What’s the inspiration behind Popshop?
After working for years in real estate development, we wanted to be a part of something more fulfilling and inspiring. Both of our sisters had upstart brands and they mentioned several times how they would love to have a physical presence, but were too intimidated by the process.
The light bulb went off for us during one of our discussions with them. We looked at each other and said, “you can book someone's home, their most intimate personal space, from the palm of your hand, but you can’t book a retail space?!” That didn't sit well with us, and we felt passionate about solving this problem. We also had tons of friends and people in our network losing money each month on their vacant retail spaces. So, we made it a goal to help bring their spaces back to life.
Both of you have considerable experience in real estate – what first drew you to this industry?
We were looking to be a part of something more fulfilling within real estate that would allow us to make a difference on a global scale. We saw Popshop as the perfect way to do so. There really is a special sense of fulfillment helping small businesses through their retail journey. The feeling of walking through a brand’s store and seeing their vision for it come to life is really what gets us fired up about what we do on a daily basis. It's a priceless feeling.
The two of you are childhood best friends! Any favorite memories from growing up?
For everyone's sake, I think it’s better we keep those memories between us!
When did you decide to enter into business together? How do you two work together?
It really started back in middle school with our first venture together—a car washing operation. Ever since then we knew we’d be life-long business partners. We balance each other well. Our wives often complain that we know each other better than them.
After 25 years of friendship, we learned how to mesh our strengths together to form an unstoppable force.
If you could describe one another in one word what would that be and why?
Efry: Charismatic. Nate has an energy about him that gets people inspired and enthusiastic. He always pushes them to be their best.
Nathan: Calculated. Efry is very precise and calculated in thought and action. I can easily get carried away with things, but he keeps me in check. He’s the yin to my yang.
How do you handle risk and competition?
Coming from the real estate world, we’ve been trained to avoid unnecessary risks from day one. In fact, that is why we decided to go the route of building a marketplace platform rather than building a lease model like many of the flex office providers you see struggling. In fact, this decision is what saved our business during the Covid-19 lockdowns. We are able to stay asset-light and lean.
Now a word on competition. Competition is something that thankfully has never scared us. In fact, we embrace competition. Competition is what makes a company stronger, faster and better. The result of this is that we work smarter to deliver better users a product that really helps our users and their businesses. We are both sport lovers and the way we see it, there is no sport without competition.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Hiring, without question. Finding talented and motivated individuals that will not only preserve but also enrich the culture we have created is definitely challenging. Even more so now with remote interviewing, which I’m sure many people can relate to.
What’s your team culture like?
We strive to create an environment that is inclusive, open-minded and safe for everyone to express themselves and ideas. At the same time we are a group of extremely motivated and passionate individuals working towards a common goal. As founders we do a lot of reading, research and learning on how to create an environment that allows our team members to reach their full potential in all areas of life.
Some companies we study and try to model our cultures after include Netflix, Airbnb, and Zappos. One of our favorite books on culture is Tribal Leadership, written by Dave Logan and John King. It discusses the science and framework of leveraging natural groups to build thriving organizations.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
I think most startup founders come to an inflection point where they realize that they not only can’t control everything, but that many of the things that cause us stress are out of our hands. In fact, I believe Covid-19 has taught all of humanity that very lesson.
Mark Twain has a great quote, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened." Our minds can get us into a worrying frenzy sometimes. However, most of the time the things we are worried about never actually happen. What I have learned from our startup experience is that we have the ability to do all we can and then lean on our faith and remain calm. No one has ever made a good decision while panicking.
How has Popshop had to adapt as a result of Covid-19?
While Covid-19 has definitely sped up and made the case for flexible retail that much more compelling, our biggest adaptation has been the development and soon launch of Clicks by Popshop. Clicks is a super simple online store builder and manager. Online shopping has just been sped up by 5-6 years, and there are so many brands who need an online presence, without all the difficulties commonly encountered on other sophisticated platforms. Our goal is to make it so easy that your grandma can do it.
Nathan – you worked for your parents’ retail company from a young age. What was it like to return to the industry?
Well my family's retail operations were discount department stores, so while we did sell apparel, it wasn’t our only focus. I remember one Sunday when I was 12 years old and my dad agreed to finally let me come work a full day at the store. This was special because every other time I would go it was only for a couple hours and I didn’t really get to help out. This time, I was going to be able to actually work! I thought for sure I would be doing something fun, like helping in the electronics department or the footwear department (they sold the coolest Nikes).
Well we got to the store and my dad handed me a razor blade and a mop. The razor blade was to scrape all the old school sticker labels off the floor (all 12,000 square feet), followed by having to mop the entire store and clean the bathroom. I still laugh thinking about the face I made when he handed me that mop. To be honest, I wouldn’t trade those humbling experiences for anything!
Efry – what's the most surprising thing you've learned while working in retail?
The amount of hurdles a brand faces on a daily basis. Speaking to more and more brands, I have learned more about the supply chain and how challenging that alone can be. Popshop really opened my eyes to the stress of launching and running a brand. That is why it feels so fulfilling removing a the hurdles and challenges for them.
What is your superpower?
What’s your kryptonite?
Nate: Super good toro tuna – my knees get weak thinking about it.
Efry: My two-year-old daughter, Naomi
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
Nate: I start everyday with prayer and meditation.
Efry: I put ketchup on tuna melts. No, like I really like it!
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Nathan: I’m an avid waterman. I need to surf or fish in order to survive.
Efry: Basketball and boxing are my versions of yoga.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
I think we’d tell ourselves to stop trying to control everything in life and micromanaging every detail to achieve our desired outcome. I love the mantra, “let go and let God."