We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Zheng and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, looking back, what do you think was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?
“We’ll be out of money in two months.” I shared this statement with my cofounder in March of 2019. I felt lost and unsure of how we could pull ourselves out of the situation. Our retail store had been open two years at this point. While it was generating the majority of revenue for the business, it was also the most expensive asset we had. We volleyed between attempts to increase traffic to the store or increasing our brand awareness online to generate more sales, but all had failed. By April, I was considering to spend even more on paid ads or start a discounted sale to drive more traffic to the store. However, my gut told me that in order to survive, we had to take a much bigger swing. I decided that running a Kickstarter campaign while closing down our retail store would enable us to scale the brand online. It was a difficult decision since the store generated nearly all of the revenue for the business, our online store had almost no traction, and if the campaign couldn’t find backers, the business would die. It was a big bet to make, but I truly believed it was the best chance for Sene to succeed. We put together a campaign featuring our FlexTech Suit, a stretchy, comfortable suit that was machine washable and custom-made from scratch. The campaign went live for two weeks and generated over $100,000 without a dime spent on paid advertising. After the campaign ended, the company scaled to a 7-figure business and we raised a half million-dollar pre-seed round. The brand has reached thousands of new customers and most recently launched a massive product collaboration with UFC legend Carlos Condit. Looking back, the greatest lesson I learned was to really trust my gut. Despite the store earning the bulk of our revenue, it was important for me to rely on my instincts and execution for that big decision. It gives me confidence moving forward and it’s an experience that pushes me to take big risks for the business.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
2014. I had just graduated and was about to start my professional career. I proudly purchased a dress shirt from Banana Republic hoping to make a great first impression. Instead, the shirt stuck out the back like a billowing cloud since my body was too slim for the small size. That’s when I realized that no matter what brand I aspired to wear, if the clothing didn’t fit, I would never feel my best. Enter Sene. It’s an old french word for “uncountable” which means that people are not a standard size, they are uniquely their own. When the company started, it was about merging beautiful design with custom tailoring to empower every person who wore our products to feel their very best. We only sell online. I created the innovative and proprietary SmartFit technology that generates custom sizes for our customers using data science. The SmartFit Platform is an ecosystem where customers can unlock their unique fit through a series of smart questions without ever using a measuring tape or getting fitted in-person. Customer data and fit preference is saved, creating a seamless experience for reordering products. Since launching the platform, Sene has achieved a return rate of less than 10% on our products, a far cry from the standard 30% for online fashion retailers.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I 100% believe that none of our success would be possible without the help of many people.
Ellen Yi | Griege Studios
Will Fox | The Fox Identity