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Getting Out of the Way of Your eCommerce Brand’s Growth With Selene Dior of Vitae Apparel

Joshua Chin 8:21

How would your best friend describe you as a as a person?

Selene Dior 8:31

Oh, wow, um they would describe me as someone that is very fast paced, like I am just go go go. I rarely stop. Um, I’m adventurous. And I love learning. I’m also very, like, brave. And then I think one of my best friends that worked closely with me would also describe me as something that’s someone that’s like a visionary, but doesn’t really think about the attention to detail. So I don’t really like stay organized. And sometimes it affects the team. Yeah.

Joshua Chin 9:05

Interesting. Do you have like a business integrator or a COO? Every role in your company?

Selene Dior 9:12

Um, I did. She is leaving.

Joshua Chin 9:18

I see.

Selene Dior 9:18

In three weeks.

Joshua Chin 9:19

Yeah. presume you’re looking for a replacement.

Selene Dior 9:23

Um, honestly, I’m not sure because we do have an Operations Coordinator which work under her. So I like a lot of it will go to her. It’s like she’s already doing it. So I’m kind of like weighing my pros and cons. And there are other areas that I kind of want to hire for first, like having someone more integrated into the business or finance and getting the supply chain sorted. And so I think I’m kind of looking for that first. So one was a lot of expertise in finance. Yeah.

Joshua Chin 9:55

Gotcha. Makes sense. Yeah. There we go. Because I, I’ve always been curious about businesses where the founder is, like one, like a no, like, either a visionary or an integrator. Right? Like, some of like, kind of built stuff, or some things really huge and comes over the radical ideas. Yeah. And it’s, it’s were really rare to find someone who has, like both. Yes. Um, so it often comes down to some kind of compromise in business, at least in my experience, because I know that I’m kind of like you, I’m super disorganized. I have ideas all over the place. I get, like, ideas I’m really excited about, but I have no way of turning that into reality without I know my partner. Right? Yeah. So

Selene Dior 10:50

Um it’s a learning curve. Like, I recently did a 360 with my team, where I have a life coach, and he kind of interviewed my team, and they give me like, concrete feedback on who I am as a leader. And I learned a lot. And I’m learning that I am a visionary. And I need to rely on my team to help me stay organized and bring my ideas to life, you know, and just having someone good, organized attention to detail to help me execute on the projects that I have in mind.

Joshua Chin 11:21

Interesting, what gave you the idea to hire a life coach, or coach to interview your team? Okay, like, unfiltered feedback on you what, who gave you that idea? That’s super interesting.

Selene Dior 11:35

So last year was a huge year of growth. For me. In Chinese culture, like, last year was the year of the ox, and I’m an ox, because I’m 98. But I have a really early birthday. So I’m maxing out Tiger. I, my mom’s like, this year is your year, but honestly, like, I didn’t feel like at all, like I like break down every other week. And it was just really tough because I grow my team to 20 people last year, and we hired like, I want to say at least like six or seven people around March till May. And it was just a lot. And last year was just a huge learning curve for me to be a better leader. And I never had to do that. Like I’m a solo founder. We had a small team, I just kind of like did everything as well manage every everything, but it was easier because we were smaller. So yeah, I had to learn a lot last year. And it was like really tough for me. So one of my friends. He, this life coach, like worked with like a lot of fortune 500 CEOs. So I was recommended him and we kind of like did a lot of like, inner work. And then when it comes to when it came to an end, it’s sort of a six month thing. The next step is like, okay, like, what else do you want to do, and I was like, I want to work on being a better leader. So he actually offered that, um, but the first step was to do a 360 to interview everyone you work really, really close with and your organization and to get their raw feedback. And the questions he asked was really in depth. And it really opened my eye on like, who I am as a leader, um, until like, just really hear that feedback. And read it out loud to yourself was like, yeah, it was was shocking. And like, honestly, really, really good for me.

Joshua Chin 13:19

What, um, P give us one example of or rather, what what do you think is the best question that’s been asked in that in that exercise?

Selene Dior 13:27

Yeah. And that exercise? I think the best question was, What does? Like she asked them like, what is saline do that raises your energy, and what does saline do that like zaps you out of your energy? And he did a 360 like one hour interview with everyone face to face. So it wasn’t just like them typing the answer out, he really dug in deep with everyone that was involved in the process and made sure that, you know, they weren’t just answering surface level things. He was also like, digging deep with them, and finding out answers or problems or whatnot. So like, that was really eye opening for me.

Joshua Chin 14:05

Um, yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah. You know, one of the one of the things that I’ve realized is that the the amount of growth that we experienced as entrepreneurs is incredible. But at the same time, when you kind of step away from what we’re doing on a day to day, day to day basis, it’s quite insane. Because when you look at the typical career progression, the career path of like, anyone, yeah, it takes people a years to become a manager and to become a manager off managers, and neither of those managers, yeah. Those layers take time. Right. I and I think in your shoes, I would say people typically take what 10 plus years to get to and you’re trying to achieve that In, like, four or less, yeah. So I like number one, kudos, I think you’re doing great. But second, just reflecting on that, I think it’s it’s really interesting to think about entrepreneurship as a vehicle for growth beyond the financials and all that stuff. Yeah, on some

Selene Dior 15:21

level. Yeah, everything is accelerated, like, things get thrown at you. And you even though you don’t know how to do it, you have to figure that out. And that takes years to figure that out.

Joshua Chin 15:33

You know, I think with with with that, one of the recent realizations that I’ve had is that it is unfair, and kind of unreasonable, to have the same level of expectations that we have on ourselves, put on the people that we work with, and the people that we hire. Yeah. Which is an interesting, really interesting dilemma. Because as entrepreneurs, you kind of expect to hire a players who think and behave at the same wavelength and levels as you do. Do you experience anything like that?

Selene Dior 16:12

Um, yeah, I’m actually I was offered a 361 of the biggest feedback, actually, not one of the biggest, but one of the common feedback was that people weren’t sure of the expectations I have of them in terms of like, work availability, because like, as a founder, you’re on it. 24/7, you’re available all the time. If someone asked me a question at like, I don’t know, 11:30pm, most likely, I’m going to be online. And I’m going to answer it. So for me, because I’m, like such a fast thinker. I like have so many ideas on my head in my head all the time. And I like to, usually ideas come when it’s outside of business hours, because that’s when people are not bombarding me with questions. So I get to like think, and then I would like Slack them at like 9,10, 11. And then like, then I realized people actually were, like, kind of stressed that they weren’t answering on time, or they think that it’s something urgent, but really, it’s just me spilling out my idea. So that I don’t forget. So that was like one of the feedback that I got from my staffs, which they’re like, yeah, like, I’m not sure. Like, when I’m, like, expected to be online, it is like always. So I think having that boundary with staff is really good. So now I’m learning to schedule my slack messages. So that they go out at 9am The next day,

Joshua Chin 17:34

but that’s a great feature. Yeah. No messages thing on Slack. Yeah,

Selene Dior 17:39

scheduling messaging. Yeah. So definitely, I think, um, in the very beginning, I did kind of expect people to always kind of be there to answer me, like, whenever, especially, there’s a, like, there’s a few roles that are kind of like that, like social media manager, you’re kind of just Yeah, always like on the spot, like posting like paying attention, reposting stories. So like, I kind of expected that role to kind of be like, always available. But always everyone is like that, you know, some people do want to work all the time. Some people want to do nine to five. And that’s it. And I respect that.

Joshua Chin 18:14

Make sense? Yeah. What’s the what’s the greatest mental hurdle hurdle that you have to overcome? Seeing the recent in 2021?

Selene Dior 18:27

Yeah mental hurdle. Um, the biggest one, I would say, is realizing that the decisions I make and the things I do, don’t just affect me anymore. It affects so many people, and there’s so many different things that ties into it. For example, if I do a last minute, like flash sale, or whatever, I need to, like inform our Threepio I need to think about customer service volume, I need to make sure like people are online to answer questions. And I need to like do this, do that. Whereas before, because our team is so small, I’m like, Okay, let’s do a flash sale and one hour like boom, emails done SMS done social media post on pay, let’s make it live. And the biggest hurdle for me was that because it was so much fun for me to just be able to do something so like on the dot, and turn my ideas into reality, so quick, the turnover time, but now you have like 20 people that you can’t do things the same way anymore. And it doesn’t just affect me affects everyone. And I had the hardest time relating that information back to my brain that Oh, right. I need to inform these people that I’m doing this.

Joshua Chin 19:37

That is something that I’ve experienced as well, like thinking third, like second and third order consequences. I know that’s that’s easy, but when you have to think about like the next thing that happens after before. Oh, yeah, that’s, that’s I know. Yeah. All right. So I’m one of one The roles that we recently created internally is the chief of staff role. And he’s a staff, our chief of staff reports to me as an individual that operates kind of independently of everyone. So this person kind of sits in the middle of everything that’s happening. The eyes and ears of what’s happening on the ground, especially since we’re a remote company. Yeah, we don’t actually have eyes and ears on the ground. Like literally, so this person kind of things and considers the decisions that I make, and how that actually impacts the different department organization. Yeah, exactly. That’s crazy. They would then kind of just stop me and say, Hey, this cool idea. But have you thought about what’s going to happen to mark thing when you do this? And? Yeah, so that’s. Yeah, yeah, I represent I, I have a, there’s a great article on. I believe it’s HBr. That talks about chief of staff, and the different versions of that, that and how it manifests in different types of companies, or senators. It’s really cool. And also a link in the show notes. asked me what, what is fueling you right now? What drives you? And considering what? Or rather what, what drove you in 2021? Versus what drove you at the beginning? hasn’t changed at all? Mm hmm.

Selene Dior 21:39

That’s a deep question. So what drove me what drives me now? And what drove me before when I started?

Joshua Chin 21:45


Selene Dior 21:46

um, I think what drove me in the beginning is my sense of zero knowledge. And my my passion of like, talking to customers, and really like, building that community and understanding like, what people want, what people don’t like, and talking to them. And then now, I think my biggest driver is, is the community and I, it really hasn’t changed. If anything is like more of a priority of mine. Now, all of our plans this year has to do with building community, like even more. We have a super strong community, our return customer rate is usually over 40%. And for apparel, I think that’s pretty good. And, yeah, my goal this year is to continue. Thank you, building a community and inviting advise me because I know that I’m making a difference, whether that’s like talking to customers, or just simply like commenting, or showing up on Instagram feed, or just really building a community where people feel safe, and that can talk to each other. And then to be able to inspire people to do whatever they want to do. Whether that’s being an entrepreneur or being a teacher, or whatever. I think that was like, my main like passion. And that’s what I really want to focus on this year as well.

Joshua Chin 23:15

And shout out to your show the CEO Talk. Yeah, go check that out, guys. It’s on YouTube. Apple podcasts, Spotify. Thank you. Really cool. Well produced show.

Selene Dior 23:33

to have you on it.

Joshua Chin 23:34

What’s the go? I love to come on. What’s the thought process behind that? Show? i You are super busy. And you’re scaling super, super fast. Why take the time to film? The show? Yeah, so

Selene Dior 23:51

I want to do it for so long. Um, I just love networking with people. And last last year, no, yeah, last year, the beginning of last year, and also the end of 2020. I would say everyone was kind of like cooped up at home working from home. It was a big shift in everyone’s lives. And I like was missing that networking. And I just kind of like DM founders that I admire, like their brands. And I just like, want like talk to them. I was like, hey, like, I love what you’re doing. And a lot of times, like Vitae also collabs with other brands on like giveaways and whatever. And I would just like try and find the founder, then I like DM them and be like, Hey, want to like love your brand, want to hop on a zoom call? And I did a few I did like I think five to six and I was like wait a sec, I could have just recorded all this. Like, all the stuff we talked about was so useful and so inspiring not to just me, I think for the other person that I’m talking to as well. Yeah, and I think especially for for women, it’s a little bit hard to get out there. Like I can be extra for if I need to, but I feel like for us like we usually, you know, like head down like do our thing. At least Like the friend group that I’m in, they’re kind of like that. So it like takes a lot of energy for them to just come out, step out of their comfort zone and reach out to people. So I did that. And I was like, Oh, wow, this, this was like fun. And so I, I last year, I was also working with my life coach. And part of that is to like, find what I’m passionate about, and what I really want to do and what I do that brings like people energy and joy, and one of that is inspiring people. And like telling my story and like helping other people, so I kind of like fueled me, I was like, okay, like, fuck it, I’m gonna do it. And so I just do it for fun. And I want to do it like, twice a month. And, yeah, so that’s how I kind of like, squeeze time out to do it, because I see as a hobby.

Joshua Chin 25:48

I love that. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think the inertia for female entrepreneurs to kind of stand out and be out there is a little bit higher. Yeah. At least from from my perspective, as well. One of the one of the issues that I’ve kind of explored in a couple of previous episodes is that I’m in the, like, the, I guess, a stereotype of female entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurship is that I’m building a business not for profit, not for the money’s nice, but not for the money. Yeah, I think that language, that language has been used a lot in the female entrepreneurship space. I personally don’t like that. Yeah, I think the male kind of the male dominated dominated industries. If you look at like affiliate marketing, for example, which is a heavily male dominated industry. Yeah, it’s all about money. It’s all about making its profits. It’s money. It’s, there’s no shame in that. I think that it has to come into the female entrepreneurship space a little bit more, because it’s, there is no shame in wanting to make good profit. With no offer you there is no impact. I think more people need to talk about that.

Selene Dior 27:17

Totally. I agree. Um, yeah, I struggle I have to is like sometimes when I, when I talk to like other female entrepreneurs, I don’t know if they’re, like not willing to share or they just like they don’t I just don’t feel that they’re as driven as if I’m talking to a male founder. And that’s, that’s an issue, I think, is I think people shouldn’t be ashamed about like talking about numbers and talking about, like, the nitty gritty of things and like, be excited for scaling and growing. And I think that, yeah, more women should you know, be comfortable doing that and being as transparent as like, a lot of like, male founders are.

Joshua Chin 27:54

Exactly. And look, you’re crushing it. There are tons of female founders. I know they’re crushing it. I’ve had Kara Goldin on the show. Pentwater. She’s a badass. Wow, read her book, by the way. And undaunted, so good. Yeah, talks about the story, how she broke into an industry that she has absolutely no clue about. And now it does, like 100 mil over a year. True headwater. It’s a crazy story. But I think that has to be the norm. Right? The female entrepreneurship conversation. Community, let’s talk about community because I think you, you’ve done a really, really good job at building a community that not only has a kind of a unified mission and identity, but also is super profitable for your business, which is very hard to do, because I’ve seen brands and then the community aspect really well, but they make no money from it. Or vice versa. They make a ton of like a lot of money, but there isn’t community and there’s no repeat purchases. Right. So what are, I guess? My question is, is this what are some of the uncommon ways that you have used to build and retain a strong community that is also profitable, for business?

Selene Dior 29:11

Uncommon ways

Joshua Chin 29:15

are common that people

Selene Dior 29:18

I think, honestly, everything I do isn’t rocket science. So like, for us building a community, the most important thing is to be consistent. Don’t like give up don’t post like once every day for the whole week, then like next week, you’re you disappear. People want to be engaged with you and they want to see you there all the time. And even if it’s just every other day, even if it’s something short, that you came up with last minute, it doesn’t matter. Just be present and be there, you know. And then the other biggest thing is really listening to your community. We very much involved in them in our like design process or picking colors, picking styles like hey, which one do you like more? People love that they love to be involved in the company. And they want to see that the company is not just a company, it’s a team of people, real people behind it. And us, you know, doing behind the scenes or popping on Instagram story or like just replying to comments like from our personal accounts like that does a lot to our community. And it really keeps them together. And something else that we did really well is we, we build our ambassador program, and we went, like out of our way to try and make it better. A lot of people just have the ambassador program. And it’s simple, like everyone pretty much has it. You just you they earn commission, they share their discount code, and they get some perks. But for us, we dove deep into it for the last two and a half years to try and find the best ways to make our company more interactive. So make them be able to earn more rewards, spend the rewards that they actually want to spend, how can they be more involved in the company, and what exclusive perks they get. For example, we’re dropping collection next week. And the ambassadors actually designed a product from scratch. Like they pick the color, they pick the design, and they pick the colorway. And it’s only going to be exclusive to our ambassadors like that’s exclusive product and they love that. They always get early access as well. Yeah. So just doing going out of your way to treat your community as your VIP customers, even if they’re not a VIP customer yet, like treat them that way. And they will feel it and they’ll appreciate it. No, come back and support you. And always tie everything back to your brand messaging and who you are. And don’t forget that even though we switched from swim to fitness, our messaging didn’t change. So we didn’t like lose our loyal customers. Just because we shift our focus for our products, right? Um, yeah, and showing up regularly. That really helps.

Joshua Chin 31:55

It’s the boring stuff. You’re telling them?

Selene Dior 32:00

It’s the boring stuff. You just need to do it.

Joshua Chin 32:02

I know. Yeah. Got it. Yeah. What’s your advice for brands that are trying to build a community from scratch? Right now? Let’s say they’re making it right there. They’re doing well on the front end? They have no community, the Facebook group, no email lists, no, nothing. What would he What would you recommend?

Selene Dior 32:24

Yeah, I will say actually, um, Joshua, and I had a call before Christmas few months ago, and you introduced me to tap cart. And like, honestly, like lit my like brain on fire. And I was like, Oh, my God, I want to do an app for the longest time. But in my brain, I was like, Oh, we’re gonna have to pay 2030 grand for someone to code an app. And then you introduce me to top part, and I pretty much like signed on within a week. So now we’re like building it out. And for that I’m building on an app not because I want it to be convenient for people to shop. Obviously, that is the case. But I also want the app to include a lot of exclusive things like exclusive workout challenge recipes, journal prompts, like meditation, playlists, like things like that, that are tied into our messaging. And that will show our community that you know, you are here, and we are providing you with value. And we’re not just selling your product. And we’re not just like another fitness apparel company. So like that’s in the pipeline. So I’m really excited about that. And, yeah, so So like for our community, it’s not just Instagram or just Facebook group, or just email or just SMS is everything tied together. I think for any other brand to start out, I think having a some sort of a private like Facebook group or Instagram page would be a good place to start if you are very social media focus. If your audience is not on there building like a private email list and call it something interesting like for us, we call one of our email lists, like Vitae insider club. So then they get exclusively email content. Same with like SMS make things exclusive and make it really valuable. So people do want to join. For us we have all the channels, I just listed Facebook group, Instagram, private page, email, SMS, now building an app. So I think you have to see where your audiences and make your main channel there. For us, it is Instagram. So our private Instagram pages like where we do most of the updates and news and interact with people. But we also have a Facebook group for our community members that are a little bit older that are on Facebook more than we also have email and SMS. Just so you know, people don’t miss out if like their feed, they can’t see it on their feed or they miss the Facebook group posts. So we kind of hit them from like,everywhere.

Joshua Chin 34:50

Makes sense? It sounds like you’re making fun, the boring stuff fun. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s the tough part. tags are amazing tool. I think it’s been under the radar for a long time to get introduced tapper to me, his name is Van Oakes, he ran Diesel Power gear crazy company, crazy, crazy, successful and super profitable company that gives away basically a truck every single month crazy business model. But yeah, so he was one of the early adopters of the of TAP card. And I think we’re one of the earliest agency partners of CatCard. Before they even kind of have an agency program, right. And now they’re kind of going full force on growth, because they recently took funding and lots of fun stuff happening. One thing to to look out for partake, I don’t think that this has been shared anywhere yet, but not clips. So one of the biggest hurdles with mobile apps is the adoption. It’s really high commitment to follow an app and have it live on your phone. So typically only works for existing audiences. Audience Yeah, which makes it very difficult to grow a mobile app program. But with applets, what, what it actually is is basically a pre loaded version of the app that plays automatically via iMessage, or email or SMS, with just one tap of the button. Like what is just one tap. It works for iOS. So that is super interesting. And I think that could at least help bridge the gap. That hurdle of not knowing what to expect with downloading an app and actually experiencing it first before committing to downloading it. So you can actually complete the checkout process. Yeah. Which is really cool. Yeah, that’s crazy. Selene, what’s next for Vitae Apparel? What can we expect from from you in 2022.

Selene Dior 37:13

Um, I think this year, we are actually doubling down on processes. I realized last year, how unorganized we are and how important having processes in place instructors in place and SOPs, lots of communication between departments, and also within departments is like really important. So this year, we are doubling down on that building out a lot of structural things to make the team work more efficiently. For our brand, we are dropped models, basically, we drop a collection every like 30 to 45 days, and we repeat the same process like every pretty much month. So we are really nailing down the process, because we do it so often and making it like, you know, like second nature. So that’s kind of like what I’m focusing on. And then on the backhand side of things that I mentioned earlier, which is having really strong finance department, and to kind of help us like project cash flow and whatnot, I think. I know like last year was a huge issue with like supply chain and all that and it really hurt a lot of I know a lot of Amazon sellers were hurt. And a lot of DTC brands were also struggling. So I think having that finance part strong for forecasting, and budgeting and whatnot for the economy coming up, I think will be really helpful. And in terms of marketing, we are doing more collaborations with influencers. And we’re designing collections with them. And we’re this last year, we dropped our first one, and it did really, really well. So this year, we have two in the pipeline, and one with another brand. And then for next year, we have a heavy hitter YouTuber that we are currently talking with on a collaboration collection as well. So I think that’s going to be a focus of ours. And then obviously building out that app and really diving even deeper into a community building and having that higher retention rate for customers. acquisition cost is going up now on every platform, so why not, you know, spend the money on keeping them, you know, so that’s like, kind of where my plans are at.

Joshua Chin 39:29

Oh, that’s a good quote right there. Love that. Yeah. All right. Final question for you. So yeah, I I’m a big fan of good questions. I believe that question. The quality of questions dictate the quality of our lives. What is the best question that you’ve asked yourself in? In the past one year or so? Yeah.

Selene Dior 39:58

First question I asked myself Um, I think I think the best question I asked myself last year was, what am I passionate about? And what am I here to, like, bring to the world, basically, um, I was so in the business, I mean, I still am. But now I feel better. And I have a better picture of where I want to be, I want to work on the business and not in it, and like, how do I get there? And how can I get there, so I can do more things that I am passionate about. And that like, you know, like, one of our company values is driven by passion. And I live it and breathe it. And I want to actually really showcase that to the team and our community as well. So yeah, I think really sitting down and defining, okay, like, where do I want to be for this company? Like, what do I really want to do. And for me, I was able to identify that I really, really want to build out the community and be in the community and just basically, not being the face of it, but thinking of like, new creative ways into making our customers and our community fuel that we are not just a brand, and we’re valuable and provide lots of knowledge and content, and things that they can like us outside of just wearing a fitness apparel. That is like what I’m focusing on and what I’m passionate about. So I think that like really helped me.

Joshua Chin 41:24

I love that. Yeah, everything you’ve achieved. It’s incredible. I think from just from an outsider’s perspective, I think you’ve done super well. And I’m excited to see where you bring your company and your your growth in 2022 and beyond.

Selene Dior 41:44

Thank you so much.

Joshua Chin 41:45

Yeah, and I think it’s only just the beginning. You’re 23 I think, yeah, when you’re 33 in 10 years, that’s a long time to get to 33 Yeah. 10 years. So yeah, I mean, what’s the best way to contact you for people who are interested in getting a touch connecting with you learn more about you and, and stuff?

Selene Dior 42:10

Yeah, my Instagram. You can DM me, It’s missss.dior. So it’s M I with four seses, ss ss dot and then Diorr D IO RR with two R’s. I’m sure Josh will link it in the show notes. And also you can reach me via email Dior@Vitaeapparel.com

Joshua Chin 42:32

Awesome. So yeah, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for being on the show.

Selene Dior 42:36

Thank you so much.

Outro 42:41

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