Founder Sue-Ellen O’Connor created The Hub Marketplace in January 2013, with its official launch in March 2014. The Hub is an Irish online marketplace, filled with boutiques from across the green isle and the whole world. The fashion on the marketplace ranges from casual streetwear to sophisticated evening gowns and all that’s in between, but also beauty, menswear, art and gadgets. Available at affordable prices, and delivered to your front door without hassle, it’s time to ditch the high street chains and support your local Irish, European and worldwide independents with this fashionable online marketplace. I sat down with Sue-Ellen to have a chat about all things The Hub.
Killer Fashion: Congratulations on all the success of The Hub Marketplace thus far! What exactly inspired you to launch it?
Sue-Ellen: Well, all of my working life has revolved around fashion and the clothing industry in one way or another. When I left school I trained as a machinist in the production of clothing, which helped massively as it gave me an eye for quality and fabrics etc. Then when I moved on to retail fashion I worked in every aspect possible, including being a fashion buyer for independent boutiques, which then progressed on to working in the wholesale business representing various commercial and independent labels. With the downturn of our economy, it got increasingly harder to wholesale labels in Ireland so I set up a business doing sample sales online and as pop-up stores. I loved this as I enjoy dealing directly with the customer along with labels. The Hub came about in progression of my background; I felt with the closure of so many independent boutiques here in Ireland that we were missing that “something special” and were swamped with the chain stores. So with The Hub Marketplace, I felt independent labels, vintage sellers, bloggers wardrobes, and everything else we have in between would give the Irish customer in particular that alternative to the chain store all in one place!
KF: With similar websites like Etsy and ASOS Marketplace, what makes The Hub different?
Sue-Ellen: I think The Hub is different as we combine elements like tattoo, beauty and artwork to our fashion, we are also a lot more personal with our customers and sellers; there is a person behind every mail and every phone call. We try very hard not to be generic and to give our customers products that compliment each other, we are very particular also about who sells with us. All our sellers must compliment each other and every seller is approved whereas some other marketplaces are more concentrated on numbers of sellers. We aim to focus more on the quality, and are always focused on giving our customers what they want in our marketplace.
KF: How do you stay on top of all the fashion trends with your sellers, or are trends not part of it?
Sue-Ellen: It’s a mixture of both for sure! We do have sellers who are very trend focused and they turn stock very quickly to keep up with trends and that’s fantastic for our customer who likes to keep on top of what’s new and the latest trends. And then we have sellers who have very grass-roots in what they do; for example we have streetwear labels who are very focused on their story, the meaning behind their labels and their staple looks and styles. Another example is one of our bag sellers, who sell leather goods where they mix up a classic staple piece with whatever is trending right now in their designs. Also, with a lot of independent labels and designers there is always a good story behind each of them and most will donate a percentage of their sales to a charity they are passionate about, so it’s always worth reading the stories behind our labels as there is a feel good factor in buying a product that you love, while some of your money is going to a worthy cause.
KF: How would you describe your own fashion style?
Sue-Ellen: My own fashion style has always been quite minimalist. I am a t-shirt & jeans girl for sure, though I’ll spunk it up with a pair of killer heels and some accessories. I love classic cuts and quality fabrics. I’m a huge shoe fan (who isn’t!), I’ve been known to buy the shoes first and build an outfit around them! If I have a crisp white quality t-shirt, a perfectly fitting pair of jeans and a really good quality leather handbag then I’m a happy girl!
KF: Social media plays a big role in today’s online communities. On Facebook, your page has 1,000+ Likes and your Twitter has over 170 Followers. Do you think these social platforms have helped you boost traffic & popularity of The Hub?
Sue-Ellen: That’s a tricky question… I feel social media is vital to online businesses, if you have people on your pages who actually want to be there! Our “likes” and “fans” are building and I know the numbers look small but I know every one of them is genuinely interested in what we are doing. And this brings me to paying for ads, which I find can bring in fans who are usually would never be a customer. So the question is do you buy 10,000 fans who are never going to purchase from you so your page looks really busy to the people who don’t matter anyway? Or do you have 1,000 fans who you interact with regularly and who are a large percentage of genuine customers? So to boost traffic on analytics I would say yes, to boost popularity I would say no; our real customers, sellers and fans do that.
KF: How do you find new sellers, or do they contact you to become vendors on The Hub?
Sue-Ellen: Again, it is a mixture of both. We have people who approach us and as before if we feel they fit in with our marketplace we will welcome them and go above and beyond to help them make their boutique a success. We are very hands on with our sellers and are always here for whatever they need, we work closely with all our sellers every day. We listen and advise. We always have our ear to the ground and yes, of course we scout and try to find the best of what we think is out there to join us and most importantly what we think our customers want to see.
KF: Are all the vendors Irish, or are there also boutiques and products from around the world?
Sue-Ellen: Our sellers are from all over the world which we are very proud of. From the U.S., Australia, Korea to all over Europe like Ireland, Romania and France. We really have a very international platform and honestly I love working with every single one of them. The thing that translates internationally in my opinion is professionalism, quality and an absolute passion for their brands. People who work in the fashion industry are the hardest working people! Fashion honestly never sleeps and if you’re looking for a 9-5 job, try a different industry. We have very little Irish sellers, which is a shame. With our economy I can understand they are hesitant to try something new but to any Irish sellers I would say “go for it and think outside of Ireland and show case yourself to the world.” But we would welcome anyone who would like to join The Hub and showcase themselves on a worldwide platform. There is a whole world outside of Ireland and international customers love Irish products and brands, we are very well-respected internationally, so just do it!
KF: The Hub doesn’t only sell fashion, but beauty, art & gadgets too. What made you decide for it not to solely be a fashion marketplace?
Sue-Ellen: I didn’t want The Hub to just be clothing, I wanted it to be somewhere that you can check in to buy clothing along with beauty products, that super cool phone case, that piece of art for your home that’s may be affiliated with that t-shirt brand you love. Fashion is not just about clothing, it’s about all of these complimentary elements. We have some wonderful beauty brands joining us very soon that we are waiting on to organise things from their end but we feel they are worth waiting for, so watch our beauty space!
KF: What has been the highlight of the past year for you & The Hub Marketplace?
Sue-Ellen: The highlight for me is always the people & bloggers you meet through the work, like yourself! The sellers I have made friendships with, the support I have had from many of them on a personal and business level has been outstanding ! Que of Peace Denim Co. in particular was one of my first sellers to join and has been an amazing support and mentor to me. He also invited me to join The Proper Villains Collective, which is a group of artists, designers and trend setters who all collaborate together with some famous names like Raekwon, (as a life-long Wu-Tang Clan fan it is an honour to be affiliated with this group of people). They are all amazing to work with. And there’s the customer of course, helping people and seeing them purchase something that they love and the great response and excitement they get, I’ve always got a buzz from making people happy and that’s why I’ve worked in this industry for so long; it’s the customer at the end of the day.
KF: What exciting plans have you in store for the next few months?
Sue-Ellen: In the next few months we have a lot of media things coming up so that will be fun, more sellers joining us and a lot more collaborations internally and externally. Every day is a busy day at The Hub and every new day brings new things for us so anything can happen and I love that!
KF: What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?
Sue-Ellen: I will still be working in the fashion industry for sure. I’ve excepted that I’m in fashion for life! It’s my passion and it’s not just a job for me. In whatever fashionable shape or form it is, only time will tell!
Visit The Hub Marketplace now to start buying & selling Irish products and support Ireland’s designers. Don’t forget to like The Hub on Facebook and follow them on Twitter! And don’t forget to stop by the Killer Fashion Boutique too!