(MoneyWatch) Here at The Startup, we're dedicating the month of March -- National Women's Month -- to featuring female entrepreneurs.
Have you Hukked lately? Hukkster founders Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell are hoping you'll do a little Hukking every day. The two former J.Crew merchandisers have developed the Hukkster website and app in hopes of making online shopping and deal finding easier and more successful. Hukkster is an online personal shopping concierge that allows you to track your favorite products online and be notified when they go on sale with a simple click, known as a "Hukk." Hukkster got its first round of funding from the Winklevoss twins (of Facebook fame) and currently shares their offices in downtown Manhattan. So how did Hukkster get its unusual name? We caught up with Katie and Erica at the Winklevoss offices to find out.
Rebecca Jarvis: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and what you do.
Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell: As avid online shoppers, we were frustrated by all of the offers and special deals that were piling up in our inboxes. We had worked in the retail industry for years and we knew there were so many great promotions and coupon codes that we were missing out on, but we just did not have time to sort through all the noise for the diamond in the rough. We were intent on finding deals on our favorite products so we launched Hukkster to help fellow shoppers save time and money, so they can spend it on more important things.
Hukkster is an online personal shopping concierge that tracks specific products across your favorite stores online and lets you know when they go on sale. The key word here is specific. You, the shopper, pin point the specific style (down to size and color) and Hukkster lets you know when that style goes on sale (including coupon codes and promotions) in real-time so only relevant information is sent your way.
Hukking is the act of identifying products you want by clicking the Hukk it button. When you're browsing your favorite store online and see a product you're interested in but not quite ready to pull the trigger and purchase, you simply click the Hukk it button that lives in your browser bar. Once you've hukk'd an item, Hukkster will save all the product information at hukkster.com where you can view, organize into lists and share at any time.
RJ: What were you doing before you started your company?
KF & EB: We met at J.Crew over six years ago where we sat side-by-side and worked as apparel merchandisers. In 2008, Katie went to Duke to get her MBA in Corporate Finance and Strategy. Erica continued to work at J.Crew where she helped to launch the Crewcuts line for the J.Crew Factory division. A few years later, we found ourselves working side-by-side once again at the management consulting firm, A.T.Kearney. While at A.T.Kearney, we worked closely researching high-level strategic issues across major retail corporations and the e-commerce sector.
RJ: How long did it take to turn your idea into a business?
KF & EB: Without a technical skill set, we could not turn our idea into a business over night. So we spent about four months moonlighting and networking with everyone and anyone in the startup space to understand best practices and gain advice. Through that experience we were challenged to answer hard questions and really align on our long term vision. In April of 2012, we met an engineer and together built out our proof-of-concept, which launched to a few hundred beta-users in May of 2012. From there we jumped in head first and have not looked back since. Today we have over 60,000 users on our platform and growing!
RJ: What's your number one piece of advice to entrepreneurs?
KF & EB: Intimately understand the problem you're solving. If you really know the customer and the industry, you will be able to build a product that is impactful.
RJ: If you could ask one person for advice, who would it be and what would you ask?
KF & EB: We would ask Katie and Erica of the future, how would you have done things differently?
RJ: Are you hiring? How do you get hired by a start-up?
KF & EB: Yes! We are always looking for smart and passionate people to join our team. To join a start-up environment like Hukkster, you need to be ready and willing to roll up your sleeves, comfortable with ambiguity (no two days are quite the same) and really be passionate about the company's long-term vision -- at a start-up the highs are high, but the lows are also low. You really need that undying passion to carry you through the late nights!
For more on Hukkster, visit their website.