Driving Disruption: Maggie Adhami-Boynton Of ShopThing On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Discounted luxury video commerce while also bringing in a platform to allow anyone to buy and sell. With ShopThing, we’ve combined the best of both worlds. An online platform to browse the newest designer goods at amazing deals, and the ability to independently resell clothing and goods from your closet. It is a one stop shop to fund your wardrobe and build it. You’ll find a variety of price points, suitable for any and every budget.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Maggie Adhami-Boynton.

Maggie Adhami-Boynton, the dynamic co-founder and CEO of ShopThing, is a trailblazer in the North American live video commerce scene. With over 15 years of experience in the tech industry and a Master’s degree from Harvard, she transformed her passion for fashion into a groundbreaking luxury shopping platform. With a rapid growth reaching over 500,000 app users, ShopThing has reached worldwide notoriety by revolutionizing the way people shop in today’s tech-driven world. Beyond her entrepreneurial achievements, Maggie is dedicated to promoting diversity, inclusion and creating a safe gig working space for women.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Upon completing my schooling in Psychology and Business Management, I embarked on a career journey leading me to an operational role in the tech industry. Despite my success in this position, I found myself yearning for something more aligned with my true passion: fashion and style. From the outset, I had harboured aspirations of working in the fashion industry, but the prospect of carving out a viable career path in that field didn’t seem realistic or easily attainable.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon an emerging trend known as ‘Live-Shopping’ in Asia that I experienced an epiphany moment in both my personal and professional life. Recognizing this was an untapped market in North America, I saw an opportunity to combine my passion for fashion with my expertise in technology. This realization sparked a new entrepreneurial drive within me, compelling me to venture out on my own and bring this innovative marketplace concept to fruition in the North American market.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Not only is ShopThing the pioneer of its kind in the North American market, but it also transforms the shopping experience by blending the excitement of Instagram with the dynamic realm of live shopping. This innovative platform brings the allure of exclusive designer goods within reach of the masses, offering a fun and entertaining way to shop like never before. Not to mention, the relationships we’ve built with our partners, allows us to bring our community exclusive deals on 100% authentic merchandise.

Coming from my background in operational roles, I understood the importance of gaining proper analytics before entering into any venture. For ShopThing, I needed to prove the North American consumers would be interested in this as much as I was. The first iteration of the platform was done by myself and my co-founder live on Instagram. I needed to prove market fit and profitability before I went in — head first.

Early on we realized that nothing is more important than listening to our customers. What makes us different is we have a really good pulse on how they feel, think, and their pain points. I attribute this to the fact that I personally still host events for our customers at a minimum of 1–2 days a week. It allows me to not only use my product on a weekly basis, but also engage with and listen to my customers, ensuring our continued relevance.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Patience: Take the time early on (before you start your business) to pilot and test the product/service before pushing it out. Test the market, product, and customer for viability. A lot may change in the first year of your business — from your business model all the way down to whether you call your user a customer or client. You must be willing to make quick changes as you learn about how people use your product or service in the real world. Most businesses, after all, are made or broken within the first few years of operation.

Integrity: Millenial and Gen Z consumers are demanding an increase in transparency from the companies they purchase from, whether that be leadership, supply chain, pricing, etc. In addition to ensuring the relationships with my board and investors are built on honesty and openness.

Drive: During the early stages of my entrepreneurial journey my drive played a pivotal role in propelling me forward. We made a firm commitment to dive headfirst into our venture, dedicating months to the development of our tech product. With plans set in motion, we launched live for Black Friday 2019, expanding our team with the addition of 4–5 developers and securing office space.

However, our momentum was abruptly halted with the onset of March 2020. As the global pandemic shuttered brick-and-mortar retail stores, we found ourselves, like most of the business world, filled with uncertainty. Suddenly, our live streaming platform had no content to broadcast. Recognizing the need to adapt, we deliberated on pivoting our strategy. Yet, before we could solidify our plans, stores began reopening. However, at this time consumers were still apprehensive about entering stores in-person — enter ShopThing. Had we not remained focused and stayed true to our original vision, we could have lost this payoff.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

Following up from my previous response, our journey took an unexpected turn as we entered the market just months before a global pandemic and an impending recession. During those uncertain times there were many sleepless nights pondering whether to halt everything. Despite the challenges, we had invested in office space, hired employees, and steadily building trust with our growing customer base. Stores were closed, people were scared to leave their homes and we seemed at a standstill, sitting on our investment and everything we had been working up to. Ironically, this is what truly made us blow up! Behind the scenes, we had partnerships with certain retail stores and online platforms we were able to leverage at this time. People didn’t want to leave their homes but still wanted to shop! Our job was to bring it to them in the form of personal live shopping at their fingertips, from the comfort of their home. As cities began to open back up we partnered with even more companies and our community began to expand.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

To me disruption is the ability to provide significant change and value to an industry through innovation. As consumer behaviours evolve, market research tells us that there has been a steady decline in physical retail store visits over the past two decades. Online shopping has become the prevailing trend. Nevertheless, the online shopping model has its limitations and there still remains a segment of consumers who prefer in-person experiences.

In response to this landscape, we’ve merged the best of both worlds. Our solution offers a live, personalized shopping experience that is accessible to all. By marrying the convenience of online shopping with the personal touch of in-person interactions, we bridge the gap and cater to the diverse preferences of modern consumers.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

As a CEO, I foster a culture of innovation within my company, encouraging creativity, experimentation, and out-of-the-box thinking among my team members. By prioritizing innovation and investing in research and development, we continually push the boundaries of what’s possible and strive to introduce groundbreaking solutions to the market.

One of my favourite books is “Billion Dollar Brand Club” by Lawrence Ingrassia. It talks about startups that were underestimated early on, but later went to disrupt trillion-dollar industries. This really resonated with me because back when I was still testing the concept, many didn’t understand my vision and how much potential I saw in this business. On top of that, live shopping is seen as a rival to both brick-and-mortar AND online shopping — almost anyone would say I was out of my mind for trying to take on these giants.

Responsible disruption is to prioritize customer needs, expand market opportunities, or increase overall service efficiency. For decades, the only way to purchase something was to go to a physical store, try it on, and pay at checkout. Then online shopping became the biggest craze — millions of items at our fingertips and all you had to do was click an image (but let’s be honest, there’s no replacement for the experience of touch — feeling a coat’s fabric or trying on a shoe for yourself). Live shopping is the perfect combination of the things we love most about in-store and online shopping: engagement, experience, and convenience. Bonus? ShopThing brings the magic formula of influencer marketing and their trusted reviews. Our retailers can drastically increase brand awareness, grow sales and reach hundreds of thousands of customers that wouldn’t have set foot in their store. Some companies report conversion rates up to ten times higher than in conventional e-commerce. Live shopping is undoubtedly disrupting the retail landscape and the future of how we shop and sell. Our retail partners see a huge spike in brand awareness and foot traffic after a shopper event — something we’ve coined “the ShopThing effect.”

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

For me it means being able to embrace change and pivot, especially at a moment’s notice. In navigating everyday business decisions, I’ve learned you need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances or you’ll be eaten alive. You could be the smartest person in the room and have done all your market research, but the world is constantly changing — your product has to be able to adapt to be what consumers will want tomorrow and a year from now. This is something I instil in all those that work with me — to embrace the unknown, with a pros and cons list in your back pocket.

By encouraging creativity and experimentation within my team I’ve fostered a culture of innovation, allowing us to continuously push boundaries and disrupt the status quo. However, I like to partner this with strategic risk management. Assess risks carefully, weigh potential rewards against potential pitfalls, and make informed decisions based on data and analysis. This approach allows me to navigate uncertainty while minimizing downside risk.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

Our business model in terms of our consumer relationship mimics that of online shopping. In this sense I suppose the only main pushback we have received has been similar in terms of paying for a product without feeling it, trying it on, being able to adjust for sizing, etc. However, how we have managed to overcome this is the very essence of having live and personal shoppers. These shoppers are your favourite influencers, they act as your best friend and stylist, discussing all things in terms of item fit and sizing. What’s more is you are able to message your shopper live in-app throughout the entire shopping experience.

I always like to think about navigating pushback in terms of what I would want from a service and what area’s are in need of growth. I understand my consumers, because I am one. I am my own pickiest customer, so once I achieve satisfaction — I know I am in a good position.

What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

1 . Discounted luxury video commerce while also bringing in a platform to allow anyone to buy and sell. With ShopThing, we’ve combined the best of both worlds. An online platform to browse the newest designer goods at amazing deals, and the ability to independently resell clothing and goods from your closet. It is a one stop shop to fund your wardrobe and build it. You’ll find a variety of price points, suitable for any and every budget.

2 . Creating a safe space for women to side hustle. We have three main veins of Shoppers on our App. Personal shoppers, which consists of our team, including your favourite Social Media influencers. This team shops daily at the best retailers and events around the world. Gig team, this team works in partnership with us, personal shopping with their own autonomy. Finally, our newest venture, Marketplace Shoppers. This group is all of you! In partnership with our amazing community of members, we wanted to extend the ability to share and sell directly from your closet. Not only is this a great way to side hustle, but also supports sustainability efforts.

3 . Allowing luxury to be more accessible. Jet Setting to London or Tokyo to do some afternoon shopping is in no way attainable to the masses. Enter ShopThing. Not only are we able to get our hands on luxury designer goods, but we work to get our members exclusive deals daily. Outside of geographical limitations, people seem to be busier than ever nowadays. Checking out ShopThing is just as easy as logging onto TikTok or Instagram and seeing what your favourite influencer is up to — except with more perks for you! We work to make our platform as seamless as possible, from the check out process to having your items arrive at your door.

4 . Upgrading the shopping experience by putting a personal shopper right at your fingertips. If you’ve ever had a personal shopper service you in store, you know how amazing it feels to have a service tailored specifically for you. This is what our shoppers aim to do. Our members have built long lasting relationships with the shoppers on our platforms and are able to individually message them throughout the entire buying process. We have even sourced specific items for customers!

5 . Reinforcing and embracing slow fashion. Helping find preloved items, new homes and aiding in the solution to the fast fashion problem. Sustainability in the fashion industry is very important to me and a huge OKR for my company. We have major partnerships with Pre-Loved Designer companies, giving these sought-after goods a new home. As well, our newest endeavour, ShopThing Marketplace. Our Marketplace feature allows our community to sell their gently used items, which in turn helps to limit the overconsumption of fast fashion and contribution to landfill waste.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

In our journey, there are no predetermined blueprints to follow. Venturing into the realm of Live Shopping through an app platform presented an unfamiliar landscape in our market, leaving us to navigate with limited guidance. This uncertainty necessitated pivots, as mentioned previously, and a heavy reliance on consumer research and analytics. Our business model hinges almost entirely on customer feedback.

We recognize this is a new experience for our customers as well, and they trust us to deliver on their expectations from the outset. For a customer-centric business like ours, satisfaction and retention are paramount. What has surprised me most is the extent to which I find myself personally engaging with our customers on a daily basis at this stage of our journey. The relationships we’ve cultivated with them is the cornerstone of our business and reaffirms why I embarked on this entrepreneurial journey in the first place.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

It’s not lost on me that I work in a male dominated industry, such as the tech and app space — I have had to be quick on my feet to get a seat at the table. Current statistics show us, less than 30% of the workforce for North American tech companies is female, even less being women of colour. Being able to champion women and diversity extends to more than just my business. In my personal life, I’m constantly amazed by female-led companies that are breaking barriers and shattering the ceiling on what is possible. What makes them so appealing is that they are different from the status quo — what we’ve seen for the last 20 years. I feel like more and more disruptors in the industry are women-led, so to continue to support them in my personal and professional life is a big priority for me.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

I think the obvious answer is how do we remain relevant? I am constantly preoccupied with the question of how to keep our company ahead of the curve in this ever-evolving landscape. We are also beginning to see more and more major social networking platforms take on the form of Live Shopping. The rapid pace of technological advancements and shifting consumer preferences necessitates a proactive approach. I am always contemplating new ways to anticipate trends, identify emerging opportunities, and pivot our strategies accordingly to maintain our competitive edge. This also requires ongoing investment in research and development, market analysis, and strategic partnerships to ensure that our products and services continue to meet the evolving demands of our target audience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Sustainability has always held a special place in my heart. It’s a value ingrained in me since childhood, thanks to my mother’s example of repurposing and minimizing waste. Witnessing her efforts, I understood the profound impact of our actions on the environment. My passion lies in championing sustainability, and I envision establishing or supporting a business dedicated to this cause. In the realm of fashion, sustainability remains a pressing concern. While we can’t completely solve the industry’s impact overnight, at ShopThing, we’re committed to taking tangible steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Our aim is to leave behind a healthier planet for future generations.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Download the ShopThing App and follow us on Instagram @ShopThingLive for a look behind the scenes and previews to our exclusive sales!

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.