2012 August 7
(NEW YORK) A fateful encounter with a swoonworthy pair of shoes only available overseas led Olga Vidisheva on a quest for the boutique shopping experience of the future. The result? The Harvard Business School alum and former model launched Shoptiques.com, which brings the best of brick-and-mortar to your boudoir, boardroom, or wherever you do your online retail damage, darlings. Ready, set, click!
BY ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV
What was the initial impetus to start Shoptiques.com?
It all started with a shoe in Paris! I encountered a tiny boutique with the friendliest, most stylish owner; it was years ago, but I remember stumbling upon it as if it was yesterday. Once the owner pointed out a pair of shoes by Phoebe Cham Pour Schu, I knew I couldn’t leave empty-handed. Sitting in their beautiful box with a handcrafted bow, those shoes became the perfect memory to take from Paris. And take I did! Upon my return to the States, all of my friends wanted these shoes. Unfortunately, the boutique owner wasn’t receptive to commerce over the phone – she insisted on my friends flying to Paris to get pairs of their own. I was shocked that in the 21st century, my friends weren’t able to get shoes from Paris. I knew I needed to change that.
So how did you make it happen?
While attending Harvard Business School, my girlfriends and I would drive to New York almost every weekend to go boutique shopping in Soho or on the Lower East Side. I again was shocked that we had to drive four hours for items we couldn’t just purchase online. We wanted to give women immediate access to the most stylish boutiques and bring them the same intimate experience and curated pieces online. If you live far away, are time-starved, or simply want to discover new boutiques, Shoptiques.com is your one-stop destination.
What were you doing before Shoptiques.com?
I had so many prior lives! During my time at Wellesley College, I was a model traveling around the country while doing my math homework backstage at the shows. During that period, I also modeled for some e-commerce retailers, which really helped me understand how to run Shoptiques.com. I also worked at Goldman Sachs in their investment banking division in technology, media and telecom in New York. In fact, I was still at Goldman Sachs when I went to Paris and discovered the boutique shopping experience. After Goldman Sachs, I enrolled in Harvard Business School to get my MBA. During my second year there, I wrote a business plan for Shoptiques.com with an amazing professor, Noam Wasserman.
What was your initial plan, post-Harvard?
I always wanted to be in operations, affecting business’ future and development. However, I didn’t know it was going to be my own business. I saw an enormous opportunity in the market–I knew I had to change the way people shop locally. I’m excited to disrupt the boutique shopping market and enhance it with technological progress—allowing women to shop local boutiques without buying an airplane ticket.
How is Shoptiques.com different from sites such as, say, FarFetch.com?
FarFetch is a competitor to Net-A-Porter or Shopbop much more than us. FarFetch lives in the high-end market and we consider ourselves in the unique affordable luxury market. Our price point is around $30-$200. We really haven’t found anyone that does what we do—we feature unique and limited-quantity designs not carried anywhere else.
Do you advertise anywhere?
Because we’re very young, we only recently began advertising—and it’s by no means a priority. We’re focused on organic, word-of-mouth growth. Customer service is, indeed, one of our priorities: The customer is definitely queen here.
Which city will be repped next in your slew of boutiques?
This October, we’re launching in Paris, and the selection of boutiques will include the one where it all started. After Paris, we hope to expand to Asia; perhaps Tokyo.
What’s the process like? Who usually contacts whom?
It is much more of an art than a science. We work on scouting new boutiques by speaking to local trendsetters and shoppers—once we find one we’re interested in, we reach out to the owner. We also receive a high number of inquiries from boutiques worldwide every day!
Why launch THE EDIT? Isn’t there enough style content out there?
It’s a trendsetting guide for where to shop, what to buy, how to style it, how to dress for your figure and how to look your best. There’s advice on how to wear items seen on the site, behind-the-scenes video, and it’s all integrated into our e-commerce.
How do you "edit" your closet each morning when getting dressed?
I love incorporating at least one unique piece into my outfit. It could be a furry summer sandal, puffy skirt—love those!—or a huge flower-shaped ring. I love dressing up; it makes me feel more confident and energetic. I grew up in the Soviet Union where there was no diversity in women’s clothing, so I feel liberated wearing something different nowadays.
How much stuff do you actually buy via e-commerce?
I actually buy 99 percent of everything in my life online. It is so easy, fun, and convenient. You’re able to view so much more in a shorter timeframe! However, when it came to getting furniture for my apartment, I was all about going to the stores. I just don’t know enough about materials and sizes to be able to make decisions online.
When you’re in brick-and-mortar mode, are your favorite NYC boutiques?
My must-visit list includes Thistle & Clover in Fort Greene for young, up-and-coming designers; Callalilai in Union Square for chunky jewelry and amazing leather bags; Ame Ame in East Village for super fun, berry-scented raingear; Baci in Nolita for Italian sophistication; and Jane’s Closet in Williamsburg for girly, fun items.
How big is the Shoptiques.com team at the moment?
We have a staff of eight amazing, full-time employees right now. We also have an amazing part-time crew that models, photographs, and styles for us all over the country. We do local photo shoots in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
How will you continue to grow domestically?
We’ve already partnered with over 140 boutiques, and we’ll be at 170 domestic boutiques at the end of the summer. We will launch with 20 of the most extraordinary boutiques in Paris this October. We’re changing the way people shop local and helping boutiques to reach worldwide consumers.
What’s next on a global scale?
We plan to open a satellite office in Paris this fall; it’s key for us to have a local team there! We’re helping unique, local businesses compete in a world filled with big corporations.