FYI’s Younique Series
We feature real people with interesting jobs in unique workplaces.
This issue we speak to Nazish Hussain, founder of Secret Stash
Q/- How did the idea of your company come about?
I was travelling abroad in 2013 and while in San Francisco, I happened upon a lot of high-end vintage shops. I thought the concept was absolutely fantastic where one could buy slightly used original designer products at a discount and simultaneously if they had things they weren’t using they could sell them off. I kept thinking why something like this didn’t exist in Pakistan. The thought stayed with me and after a few months, I left my corporate job and started working on the idea. Keeping my digital media background in mind and understanding that the future of retail was e-commerce and also being aware of cultural sensitivities, I knew it had to be online and it had to be anonymous. I officially launched Secret Stash on December 1st 2014.
Q/- How would you describe your journey so far?
My entrepreneurial journey has definitely been a rollercoaster. Coming from a corporate background and being a first time entrepreneur and a solo founder, my initial years were tough. Not only was I navigating building a business from scratch but I was also introducing a completely new concept of “re-commerce” where we were actually building a market itself from scratch. Not making a salary made it hard to stay motivated. So when I got some consulting work I decided to work on Secret Stash part time. I kept at it but was working on various other projects and it took me 2 years to realize if I wanted to make Secret Stash work I had to go all in. I stopped everything else and it was definitely the best decision I made and I haven’t looked back since.
Q/- How would you describe a typical day at work?
It’s a mix of strategic and operational work intermixed with customers coming in for appointments (we give this option to our buyers and sellers in Karachi). I’ve tried to give my day more structure where I try to work on strategy, marketing or data analysis (depends what I’m looking at in that moment) in the first half while in the second half it’s operational stuff, working with the team to update the website.
Q/- As compared to earlier years, do you feel there is a change in how you approach your work?
There’s definitely been a major change since when I started. I’m no longer working from my dining table for one (we have a separate office now). I’ve also established fixed office hours and am working full time only on my own business. I also have a team of like-minded people on-board versus when I started when I was doing everything myself working at whatever time suited me. I think getting systems in place and being more disciplined and of course, now having a team has been the key to our growth.
Q/- How important is it to have a good team working with you?
Having a good team working with you is fundamental for any company to grow. Finding the right people to join Secret Stash has been challenging. But I have some good, like-minded people on board now as it’s so important to be able to connect with people you spend so much time with and in Secret Stash’s case actually get the concept as well.
Q/- What would you say remains the biggest challenge in your line of work?
We have to be really careful when it comes to authenticity. As we grow we have a lot more items coming in on a daily basis to sell which means we’re getting a lot more cases of fakes. We try to be very vigilant on this front and if we even have a 1% inkling of doubt then we won’t accept it. Secret Stash has been built on trust and I want to ensure even as we grow that we don’t lose this key element of our business.
Q/- What does success mean to you? Do you believe there is a universal benchmark or do we set our own standards of success?
There’s definitely not a universal benchmark or definition for success. For me, success is when someone I don’t know has heard of Secret Stash – it’s always exciting and still gives me a sense of pride when strangers recognize the brand and give me positive feedback motivating me and reinforcing why I do what I do.
Q/- What would you say has been your biggest success?
One of my biggest successes has been getting accepted into the Alibaba & UNCTAD eFounders fellowship program. It was an incredible opportunity where I got to spend 2.5 weeks in China at the Alibaba headquarters and learned firsthand how Alibaba became one of the leading companies in the world along with networking with other inspiring founders from across Asia who were part of the program and of course getting the chance to meet and hear Jack Ma speak.
Q/- What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Happy and satisfied customers. When our customers have a good experience and they inform us it reinforces that we’re doing something right and keeps us motivated.
Q/- What makes you stand apart from your contemporaries?
We guarantee anonymity where it’s such a key part of our business that it’s even part of our name. We don’t reveal a buyer or seller’s identity under any circumstances – keeping this privacy is something that a lot of our customers have come to appreciate. One of the other things we’re very particular about which differentiates us is that we try to be as honest and give as much detail as possible about the condition of items that are listed on our website. Because they’re pre-owned and we have customers across Pakistan who are shopping online we want to ensure they get exactly what they see. We have a certain standard and don’t take everything but this candid feedback has ensured that we now have thousands of loyal customers buying and selling with us on a regular basis across Pakistan.