Disrupting the E-Commerce Market

Recently, SheSays Denver caught up with the COO of Havenly, Jessie Dixon, to talk about her path to becoming a female entrepreneur in the Denver area and to see what advice she has for the SheSays community on what it takes to succeed in the hyper competitive marketplace of e-commerce.

Jessie is the Co-Founder and COO of Havenly, a local startup focused on connecting online consumers with professional interior designers to help decorate your home. Her role encompasses everything from core customer service to design operations. She spent the majority of her career focused on e-commerce. Her wide breadth of experience at both large and small companies helps her succeed in her current role at Havenly.

Jessie began her career after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder. After a brief stint in consulting, Jessie worked at a software startup in service retail. She went back to business school and earned her MBA, interning at Amazon. From there, she moved to the Bay area and took a job at Walmart.com. “I was at Walmart.com for almost six years,” Jessie explained, “and I really got an amazing experience in the world of e-commerce. It was the early days for a big company trying to figure it out. It was kind of an entrepreneurial role within Walmart, very fun and exciting.”

After having her two children, Jessie was ready to come back to Colorado. “We have an amazing tech community here that’s relatively tight knit. I met Lee there and she’s [Havenly’s] CEO. She was thinking through this business with her sister. They had done about four or five months of work on the idea. I was really excited about it from an e-commerce perspective. I began meeting with her periodically. It turned out that my skill set was relatively complimentary to hers and she wanted help with the business. I decided to join as the COO role and that’s how I came to be at Havenly.”

Improving E-Commerce

With such an extensive background in e-commerce, Jessie had a lot of insight into what improvements she is making in the industry. “E-commerce is a tough business. You earn really lean margins, there’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of transparency in price, and so, I think what I get excited by at Havenly is the notion that there is a category like furniture which hasn’t been disrupted very much. It’s fundamentally this untapped opportunity. It hasn’t been brought into the digital world in a huge way, and I think that’s what’s so exciting at Havenly. We can sort of disrupt that.”

Jessie is making her mark on the industry at Havenly. “We are democratizing design, she says. “Traditionally, design has been only for people with a lot of money or time or both, and I think with the advent of Pinterest and Houzz and HGTV and all these amazing images and inspiration just everywhere, it’s elevated the desire to have pretty things surrounding you and have your space reflect you. We’ve taken what has traditionally been exclusive and made it for the masses. To me that’s really exciting. To be able to have someone who is a trained designer give you feedback on your ideas or give you those ideas for you to look at and think about and then execute is super exciting.”

To make your own mark in e-commerce, Jessie advises the SheSays community to find unexplored opportunities. “I think that Amazon is a very big player in this space, but in some ways it’s already known what their capability is at this point. Interesting business models like Instacart or Postmates or all these cool startups that are getting funding and are really challenging that status quo and competing where Amazon isn’t equipped to go — I think they could do really well. I would say definitely think about your business in that vein, in the competitive vein.”

We asked Jessie what she likes the most about e-commerce and working at Havenly, and she explained, “I love retail. I think retail is such an interesting business. Like I said, it’s a hard business but, the thing that I love the most about whether it’s e-commerce or traditional retail is that customers tell you something every single day in your data. You just have to be able to look at it and listen for what your customer is telling you. There’s not a lot of things like that in some industries where every single day you can say ‘well that didn’t sell’ and you can find out why not. They didn’t come into the store today, they didn’t come to my site today, what’s going on? I find that to be a great challenge, finding out why. There’s so much data around e-commerce and digital in general, it can be a little overwhelming, but it’s so rich and insightful if you can figure out how to mine it for the right information. To me, that’s one of my favorite things about this job. It’s not a mystery. There’s a lot of data that can tell you how you’re doing.”

Business Advice

Jessie was also willing to share some great business advice with SheSays readers: “One of the things I’ve learned in this process that is perhaps relevant to the SheSays audience is that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. I think that’s something I’ve learned through the Havenly process, certainly. It’s not advice I’ve been given, but something I’ve kind of learned the hard way. As you try and build a high growth business that’s disrupting a market where you have a ton of people saying ‘that will never work,’ you have to have a thick skin and you have to ask for things. You can’t be scared that they are going to say no. I think that, particularly in fundraising for the business, you have to put yourself out there and really sell the vision. If you don’t put yourself out there and don’t ask, you’re never going to get a ‘yes.’ I’ve really learned over the course of my career that is super important. That extends beyond fundraising, it extends into asking ‘What’s my next move,’ asking for what you need, asking for that promotion. Be deliberate about managing your own needs and being vocal for yourself.”

Look forward to seeing Jessie in person at the #SheSummits16 Digital Conference on October 19th where she will be a speaker on our panel about “Making.” Get your tickets today!

Blog post by Danyelle C. Overbo