Amanda Weisiger Cornelson, CEO of House Account, and her team help boutiques expand beyond their brick-and-mortar stores through web and graphic design, sales and marketing tools, and e-commerce support.
Boutique owners are very particular about their in-store experience as it’s a very high touch space. Inherently, they aren’t web designers, so as e-commerce becomes more prevalent and more things move digital, it’s very difficult for owners to replicate their in-store experience online.
House Account mirrors that in-store experience online for boutiques by offering a digital platform with a suite of sales marketing tools, an e-commerce marketplace with personal shopping capabilities, and a way to translate that store’s brand and in-store aesthetic through graphic design and emails.
Amanda Weisiger Cornelson, CEO of House Account, elaborates – “Boutiques use our tools to create websites, do all their email marketing, [and manage] their customer relationships.” They also support boutiques through live-chat capabilities for personal shoppers, online sales, and even blogging commerce content.
House Account also aggregates all of the inventory across boutiques on their platform for consumers, so – “shoppers get that same special, in-store experience where they get personal shopping [with] one-on-one experience to ask questions, buy things, and get styling advice”, Weisiger Cornelson explains.
“For some of our boutiques we are essentially an extension of their in-house team, like in an agency style, while others are little more hands off”, she adds. To this, House Account is able to manage any of the platform’s tools and capabilities for a boutique on a customized basis to match the store’s needs.
Weisiger Cornelson and team are proud of their customized support – they’ve coined it as ‘relationship commerce’. They are very high touch with their customers, so once a boutique gets accustomed to House Account’s reliability, they rarely leave. “The only time that we’ve had a boutique really churn off is if a store closed”, she adds.
The company started in 2012 after Laura Vinroot Poole, owner of three local boutiques – Capitol, Poole Shop, and Tabor – tried to set up her own e-commerce offering. While proving to be very challenging and expensive, she leveraged help from her long-time friend, Travis Parsons, CEO of Castle – a venture services firm, to create an app.
The technology started as a community and marketplace for boutiques and shoppers to connect through sharing photos and chatting virtually. As technology advanced outside of the company, the app transitioned into the platform that it is today.
Weisiger Cornelson, joined the company from the very beginning — while living in NYC — as House Account’s editor. She’s unique in the sense that she didn’t found the company. The majority of leaders of early-stage companies are founders. Despite this, she has worked her way up through different positions to running the business as the CEO.
From editor, she moved to an overarching marketing role, then to operations, and took on the CEO role last fall. She moved back to Charlotte in 2015 to join House Account full-time.
She and the House Account team are looking at ways to expand their platform into other verticals like menswear or home-and-lifestyle. They are also fundraising to automate back-end processes and to integrate into other technologies – like point-of-sale systems.
Like most small companies, their backend processes are pretty manual, so the team plans to automate these to where they can bring more boutiques on to the platform while maintaining the team they have today.
The Charlotte roots run deep for House Account as Parsons, Vinroot Poole, and Weisiger Cornelson all grew up locally. Now, as more and more people move to Charlotte, the team is capitalizing on the growth – “Charlotte is attracting talent from all over the country right now, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to bring some of those smart folks into the fold at House Account. To us, our team is the most important part of what we’re doing here, and how we can succeed.”
Today, the team consists of six full-time employees who – “come from awesome companies like J. Crew, Billy Reid, and Roberto Cavalli,” she adds. Alongside Weisiger Cornelson are brand managers, a content marketer, and personal shoppers.
Her advice to entrepreneurs is two folds. First – “find mentors – people who you can have on speed dial to vent, ask questions or for help, connections, advice. [This] has been the biggest asset to me.”
Second – pull yourself out of the weeds. Yes, it’s important to focus on growing the business, but it’s just as imperative to meet with people to get new ideas and feedback. When doing so, ask for brutally honest feedback. “Talk to as many people as possible – all the time – whether it’s customers [or] other entrepreneurs in town”, Weisiger Cornelson suggests.
This customer feedback actually helped House Account alter their product as Instagram basically replaced their initial technology. A comparable product that is free – Instagram in this case – is very hard to compete against.
“The thing I look for the most now is negative feedback, and how could we take that and learn from it.” This helps House Account fine tune today’s platform.
You can check out House Account, here – https://www.houseacct.com.