Alan: Welcome back. We’re here today with Janet Perry. Janet is the CEO of the Shabby Apple. And welcome to today’s show.
Janet: Thank you, it’s good to be here.
Alan: So Janet, tell me your background, how did you get to where you are today?
Janet: Well, I’ve been a lot of places before I got to where I am today. I grew up in a big family where we were busy, always trying to be independent and learn all we could do well in school. And so I just forged my way through that and I went to college. I went to BYU and studied English and editing and I left there with a really good education, but I wanted to learn more. I wanted to learn how to apply what I’d studied, so later when I was having children I got another degree in technical communication and did that while I was having children. So, I learned all along the way as I was getting my education and also having a family, how to multitask and, and do lots of things at once.
Alan: So how did you finally ended up as the CEO of the Shabby Apple?
Janet: Well, Shabby Apple is a great company to work for and I am really proud to be the CEO of that company. It's an interesting thing that I can be a full-time mom for 25 years, and end up as the CEO of a company. But as I look back and I see the kind of patterns that I've had in my life, I've always tried to stay really engaged in learning. So, while, like I said I was getting my second degree, my Master’s degree, while I was having children. And so, I always tried to stay, keep my toes dipped in the water of education and learning and staying especially interested in technical things. And so, I learned a lot of things and I tried to stay involved in organizations that had people who were movers and shakers. Living in Silicon Valley is an easy place to do that and eventually, I ended up working for a company, Avid, that where I was the blended learning project manager. I started to apply all these skills that I’d learned and then I decided I would start a chapter for LDS Tech and I tried to get together all the good minds and engineers in the, in Silicon Valley to help do volunteer work for a technical things. And then, from that I've sort of got plucked as the CEO the person who founded and owns the company Shabby Apple is my niece. And she had looked high and low for a CEO. And this, this is why I think it's interesting that I ended up getting picked. She interviewed a woman from Harvard and a guy from Wharton, lots of different people who had credentials but she didn't feel good about certain aspects of what they would bring to the company. This is why I think it's important to stay connected to good people because, she's my niece of course, she knows me really well and she knows what she can expect from me. And so, after looking high and low she decided that I was going to be the best pick for her. We could work really well as a partnership which I think is a really key in business, you have to be able to trust your partner and know what their skills are. So, she ended up picking me and I’ve been running the company for just, like, two and a half months now.
Alan: Let's get some background on the company, the Shabby Apple a woman's apparel line.
Alan: Where can we find the Shabby Apple.
Janet: Okay, Shabby Apple is out of Utah, Salt Lake City Utah, really Murray Utah, it has a great background. Like I said my niece started it out of, she’s the one who started it, she just started out of a garage, literally it was a garage startup. And they just worked small and then grew. What they found, okay, so Shabby Apple, what we do is, we sell dresses to women who want to look good but, and they want to stay with the trends, but they’re interested, a little more interested in modesty. And so we sell vintage and retro inspired clothing that is modest. And we constantly bring out new things, the clothing tends to make the women feel really good and comfortable. Makes them feel cute and pretty and not too exposed. And so it’s a nice blend of something that's on the cutting-edge but also something that's a bit of a throwback it's an interesting combination. And we get a lot of women who want to know what is our next line and what are we going to bring out that's going to be fun for them to wear.
Alan: How big are you today, how many employees?
Janet: We have about 25 employees, several of them work remotely
Alan: Okay, are you growing?
Janet: Oh yes, we’re growing, we’re growing. We are growing, and we are growing in numbers of customers as well as employees. In fact, just this last week I've hired two, three employees. And I’m interviewing another one next week, so yes, we are growing and it's really an exciting time at Shabby Apple.
Alan: Sounds like you’re having fun. I’m visiting here today with Janet Perry she's the CEO of Shabby Apple and talking about how she grew from project manager to CEO running a fast growing women's apparel company. And we need to take a quick break will be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, I’m here today with Janet Perry she's the CEO of Shabby Apple out of Murray Utah. And it’s an online women's clothing apparel, and you’ve been in there for two and a half months now? Great story about how you went from project manager up to the running this company I like, lets turnover to use social media and a, trying to create growth by using online referrals and networks and how have you found that to work?
Janet: Social media is so powerful it's given the customer a voice social media has changed the nature of marketing and advertising used to be that everything was pushed out to customers and you were told by commercials what was the best product and people would buy according to, I think 83% of people would buy based on recommendations from companies, now that metric is completely reversed. So, if you want to go buy a pair shoes or dress from Shabby Apple you look at the comments on the website you look at the comments on Facebook and you listen to the noise on twitter and watch what’s being pinned on Pinterest and see what pictures are up on Instagram and if you see a lot of activity around Shabby Apple or, a certain dress, and recommendations and glowing comments, then those are the dresses you buy. You don’t pay as much of attention, as much attention to what Shabby Apple is saying about Shabby Apple. So, we have to really partner with our customers and pay attention to what they think about us.
Alan: You know that's really interesting, I guess the way this whole transition advertising is happened where people were telling you what’s good versus now the customers are telling the manufacturer or the store that this is what we like.
Janet: In addition to that, we tried to engage our customer in how they want dresses designed so it’s much more personal. We have a program, for example, on our website called purchase or pass. And so, we put up examples of dresses that we might make, in materials that we might use, and then we let them say they would purchase it or they’ll pass on that. And so, it engages them, and they get to have a say not only in what they buy, but in how it's designed. And that's becoming more and more popular, and more and more, not only popular, but essential in clothing design. Cause people want to wear things that are almost custom-made, so to speak.
Alan: So Janet, in the workplace what qualities or principles have helped you to be successful?
Janet: Well I think it goes back to my personal background growing up in a large family just having to be independent make decisions on my own. And also my education, when I got a degree in technical communication, my masters, they didn't have the program that I wanted. But I found that Carnegie Mellon had this program that was interdisciplinary, and it brought in coursework from future studies, to printing, to cognitive psychology, all kinds of things. And I think learning, well first of all, I got permission, I petitioned to get permission to create my own degree at the school. And then with that, I just learned that, that’s the kind of person I am, I like to learn from all different areas. And so being able to think about this in a day’s period of time, or even in an hour period of time at work, think about seven different things that are all very important to the company has really helped me be agile in my role as CEO.
Alan: What advice would you have to a person starting their career today?
Janet: I would say, keep learning always keep learning and not just book learning, but learn from people as you talk to them find out what is interesting to them find out what their background is. There's no way we can know everything that, there's just too much, but we can talk to people and it leads to more and more understanding. I would say also, read, people tend to not read as much anymore. And try to read, I've always tried to make that part of my life, I haven't tried it just been so natural, I love reading. And the other thing is don't be too afraid. Nobody wants to fail, but don’t be too afraid of failure. I just listened to a podcast today in fact, of a CEO of a venture capitalist CEO, and she said she talked about the ecosystem here in Silicon Valley and how lucky we are. Because it's the one place she knows of where failure is celebrated, so don't be afraid, because usually just leads to something else to.
Alan: I love it, take those risks!
Alan: I’m here today with Janet Perry, she's the CEO of Shabby Apple, Janet we need to take a quick break, we’ll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, I’m here today visiting with Janet Perry, she’s the CEO of Shabby Apple, a women's online clothing apparel. And a Janet, before the break we were talking about the qualities and principles that help you to be successful in life. We touched briefly on a degree in technical communication from Carnegie Mellon. But I want to expand on, what is technical degree in communications?
Janet: Well, first of all I didn't get it from Carnegie Mellon. I found out that Carnegie Mellon had technical communication as a Master’s program. And so I petition my school to let me mirror that same program out here in the West, which was a little bit of a feat in and of itself. I love the program though so much because it was interdisciplinary, I can learn from so many different fields and coalesce all my learning into one degree. What I liked so much about this degree, besides it being interdisciplinary, was my my thesis was really fun. I, one of the things I’m really passionate about is helping people understand things quickly and communicating crisply and well, without over stating things or understating things. And so I emphasized document design in my thesis. And I decided that I would use the California State Welfare Form and take it to a women's prison facility where the women there had a very low reading level. That would be similar to applicants using this California State Welfare Form. And I used something called a “Think Aloud Protocol”, which means that they would read the form, read the instructions, try to fill out the form just using what was in front of them. And I recorded them as they did this, which highlighted the pain points. They couldn’t understand some of the vocabulary, they didn't know which box it meant when it said put it in box 6. So I redesign both the instructions, so the language so it would fit the user, and the form itself, so that it would be easy and simple to fill out and to use. So, that's what technical communication really became for me. It also includes things like web design and technical editing and other things which are also very important and fun and have grown a lot since I got my degree.
Alan: Yes, it kind of reminds me of Tinker Toys, you know you put that block together and you put a stick in it and you hope something comes out well. But I think you’re doing something a little more precise in leading an applicant or the person taking, or filling out the form to communicate something more succinctly.
Janet: It helps me every day, truly I, my box is just, my inbox is just full all, every day now that I'm CEO of Shabby Apple. And I have to respond very quickly with pertinent information and make sure that the recipient understands what I'm trying to say. So, my communication skills are highly, highly important to me now. And so I don't necessary, sometimes I actually design emails with bullet points, highlighted words, underlined phrases or sentences because I know that people don't want to spend a lot of time reading a long epistle. And they don't want to have an email that’s incomplete either. So, I try to design it, easy for them to understand and also to refer back to. Because, you know that a lot of times we open an email but we don’t have the time right now to respond to it? So I know they'll come back to it, and I just try to make it easy for them to use, use it as a document even though it's just an email.
Alan: So Janet, as CEO how do you apply leadership skills in communicating with others?
Janet: Well, my family adopted recently a little saying from my brother’s family. They like to say “lift and build” and so, not too many months ago we wrote that on our window in our kitchen. So we see it every day, morning and night, try to lift and build each other. It's really easy to do the other, it's so easy to criticize in find areas that people need to work on. It’s a little more of a leadership skill I think, to lift somebody, to build them, to help them through troubled spots when people make mistakes. They need to learn from their mistakes but most of us, as adults anyway, we’re pretty aware of the mistakes we make. We’re better served if we’re coached through how to not make those again, if possible. So, I try to think about that as I work of employees.
Alan: You know it’s interesting and because it almost seems that the natural tendency of an individual is to try to take down the person not in the room. And I like that the “Lift and Build”, is something that we should all try to apply on a daily basis. So how do you feel that blended learning has changed our world?
Janet: It's, I think it's really been exciting to see how technology and education are adapting to lifestyle. So, blended learning is a combination of face-to-face training and online learning. And people like that because they like the touch, the personal touch of being in a room with somebody. But people are busy and they don't have as much time to sit through a course with another person and so they like, and they like the flexibility very much, the flexibility of being able to go online and learn at their own pace; they also love the repeatability of it. And I like how that transfers to Shabby Apple and how people shop online. They want to be able to look at the dress and then go back to it a little later. Whereas when we we’re shopping in a store, we look at once, maybe we take a picture with our phone, but we can’t, it's not quite the same as going to it and seeing what the specs are, and thinking about it, and sending it to your friend and seeing if they like it. So, I like that transferability technology.
Alan: You know, as technology is increasing out there, it seems that, we get to decisions much quicker and I like the philosophy of your company actually, rather than someone telling you what's good you’re looking at the polling basically.
Janet: Right, well, crowd sourcing a is a big deal now. It's, it's how people do business now; it's expected that you let the customer weigh in, you, they’re a partner with you and how you, you put out a product. And you have to respect that and that didn’t used to be so, so we really are appreciative of our customer base, our loyal customers we value their opinion.
Alan: So does, I’m going ask you a futuristic question, 3 to 5 years down the road, what’s our world like and Shabby Apple?
Janet: Oh it’s going to be fun! There's already inklings out there what's going to happen. People are going to be able to try on cloths virtually. That, that's already out there, augmented reality, you can do that. I think people will be able to create, quite literally create their own clothing online. I think they'll be able to put together the things that are flattering to them to create something and have it made, custom-made clothing. I think there will be a lot more collaboration more collaboration, tighter collaboration between businesses and customers.
Alan: So, if a person wants to find out more about Shabby Apple, where do they go?
Alan: That’s really easy.
Janet: That’s our web site.
Alan: Janet, appreciate you being on today’s show.
Janet: Thank you it's been a pleasure, thank you for having me.
Alan: We’ll be right back after these messages
About Janet Perry
Janet Perry serves as the CEO of Shabby Apple, an online vintage women’s apparel company. Prior to joining Shabby Apple she a marketing and communications consultant for Avid Center a company that prepares students for college by focusing on school wide learning and performance. Janet received her B.A. in English from Brigham Young University and an M.A. in Technical Communications/document Design from San Jose State University. She lives with her family in Fremont, CA.