- Yonsei Alumna Sets the Tone for Young Fashion in Seoul, Korea November 26, 2018
The story of ShareStyle CEO Ja-young Yoon and her trendy fashion platform
Countless fashion websites are available for your phone for online shopping or elevating your personal style. However, StyleShare is different.
StyleShare is a real-time online and mobile platform where everyday users post their daily look, share the hottest trends in fashion and beauty, and conveniently shop products relevant to the styles in the posts. The Pinterest-style platform has millions of registered users worldwide, including over 73% of all South Korean women aged between 15-29. Over 5,000 photos are posted daily and 2,000 companies have partnered with StyleShare; total sales transactions last year reached 30 billion KRW (about 26.5 million USD).
StyleShare has become an influential destination for the fashion-conscious as well as the fashion industry, and behind the scenes making all this happen is Yonsei University alumna Ja-young Yoon.
Ja-young Yoon (entering class ‘07, Electronic & Electrical Engineering/Psychology) is founder and CEO of StyleShare which first launched in 2011. Noted for her huge success of StyleShare, she was listed in 2016 Forbes Asia 30 under 30 (Consumer Tech) and is widely regarded a digital pioneer as one of the first to converge community, content, and commerce on a mobile platform. Ja-young was also invited to speak at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit organized by former U.S. President Barrack Obama and hosted by the U.S. Department of State.
This early November, Ja-young visited her alma mater to share her story with aspiring Yonsei School of Business students on how she began the road to establishing a successful start-up.
Ja-young spent her college years wondering what to do for the future. One of her interests was street fashion, and for three years she spent hours every day poring over campus life magazines, fashion blogs, and online shopping websites.
Ja-young had no previous experience in start-ups and was already in her senior year, job-seeking; she was clearly at the crossroads of the next chapter of her life. But she convinced herself that life is long, and she could invest three years into this endeavor. ‘It is just three years out of 100,’ she told herself.
“I thought to myself, ‘Is there a way consumers can conveniently shop without going directly through all these different shopping channels? How can people easily access fashion and styling?’ I realized that existing online channels did not meet these needs, and I had the beginnings of a new business idea,” she said.
Ja-young began mapping out a business plan on how to easily approach styling for the everyday young woman. When Do-kyun Kwon, President of major online payment company INICIS, gave a special lecture at Yonsei University, she abruptly approached him afterward with her proposal in hand. Ja-young presented her idea on the spot, asking for advice and he agreed to help.
Armed with this kick-off investment along with her college scholarship money, she formed a team of seven colleagues and charged into the competitive mobile app market. With their idea, the team won the 2010 Yonsei University New CEO Nurturing Competition and went on to participate in 2011 Mass Challenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator program based in Boston, Massachusetts, coming out at the only Asian finalist.
With substantial investments from investment firm Primer, StyleShare was finally able to take off in September 2011 officially and has quickly grown to become a popular one-stop platform for young fashionistas in Korea. Total sales transactions reached 10 billion KRW (about 8 million USD) in just 11 months since launching and rocketed to 20 billion KRW (about 17 million USD) six months later.
StyleShare sparked the interest of Suzy Menkes, International Editor for Vogue and fashion influencer, during her visit to Korea in 2015 and quickly gained global recognition. “I was intrigued by a meeting with Ja-young Yoon, the founder of StyleShare…The platform offers an insight into how young Koreans put their looks together and is a worldwide inspiration for stylish outfits,” commented Menkes on her meeting at the StyleShare office. The app is currently available in seven languages, with users from 120 countries.
Reflecting on her success and at the same time planning for the future, Ja-young took a moment a few years ago to redefine the goals of the ShareStyle company.
To create a company that gains influence by providing services loved by many users, that uses this influence to better society, that creates a utopian workplace where good people want to work together.
Ja-young leads StyleShare with three key focuses: 1) Value of Sharing, 2) Autonomy, and 3) Empowerment. The value of sharing ensures that all employees are well informed of the current situation and direction of StyleShare, and they have a clear understanding of how their work holds significance in the big picture. Autonomy is given to each employee, which means that everyone holds both voluntary authority (a.k.a. freedom) and responsibility in the workplace as equals. Empowerment is to provide support to encourage proactivity and self-drive among employees.
Ja-young gave words of advice to students undecided about taking the big leap to begin a start-up. “Remember, it can be just three years out of the 100 years of your life. So be prepared and take every opportunity,” she said.