Details in fabric: Grads take Pinterest success, create shopping site

Alumnae Katie Henry and Emily Rawls created, an online fashion store, first as a hobby. Their hobby evolved into a career after success on the social media site Pinterest. Courtesy Photo
Alumnae Katie Henry and Emily Rawls created, an online fashion store, first as a hobby. Their hobby evolved into a career after success on the social media site Pinterest.
Courtesy Photo

By Kat Worrall

After the viral Pinterest success of one tribal print sweater, Baylor alumnae Katie Henry and Emily Rawls have continued to use the social media site to boost their online fashion store, Paizlee.

Henry and Rawls, who graduated from Baylor in May 2008, started Paizlee as a “hobby” from their real jobs. They enjoyed fashion, liked the idea of getting clothes at a wholesale price and decided online sales was a good place to start. Henry and Rawls began Paizlee primarily on support from friends and family, as well as with a small advertising budget. A big marketing tool for the young company was social media, specifically Pinterest.

“Pinterest was smaller at the time,” Henry said. “But Emily thought, ‘There’s this new website that basically caters to fashion. You click on the link and it takes you to the website. What better way to have free marketing?’”

The company steadily increased, and then, as Henry said, “the sweater hit.”

“We had one picture of a girl wearing a sweater, and it went viral,” Henry said. “Millions of pins went out and we sold hundreds of that one sweater. That really gave us the capital to get going.”

The tribal print sweater, called the “Santa Fe Sweater,” generated 717,000 re-pins on Pinterest within the first month and continues to draw visitors to Paizlee’s website. It quickly sold out, but Paizlee’s customers kept coming back.

Henry said she estimates 80 percent of customers return to the website, which is high compared to other online companies. She said she believes that is because of Paizlee’s customer service, products and prices.

With Paizlee’s young contemporary demographic, Henry and Rawls wanted their products to have reasonable prices.

“Every price we put on an item, we try to make sure it’s an amount we would pay for it,” Henry said.

With lowered prices, shoppers are less hesitant and more likely to buy online. Shoppers might not know if it will be a quality product until they hold it in their hands, but they know it’s inexpensive enough that they can test the product out, Henry said.

“The majority of our customers are repeated customers,” Henry said. “So after luring them in with a basic price, they see the quality is worth the price.”

Assuring shoppers of a products’ value is a common challenge online retailers face. Dr. Chris Pullig, department chair and associate professor for Baylor’s marketing department, spent several years as the CEO of a clothing store chain and has watched online retail develop and overcome the challenge of a lack of tangible products.

“One of the major things that has happened with the prevalence of online reviews and the ability for an individual to get information about these intangible services is that it allows a customer to feel confident when they shop at a company like Paizlee,” Pullig said.
Pullig said online reviews are an important factor for online stores and can influence a customer’s decision to purchase a product.

“Any sort of negative reviews should be addressed because those will be very influential if people shop with them or not,” Pullig said.

Henry and Rawls enjoy the benefits of an online store, such as little overhead costs and a self-sufficient, always-open store without having to manage additional employees. Henry and Rawls do it all — manage the website, buy products, photograph each item, promote the store and even store and ship the products from their homes.

“We feel like in order to create value with the product, we like to make sure the items look really neat when they arrive,” Henry said.

Each product is wrapped in craft paper with a brochure and Paizlee sticker, so shoppers don’t feel like they are getting a “dress in a plastic bag,” Henry said. Paizlee also tries to ship items out the day or next day after an order is placed.

With technology thriving, the future of online retailers, such as Paizlee, looks as viable as a “traditional brick and mortar store,” Pullig said.

“The environment is rich for any type of retailer to do fairly well,” Pullig said. “When you think of the influence of Pinterest, it enables the smallest of retailers to have a large reach.”

While Henry said they have considered opening a storefront, the online prominence of Paizlee, spurred on by a single sweater, still has room to improve.

“You will never start at a perfect point,” Henry said. “You just have to start it and you progress as time goes by.”