Shapewear has been a big topic in the USA for years - here in the German-speaking area it's still a niche. When did you first come into contact with shapewear and what motivated you to found SHAPE ME?
I came into contact with shapewear at a very early age, as I practically grew up with shapewear through my Irish mum, aunts and cousins. In other countries shapewear has long been part of every wardrobe. In the USA, Australia or Great Britain, for example, shapewear is considered to be suitable for everyday use and women stand by the fact that they wear shapewear. I really wanted to bring this natural way of dealing with it to Germany. We women have become very open about our appearance. We wear bras to shape our breasts, go to the hairdresser to conceal our roots and usually put on make-up every day. So why not wear underwear that wraps us comfortably and gives us a secure hold?
Your philosophy is to emphasize the beauty and femininity of every woman. How do you manage to do that? What makes SHAPE ME and why should every woman own one of your pieces?
Our philosophy is that shapewear should be fun and give a good feeling, because we think charisma starts with feeling good. It's all about feeling good with shapewear and wearing what you feel like. Shapewear now consists of a wide variety of products. There is a suitable shapewear for almost every need and there has not only been a huge leap in the quality of the development and fabrics, but also in the design. We have products with different shaping degrees (from 1 to 3), so there really is something for every woman. That's what makes us different!
Personally, I love and wear a lot of shapewear in everyday life because I can rely on my little bloated belly not shining out and I don't have to worry about my sitting position or posture in meetings. The clothes fit well and I can concentrate on what's important. Every woman should use such a pretty little everyday aid.
Shape me has grown a lot in the last few years. What do you think are the success factors? Which decisions were groundbreaking?
We focus on a customer-first approach. This means that we place great value on high-quality content. We take the time to advise each customer individually in order to find the perfect product for her. Above all, sustainable customer satisfaction is more important to us than short quick sales. Because we want to work with SHAPE ME be the number one for shapewear in the long term.
In contrast, our marketing approach in the backend is extremely data-driven. Our rapid growth is mainly due to performance marketing. Here, it's all about campaigns with strong ROAS to react quickly to the existing market and good retargeting.
Your current business model is different from the business model you started with. How did this pivot come about? And what did you take away from the pivoting process for yourself as an entrepreneur?
We decided to go with a pivot because we were too quick to launch with the first product without really understanding the market first. I have spent my life in countries where shapewear is considered a normal everyday item. Every woman in the USA for example, in the UK and also in Australia knows about shapewear, many wear it very gladly and stand behind it. The more surprised I was that shapewear in Germany is often still so negatively afflicted.
With our own first product, we have thus penetrated a market in which we first had to do a lot of educational work. However, we also saw this as a great opportunity to be the first to bring the image of Spanx, Skims and Co from the USA to Germany.
The Blue Ocean strategy is a business development tool. The basic idea is that companies create new markets, so-called blue oceans, as you are doing with shapeme here in the German-speaking area. What are the particular challenges of such business models? How did you learn to approach them?
We know that the topic of shapewear in Germany still needs "time" and opinions are still partly negative. That's why we at SHAPE ME focus on education and patience in order to react to every uncertainty and every comment. We see enormous potential, because so far no one disrupts and expands the existing market through high-quality content and the customer-first approach. We are fully committed to the first mover advantage, because we have discovered a gap in the market.
The biggest challenge is clearly the lack of capital for branding and PR measures. We manage to serve the existing market with performance marketing, but to expand the market or create a blue ocean, branding and PR is extremely important. We need marketing measures that are not profitable in the short term, but aim at long-term brand building. This is difficult for a startup without VC funding. Unfortunately, the funding situation in Germany does not play into our cards, because VCs invest mainly in B2B, SaaS, FinTech, HealthTech and sustainability. B2C startups still have difficulties to raise capital. On top of that, we have a very female product. The VC landscape in Germany is very male and many (of course not all ;-)) have a hard time with our topic.
Over the years, you have already been able to gain some experience in how to build business models in the sense of the Blue Ocean strategy. What advice do you have for founders who want to open up new markets with their business model? What were your biggest learnings?
In my opinion, the most important thing is a clean and deep market analysis. Unfortunately, I didn't do enough of that due to the speed and pressure behind our foundation and the launch of our first project. The pivot was thus necessary for survival out of an emergency situation. Furthermore, before founding and launching, I would create a clear marketing plan with preferably medium-term financial planning and build a network of partners from the beginning, who complement all missing competencies.