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
In the beginning I benefited enormously from the fact that my husband was running a digital agency and had already built ecommerce sites for other clients. This allowed us to establish an ecommerce presence starting in about 2011, which gave us a head start as online shopping started to pick up momentum.
Originally we were on another platform that required a fair bit technical expertise that the staff at my husband’s agency could provide. However when he shut down his agency in 2014 and moved over full time to help with SoYoung, he identified Shopify as the best platform to facilitate our growth while minimizing any technical hassels.
He also had a vision of building a cloud based infrastructure with our storefront, inventory management, accounting and CRM platforms all speaking to each other. Shopify seemed like it would integrate most easily with all of the other platforms we were looking at, and has allowed us to achieve a reasonably high level of automation for a company our size.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
The main thing I’ve learned is that every entrepreneur struggles. There is no magic formula and the journey of starting and running can be a lonely road. One thing I have always done is reached out for help when I need it and built a strong network of fellow entrepreneurs who can provide advice and support - or just commiserate when things aren’t going the way I want them to!
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business and why?
We use a combination of apps in conjunction with Shopify to keep our business running. Klaviyo, Dear Inventory and Goaffpro are our favourites because they integrate so seamlessly and make communicating, promoting and managing our brand’s inventory so simple.
What theme did you choose for your site and why?
Our theme is Prestige and we love the simplicity and cleanliness of the lines as it allows us to show our products in a natural way.
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow SoYoung?
One of the best strategies we have used is partnering with complementary brands in the healthy eating space. This can take the form of contests, photo shoots and even product partnerships.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
We pride ourselves on keeping open channels of communication with our community of customers. We create two way conversations through many channels, namely our customer service delivery, our regular email campaigns, social media updates, search and display ads and press coverage in various media outlets.
What are you working towards now?
We are working on new designs for 2020 and planning some exciting events and appearances. Keep your eyes peeled!
Where can we learn more?
~ Catherine Choi, Founder of SoYoung ~