Jane Lu Sydney
Showpo’s business founder Jane Lu tells her journey from Beijing aged 7 to creating one of Australia’s most exciting startups. Innovation and enterprise in a multicultural Australia was a key theme for Harmony Day 2016. Jane’s story illustrates how migration and cultural diversity contribute to Australia’s productivity and ability to innovate.
I was so nervous on my first day at school! I spoke no English and I couldn’t even go to the bathroom because I didn’t know the words for it. The other kids stared blankly as I tried to gesture what I needed. I never imagined twenty years later I would be communicating in English to an audience of half a million Facebook followers!
The first year was tough but after that I didn’t look back. I was in an ESL class which really helped. It was a class of just me and another girl in a different grade. I think I was lucky to have gone to school in such a welcoming community in Balmain.
I was a good Chinese daughter, a high achiever with a 99+ UAI that played 8th grade piano. Before I had even graduated from commerce I was offered a job with a prestigious accounting firm. The only problem was I hated Spreadsheets and my life in a fishbowl.
At 24 I tossed in my job and set up a business without my parents knowing. A month later the business failed. It was in the middle of the GFC so there was no chance I could turn back to the corporate world as an option. I had no choice but to start another business. For six months I put on my suit and pretended I was heading off to my accounting job. I couldn’t face telling my parents I had quit work let alone failed in my first business venture.
With one business failure behind me and a huge debt to my name I started Showpo in 2010. My office was my parent’s garage with a laptop and a couple of boxes of clothing.
Six years later we are one of Australia’s fastest growing and most successful women’s online fashion stores. In 2015 Showpo turned over $10m and sells to over 50 countries. Business Insider nominated Showpo as one of the five Australian Startups to watch in 2016.
Our exponential growth has been off the back of our large social media following. We’ve nearly got 1 million fans on Instagram.
I think being lean and agile from the get go has been our advantage. Without having much understanding of the industry I mainly used the trial and error method, with a bit of intuition to guide me, and learned and adapted quickly.
I’ve also got an awesome team and we have the best fun.
I feel truly lucky that we moved to Australia and I have been given so many opportunities, it really feels like anything is possible here.
The only thing I miss about life in China is my relatives and how everything opens til much later at night!
Chinese-born Jane Lu migrated to Australia aged 7 and ended up creating one of Australia’s most exciting start-ups.