Interview with Sarah Neill, Founder and CEO of Mys Tyler
Sarah Neill is the Founder and CEO of VC-backed Sydney startup Mys Tyler, the body positive app that is set to solve the $1 trillion “fit” problem by creating a more empowering and personalized shopping experience for all women.
Mys Tyler offers women a new way to find and buy clothing that fits their shape, size, and style by matching them with like-bodied women from across the globe and allowing them to shop their looks straight through the app. Having soft-launched in late 2020, and then unveiled their full app in February 2021, Mys Tyler has been downloaded more than 50,000 times, has over 200 Founding Contributors, and has partnered with nearly 900 fashion brands. Global from the start, Mys Tyler users are spread across the globe with the highest concentration coming from the US, Australia and the UK.
Dan: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us. To start, I am sure our readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here? What is your background?
My background is marketing, I spent the first decade of my career digging into customers to understand what they were thinking and what problems they had; on the agency side we’d use this to find the best way to communicate our solution to them, on the client side, we’d use this to help create better solutions. I feel that it’s a natural evolution from being an intrepreneur on the client side, to creating solutions as an entrepreneur. When you problem solve as a career, it’s hard not to want to create a solution for each problem you encounter — especially when it’s frequent, particularly painful (read: annoying), and you’re not the only one suffering.
Dan: Tell us about your business. What do you do and what is your startup’s origin story?
Mys Tyler is an app that makes it easier to find an buy clothes that fit. We’re starting with women, and the way we do this is by matching women with fashion influencers (we call them Contributors) who are similar in height, size, shape and colouring. This means that when women look at fashion content in our app, they can have a higher confidence in terms of what it will look like on them, and how well it will fit.
By increasing fit confidence, we will reduce return rates (annoying for women, costly for the industry, and also for the environment).
But beyond (and before) reducing returns, we are creating content that is body-relevant and diverse. Our app allows women of all heights, shapes, sizes and ethnicities to see people who look similar so that they feel welcomed and represented.
Dan: What’s unique about your company? What are the key differentiators between you and other players?
Fashion is notoriously not diverse — most models and influencers are a size 8–10, this is normal for some women, but it’s most certainly not the norm. We want our Contributors to reflect our users. We want to represent the population and help normalize every body.
Dan: Take us through a day in your life. What does the typical day look like?
We’re an early-stage startup, that means our team is really lean. The leaner you are, the more of a generalist you need to be — so my day is a mix of finance, operations, marketing, product and HR — and admin!
Dan: What has been the most challenging part of growing your company?
I don’t have a tech co-founder, which means that I have to pay for development. And because we are creating a marketplace, it’s a chicken and an egg situation. Basically, we need growth on all sides, to attract growth on all sides. The answers to these things is funding. Because our type of business can’t really be bootstrapped successfully. But fundraising is really hard. I’ve been an entrepreneur before, but not in Australia and so the angels/ family offices/VCs are all new to me. That means that you’re building relationships, while pitching your business. And fundraising could be a full time job, so when you’re doing that on top of your actual full time job (which in a startup is more than an 9–5 already), it’s a lot. It can be really exhausting and as the CEO, you have to absorb all the pressure points. You don’t get to tap out when you need it. I definitely feel jealous of companies with 2–3 co-founders, but it just didn’t work out for me that way. That said, I actually wouldn’t have it any other way now, we have attracted the most amazing team. Our development led by Dan at Southern Mobile are the best I’ve ever worked with. And we also have found an advisory CTO Jins. Between Jins and Dan I don’t think we could have had better strategy, and thinking behind our build.
Dan: What are some of the key steps you have taken to grow your business?
We launched in 3 phases. We started with a web quiz, that allowed women to match with their celebrity body double. This allowed us to test the functionality of our Fit Algorithm, and the attractiveness of our offering “match with stylish women your size”, without a marketplace. We had 35,000 women do this quiz — so that was great validation. We then turned this into a mobile app — this allowed us to build out the core functionality, and start to onboard women as users, but also as Contributors. Then when we had enough Contributors, we updated the app for our full launch, and started connecting the market. That all happened across the space of 12 months.
Dan: What are your best sales and marketing tips?
Know where your customers are. Ours live on Instagram, so that was a great place to start — we reach them there in a number of ways 1) direct outreach 2) by developing our own community that keeps bringing others in and 3) paid advertising.
Also, offer people something, the carrot has to be worth the effort. What are they getting when they take the action you’re asking of them. For instance with our original web quiz — the carrot was knowing their celebrity body double. That was enough for them to give us their body info and email address.
Dan: Do you have a book, podcast, or Youtube channel you would recommend to other Entrepreneurs?
“How I built this” — is a really great podcast. Each episode digs into a different company, and takes you through their journey. I also like “Inc. Founders Project” this is a bit more motivational, and focuses on a different question each time like “how to know if you’re ready?”.
One of my advisors Brian Hartzer just recommended “Working Backwards” based on the principals and learnings at Amazon. He highly recommends it, so that’s my next read.
Dan: If you could go back in time to the day you founded your company, what advice would you give yourself?
I honestly have been really burnt out in the past few weeks. I got to a point where I knew I was reaching a breaking point. It feels like you can’t slow down, but the reality is nothing is worth your health, and you have to listen to your body. Startups do require you to push yourself, and that’s ok. But take the time when you need it, give yourself permission to stop when you need to. People will understand, and taking those moments when you need them mean you can keep on going. I’ve also had a few meetings where I was so beyond tired that I could barely speak. I definitely didn’t present my best, and while I really hate to cancel, I wish I’d rescheduled those even if the cost was missing them.
For more info on Mys Tyler check out their website and follow them on social!