After going dark for a few weeks, controversial teen retailer Shop Jeen is coming back on Friday.
The company’s 24-year-old CEO, Erin Yogasundram, told Business Insider she has resolved the financial and operational issues that led to the brand’s temporary demise.
“We’re confident that we’re going to get everything back on track,” she said.
Shop Jeen — for the uninitiated — was a controversial online teen retailer (think Urban Outfitters on steroids).
The brand was known for selling glitter, ’90s nostalgia, and some irreverent and NSFW apparel.
It may have baffled those outside of the demographic, but it rendered Yogasundram a star in the eyes of her fans. The company was a viral sensation, and MTV called her the “Queen Bee of the Internet.”
In September, she was at the top of her game: meeting with investors and working to help continue to propel Shop Jeen. Though she won’t disclose financials, she told Business Insider that at the store’s peak it was bringing in “millions” in annual sales.
Following her website’s downfall, Yogasundram locked her popular Twitter and Instagram accounts and retreated from the public eye.
Shop Jeen and Yogasundram’s meteoric rises were largely thanks to her unapologetic nature and social media prowess. She was herself, whether people liked it or not — a truly smart branding practice.
But that didn’t necessarily give her the know-how as to how to run a business smoothly.
To her credit, she did it all on her own, which was arguably part of her appeal to young consumers.
In September, when Business Insider met with Yogasundram, she wasn’t shy about how she had built her company from the ground up.
“I mean, honestly, we’ve always had financial issues,” she said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We’re a bootstrapped company with a very small amount of angel money.”
Now, she’s feeling the burn and the hardship of what it means to be bootstrapped, so to speak. After all, people haven’t been happy with Shop Jeen. Fans had been complaining they weren’t getting their goods shipped. Jezebel reported a scathing report about its internal operations. There were ample BBB complaints; it had an F rating.
And according to The Cut, Yogasundram posted a statement on Snapchat following her website going off line, saying that “The site is currently down due to some operational and financial difficulties due to a lot of growing pains. We made the decision to close the store temporarily and not take any more orders until we can work through these operational issues.”
The company also was plagued with problems similar to other struggling retailers: mismanagement of inventory.
These problems, though, were almost predicated. In September, she told Business Insider how she didn’t anticipate the responsibilities she would have as CEO of a company.
“We had some financial issues a little bit ago and some vendors … had to wait a little bit longer, and we would never want to do that,” she said at the time. “
At the age of 24, I don’t know everything, and I’ve got us as far as I can go, but I’m more of a strategy person, a creative mind.”
So it almost seemed imminent that she’d have to take the site off line at some point.
“We didn’t want to created any bigger of a mess, and we have more clarity and understanding about what’s working, what’s not working,” she said.
But things got really grim for its founder. Yogasundram told Business Insider that in order to continue funding her site, she gave up her home (which was also the company’s office) and couch surfed for a while. But she doesn’t appear to regret the decision.
“I’ve always sacrificed my personal life and whatever I needed to do to put Shop Jeen first,” she said.
She’s feeling better now; though the company doesn’t have an office, she has a home.
Leading up to this point, Yogasundram says she didn’t have the right resources to help her navigate a business.
For one, she has a publicist now; she did everything on her own before. She’s realised that the rookie mistakes that brought her business off line (literally) won’t sustain the business; most importantly she’s now doing the thing that she didn’t do before: asking for help.
She said that she now meets with advisors, and she’s handed off parts of the business that she admitted she and Muqbel were “not so hot at.” She said she’s now “picking and choosing battles” and “recognising weaknesses.”
And Yogasundram says there’s a few concrete solutions that are happening now: for one, the company has employed an unnamed partner to help helm its operation sides. And for the company’s in-house brand, Netgear90, is using a print-on-demand model, so that shirts can be made as they are ordered, helping to save on inventory.
She feels ready to bring the site back on Friday, though her Twitter and Instagram accounts are both still on lock down. She said that she made those accounts private because people were using her personal tweets to tell stories of her business.
Despite addressing some challenges, Yogasundram acknowledges there are still challenges ahead.
“It’s really hard being young and building a business from the ground up and not knowing how to ask for help and who to ask for help and where to get the resources that you need,” Yogasundram said.
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