The first locations became full-term leases. Then, Easton Town Center contacted ELOQUII about creating a pop-up.
Columbus, the company’s No. 25 market, was an opportunity to see if a store could lift e-commerce. Zawada says the concept store will be open through the spring at Easton, while ELOQUII looks for a permanent location because Columbus is now between 15 and 20 in terms of market sales. It is also pursuing new markets like New York, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Detroit.
“We’re going to continue to open stores and be smart about it. But we did learn it’s really valuable to our e-commerce and digital business to also have a physical presence,” he says.
Play it smart
Zawada says it’s much different working in a venture capital-backed business, than his prior jobs.
“I would attend meetings to make a lot of decisions and the biggest thing I did was manage people,” he says. “In the startup, I’m not only the COO and the co-founder, but also the janitor half the time.”
Zawada had fun learning to be a CFO and head up HR. Today, those roles are filled by others, but he still runs operations and logistics.
“One of the things that we talk about daily is we just need to be careful that we’re not growing too quickly and we’re making really smart decisions,” Zawada says, such as picking store locations that enable ELOQUII to spend less on infrastructure and more on driving a good brand experience.
“The capital that we have in our business is precious and we want to maximize every dollar,” he says.
ELOQUII’s biggest expenses are inventory, headcount and marketing, but Zawada says inventory on a startup’s balance sheet is viewed negatively. Owning 1,300 styles can be expensive; it requires efficiency and a strong belief in everything the company is designing.
“Be very, very cautious with the capital that you have because one bad month could make you rethink your foreseeable future,” Zawada says.
Hire carefully and if there are weak links in the organization move quickly, he says. Everybody needs to feel as passionate about the product and customer as you do, or you won’t be successful.