Cover Story: Eve Ackerley and Carolyn Horner
Jan 10, 2019
The high-growth founders who make up AWE's community are proud to support women founded startups like Jenzy who have the potential for growth.
Meet Eve Ackerley and Carolyn Horner, the CEO and COO of Jenzy, an e-commerce platform powered by innovative sizing technology that makes it easy to buy the right size shoes for young kids online.
Here's what they shared when we talked to them:
Why did you found this company? When you buy shoes online there’s always a question of how they are going to fit. We did market research and learned that the there was a real problem in finding a place where kids could be properly sized for shoes. We decided to come up with an app that allows parents to measure their child's foot with just one photo and then shop a curated selection of shoes already sized perfectly for the child.
What’s your core business philosophy? We both grew up with parents who were entrepreneurs. At the dinner table, we talked about products they were developing. Additionally, Eve and I met while working abroad in rural China as English teachers where there was limited electricity and no running hot water. Thus, we learned to thrive living in a state of uncertainty. We value resourcefulness and innovation and looking at problems differently.
How did you fund the company when you first started, and why? When we started in September of 2016, we were bootstrapping the company. As first-time founders, we were interested in validating our idea and focused on creating a beta for Jenzy. For about a year we used our own personal savings and lived with Eve’s parents in California. Then we moved to Carolyn’s parents’ home in Philadelphia. In October 2017, we raised $340,000 through a friends and family round that took us through launch in July 2018. Now, we are raising $1 million through investors. We’re specifically looking for investors with experience in retail and consumer brands.
How do you keep a competitive edge as your company grows? We are often asked how we compete with Amazon and Zappos, the two biggest sellers of kids’ shoes. Our service revolves around curation and helping parents find not only the perfect fit, but the best shoe for their child’s development. We see ourselves as a “shoe concierge” for parents and offer a highly personalized experience, something that large retailers would be hard pressed to do. In the near future, we'll leverage our data and predictive analytics to be able to project a customer’s shoe needs before they even remember to go check if their kid's shoes still fit.
How do you measure success? For the first year and a half, our success was measured in the accuracy of the app. Now we measure success in terms of the number of downloads we see month to month and the number of users who return to Jenzy's app to resize and buy their next pair of shoes.
What motivates you? We aim to be the biggest retailer of kids’ shoes. When parents or grandparents think about going shopping for kid shoes, they'll think one thing: Jenzy. Ultimately, we’re determined to change the way parents think about buying shoes online and make kid shoe shopping a fun and enjoyable experience.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? When we launched the app, we naively thought people would use the app and it would work exactly as it should! We learned quickly that we would have to work harder than ever to create a sizing and shopping experience that's as easy and mindless as the 1-click checkout. But that's exactly what we're striving for. One day soon, Jenzy will eliminate the need for any decision making when shopping for kid shoes.
How has the AWE network has impacted you and your business? We applied to Robin Hood Ventures and their founder, Ellen Weber, encouraged us to apply for The Pitch. Our first interaction with AWE was at The Pitch competition, which was also one of the first times we pitched Jenzy publicly. So many members reached out to us to recommend resources relating to everything from legal help to warehousing space. It signifies how helpful an organization like AWE is. We loved seeing Ellen receive the Iris Newman Award - it really brought everything full circle!
What’s the most influential book you’ve read in the last five years? When we were still in China, we read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, a must-read for any entrepreneur. Recently, we read The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. It’s about setting goals that are 10 times what you ever imagined and utilizing time management in a really rigorous way to get the results you’re striving for.
If you weren’t involved with your current venture, you would be: Starting another business! Inspired by our two years in China, one of them is a Chinese dumpling food truck that we would call The Dump Truck!
More on the Founders
Eve Ackerley is the co-founder and CEO of Jenzy, a foot-sizing and e-commerce app that makes it easy for parents to buy perfectly fitting shoes for young kids online. She leads Jenzy's tech team and was named one of Total Retail's 2018 Game Changers. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2013, Eve traveled to rural Yunnan, China and taught English at a public elementary school for two years.
Carolyn Horner is the co-founder and COO of Jenzy, a foot-sizing and e-commerce app that makes it easy for parents to buy perfectly fitting shoes for young kids online. She leads all marketing and operations efforts for the Philly-based startup. A 2014 graduate of Cornell University, Carolyn completed a dual-degree in Government and Asian Studies. She was also a 2-year captain and All-American goalie for the Cornell Varsity Field Hockey team.
The goal of the Cover Stories series is to profile female founders scaling companies to counterbalance the constant flow of cover stories that only focus on 20-year old men dressed in jeans and hoodies. High-growth women founders exist, and their stories should take a leading role in shaping how we see entrepreneurship.