Next in our blog series celebrating International Women’s Day and our partnership with Tech Nation, we spoke to Lindsay Fisher, Co-Founder of Retail Price Optimisation, Planning & Insights Platform, Sparkbox.
Sparkbox helps retailers to reach targets, improve volume sales and increase cash margins using machine learning and AI. Using her background in retail merchandising and consulting on price optimisation, Lindsay was able to help create an innovative tech platform which improves profitability and prevents over-discounting in the retail and fashion space; allowing businesses to make the most of their inventory.
We spoke to Lindsay about her experiences as a female founder in the tech industry and launching a business which was a winner at Tech Nation’s Rising Stars 2.0 Final.
How did your professional journey begin?
I started my career in retail with the American department store Target. When I joined, Target was expanding to Canada for the first time. We opened 134 stores and 3 distribution centres across the country in a year – with all new teams and systems. It was like a retail boot camp!
I managed a few apparel categories and I loved the job because it was really entrepreneurial. We had a ton of challenges (the launch didn’t go well) and I got the opportunity to solve big problems across the business at the earliest stage of my career. Ultimately, the expansion failed and Target ceased all operations in Canada. It was an incredible learning experience, to say the least!
What made you want to start your own business?
My dad is an entrepreneur and I’ve always just assumed I would be as well.
I think the best thing about entrepreneurship is autonomy. It’s cool to think we have the freedom to build and deliver products our own way but that can sometimes also be the worst thing – it can be hard to measure your progress without a system and an organisation around you to provide feedback.
What have been the biggest highlights you’ve faced in your career so far?
The team I worked with at Target was an early highlight. I learned a ton from the amazing people I worked with. When I moved to London in 2015, I joined a retail consultancy and I had the chance to work on projects with big retailers. A highlight was leading on the design and delivery of a custom pricing solution for Arcadia Group.
Starting Sparkbox has been the biggest highlight though and also the most challenging part of my career. We’ve made great traction in a short period of time, but it’s not been easy!
Who is your biggest role model and why?
I admire the way my parents built their business because they always focused on doing the right thing for their customers.
What skills do you think it takes to become a successful leader?
I think to be an entrepreneur you need grit and a healthy balance between speed and attention to detail. I think great leaders should also have empathy and vision.
How do you deal with the highs and lows of starting your own business?
It’s important to take real time out. I try to have proper weekends, which usually involve bad TV, little adventures, and big bowls of ramen! I also try to celebrate the highs and remember them when the lows arrive.
What’s your best advice for an entrepreneur just getting started?
There’s no better validation than a customer paying for your solution to their problem. The startup world is full of distractions so try to get some kind of revenue as quickly and as cheaply as possible at least in B2B SaaS.
What characteristics do you look for when hiring someone?
The biggest thing we look for is resourcefulness. Can you solve your own problems, can you learn independently, and are you excited to learn new things? I think this is mostly attitude but you have to be someone that is constantly learning and adding to your skillset.
What was the motivation for you to get into tech?
I just wanted to solve a real problem with cool technology. I think sometimes tech isn’t at the top of women’s minds because we have fewer female tech leaders to look up to.
Did you find it hard to break through into a traditionally male-dominated industry?
Personally, no. The great thing about entrepreneurship is that everyone can do it. Once you’ve built a product, I think it can be harder to get traction as a female founder. Sometimes that’s because of the nature of your product (like femtech) but also because you’re trying to sell to or raise money from a male-dominated audience or industry.
How do you think businesses can drive more females to tech roles?
We need more female leaders in tech. If we include more people in our search for great leaders, we’ll certainly find better candidates. We need two things. The first is more funding for female founders, that’s important. Then as founders, we need to prioritise diversity in our recruitment and hiring processes. We must recognise biases to correct them
What advice do you have for any women that want to start a career in tech?
Go for it and let’s support and advocate for each other along the way!
Talent Works has produced an employer’s guide which aims to help STEM businesses to attract and retain female candidates. Plus, you can find out more about the current state of women in STEM industries with a fact sheet put together by our Director and Shareholder Jody Robie.