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Eve Ackerley of Jenzy: “Always get enough sleep”

Jenzy aims to take all of the purchases parents make that require a level of expertise and consolidate them into one, single platform. In terms of tackling our first product line — kid shoes — our aim was to take the sit and fit experience a child would normally have at a shoe store and bring that into an […]

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Jenzy aims to take all of the purchases parents make that require a level of expertise and consolidate them into one, single platform. In terms of tackling our first product line — kid shoes — our aim was to take the sit and fit experience a child would normally have at a shoe store and bring that into an eCommerce world.

The app we built is therefore a marketplace ​with top rated kid shoe brands combined with an easy-to-use sizing technology. By creating a universal sizing system to standardize all of the shoes on our platform, we know how each shoe fits inside and out. When we combine that expertise with information about the child — such as their foot measurements and past shoes they’ve worn — we can accurately match them in the best size 9 out of 10 times. ​For comparison, ​when shopping on Zappos, 1 out of 3 shoes need to be returned. On Jenzy, only 1 out of 10 need to be returned!


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing ​​Eve Ackerley, co-founder and COO of Jenzy. At UC Berkeley, Eve studied architecture and interned at multiple startups in the Bay Area including Lucid and Koozoo. After graduating in 2013, she accepted a teaching position with Teach For China. It was in rural China that Eve met her future co-founder, Carolyn Horner, and had a shoe shopping experience so bad that it sparked the idea for what is today, Jenzy. As Jenzy’s COO, Eve has spoken on data trends, new technologies and the retail industry landscape at notable events such as the Total Retail Conference, SXSW and Philly Tech Week.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Carolyn, my co-founder, and I first met when teaching abroad in rural China for Teach For China.

Living in such a remote place had many apparent challenges. Although, despite the remoteness of where we were, everything was connected because of apps like WeChat. In the two years we were abroad, we saw WeChat transform from a simple texting service to a platform to shop, buy flights, and pay friends.

With these new features, everything became more convenient because of the ability to do so much in just one app.

Returning things bought online was a struggle because the nearest post office was a thirty minute trek away. One day after having to return yet another pair of shoes, I told Carolyn that there should be a simpler way to size and shop for shoes and it should probably involve your phone.

Carolyn and I bonded over the idea of a “super app” that we knew we had to explore. It was this initial app idea that was swirling in our heads when we returned to the U.S. We started doing some initial market research and put the question out to all of our friends and family on Facebook. We asked, “Which do you hate shopping for more: your shoes or your kids’ shoes?” The answer was unanimous: shopping for kid shoes is the worst.

Young kids grow quickly, many shoe stores, such as Stride Rite and local boutiques, have closed their physical locations, and when shopping online, it’s difficult to know what size to buy. We knew we had identified a gap in the market. We had also found a passionate demographic — parents — that were searching for a solution and excited about the idea we had proposed.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Since Day 1, parents have been a key part of Jenzy. We have had countless conversations with moms and dads, and organized multiple beta tests to fully understand the main pain points when kid shoe shopping to test our solution.

During our first year of developing Jenzy, you could often find Carolyn and I at parks around Philly, indoor playgrounds, or even “babysitting for beta testing.” That campaign was so successful that we’ve kept up the tradition of offering free babysitting in exchange for observing parents use the app with their children. Afterwards, they go on a date night while we watch the kids — it keeps our Friday nights booked!

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Jenzy aims to take all of the purchases parents make that require a level of expertise and consolidate them into one, single platform. In terms of tackling our first product line — kid shoes — our aim was to take the sit and fit experience a child would normally have at a shoe store and bring that into an eCommerce world.

The app we built is therefore a marketplace ​with top rated kid shoe brands combined with an easy-to-use sizing technology. By creating a universal sizing system to standardize all of the shoes on our platform, we know how each shoe fits inside and out. When we combine that expertise with information about the child — such as their foot measurements and past shoes they’ve worn — we can accurately match them in the best size 9 out of 10 times. ​For comparison, ​when shopping on Zappos, 1 out of 3 shoes need to be returned. On Jenzy, only 1 out of 10 need to be returned!

Jenzy began as a test to see if parents would buy shoes on our platform and trust that our team was going to send the right size. What we have found over the past few years is that we can and in doing so, can help a lot of busy parents save time. We are developing a “shoe concierge” through personalization. By helping parents find the perfect fit and best shoe for their child’s development and even suggesting which shoes per season, we are eliminating all decision making from the shoe shopping process.

How do you think this might change the world?

According to The New York Times, “​Fifty-six percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding.” ​By giving parents a platform to receive trusted recommendations and personalized help while shopping for their children, we can add so much convenience to their lives. On top of that, we can help them feel confident about the products they’re purchasing for their child. For now we empower parents by helping them get the right size shoe for their child easily. Going forward, we aim to take this same approach to other product lines like clothing, accessories, toys and even telemedicine.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

According to eMarketer, in 2019 we spent more time on our cell phones than watching television for a grand total of 3 hours and 43 minutes on average on our cell phones. Millennial moms are spending over 3 hours on their phone every day. On social apps, they’re engaging with their friends, family and communities online.

While technology can add extreme convenience to a busy parent’s life and help them stay connected to their network, it can lead to more stress or the natural tendency to compare yourself to other moms. Jenzy’s aim is to help moms make purchases quickly, so they can spend time on their phone doing things that bring them joy or even put down their phone to relax.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

We talked to a mom who said that she needed a way to shop for her daughter while brushing her teeth. That left a lasting impression on us because we realized that shopping for something like kid shoes

requires research, reading and more often than not, multiple returns. Shoe shopping is typically a process where a mom often has to take time to sit at her computer and time — for most parents — is not something they have a lot of. This was a tipping point conversion. The mantra of quick and easy shopping is what we think about while creating the Jenzy eCommerce experience in the shoe category and other categories moving forward.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

For tech companies, we have seen referral programs work really well. The example of PayPal has been very inspirational to show that there are many ways to get new customers. PayPal’s referral program consisted of the company giving people money — new customers got 10 dollars for signing up and existing ones got 10 dollars for referrals. This program helped PayPal get 7 to 10% daily growth, skyrocketing their user base to over 100 million members. The outcome of PayPal’s referral program has inspired what we are working on at Jenzy. We’re creating a similar type of referral program where our evangelists are incentivized to spread the word about our company.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’ve found really effective marketing channels through paid ads, earned media, and influencers. For paid ads, we’ve increased our ad spend by 10x in the past few months and have maintained a consistently low CPI and high rate of quality users. Success has also come from earned media where we have experience pitching media and have seen a strong ROI. Jenzy’s feature in a “Top Tech Tools for Parents” article written by Parents Magazine, resulted in thousands of downloads. The influencer channel is a new strategy, but we have seen tremendous results with micro influencers who have 5k-10k followers and are focused on DIY projects and helpful parenting tools. The ease of shoe sizing and shopping, especially during a time when online shopping is on the rise, has resonated with moms on social media.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Countless amounts of people have been great advisors to Jenzy. One of those mentors includes Andy Dunn — the founder of Bonobos. We were fortunate enough to be connected with him last year in NYC. His passion to help young entrepreneurs who are working on big ideas is so inspiring. He is always thinking about future trends in eCommerce and that foresight has helped us stay focused on developing a mobile app experience that is curated and personalized.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

When Carolyn and I first moved to Philadelphia, we participated in the Philly Startup Leaders’ Accelerator program. It was a game-changing program that allowed us to connect to other entrepreneurs and mentors while creating the first iterations of Jenzy.

As graduates of that program, we have been active alums leading sessions, mentoring startups and continuing to cultivate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Philadelphia. Like many Philly-founders, we

believe the best thing we can do for our city is create the next big Philly-founded company. Whether with Jenzy or another Philly-based startup, we’re inspired to get to the next level everyday.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

1. Co-founder relationships are a marriage. ​Find a co-founder that complements you andprioritize your relationship. Julie Rice, the Co-Founder of SoulCycle, said on a recent episode of How I Built This, “​We really felt like the success of SoulCycle was a real combination of the two of us and so Elizabeth found us a business therapist coach.”

2. Pick three. ​You cannot prioritize everything in your life, but you can prioritize three things. As anentrepreneur, your business and your co-founder will be two of the three. Sheryl Sandberg calls it “ruthless prioritization.”

3. Always get enough sleep. ​Eating ramen and not sleeping isn’t the way to stay in the game.Arianna Huffington makes the argument for the power of a good night’s sleep or “sleeping your way to the top!” Carolyn and I always make sure health is one of our top three priorities (so now we’re down to zero!).

4. Take actions in 10X quantities. ​To reach your goals, you have to do more than you hadplanned to do. Grant Cardone writes in ​The 10X Rule​, “Success cannot be achieved by ‘normal’ levels of thoughts and actions.” You must increase your actions by a factor of ten.

5. Find people who get it.​If you are laying the bricks for a brick and mortar store and someoneasks, “Why no sales?” they may not be the right fit for your team.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Something we’re really passionate about is investing in female founders. ​As a startup that has raised money and is currently fundraising, the odds are automatically against us because we don’t look like Mark Zuckerberg. According to TechCrunch, in 2019, less than 3% of all venture capital money went to female founded teams. Therefore, the movement I hope to inspire is continuing to raise awareness about the inequity that exists in the venture capitalist and startup ecosystem. I want to work hard to challenge the status quo. Ultimately, when one female founder gets a VC investment, it starts a wave where her introductions are with other female founders and the connection, investment cycle, etc. can start to shift.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Many life lessons are relevant to my journey as an entrepreneur, but one lesson that stands out and rings true is Albert Schweitzer’s quote, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”. I always remind myself that our passion to work hard for something we believe so strongly in, is what drives Jenzy. We love working with our inspirational team that makes it easy to show up everyday and work towards our goals. What’s so great about our startup is that we are passionate about the solution we are trying to create.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Jenzy is a mobile first marketplace that aims to become the most trusted way for new parents to shop. This year, parents will spend over 250 dollars BILLION on kids under the age of 6. However, there are many purchases that parents make reluctantly because so many purchases require a level of expertise to make

a confident decision. Our aim is to consolidate these purchases that require a level of expertise onto one platform thereby creating the most data driven, personalized way for new parents to shop.

In 2020, 50k parents have​​created a profile on Jenzy, we’ve increased revenue by 700% and have uncovered cost effective marketing channels. Currently, we’re raising a seed round and are looking to partner with a VC firm who can help us scale quickly, expand into new markets and work side by side with us on this journey.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find us at @ShopJenzy on ​Instagram​, ​Facebook​, and ​Twitter​!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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