My foray into the gig economy via Poshmark?

Few jobs today offer financial stability, flexible hours, and the ability to be your own boss – and yet, many people have found ways to do that through the gig economy.

Today, I’d like to talk about a “recommerce” platform called Poshmark, where people can sell/discover/buy fashion, home décor, and beauty products from others. Think eBay but built around a niche community of “poshers” who curate and resell clothing from their closet. While Poshmark may seem like a passive way to make income relative to other platforms (e.g., Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and Rover), it has been a “safe haven” for some during the pandemic and also “enabled a whole new generation of sellers to start their business and thrive”. These words used in articles from Wired and New York Times are often followed by mixed commentary and skepticism on whether the platform can really serve as a source of income. I was definitely intrigued and thought, why not give it a try?

That sense of curiosity and the fact that I needed to clean out my closet after moving into a new apartment was what kickstarted my journey as a “posher”. I created an account in late July 2021 (about 3 months ago) with a few items from brands like Anthropologie, J.Crew, and Stuart Weitzman. It has now expanded to well over 50 items. I’ve since made 6 sales and while I’m still learning the “ins and outs” of Poshmark, I thought I’d share a few observations:

  1. Closets that are discoverable generate more sales. Having more followers not only drives more views, but also enables poshers to command higher prices, resulting in more earnings overall. I learned the hard way that even after listing the same exact item (including size, condition, etc.) at a lower price, Posh Ambassadors with over 10K followers will often receive more “likes” on their listing than mine. While there may be other factors at play, including how long our listings have been active for, all in all, it helps to have a wider social reach! It means your listings get circulated to more people and are therefore, more discoverable.
  2. Trendy items and engagement are ingredients for success. Certain brands, such as Anthropologie, Madewell, Sezane, are more popular and have higher resale value than others. As such, sourcing trendy clothes that cater to your followers and having great cover photos to show them off is a great way to start. From there, you can build momentum through active engagement. Poshers who participate often by sharing their listings to followers or to Posh parties, liking others’ listings, and responding promptly to questions and comments, are more likely to make sales than those who don’t. I’ve seen some Posh Ambassadors refresh their listings every few hours and make offers almost immediately after I’ve liked an item – which I thought was weird at first. I didn’t realize until later that many use bots like SuperPosher or Closet Pilot to automate those tasks.
  3. It takes grit to become a full-time Posher. Making a decent living as a Posher requires time and effort to replenish inventory, stage clothes for photos, and constantly engage with others. Given that buyers are often looking for great deals on secondhand clothing, it can be hard to make good money unless your item was originally bought at a steep discount or is in high-demand and sold-out elsewhere. Additionally, the 20% fee that Poshmark takes on each sale further cuts into margins.

So will I continue to build up my Poshmark presence? For now I’ll continue posting, sharing, and following others, but taking that leap from recouping costs on my own clothes to actually sourcing items from thrift stores and wholesale is something I’d consider only after hitting a few milestones in terms of # of followers and sales volume. I’ll keep y’all posted though!

For any fellow poshers out there, please let me know if my post resonated with you or if you feel compelled to share other tips, let’s get the conversation started below. You can also find me on Poshmark at @cubbyflair.😉

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Bridging Cultural Gaps: Expanding Veganism into New Markets

Last year, I traveled to Seattle a lot for work and couldn’t help but notice all of the “clean eating” and vegan options in this city. When you arrive at SeaTac airport, there’s a restaurant called Floret that makes a delicious vegan coconut cake and Vitamin C kombucha. And in Capitol Hill and Ballard, Frankie & Jo’s serves some of the best ice cream I’ve had and it’s all plant-based. Who would’ve thought? Full disclosure though, I am not vegan by any means, but am fascinated by how accessible and creative vegan meals have become.

Even in countries like China, veganism has been on the rise. According to Euromonitor, China was projected to be the fastest-growing market for vegan products between 2015 and 2020, with a growth rate of 17.2%1. This statistic is surprising because having grown up with home-cooked Chinese food, I’m accustomed to seeing meat on the dinner table. Even if a dish (like this popular eggplant dish) is primarily veggies, it’s often accompanied with minced meat.

Chinese Eggplants with Minced Pork by Elaine from the China Sichuan Food blog

A lot of this has to do with the culture of meat in China. Until the late 1980s, the government tackled food shortages by issuing rations and meat was a rare luxury. Now, with China being a global economic power, meat has become a sign of prosperity. The average Chinese consumer’s access to meat has improved significantly, resulting in China now representing ~28% of the world’s meat consumption2.

So yes, I’m curious about whether the vegan movement has truly taken hold in China. If so, how? And how can entrepreneurs who are passionate about plant-based foods capitalize on this?

KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER:

Only ~4% of the Chinese population (50 million people) are vegetarian, but the average Chinese consumer is becoming more health-conscious and receptive to plant-based diets3. This, along with concerns for the environment and animal welfare (primarily spurred by younger generations), have led to a greater momentum for China’s vegan movement.

  • A 2018 survey by the New Zealand Institute of Plant and Food Research indicated that 38% of respondents in China’s Tier 1 cities said they’d switch to meat substitutes that are “low in fat”, “additive-free”, and “high in protein”4
  • In addition, the main reasons for reducing meat consumption were perceived health benefits (64%) and managing personal weight (57%)3
  • 73% have also indicated they’d pay extra for food that is deemed healthier5

KNOW THE MARKET & COMPETITION:

Restaurant owners are also adjusting menus to reflect the meat-free trend. Happy Cow (an online service that lists sources of vegan, vegetarian and healthy food) shows 1,328 restaurants in China that are either completely vegan, completely vegetarian, or serve vegan/vegetarian options. While most of these are in the more populated Tier 1 cities, such as Shanghai (126) and Beijing (99), a handful of other cities (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou) are catching up on the trend. The food served at these restaurants suit the Western palette, but the combination of flavors are still local and authentic – scallion pancakes, tofu-based soups, bokchoy and bean curd-based dumplings, mushroom wontons, vegetarian hotpot with greens and mock meat, and dishes made with pumpkin, eggplant, green beans? Yum!

KNOW YOUR BRAND AND HOW TO POSITION IT:

Messaging and the food itself, especially what’s in it and how you tailor it to meet “local” expectations, matters!

  • Acknowledge regional differences. Consumers in Tier 1 cities have not only higher disposable income, but they’re also quick to adopt healthy lifestyles and foreign brands. That being said, Tier 2 cities, such as Hangzhou (home to Alibaba) and Tianjin (major port city not too far from Beijing), are not as saturated and could also be good places for your next vegan venture.
  • Use e-commerce platforms and partnerships to generate brand awareness. Chinese consumers are avid users of social media platforms (i.e., WeChat, Weibo and QQ) and engaging with them on these channels can boost your brand.
  • Consider partnerships with established chains to solidify your footprint. As a first step, Beyond Meat struck a partnership with Starbucks, which has more than 4,300 stores across China6.
  • Adapt and localize your menu. Catering to customers in new markets is important and there are ways to do it while staying true to your values and branding. For instance, instead of burgers, Zhenmeat (a plant-based meat startup based in Beijing) makes local dishes, such as dumplings, meatball, and crayfish7,8. They also understand that many Chinese consumers prefer to eat meat off the bone and have even started using 3-D printers that create protein alternatives containing bones and other structural elements9. Now that’s taking cultural understanding to another level!

Sources: [1] Daxue Consulting, [2] World Economic Forum, [3] China Briefing, [4] Plant and Food, [5] China Briefing, [6] CNet, [7] East West Bank, [8] CNBC, [9] New York Times

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Food as Medicine?

I have family members with very different opinions on nutrition. Some of them have incorporated superfoods, such as kale and acai, into their diet and follow a strict regimen. And there are others who refuse to “follow a diet” because: (1) it requires them to give up some of their favorite foods and (2) they don’t always believe in the outcome. As such, I believe it’s important to take a data-driven approach towards healthy eating. People should not only know why certain foods are good for them, but this information should also be customized and actionable, based on each person’s microbiome, health and preferred eating habits. Hopefully, by providing a solution that is backed by science and tracks progress among users, people will come to embrace this idea of food as medicine.

The Problem & Market Opportunity:

About half of the U.S. adult population —117 million people—have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders and various types of heart diseases 1. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, 40-80% of these conditions can be traced back to our microbiome and are preventable by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle 2­. Microbiomes are a “community of bacteria” that live inside our bodies and are unique to each individual. They’re heavily shaped by the foods we eat and play an important role in keeping us healthy by absorbing nutrients, regulating our immune system and maintaining stable hormone levels. As such, we want a diverse gut flora and in the event that we lack certain microbes, we want personalized diets that give us a balanced composition. Unfortunately, many of us are not equipped with the knowledge of what our body needs and even when we do, we have trouble maintaining that sustenance for the following reasons:

Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 9.01.06 PM

The Little Big Idea:

Yes, the meal subscription market is extremely saturated. But the problem outlined above is the reason why I believe there’s room for one more meal service that curates recipes based on people’s biomarkers, food preferences and health goals. By understanding each individual’s metabolism, genetics and even how one responds to carbs and protein, meal services like Habit are taking a science-based approach to optimizing nutrition 3, 4. However, a common criticism of these services (and food subscriptions in general) are their lack of flexibility. Imagine telling your family that you would’ve loved to join for Thai food, but instead, have to eat a pre-cooked meal from your fridge. As such, the ideal meal subscription – if it doesn’t become a logistical nightmare first – makes it easy for users to eat healthy regardless of setting. It does this by giving users the choice of: a) making meals thru personalized recipes, b) heating up pre-cooked meals and/or c) receiving menu recommendations at local restaurants.

How Does It Work:

  1. Users fill out their profile and receive a genetic testing kit with instructions for collecting biological samples (e.g. saliva and stool).
  2. Samples are sent back to a lab and tested for genetic variants and biomarkers.
  3. The composition and diversity of users’ gut microbiomes are profiled and an algorithm will predict what foods are good for each user.
  4. Users receive a personalized report with tailored recommendations (e.g. ideal meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner) and information on how their bodies respond to food.
  5. Users mark off their calendars to customize their weekly mix of meal options (e.g. at-home cooking, ready-to-eat meal kits and/or restaurant items).
  6. Users receive ongoing tips and track progress through recommended metrics.

Are there similar ideas out there for you to check out?

  • DayTwo provides personalized dietary plans that allows you “to live healthier and maintain normal blood sugar levels”.
  • Vitagene provides tailored diet, exercises and supplements based on your genetic testing results

As always, I’d love to hear what my readers think! Do any of you currently use tools/services to help you eat healthy? If so, what do you like or dislike about them?

Sources: 1 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), 2 Fight Chronic Disease, 3 Habit (How It Works), 4 Habit (Our Science)

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The World Cup and its Impact on Host Countries

In the run-up to each World Cup, countries seeking to host the tournament often talk about benefits to be gained. For instance, Russia claimed that this year’s World Cup will boost its economy by up to $31B over the 10-year period between 2013 and 2023 1. After all, how else do host countries – Qatar (2022) and Canada-U.S.-Mexico (2026) included – justify spending billions of dollars on infrastructure and new stadiums? Since these investments are government-financed (and coming out of taxpayers’ pockets), one theory is that it’s a politically-charged, self-promotion tactic, designed to boost national pride and rally the people in support of an event that puts the spotlight on the country 2, 4. While analyses done on previous host countries are not exact and vary based on each country’s economic state, maturity level (i.e. developed versus emerging markets) and cultural attitude toward soccer, they generally show that there’s limited direct financial gain from hosting the World Cup. However, there are other intangible sources of positive impact, such as improved wellbeing of its citizens due to better infrastructure and international perception of the host country. As such, let’s take a step back and provide a more comprehensive, impact assessment of the World Cup using the framework below:

  1. Direct Profitability (from / during the World Cup)
  • Increase in Tourism Revenue (e.g. Hotels, Attractions, Restaurants, Nightlife, etc.)
  • Increase in Expenses (e.g. stadiums, public transportation, security)

FIFA emerges as the real winner through revenues generated from broadcast rights, sponsorships and ticket sales ($4.8B in 2014 and an expected $6B in 2018) 3. On the other hand, host countries rely on increased employment and consumer spending (during the construction phase) and increased tourism (during the event) – both of which are hard to measure due to opportunity costs and crowding out effects 2.

As an example, Brazil and Russia spent $15B and $11.8B, respectively, on projects for the tournament and in doing so, created hundreds of thousands of jobs 3, 4. However, these jobs are mostly “temporary”, with many of the stadiums left unused after the event. Furthermore, it’s difficult to assess whether that money would be better spent elsewhere 2. After all, funneling public funds towards the World Cup means reducing other public services, such as training and educational programs, which may have contributed more to the country’s GDP 5, 7.

With respect to tourism, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil provided $13.2B in revenues from soccer fans who travelled to the country specifically for the event 6. However, this barely covers the costs that went into preparing for the tournament. Furthermore, it “crowds out” regular visitors who have no interest in the sport and thus, may choose not to come during that time 2, 7. As such, how much “additional” tourism dollars does the tournament really bring?

  1. Long-Term Economic Impact (after the World Cup)
  • International Perception of the host country
  • Business Alliances (potentially attract investments from foreign companies)
  • Employment

Hosting the World Cup, allows emerging countries to showcase their greatness and demonstrate that they deserve a seat at the “superpowers” table 8, 12. In addition to political benefits, there’s the anticipation of investments from business leaders 13. Research from UC-Berkeley shows that countries hosting the Olympics experience an increase in trade, which in turn translates into increased employment 10. Nevertheless, the same study also shows similar increases for countries who’ve made losing bids, which calls into question whether the outcome was ever a result of hosting the event or if simply entering the bid (and therefore signaling one’s capacity to host) is enough 10.

  1. Other
  • Overall wellbeing of its citizens due to better infrastructure and improved employment
  • Feel-good effect

Beyond stadiums, host countries also invest in public infrastructure (i.e. roads and transportation systems) that benefit citizens and lead to productivity in the long-run 9. Unfortunately, this is often overshadowed by pictures of abandoned stadiums built without a sustainable purpose in mind. Which brings up that opportunity cost question again: could the spending have yielded better results elsewhere?

Perhaps one of the most underestimated impacts of the World Cup is its feel-good effect on residents 2, 11. The host population often feel an immense sense of unity and national pride due to the prestige associated with hosting such a large, global event 8. This results in increased topics of conversation during the tournament, as well as improved wellbeing, as stories of triumph can inspire more kids to partake in the sport 5, 11.

Needless to say, there are many quantitative and qualitative factors that go into assessing the impact of the World Cup on host countries. While statistics suggest that there’s hardly any immediate economic gain from the tournament, there may be benefits that are either realized after a longer time period or are intangible. After all, for some countries, the “prestige” that comes with hosting the World Cup is priceless. In these situations, a positive perception of the country, along with improved diplomatic relations and national pride, justifies the net loss 8. One area worth exploring further is, based on the framework above, how and why do certain types of host countries benefit more than others? For instance, developed countries like the U.S. (1994) and Germany (2006), have fared better, because with good infrastructure systems and some stadiums already in place, their spending was less than those of others 5, 10. As such, it’d be interesting to find other patterns and factors that impact the success of a host country. Perhaps doing that will help countries make more informed decisions around whether or not they should host.

Sources:

1 http://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/3471440/russia-predicts-world-cup-will-have-%2431-billion-economic-impact

2 http://pitjournal.unc.edu/article/assessing-long-term-economic-impacts-world-cup-mega-sport-event

3 https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/14/the-business-of-the-world-cup–who-makes-money-and-how-much.html

4 http://www.businessinsider.com/fifa-brazil-world-cup-revenue-2015-3

5 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/world-cup-football-smart-investment-russia-host/

6 https://theurbantwist.com/2017/10/18/brazil-world-cup-affect-brazilian-economy/

7 https://psmag.com/economics/is-there-any-real-economic-benefit-to-hosting-a-world-cup

8 http://etd.cput.ac.za/bitstream/handle/20.500.11838/1628/208127992_visser_sd_mtech_sport_bus_2015.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

9 https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=3609&context=honors_theses

10 https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/magazine/does-hosting-the-olympics-actually-pay-off.html

11 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46526400_Economic_Impacts_of_the_FIFA_Soccer_World_Cups_in_France_1998_Germany_2006_and_Outlook_for_South_Africa_2010

12 https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/01/for-putin-the-world-cup-is-not-about-football-but-global-respect/

13 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/what-the-gold-rush-in-chinese-football-teaches-us-about-globalization/

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