Crowded malls can take the fun out of shopping, so one start-up decided to put it back in.
Something that’s coming up these days is personalized shopping experiences.
Mr Draper offers an innovative online stylist and personalized shopping service for men, sending out customized boxes of clothing direct to their male customers who can then buy or return.
“We wanted to make shopping convenient for men,” says Mahmoud Gao, the 30-year-old co-founder and managing partner of Mr Draper.
The Syrian-American started the company a year ago along with business partners Tiba Al Damen and Mary Freij in Silicon Oasis.
Free Styling. Free Delivery. Zero-Commitment.
Get clothes handpicked for you by a stylist, receive professionally-curated clothing to your door. And evolve your look with the help of their fashion experts.
What drove you to take this journey and start your company ‘Mr. Draper’? Why #manshopping?
It was a combination of ambition and circumstance. I’ve always been interested in building a business but never felt I had the right idea to kick things off. This is Man Shopping #manshopping.
When the start-up, I previously worked for as the first hire went under, I was left with two choices – look for another job or build my own thing.
The idea itself came about organically. As someone who was always into dressing a certain way and helped his friends do the same, I felt that an online personal stylist that caters to the everyday guy would be a great opportunity.
To be frank, what I set out to build and what we launched were two completely different ideas.
Tell us about, how the services at Mr. Draper work?
We are on a mission to rebuild the shopping experience to make it more personal and convenient both online and offline. We combined the power of machine learning with the personal touch of a professional stylist to generate curated outfits for every customer.
After creating a detailed profile on our site, we use the information to create curated looks to try-on at their home/office for 5 days. They can keep and pay for what they love and we collect the rest.
The real magic behind the scenes is in the data that we collect; where a return of an item is as valuable as a purchase.
Our machine Learning algorithm combines purchase data along with customer behavior and profile information to generate a carefully selected set of items for our stylists to personalize each box at scale.
After the customer tells us about their style needs, sizes and budget they receive a personalized package right at their door, and they’ll have 5 days to try everything on.
What all work is done by the stylist between this process, from chatting with a customer to delivering the order?
After a customer creates a profile and give us their information, two things take to go into motion:
- Our algorithm uses the combination of our customer and inventory data to uncover correlation across the two data sets and make a recommendation of items for each customer.
- The stylist uses their notes gathered through email, whatsapp, or phone calls to fine tune the selection and create outfits online. The online outfits are then sent to our warehousing team to organize and pack into our boxes.
What inspires you and sustains your work?
My team inspires me!
As a sole founder, I don’t have someone to lean onto and have transparent conversations that challenges with the business.
I’ve learned, over time, it’s during these difficult periods, that I should get close to my team and watch them innovate. Their work, week-in and week-out motivates me to push myself.
Sustenance, however is different. That’s something that I get from our customers.
So, we have a slack channel called “sharing is caring.” This is where our team posts customer feedback – both good and bad.
Thankfully, the majority is great and helps motivate us to keep going and continue to create incredible shopping experiences for each of them.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I live by the rule of three! The idea that, realistically, there are only three things you can truly commit yourself an your time 100% to- between work, friends, family, fitness, sleep, being out etc.
At moment, for me it is family, work, and sleep!
I don’t focus much of my time on anything else rather than the above.
What is your company’s work culture like?
Culture is still something that we are trying to define for our business.
However, one thing that resonates from each member of the team irrespectively is the customer-centric approach to problem-solving.
We believe that if you put the customer experience at the heart of the decision-making process, you’re likely to end up making the right decisions.
How does your average work day look like?
Wake up – 5:30 am, check emails, get my daughter dressed for school. Cook breakfast for the family and out the door by 8 am.
My days are spent either on the road, meeting investors, would-be investors, and suppliers. Or in the office catching up with our team and making sure we are executing on our monthly targets.
I’m usually home by 8 to either read or listen to an audio book and in bed by 9:30 pm.
What are you goals for 2019 with respect to Mr. Draper?
The majority of the milestones laid out this year revolve around technology and continuing to refine and optimize our growth engine.
We aim to triple our growth this year and launch our very first mobile app.
How has it been so far? What were the challenges and what have you liked most about working at ‘
Our challenges echo many of the region’s pain points when it comes to building a company.
Those include fundraising, finding key talent with an understanding of start-up culture, and high costs of starting the business. At the end of the day, it’s all about mentality.
Calling them challenges means that, mentally, they’ve already had a negative impact. I call them opportunities to learn – both for me as a first-time founder and for the ecosystem which is only getting better over time.
I have no doubt that with time things will only get better as more start ups have successful exits in the region and those founders continue to stay involved in the ecosystem to influence change and guide future company builders.
As the Founder of Mr. Draper, What does success look like to you?
Success is three – fold here:
- Our investors made a significant return on their investment – helping build confidence in the ecosystem
- Our business becomes a place of learning that produces high caliber talent that grow within Mr. Draper and heavily sought after at the end of their journey.
- I become better as person and manager after Mr. Draper than I was before it.
What advice would you give to someone who is willing to start a curated personalized shopping service for men?
- Understand who your customers are by talking to them on the phone, email or through whatever channel THEY prefer. Having an understanding of this will help you cater your services better.
- Communicating to them will drive down your cost of acquisition and create a network effect.
- Take the inventory you thought you need and triple it.
If a candidate doesn’t have all the skills but is crazy passionate – bring them on board. You can teach skill, not passion .