ARTICLE / THE MAKING OF... SERIES
The making of...
Over the past ten years or so, everyone in the start-up world has been talking about tech. VCs love it. Particularly if you’re an A.I. product, SaaS or a team with an incredibly smart solution to an obvious problem… or in this instance, Anthony Kwok, CEO & Co-Founder of Virtual Fitting Room start-up… ZILIO.
The making of... Series
Welcome to The making of... blog series. To start, can you briefly introduce yourself.
Hey, my name is Anthony and I'm the CEO & Co-Founder of ZILIO, a Fashion-tech startup building a Virtual Fitting Room to solve online shopping’s biggest problem – the confusion around garment sizing and fit.
That’s your elevator pitch right there. Great. Can you give us a quick background about who you all are?
ZILIO has three founders – Andrew, Mike, and myself. Before ZILIO, I worked in fashion retail at David Jones while I was completing my double degree in Marketing and Management at Monash University.
Andrew comes from a background in fashion and retail. We’ve been best mates for years and ZILIO was founded out of our mutual desire to do something big and exciting in both the fashion space and life.
Mike is our tech rockstar. Having taught himself how to code in most tech languages at an early age, he went on to work in three start-ups, received international awards and has over twenty years of rich experience in software dev.
Andrew, Mike and Anthony, Co-Founders of ZILIO.
So two in fashion and one in tech, how did you come up with the idea for a virtual fitting room?
I’m super lazy when it comes to trying clothes on and have always thought that there’s got to be an easier, hassle-free way. At David Jones, I met customers who were regularly frustrated at returning the truckloads of ill-fitting clothes they bought online. I brought this up with Andrew, who was experiencing the same frustrations with his customers. So we teamed up to tackle this issue and ZILIO was born.
It definitely is a real obvious frustration. What research did you undertake to validate your idea and achieve product-market-fit?
Working in a fashion retail environment meant we could validate our ideas and approaches. Other companies may have spoken to 10’s or hundreds of shoppers, we spoke to thousands.
Once we found a solid solution from the shopper’s perspective, we approached the labels to get theirs. From there, we had a solid model and product that would cater to the needs of the businesses.
For our MVP, we partnered with the denim brand BY BETTINA LIANO, testing 18 shoppers of different genders and body shapes. The results were mindblowing - everybody chose their perfect sizes in jeans after using ZILIO. Interestingly, 50% of our testers initially chose the wrong size without ZILIO, and 25% chose the wrong size 2-3 times before landing on the correct one without ZILIO.
It’s always good to hear that testing went well? What were the first iterations of your product like?
Our first iteration was yuck. We didn’t have body scanning back then, so users had to measure themselves. Many people gave up halfway through and others got measurements wrong. Our virtual fitting room wasn’t integrated inside online stores and ran on a separate window instead, meaning that it took shoppers away from the online store, which is a big no-no. All in all, it was a pretty confusing and messy process but we soon got that fixed.
A body scanner sounds extremely expensive. How did you initially fund everything?
We totally bootstrapped using our savings alongside a $50K investment. Even then, we were always facing an existential crisis of running out of money before being able to gain enough traction to raise more capital. These were the cards we were dealt with though, because ZILIO was immensely tech and resource-heavy, meaning things cost more and took longer to do.
Along the way, our friends and family started believing in us and investing in ZILIO. As a first-time founder, this amount of support and belief has been one of the most rewarding parts of the journey.
Having others believe in what you're doing and getting support along the way is a good result in anyone’s book. With some funding organised how did you go about the branding?
Our approach with ZILIO was always shopper first. Even though our business model is a B2B tech service, we want to connect with shoppers by positioning ZILIO as a fashion brand. Fashion-centric, yet non-retail brands such as Vogue, GQ and Politix have been an influence, but we also had a vision of what the ZILIO brand would look like. Incubator/design agency Pitchblak helped bring this vision to life.
With your branding sorted, how are you getting the word out there?
Social media has been massive. People really bought into our journey and as the story started getting out there, people started to talk about ZILIO and things grew from there.
Thanks for sharing that. What would you say your biggest challenge or challenges are moving forward?
We’re launching ZILIO’s Virtual Fitting Room and our biggest test will be proving that ZILIO works in a commercial sense. Our goal before we scale is to iterate our solution to the point where we can consistently reduce returns and increase conversions by giving online shoppers confidence around garment sizing and fit. This means a world of things like technological accuracy, the UI/UX of the user journey and the approach in how we show garment fit in the most understandable yet detailed way.
From there, we’ll focus on scaling and building ZILIO’s A-Team to support this growth.
Ok, here's our final question. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give another entrepreneur who is embarking on their own startup journey?
Understand your venture will only be as good or strong as you personally are as a founder. Find ways to level up. Improve your health & fitness, your people skills and your technical skills. Make sure you rest and regroup so you always come back to the battlefield at 100%