ELOQUII is a vertically integrated e-commerce brand offering fast fashion for the plus size market. After initially launching as a sub-brand for the Limited, the company re-launched in 2014 with Mariah Chase as CEO.
ELOQUII has built its brand with a focus on a traditionally underserved population. With 65 percent of US women classified as size 14+, but only 15 percent of U.S. women’s clothing market overall geared towards their unique needs, it’s no surprise that ELOQUII’s customers are passionate advocates.
We interviewed Mariah to learn more about her loyal customer base, fast-growing business, and fundraising for a Series B in a competitive environment.
My friend (who is actually also a co-founder) originally brought me the opportunity. However, before I even knew about ELOQUII, I had started to notice an uptick in plus size apparel coverage in fashion media. Not only was this broader plus-size fashion discussion a leading indicator that ELOQUII was an interesting opportunity, but also it showed me that ELOQUII was about more than just selling clothing, it was about being a part of something much bigger – a movement.
Tell us about your first year post launch. What was it like to re-launch the brand?
Exciting! From our warehouse roof collapsing (which is about as fun as it sounds) to our growth exceeding expectations, it was a pretty incredible year. We hit all of our numbers which was really gratifying as it signaled that we had planned and executed well. Although, even better than the numbers was our customer’s response to the brand. She’s the best. We are really fortunate to have customers who have been so forthcoming with their support on social media and have provided thoughtful and honest feedback to our customer service representatives along the way.
ELOQUII is one of the first female-led Series B rounds closed in NYC this year. How was your fundraising process?
Well, I don’t know why fundraising has a “d” in it – the whole process is so much “fun.” E-commerce is definitely a sector with high hurdles and isn’t always the favorite flavor among certain investor groups. With that said, I like the hunt to find the right fit. It’s not easy, but gratifying when you do.
For us, it was about moving away from investors who only wanted to speak about digital marketing and customer acquisition metrics. Since these metrics are just one reflection of our business, I see an investor’s narrow focus on them as an indicator of where their interests (and perhaps knowledge base) would lie after the investment had closed. I wanted investors who were getting at the root of the business – the merchandise, the planning, the customers, and the customer journey. Without understanding the core of what we do every day, a simple customer acquisition metric doesn’t tell a holistic story. I think this is true for all e-commerce businesses, not just ELOQUII.
With your new round, what are you looking to achieve with scale?
We are looking to increase geographic distribution, as well as increasing our distribution channels. Translation: she’s been asking for stores! We want to keep her happy.
Inventory management is key to your business. How do you think about it?
With rigor, precision, and meticulous planning that is scrutinized every day. There’s no other way to do it. We have an incredible team of merchants and planners that lead this charge and our business would be a fraction of what it is today if it weren’t for them. Without the right inventory, at the right price, owned in the right depth, and at the right time of the year, your marketing dollars are inefficient. The business starts and ends with the merchandise.
ELOQUII is known for being a brand that really listens to its customers and takes their point of view into consideration. How has that guided your company’s direction?
Our customers actually inspired an entirely new feature on our site called Style + Substance, Spotlight Series. It’s a monthly e-zine where we feature one of our amazing customers styled by a guest editor or stylist in ELOQUII’s latest trends. The last issue featured our gorgeous customer Emmicia Bracey alongside Paolo Nieddu, the very talented Costume Designer from Empire.
We talk to our customers as often as we can and are consistently inspired by what they’re doing with their lives. We thought “why should we keep this inspiration to ourselves? Let’s share it with our entire customer base!” Cut to the launch of Style + Substance. And really, who better to model than our customer’s themselves?
Acquiring and retaining the customer is always key especially for e-commerce businesses to be successful. Any advice around this?
Make a great product, price it right, and allow for ease of purchase. Continue to deliver that value proposition time and again, and you will develop a loyal customer base. One of our angel investors with deep experience in the apparel industry shared two pearls of wisdom that I think about every day. First, customer acquisition is nothing more or less than “a right to be in the customer’s consideration set.” Secondly, customer lifetime value is only “as good as your last collection.”
You are now on your third year of business. How have things changed? Any lessons on growing a team remotely?
Our biggest change is better offices for a bigger team! We’re now a team of 36 – big jump from our start with six people.
As for growing a remote team, find the communication channel that works for you and use it. For us, our team in Columbus is a phone crew, ride or die. It’s not Slack, or Skype, or Facetime. It’s the good, old-fashioned phone. Most days I am on the phone with members of the Columbus team for about 2-3 hours. It may seem old-school but it works for us so we are sticking with it!