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Top 50 Q&A: Erica Stewart, Hardtofind

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2019 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. You can find this year’s Top 50 report here, and see our previous Q&As here.

This week, Internet Retailing interviews Erica Stewart, founder and chief executive at Hardtofind. Amanda ranked 24th on our list this year.

Short on time? Here are the three key takeaways from the interview:

  • Erica has positioned Hardtofind as the ‘antithesis of mass produced stuff’.
  • The marketplace champions small, creative businesses wherever it can.
  • Erica has been working on the launch of a new business over the last 18 months.

Internet Retailing: What does an average day look like to you? What are the daily concerns?

Erica Stewart: Typically I spend my mornings catching up on emails in my pyjamas, then I try to squeeze in a walk or a Pilates class before heading into the office. My days are pretty busy, but fun.

I’ve got the best team and they are such a dedicated, hard-working bunch, so most of the day-to-day stuff is taken care of, which frees me up to focus on strategy and forward planning.

I’m always thinking about how we can cut through the ‘noise’ and stay relevant – we’re constantly innovating and doing things that other retailers are not.

IR: You founded Hardtofind on the tenant that customers want products that are more thoughtful, unique and personal – has that changed over the last decade?

ES: No, and I still believe that quality and provenance matters to consumers.

As does the experience of gifting something meaningful – surprising and delighting is what we’re all about. Hardtofind is the antithesis of mass-produced stuff.

IR: What has Hardtofind been working on during 2019?

ES: To cater to last-minute shoppers, we launched an ‘instant gift’ feature which allows customers to choose from thousands of gifts with same-day delivery.

We’re also about to launch a brand new business which we’ve been working on for the past 18 months. I’m very excited about it, but I can’t give too much away just yet!

IR: Last year you implemented the HardtoFind Academy, as well as a help centre and marketing platform, to help mentor sellers on your platform on how to best represent their business. Can you give us an update on how these have helped sellers on the platform?

ES: Championing small creative businesses and helping them succeed is at the heart of what we do, so we’re always looking for new ways to support our seller community.

Our seller support centre and seller marketing platform are just two of the ways we do this. We offer business advice, share useful stats and intel, work with our sellers on product development ideas, share tips on how to best showcase their products online, give them unique marketing opportunities and more.

IR: You also started curating original-to-Hardtofind pieces last year – how has that initiative gone? Is that a growing part of your business now?

ES: Curating unique ‘hard to find’ products is key to our success, so we’ve worked hard to ensure that our product mix is fresh and original.

Our site continues to bring together an expertly sourced global community of cottage industries, independent studios and hole-in-the-wall retailers with people looking for something different – and creating a much more personal maker-to-customer shopping experience.

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