In this episode of Good Business, Susannah Jaffer, founder of ZERRIN, shares her story building the platform by obsessively catering to your customer.
Get ready to discover the world of sustainable fashion with Susannah from ZERRIN on the Good Business Podcast!
From her personal journey towards sustainability to the evolution of ZERRIN’s business model, Susannah shares some amazing insights. Learn why convenience is driving fast fashion sales, how ZERRIN’s media platform took off, and the challenges faced while building a holistic business. Don’t miss out on Susannah’s inspiring story and tips for building your own sustainable business.
Tune in now to the Good Business Podcast!
In this conversation, we learnt…
– How ZERRIN was founded (03:14 – 06:31)
– Susannah’s personal sustainability journey (06:38 – 14:55)
– Why getting branding support early on was important (14:57 – 17:09)
– Why folk are still buying from fast fashion brands like Shein despite growing awareness about the impact of fashion on the environment (18:12 – 23:24)
– How the different pillars of ZERRIN – the e-commerce platform, media page and studio evolved (24:31 – 29:21)
– The key challenges faced by Susannah (29:40 – 35:12)
– How she became a LinkedIn Top Voice (35:58- 38:44)
– The current pop-up Rethink, Refresh, Reset (44:29 – 46:53)
“It started to feel like what was the point in this continual cycle of consumption that I was perpetuating, through my role as an editor and at the same time involved in as a consumer.” (10:02)
Having come from the UK, where Susannah had experienced a more established retail market including British High Street brands like River Island, Topshop, Primark. She was now seeing these companies moving to Singapore, which didn’t have anything meaningful at their core. She got tired of the cycle, started to question her role, and ultimately aim to add more value by advocating for something more meaningful.
“And ultimately, what fast fashion, fast food, fast anything represents is convenience.” (21:10)
When discussing why Gen Zs are still shopping from fast fashion brands such as Shien is that there are many core factors that all amount to convenience. Specifically, it is more accessible, affordable, and size-inclusive. Given the pocket of the younger generation, it is harder for them to spend on the more sustainable but more expensive brands at the moment.
“Our business model evolved based on demand.” (22:18)
ZERRIN began as a simple curated marketplace, launching in 2016 ended with 14 brands and a regularly populated blog. As there was a gap in terms of content and education about sustainable fashion, the media side took off. Finally, as they grew, customers started reaching out to help them create content, and therefore Susannah developed ZERRIN Studio.
“I’ve been obsessively driven by what value that my platform is bringing, whether it’s B2C or B2B.” (25:30)
Susannah is driven by ensuring she is bringing value to her customers and consumers. As such, by listening to her customers, she gauged that consumers want to feel and experience the clothes before they buy. So, she started pop-up stores and in-house pop-ups and created a series of events. So that they were completely own-branded, rather than joining other fairs or pop-ups in Singapore.
“I’ve really had to stretch myself in terms of the time that I spend on the business, the skills that I have to adopt and learn, many of which have come sort of on the fly” (27:05)
When asked about the challenges she faced, Susannah talked about how beginning a startup involved a lot of expanding and learning. In the early days, she was a one-man band, and at later stages, there were the struggles of finding the right person. Given the number of different pillars and the holistic way ZERRIN approaches the industry, requires finding multifaceted people who can work across different sides of things.
“I’ve always had this really supportive community of industry and brands who have been our sounding boards” (30:49)
Despite building the business solo, and then with a small team, Susannah mentions that she’s been super lucky to be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs. It’s an unexpected benefit of the business model that has created a really beautiful community of customers, readers and brands. They’ve helped to support each other and develop what they’re working on.
Chris Edwards (00:03)
Welcome to Good business, a weekly podcast to help you create a business that is good for people planet and the profit line. I’m Chris Edwards, I’m a serial entrepreneur. I created my first business honey comas when I was at the tender age of 28. And that business is a lifestyle guide to Singapore, Hong Kong and Bali, and now employs over 30 people across four countries. Last year, I founded a new business called Launchpad, which is a community movement designed to support entrepreneurs who aspire to create conscious companies. Launchpad has members across six countries and runs around about 30 events. Every month, we run masterclasses coaching and connection calls, as well as peer group sessions. On this podcast, we’re going to explore the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial ride and understand how successful and clever innovators and business leaders bring people planet and profit line together to build better businesses. What does it really take to create Heartland business? Join me and together we’re going to find out. Before I get into it, I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that I’m recording this podcast on Bundjalung country, I pay my respects to the elders past and present. And I extend my respects to all traditional cultures. Okay, let’s get into it.
My next guest is Susanna Jaffer, She is the CEO of zeren. Sarin is a digital platform as well as a creative studio, as well as an E commerce platform. That’s all around sustainable fashion and jewellery. And they’re designed to empower citizens and brands to choose better. I have known Suzanna for quite a few years now. And I have loved watching her tackle the enormous challenge, and really lead the way in sustainability and become a leading voice in sustainability in Singapore. And this chat today is great because we talk about everything from her business and all the facets and how she manages it all to also just how the world is working, why Gen Z’s are buying fast fashion, what we can do about it, and what we need to think about as people that are leading businesses today. Let’s jump into it.
Chris Edwards (02:35)
Susannah, thank you so much for joining me here. It’s such a pleasure.
Susannah Jaffer (02:39)
Great to be here. Thanks, Chris.
Chris Edwards (02:41)
We first met many moons ago, I think I interviewed you and I tried to get you to come and join honeycombers. This was the first time we met. Do you remember that?
Susannah Jaffer (02:52)
Yes, I remember with honey brides. Yeah,
Chris Edwards (02:56)
That’s right. One of my not so successful business enterprises, it no longer exists. Yeah. And then we’ve crossed paths quite a few times. And yeah, it’s been really, really wonderful seeing what you’ve created. And why don’t we start there? Why don’t you share with everyone? What is ZERRIN?
Susannah Jaffer (03:15)
Sure. So, thank you so much for having me. It feels a little bit like a coming full circle chat with you right now. Yeah, so Zerrin is a curated marketplace and media platform that champions independent designers and conscious consumption. So a little bit about the journey, I guess, we started back at the end of 2017, as a small online marketplace, and a more regularly populated blog. And the whole goal was really to empower people to feel more connected to what they buy. And at the same time champion, this new wave of emerging designers that I had discovered throughout my career, which was working in media, fashion, and retail. And yeah, so that’s what we are now on how we started. So our business model has grown, expanded, diversified into b2c and b2b. But the whole goal is to yeah, really demystify sustainable consumption. Talk about all of its nuances on the media side, and really provide a platform that can help independent designers and emerging brands thrive, reach new audiences. And we do that through our E commerce marketplace and offline retail.
Chris Edwards (04:41)
And how long ago did you start ZERRIN?
Susannah Jaffer (04:43)
It’s now five years, so the end of 2017. We literally pressed live on the site like December. So a lot of the first media coverage of the brand I look back on is sort of December, January. 2018 like that first quarter of the year, which was, you know, great, we were really happy to receive support, I think, because we were at the time launching the platform were, well, at a time where there was just not a lot of focus on sustainability, product wise, within the fashion, retail beauty wellness space, generally in in Singapore, and I would say also in wider Southeast Asia. So I think just purely because of the novelty of what we were talking about and the difference, we were able to get quite a lot of local media support, which I’m quite grateful for. But it was also definitely an uphill climb in terms of educating and finding our narrative. I think, as a business, that was definitely a conscious and a conscious effort to re curate our narrative based on what I understood, people were also understanding best and how they were receiving our message best. I was very much coming from a place of also on my own sustainability journey, and wanting my platform to help trigger the journeys of other people. So I was also evolving in my thought, around what sustainability, sustainable consumption, sustainable fashion actually was. And it still is,
Chris Edwards (06:31)
yeah, I’d love to just dig a little bit deeper there. Can you share what triggered your journey into the sustainability space
Susannah Jaffer 06:38
For sure. So contextually, I moved to Singapore in 2012, when I was 21, a broke Uni student, literally a fresh graduate. And I had a job offer in Singapore, actually, for a teaching role, an English teaching role. And when I got here, basically the visa fell through for this teaching role. And I ended up actually at a PR agency doing an internship because there was a work Holiday visa, I could apply for last minute, I had six, seven months to legally work in Singapore, until I had to, you know, find another option, which was ultimately finding another full time job. So I ended up in the PR industry, which was my crash course to the media, industry and fashion, beauty brands lifestyle in general in Singapore. That’s when I started to learn about all of the different media companies like honeycombers, and all of the different platforms that are out there and the very early stages of influences, which really back then people were still calling bloggers, I think. And actually, at the time, I also had a fashion blog. And that’s how I actually met the PR agency I ended up doing an internship with and yes, so I started in PR eventually moved to magazines, I started working at expat living magazine, and was there for about five and a half years collectively, and was managing, worked my way up from sort of a junior editor position through to managing the fashion and beauty sections. Later on, I launched a supplement magazine that was a monthly supplement, which expanded on fashion and beauty and wellness. And later on, I helped to do their creative direction and bridge design and graphic design and, you know, help with covers and choosing. So I had a very nebulous and wide and broad role. And it was focused on fashion, and also the storytelling, eventually storytelling of entrepreneurs, which I was able to do through this supplement and interview a lot of inspiring, inspiring people. And throughout this five year journey, I just had a bit of an internal shift in terms of how I perceived the fashion industry, and the cycle of consumption in general because I was viewing it through two lenses, both as a professional from an editor perspective of you know, writing about products and brands and people and then at the same time on a consumer level where it was me choosing what I brands I support to buy things that I liked, etc. So, coming at it from two, these kinds of different lenses. I realised that over time, I was feeling a little bit jaded with that cycle, both personally and professionally. I felt like I was writing about, you know, mainstream brands that kind of didn’t really have, didn’t really feel like there was a lot of meaning behind what they were putting out in terms of collections or narrative because I’m just very big on like, storytelling as coming from media. That’s like, what I love and I felt like just the language and narrative was just so cyclical and so repetitive. And it started to feel like what was the point in this continual cycle of consumption that I was perpetuating, through my role as an editor and at the same time involved in as a consumer. And coming from the UK, I come from a more established retail market with your you know, your great British High Street, I grew up with shopping, you know, your river islands are Topshop, Primark, you know, all of these fast fashion brands that I once loved and patronise, I grew up with the boom of a sauce. I remember when boohoo launched, you know, all of these different platforms that shaped me, as a consumer, moving to Singapore, and working in this different market, eventually, I just, I think I just grew tired of that cycle and started to question, therefore, what my role was in the industry, and how I could add value and enjoy my work, while still, you know, advocating something that felt more meaningful. And really where I discovered that was through started discovering, that I should say, was through the lens of learning about and working with and spotlighting emerging brands within the southeast Asia, Singapore market. And these were designers that were just very different in terms of, okay, size these were all smaller businesses and smaller brands that by, by and large, but they were just intrinsically more connected to how their product was made, where it came from, their whole supply chain, you know, the materials that they were using many brands had a social impact as well, in terms of the way the reason why they were creating products was to give back to certain communities or to provide work for, you know, X, Y Zed in this country. And that was just not, we’re talking now, you know, 2014 15, this was just not the narrative of mainstream fashion brands, whether you’re talking fast fashion to luxury, everything has changed. Now, people are talking about, you know, sustainability, and they’re going deeper with their communications in terms of where things are coming from, and the reasons why certain collections are created. It’s not just about this key creative director or designer’s inspiration and like Fluffy, fluffy columns, you know what I mean, things are deeper now. But back then, it wasn’t so much I felt, and these brands just provided a completely different viewpoint. And it was so refreshing and inspiring for me. And again, on a consumer level, I started to support more of these brands. And professionally, I wanted to have these brands known more, because really, I identified that they were struggling with marketing and brand awareness. And also just aligned channels to either sell their product or to feature them basically. And there was only so much I could do in my role as a magazine where, which is very heavily dictated by advertisers. And again, the advertising scene, everything has changed again. But I think that was the initial spark really behind there, and all of that those accumulation of experiences, discovering these amazing brands and designers that had this alternative. And at the time, I wasn’t using the word sustainability in my like, mainstream vocabulary. I was just struck by the sense of connection to place and people and planet. And that was what I then came to understand the sustainability and social impact and started educating myself. Yeah, that was all the initial spark was there.
Chris Edwards (14:00)
So you built it yourself?
Susannah Jaffer (14:02)
Yeah, pretty much I had help with its branding. So there are a few key things that I invested in. One was branding. So I had worked with a small boutique agency to help with my branding. Because even though I had a, I felt like I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, or I had a very strong idea, I should say, not necessarily super clear, but strong in terms of inspiration and values, and colours, and all of these kinds of things. I felt like that was going to be really, really important, because my research that I’d done was actually, you know, in the lead up to Zerrin, I was looking at concepts like Zerrin and other countries. What I felt most about Zerrin is that and the reason why we called the platform Zerrin was because I wanted to create a space that anyone could feel like they could come to to shop and discover and learn about conscious consumption and support emerging designers. And knowing that I wanted our platform to be very design style and quality driven. I chose the name because I didn’t want to put my customer in a box knowing that sustainable fashion. And the idea and concept of sustainability here was mindset wise behind other geographies. I thought that that would be the best step. But I needed help from an agency to help me to bring that or an external, someone external to help me to kind of just get those ideas down properly.
Chris Edwards (15:37)
Yeah. And and an external eye on your business is so valuable. I mean, I still do it today. 15 years in, I still get someone to come in and sit down with me and just spend an hour helping me with an external lens. I’ve got lots of questions for you. I don’t know not I like so much to go. So so many places. One question I really want to ask you is, so you, you started very early on in Asia, you were probably one of the pioneers? Well, you were a pioneer in this space. And sustainability is a little bit slower in its movement in Asia versus other parts of the world. But just looking globally, for a minute, what I don’t understand and I’m hoping you can unpack is we know consumers are becoming more value led, we know that there’s a lot of eco anxiety and, and concern about climate change, particularly with Gen Zed, but we also know they’re still flocking to fast fashion. So can you help explain this to me?
Susannah Jaffer (16:40)
Yeah, you know, sustainability in itself as a topic is super nuanced. And it’s very tied in the adoption of sustainability is very tied into political infrastructure, socio economic factors, whatever country wherever you’re trying to pinpoint the reasons for, or, or, you know, where the sustainable fashion movement is in any particular country. Right. I think that, for Singapore, what was clear to me was that the ideas of what sustainability was, however you want to apply it fashion, lifestyle home, you know, even infrastructure wise, was more nascent in many respects than it is in other countries. And now, yes, what I’ve noticed in my last journey of five years is that there has been a big shift in terms of both b2b and b2c mindset and adoption of sustainable practices, and appetite and interest in consuming products from or services that are more sustainability, social impact orientated. I think that really, I mean, you talk about Gen Z versus maybe millennial versus how different people are adopting sustainability or or receiving that message. I mean, that is the one thing that I forget sometimes because we have a lot of Gen Z readership who follow our platform and support our content and share our content, but they don’t necessarily shop with us because our products are of a higher price range. So you know, $100 a night. But if I look back and think about what I was buying, when I was a teenager, it was that I was shopping at fast fashion, I was shopping for, you know, a sauce or boohoo where I could buy a dress for $20. Because I didn’t have a lot of money. You know what I mean? It was either an allowance that my parents gave me, or eventually, when I started part time work, I had, you know, two, three days a week that I was working part time, I had a small amount of money that I could spend for myself. So I think we have to think of that when it comes to what brands Gen Z are supporting now. And that’s why you see for Gen Z right now, in terms of the sustainability movement, you see a lot of support for thrifting, and secondhand, and swapping. And that is because that is honestly the next most affordable thing to fast fashion. So socio economically and just where Gen Z are at in terms of age and spending power right now, I think that that needs to be factored in and remembered when we discuss where sustainable fashion is, and why, you know, Gen Z are very conscious of climate change and issues that are happening sustainability wise, social impact wise, but they’re not necessarily buying from these big brands, or, you know, smaller independent brands now, they will you know, what I mean, in my opinion, when they grow into the income level where that becomes an option, and more accessible to them.
Chris Edwards (19:49)
Yeah, and I suppose these fast fashion businesses, they’re very smart, they’ve got huge marketing budgets, they’ve got very attractive things in their windows that change very frequently. So you know, it’s also a little bit like, you know, try not to eat the candy, but the candy looks really attractive. I had a really great analogy the other day, that said, you should think about buying clothing, like getting a tattoo, because it lasts just as long. And I thought that was really clever, you know, because I do think there is a mindset shift that needs to happen with that clothing – that it’s not a throwaway item. And you know,
Susannah Jaffer (20:23)
Chris Edwards (20:24)
it’s gotten so cheap, though,
Susannah Jaffer 20:28
Totally, it’s scary. Yeah. And ultimately, you know, just relating to fast fashion. As you’ve touched on that, fast fashion brands do have the biggest marketing budgets. And these are brands with you know, the biggest reach. And if you want to talk about platforms, like Shien, for example. And you know, that’s a big controversial topic in terms of shopping from Shien versus choosing more sustainably. And again, it comes down to accessibility, affordability, it comes down to size, she then has a wider size range, a lot of sustainable brands, and even Thrift, and secondhand can’t cater to that. It’s online and just super accessible ships anywhere. There’s so many aspects of convenience. And ultimately, that’s what fast fashion, fast food, fast anything in life represents is convenience. Yeah,
Chris Edwards (21:18)
Yeah, that’s a very good point.
Chris Edwards (21:21)
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Chris Edwards (21:45)
Getting back into ZERRIN. So just so our listeners understand it’s quite a multifaceted business because you have your media platform, then you have your ecommerce site, then you have ZERRIN studio where you help brands with their photography, and I suppose it’s almost like image consultation of how to create a fashion sustainable fashion brand. And then most recently, you’ve just closed down an actual physical store in Singapore, it’s a lot of different pillars to a small business, right? So what’s been the hardest thing running a business across so many different channels.
Susannah Jaffer 22:26
So our business model evolved based on demand. So to start off with we were a simple curated marketplace, we launched with 14 brands and just had what I would say was a more regularly populated blog than the average online platform because I knew that content again observing the global market. There was a big lack of content to give consumers context and education on a lot of these platforms. So, we started like that and started growing and growing. And the studio agency side came about because I had brands approaching me to help them create content because they were looking at what I was creating for Zerrin, which was my own sort of writing again, this is just me right now, I didn’t start with a team, it was me at my kitchen table. And that’s how we began. And it was me creating all of this content writing or, you know, I wasn’t a photographer, I don’t come from that background, but I had directed shoots and had a camera that I’d taken some pics pictures on for my blog. So I started to pick that up. And, you know, I wanted my own original content, I was really stubborn. You know, if I went and interviewed a designer, I wanted my own pictures, I wanted this, this and that. So they basically started to reach out to me saying, Oh, who’s making this, you know, I need help with X, Y Zed. And I started to kind of freelance for brands on the side of running Zerrin. And that whole side of work really grew just through word of mouth, someone would recommend me to someone else, and another person would recommend me to someone else. And I noticed a pattern that most of the brands that were coming onto our platform struggled with content creation, messaging and marketing. And I noticed this gap which I was kind of working as Zerrin. And then Suzannah, the Freelancer on the side. And it started to feel very scrappy, as things grew. And just a little bit, just scrapping it was hard to kind of focus on the business. And eventually, I think after discussing with some, you know, advisors, or people who gave me advice or mentors, I realised that there was a symbiotic relationship between brands that were coming on to Zerrin who were selling on our marketplace. And then brands that we were working with through Zerrin Studio, so it was the same client. So eventually, I think this was the mid 2018, to the end of 2018, I decided to make that a branch of the business and call it Zerrin studio, because it just made sense. Because my customer was emerging, independent, sustainable brands. We did and have worked with bigger companies. But that was the core focus. And yeah, so that was how their own studio actually began. It wasn’t intentional. And I think that the reason why the business model has evolved is because I’ve been quite driven by and I think obsessively driven by what value that my platform is bringing, whether it’s b2c or b2b. So the offline events, which started as pop up stores, which began from 2018, to 2019, those were also driven by the fact that people wanted to shop and discover things offline. So, you know, to meet that demand, I decided to do pop ups and also then eventually do our own in house pop ups, where it was our curation of retail, and a series of events alongside it in a venue. So that was our completely own branded, rather than joining other fairs or anything in Singapore. And so those pop ups evolved, and we ended up running a store for two years, because during the pandemic, it was very difficult to negotiate short term leases with real estate. So everyone wants to lock you in for a long term lease. So there was that and the venue that we were at, which was the social space, they were just lovely to work with. It helps sustain our business. And that space for us as a, as a store gave us an office content creation space, a space to support brands. So that’s why we decided to stay so actually, the store for two years was not in the original plan. So that’s actually why I decided to close it in December was to actually now the market is opening up to go back to that original model that I wanted, which was this, you know, digital brand that has offline pop up experiences, whether that’s retail, whether that’s just purely educational, you know, that’s kind of what, going back to the original model now that I wanted fours. Aaron.
Chris Edwards (27:15)
Yeah. Yeah. The original model and all of it. I mean, it’s all quite amazing what you’ve created. But yeah, I’m wondering if you can talk to what’s been the hardest challenge. It’s pretty ambitious and aggressive and in a new, almost Greenfield of what you’re doing. So I imagine there’s been a few challenges.
Susannah Jaffer (27:35)
I think as a founder, I’ve really had to stretch myself in terms of the time that I spend on the business, the skills that I have to adopt and learn, many of which have come sort of on the fly. And also finding the right people to work on a business that is looking at the industry in quite a holistic way through the different pillars that we work with. You want to find almost as a startup, multifaceted people who can work across different sides of things. And I was thankful that I got lucky in my first hires with that, but it was always a challenge, and even now a challenge to find the right people, I think when you’re so small, and you need people to who have a more diverse skill set, rather than just wanting to do one thing, you know what I mean, in terms of hiring. So I think that stretching yourself as a founder, you know, finding the right people, multifaceted people to hire for a business that covers these different grounds and areas, and also just doing things for the first time. Like, if I really look back, and I say, so humbly Zerrin really broke a lot of new ground, in terms of what we were talking about within this market, and has really opened up the market in terms of the way people perceive sustainable fashion. And the growth of a lot of designers has been facilitated by us. And I’m really proud of that, if I can look back and say, and it’s not just my effort, the effort of my team, but that is such an uphill climb and chipping away at your message, chipping away at your message, your values, you know, and constantly showing up. I think having the stamina and having the beliefs and energy to just consistently show up and do that, and try and open up and sort of create that energy in the market has been challenging at times. I’m glad now that the market is opened up a lot more. And there are more brands and more b2c b2b, you know, focus on sustainability and supporting independent and that movements really growing in general now, so I really noticed that shift in 2021, sort of post pandemic, there was this big shift towards sustainable thinking and social impact and business models. So that I’m heartened by that. And I think that wave of interest helped to just galvanise me the teams continue doing what we’re doing. So I think there’s that. But I also think, and I questioned it sometimes because this is not, this is not the easiest pass. I think I’m just really lucky to despite being a sole founder. I work with so many other amazing businesses through b2b, whether that’s studio clients, whether that’s all the different brands we work with, and I think we all support and drive each other and cheerlead each other on. And I think this despite having a small team, and a lot of my journey has actually been solo building this business. I’ve always had this really supportive community of industry and brands who have helped us soundboard ideas. And, you know, we’ve helped to support each other, to develop whatever we’re working on together. And that’s always been something that keeps me going. I think that’s that community that we have. And, yeah, I think my journey would have been very different if it weren’t for that. And actually, I can say that that’s been a benefit of our business model is that we have, I guess, unintentionally created this really beautiful community of, I guess, customers and readers, but also brands and in various different industries that are all cheerleading each other on and that’s all fed into my work and keeps me going because I can see the difference that it’s making. And the opportunities that are platform as this aggregator and curator and educational space is helping to uplift everyone. So we’re really this middleman trying to uplift this whole industry in movement and just seeing the positive impact that it’s had I have to consciously remember it sometimes. But I think that that has kept me going. There’s some sort of internal thing that still switched on, still switched on for now,
Chris Edwards (32:16)
That makes perfect sense. I totally can relate to that when you’re having real impact and you are supporting other businesses, and you get this heartfelt support from them definitely does give you the energy and the drive to keep going no matter what. I want to ask you one super practical question before we round out the interview with some rapid fire questions. But you’re fantastic on LinkedIn. And anyone who hasn’t followed Susannah on LinkedIn do that now, you’ve been recognised as one of the top Singapore voices in sustainability on LinkedIn or by LinkedIn in 2022. Congratulations, I think that was very well deserved. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs that are looking to be heard on LinkedIn? What does it take to be a thought leader in this space,
Susannah Jaffer (33:02)
I would say that I am an unintentional thought leader, I think that I honestly can’t remember why I started using LinkedIn, I think I started using LinkedIn to keep up with news in a sustainable fashion, social impact independent brands space, because there’s a lot of people that I follow internationally, in terms of, you know, our content, and who inspires me in different markets and thought leaders. So that’s why I initially started using LinkedIn. And I think I just started re-sharing and posting about things that I had an opinion on, you know, because I genuinely had an opinion or thought on something and wanted to share it. And I didn’t start sharing with the intention to have lots of people share my posts, or we did have quite a few articles go viral on LinkedIn, I remember one was on greenwashing. And that was really cool for us. And I think that started to show me the power of LinkedIn, it brought a lot of sort of b2b and industry attention to our platform. So there was that on the one side that we use it to just share our content and brands and partners and things that we were doing. But personally, I would just use it to share opinions on things that I thought like, quite candidly, to be honest, and I never really forced it. I just genuinely wanted to say something about a certain topic. And I guess I just showed up consistently to do that. But also because I was genuinely interested in my feed and the people that I followed. And I used it also as a source of news in many ways, and things that are really going on in various industries and their intersection sustainability tech, you know, all of these cool, evolving industries right now, I would say, honestly, for anyone who wants to grow on LinkedIn, I guess you really have to think about what you’re interested in. And what you have to say, in whatever field you’re in. I mean, you could be you know, in the healthcare industry, you could be in wellness, you could be in education, whatever it is. And if you have something to say, regardless of whether you’re working for a company, you’re an employee, or you run a company and are an entrepreneur, I think that if you want to grow think it’s really just about sharing things that you’re truly interested in, and that you think it would be valuable for someone else to hear that perspective, whatever that is. And to do. So you have to really have a, you have to have an honest belief system or you know, a true interest that you really want to share about, I guess. So I think maybe it’s starting from there.
Chris Edwards (35:48)
Yeah, I love that. I think that makes perfect sense. And I think also, if you enjoy the platform, like you do as a news feed, then you’ll start spending time on it and understand, you know, what people are interested in hearing about, I could keep talking to you for hours, but I’m conscious of time. I just wanted to ask you a few rapid fire questions to wrap up the interview.
Chris Edwards (36:13)
Firstly, do you have any business mantras that you live by?
Susannah Jaffer (36:17)
Business mantras, I would say, don’t wait. Just do it. There’s a solution for everything. That’s been my biggest learning. There’s always a solution. You just need to find it.
Chris Edwards (36:29)
I love that. Tell me what does a good business mean to you?
Susannah Jaffer (36:34)
A good business means a business that adds value to the world that has a positive impact on people and planet but also the perspectives of whoever you are trying to sell to or influence. I think businesses today have to be grounded in a belief system that really benefits the world now and where everything needs to go.
Chris Edwards (37:03)
I love that. Tell me if there was another industry that you could disrupt what would it be?
Susannah Jaffer (37:10)
I would say, I’m really interested in the tech and secondhand space. Actually, I love platforms like, you know, Depop carousel. I’m really interested in that. So it’s kind of a related industry, but perhaps fashion tech secondhand would be really cool.
Chris Edwards (37:28)
Yeah, I think there’s some really interesting stuff happening with blockchain and traceability and knowing the life of your product. And I think there’s going to be big changes really fast coming in that space.
Susannah Jaffer (37:41)
Chris Edwards (37:42)
What’s your best business collaboration or partnership that you’ve ever done?
Susannah Jaffer (37:47)
Oh, well, we have done quite a lot. I would say, I love the events that we’ve done. I really can’t pinpoint one on the spot. But just one that I remember. I love the partnerships that we’ve done with Fashion Revolution over the years, and we’ve held educational talk events. They were not selling events, but they really helped to. They helped us in terms of thought leadership as a platform, I guess you could say strategically and really helped to expand our audience and community and really paved the way to other partnerships, which was really cool,
Chris Edwards (38:24)
Hmm. Do you have a favourite business book or business podcast?
Susannah Jaffer (38:29)
Not necessarily a business podcast, but I don’t know if I describe it as business but I love Stephen Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO. It’s an amazing podcast Stephens like on Dragon’s Den in the UK. He’s a very young self made millionaire. He comes from a tech background. He’s got this really inspiring story. And he interviews really interesting people quite high profile now about not just their business journeys, but their lives and various different topics that intersect with like mental health, entrepreneurship, self care. It’s super, super interesting. And it’s given me a lot of insights, both personally and professionally to apply to my life. Yeah, I thoroughly recommend it.
Chris Edwards (39:16)
Oh, I love that. Yeah, I just listened to his interview with Simon Sinek last week, which was very cool. And my last question to you, Susanna is, I believe, a rising tide floats all boats. And it’s an expression we use a lot at Launchpad. Actually, I wanted to ask you, if you have an entrepreneur that’s creating a good business that we should have on the podcast.
Susannah Jaffer (39:37)
Yeah, I would recommend speaking to Vanna Sanne, who is the manager of door Sue. And they are based in Cambodia. They are what’s called a vertically integrated sustainable fashion label. And they provide amazing opportunities for garment workers in Cambodia to have a just a better quality job that is paid above living wage, that is doing amazing things in terms of just providing a safe working environment in the context of Cambodia, where there’s a lot of fast fashion, production and exploitation. And they’re also upcycling all of their fabrics. They’re just doing amazing things and just creating a really hot lead, and sustainability driven business that’s really giving back to their local community and making a difference for people on the ground. I’d thoroughly recommend talking to him. He’s got a super interesting business background as well.
Chris Edwards (40:35)
Oh, excellent. I will hit you up for an intro on that. Suzanna, thank you so much. As I said, I could honestly be here for another hour, at least I feel like your journey is so interesting. And I feel very privileged to have been able to be your friend through the journey and get to know you over the years. But thank you very much for your time today.
Susannah Jaffer (40:57)
Thank you, Chris. Thank you so much.
Chris Edwards (41:00)
Some of the best chats always happen as soon as you hit the stop record button when you’re interviewing someone for a podcast. And I just wanted to jump back in here because Susanna was telling me about a pop up that is going to be on right now. That is as Aaron pop up, called rethink refresh, reset, at anchor point more, Susannah, tell us about this pop up because I think after listening to this podcast, everyone’s gonna want to come and meet you and see what ZERRIN is all about. So tell us about it.
Susannah Jaffer (41:34)
For sure. So this is our first pop up experience since closing our physical store in December. So it’s super exciting and being held during Earth Month. So yes, it’s called rethink refresh resets. And the pop up is going to be bringing together a really amazing lineup of independent sustainable brands from Southeast Asia. So spanning fashion, beauty, wellness and home. So it’s an opportunity to meet the designers discover their products, hear their stories. We’ll have a lot of amazing Using brands that are going to be present that are first time in Singapore, we have an amazing be caught fashion label called suka, Cheetah from Indonesia, and Malaysia and accessories designer called Earth air, an amazing size inclusive brand from Hong Kong called being bold. There are so many amazing I’ve said amazing a lot, because it really is so many beautiful products and brands with a meaningful impact to discover. And at the same time, we’ll have a great events, lineup of workshops and talks that will all be able to RSVP through our Eventbrite page. So happening 14th of April to 14th of May, up until 14th of May. So come down.
Chris Edwards (42:47)
Yeah, I love that. And it’s an anchor point mall, which is opposite IKEA. And how Susanna and I got to talking about this was Susanna was saying to me, that just this amazing opportunity came to her for this pop up, and it was just the right time, right place and just tick so many boxes. And I do really love the idea of getting out of the digital space and into the physical space. I know I love to touch see. And you know, I suppose it’s really seeing the quality when I’m buying, particularly fashion that’s not cheap, like I want to come and you know, see what it’s like. And because also I’m trying not to buy as much and think about my fashion like tattoos. So it is really important to take your time and come down and and but I also think people would love to come down and meet you and see the full gamut of ziran. So that’s really good timing, amazing timing. So a great opportunity there.
Susannah Jaffer 43:44
For sure. Please come down. Come and experience ZERRIN and all of the amazing brands and events we have going on. It’s going to be a jam packed month. I’m super excited. And yeah, can’t wait to meet. I can’t wait to meet you.
Chris Edwards (43:57)
Cool. Okay, great.
Chris Edwards (43:59)
Three things I learned from this chat today. Firstly, I loved the way Susannah talked about being obsessed by the value she brings her customers. I just think that the word obsessed is not used enough. Because obviously that’s what we’re all striving to do. But really to actually label it as being obsessed is a really good term to put on it. The second thing I loved that she talks about is how the role of community has kept her going. And how being surrounded by like minded entrepreneurs has really cheered her on and just really helped her last the distance in what has been, I suppose quite a challenging journey because she’s really been very early in a brand new Greenfield market of sustainability in Singapore. And then the third thing I really enjoyed chatting to Suzanna about was really kind of getting under the skin of Gen Zeds. And why they’re still choosing fast fashion, and really putting ourselves into their shoes, and thinking about how technology is going to really advance the thrifting and rewear market and that’s going to be a really exciting fashion space to watch. I enjoyed this chat so much I find it so enlightening to talk to people that are really focused on delivering value and focused on the big picture. So I hope you are as inspired as I am to create your own good business. Thank you for listening to good business. Okay, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Selfishly, I created this podcast for my own personal growth. So I could go deep with entrepreneurs that truly inspire me. Of course, I also wanted a wider listenership to think about having impact and our wonderful community at Launchpad, where we’re all aspiring to create better businesses together. If you have enjoyed this episode, I’d love you to leave a review, or perhaps share this podcast episode with a friend. That’s how podcast episodes get discovered. And I would love more entrepreneurs to think more deeply about their business and about creating a Heartland business with a bigger impact than just profit. And I’m sure you would too. So go ahead and post something on LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook and spread the word I will be forever grateful. Thanks again for listening and I hope that you feel as inspired as I am to create your own good business.