Game Changers: David Yeom, Co-Founder and CEO, Hollar
This interview originally appeared in the cover story of Total Retail’s Summer issue, Game Changers. In this excerpt from the cover story, David Yeom, co-founder and CEO of Hollar, an online dollar store, was interviewed.
Total Retail: Where did you get the inspiration to launch your company?
David Yeom: The early inspiration for Hollar is rooted in my childhood. I grew up from very modest beginnings and the dollar store was one of my favorite places to go with my family. We could really stretch our budget there. Now fast-forward to my professional career, where I’ve worked at several amazing e-commerce companies, including eBay and The Honest Company, where I met Brian Lee, who co-founded The Honest Company. One afternoon, Brian and I were having lunch and randomly talked about our mutual love of dollar retail and thought, “we should create one that’s online and accessible to everyone!”
TR: What was the “ah-ha moment” when you realized you might have a successful business?
DY: When we hit capacity and outgrew our warehouse after just five months. We had more than 20,000 orders in the backlog at one point and finally moved into a warehouse that was 10 times bigger than our first warehouse. It used to be the former facility for the 99 Cents Only Store.
TR: What was the pivotal marketing campaign or channel that really catapulted the business in its early days?
DY: Word-of-mouth and social media were key to growing brand awareness and reaching our core customer — millennial moms. It was exciting to see our customers start to post their own Hollar hauls and unboxings. I still read the comments on our Facebook page every day.
TR: How are you planning to scale your business?
DY: There are several initiatives we’ve been working on that will enable us to scale quickly. We launched national TV ads earlier this year that are getting the Hollar name in millions of households. We’re also establishing relationships with brands, namely global CPG companies, to source directly from them. Furthermore, we’re building a marketplace platform that enables vetted third-party merchants to sell on Hollar, allowing us to significantly grow the product offering as well as go international.
TR: Can you tell us about a successful initiative your company launched in the last year?
DY: We introduced a private-label home line, Just the Nest, only a year after launching the business, and we’ve seen it resonate with our customers, particularly the storage boxes and acrylic beauty organizers. Everything is chic, premium and comparable to what you would find at a Target or on Amazon.com, except at a lower price. The entire line includes closet organizers, storage boxes, office accessories, bath mats and stationery.
TR: What are your goals for the business for the remainder of 2017 and then 2018?
DY: Grow our product offering across all categories, including expansion into consumables, as well as through the launch of our marketplace platform. Both will give us the ability to sign on a variety of new merchants to ensure that we’re always supplying the best inventory at a significant savings to our customers.
TR: What types of retail technology are you watching closely and/or thinking of implementing within your company?
DY: Automation and enhancement within fulfillment. There’s been a ton of innovation in the area of warehousing, picking and packing via augmented reality and artificial intelligence, which will play a big part in our ability to delight our customers.
TR: What is your hiring strategy?
DY: We look for smart, passionate team players that thrive in a fast-paced startup environment. In addition, Hollar has a strong company culture, so it’s important that candidates know how to have fun, too.
TR: Tell us about your leadership style.
DY: Lead by example, empower others and treat others how you want to be treated.
TR: What can traditional retailers learn from your business?
DY: Value and convenience have never been more important than they are today. The post-recession mentality is still fresh, and it’s never been easier to research which retailer has the best price on a particular item. But that isn’t enough. Convenience is just as important, and the expectation of convenience has changed as a result of mobile. Retailers need to be omnichannel and where their customers are, and that’s everywhere, anytime.