February 6, 2023

At VOICES 2022, BoF’s annual event where global changemakers come together to inspire innovation and reshape the future of the fashion industry, BoF’s Rahul Malik spoke with Shopify President Harley Finkelstein about the collective opportunity in entrepreneurship.

The “Shopify Effect,” a term coined by the company, embodies the idea of ​​using commerce as a force for good. Within that framework, Shopify prioritizes leveraging its technology and network of nearly 2 million merchants worldwide — representing approximately 10 percent of the total global ecommerce market share — to enable merchants using the platform to drive conscious consumption across all promote its users.

In 2022, a series of roundtable events in Milan and Paris saw business leaders from companies such as Valentino, Prada, Bulgari, Jacquemus, Coperni and Isabel Marant connect under the Chatham House Rule to share insights and lessons. as the opportunities and challenges they see in the market. Talks focused on strategic imperatives needed to navigate the uncertain socio-economic environment, including price increases and evolving consumer confidence.

“When you give the right people the right tools at the right time, incredible things happen,” says Shopify president Harley Finkelstein. “When you add up all of the individual independent Shopify merchants, they become the second largest retailer in America.”

Here, BoF shares actionable insights from the Q&A session on how fashion companies, regardless of size, can use their influence to drive conscious consumption and build meaningful communities in a time of increased market volatility.

Harley Finkelstein present at BoF VOICES 2022.

The role of entrepreneurship in economic growth

HF: Entrepreneurship allows us to do great things, it gives us leverage and scalability, and it’s the best tool to solve a problem. Last year, 5.4 million business registrations were filed in the US — the highest number in 20 years.

Every minute, new merchants get their first sales on Shopify — that’s the whole purpose, the whole mission of the company. Our technology and code base drove $7.5 billion in business on Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday, but the real story with that $7.5 billion is how technology enabled people to actualize themselves, commercialize a hobby, something to sell that is meaningful to them to the rest of the world.

Technology as a driver for community development

HF: In 2021, Shopify supported 5 million jobs. Those are jobs in local communities for manufacturing, retail and technology.

For many of our salespeople, entrepreneurship wasn’t done out of passion – it was entrepreneurship out of necessity. In 2012, Ben Francis created Gymshark from his dorm room. It is now a categorical leader competing with companies like Nike. Heather Hasson and Trina Spear founded Figs after a conversation at a coffee shop about why frontline health workers can’t have well-fitting, great-looking, comfortable scrubs. They are now a publicly traded company that has completely changed the hospital wear industry.

The cost of failure is the lowest it’s ever been […] people can try things – if they work, they can scale up, and if they don’t, they can try something else.

We’ve never seen companies scale like this before — the technology makes it possible, but it’s the entrepreneur who’s at the helm. Shopify is the story of 2 million entrepreneurs.

Activation and Risk Mitigation

HF: The cost of failure is the lowest ever for entrepreneurship. 20 years ago, to start a business venture you had to take out a loan, take out a mortgage all your life. Now people can try things – if they work, they can scale up, and if they don’t, they can try something else.

To quantify it, the maker economy is a $100 billion a year economy, with a participation rate of 4 percent – meaning 96 percent of creators don’t participate in it. Shopify Collabs is one of the ways we use technology to connect incredible content creators with incredible brands. These days, every brand is trying to get a content creator, and every content creator wants their own creator brand. And so we created this AI-powered “matchmaking” service that connects great content creators, in certain industries with great brands’ industries, and ultimately both parties are able to monetize and grow, and it leads to really great success.

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