Five years ago Jenny Cipoletti founded Margo & Me, a blog rooted in fashion that eventually evolved into a lifestyle that aimed to create content as an expression of a life well-lived. Jenny makes it her mission to inject style, beauty, and art into everything she creates as her blog evolves over time, travels and moves across the country. This week she and her husband Fred are celebrating the launch of their new app TIVVIT that functions as a peer-to-peer shopping experience that helps users monetize their top finds. The AHA moment of the app’s inception is too good to miss!
You’re launching a new app called TIVVIT. Tell us about it!
Yes! I couldn’t be more excited about this new venture that actually started three years ago!
TIVVIT is a premier peer-to-peer social shopping app that allows users to monetize their shopping habits by giving and receiving personal style advice. Shop or suggest items by your favorite brands while earning commissions on your recommendations. TIVVIT aims to bring social interaction back to social shopping. Ask a product question to the style community, make a recommendation to other users, build collection where users can shop your curated collections, direct message users with! TIVVIT allows users to monetize off their style by applying the traditional affiliate model to everyone. It’s social shopping made personal! The best part, you’re already approved to earn from 1000’s of brands, no approval needed and no, you don’t have to be an influencer to use it! But if you are an influencer, it’s an amazing tool to use to generate extra cash by connecting with your audience on a far more personal level.
When you decided to create TIVVIT, how did you see the need for it in the market?
Four years ago, I was sitting at dinner with a group of girlfriends when one said to the other.
“Oh, by the way, I found those shoes on sale, I put them in your cart!”
“what do you mean you put them in her cart?
“Oh we have the same login and just put things in the cart if one of us finds something the other has been looking for.”
The idea of my two friends keeping shopping tabs out for each other was not a total shock. After all, I’ve been doing this for friends and family for years for the blog, fielding requests that come in the form of text message, DM or email.
“Jenny, I’m going to a wedding in December, want to wear something black and long sleeve, have you seen anything”
I guess people know I’m alway shopping and since I have access to affiliate networks, it literally pays when I make suggestions.
But what dawned on me is that this concept of sharing and earning isn’t a luxury that’s afforded to many. Acceptance to prestigious affiliate networks was only available to bloggers with thousands of followers. Why wasn’t everyone able to earn off their style like bloggers and influencers can? Surely not just influencers get asked the question, “Where did you get that dress?!”
In addition to this, I recognized that a key element of social shopping was missing. Users not only long for peer-to-peer interaction and social discovery in order to find the products that fit their needs, but they’re also tired of being “sold” on things that don’t apply to what they’re actually looking for. So I set out to create a platform where anyone’s requests and personalized recommendations could be shared, made and monetized in a way that is interactive and discoverable.
So I went to the drawing board and started to brainstorm ways I could create a platform that connects two sides of the market, people who need style reconditions and people who like making style recommendations – and earning while doing it.
What lessons did you take from blogging that helped you in founding a tech company? What are some of the new things you’ve learned along the way?
I think we’re living in a really special time when the traditional route to owning your own company isn’t as direct as it used to be. Margo & Me taught me that I am inherently a mentor in mind and at heart – through the years my audience has always looked to me as a kind of role model. Therefore, I take having a platform with a responsibility and that responsibility includes being a leader in a non-linear way, taking risks and not being intimidated by tradition but instead setting an example to my audience to pave their own path in whatever it is they believe in. Having Margo & Me allowed me to take this journey into being a founder of a tech company and that’s something I’m incredibly proud of.
What was your process like designing and funding the app?
I’ve always lived by the guiding principle that you can do anything you put your mind to and I’ve been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by brilliant people who support me. Having an idea is one thing but then turning that idea into a tangible product that’s never existed before in the tech space could be intimidating to some, but Freddie, my husband and co-founder, and I thrive off opportunities to create and we’re really good at executing – that’s truly been the secret to our successful dynamic over the years.
Freddie and I set out to create a wireframe deck we put together in none other than trusty powerpoint. We poured our ideas into this for months, combining everything we love and hate about social media and the current state of social shopping, we were like mad scientists!
In addition to this, the past five years of blogging have afforded me the opportunity to come across some incredible people in the space who have not only helped me on my Margo & Me journey but now my TIVVIT journey as well.
One of the first people we went to with the idea for TIVVIT was Chloe Watt’s, yes, of Chloe Digital! Having worked together for years on Margo & Me, I knew Chloe spoke the language of fashion and tech – a rare combination – if anyone could understand if this was concept was feasible, it would be her. I’ll never forget our first meeting where I introduced the concept for – her excitement, enthusiasm and endless (I mean endless) support for it is truly what put us on the path to eventually design the app. This was the first step.
Next, we needed someone to create the app. My connections in Silicon Valley are strong since I grew up there. So Freddie and I set out to pitch and find someone to execute our vision. We were lucky enough to score a meeting with a big mobile technology company and pitched them on the concept. They take on about 2 projects a year to develop and are pitched with 1000’s. They chose TIVVIT and that’s when it all became real.
My business before had always been self-sustaining and didn’t need investments, but to get this app to where it needed to be, we needed funding. Freddie, spent 10+ years in the film industry prior to joining me full time on Margo & Me and eventually launching TIVVIT, so he had experience in things like raising capital for the films that he’s produced over the years.
And just like that, we were back to pitching, only this time we had proof of concept and had assembled the team to create the app. Once these pieces were in place, we were able to find seed funding to start on our journey.
This was the trifecta I needed, and in 2017, TIVVIT was born.
Brands have been open to using micro-influencers because of their authenticity and high engagement. How do you think someone could use TIVVIT to authentically connect with other users from the beginning?
This question couldn’t be more perfect in echoing what I was just speaking of – brands activating millions of organic micro-channels through what we’re calling micro-influencers! This is the future of retail!
I believe that this market is being tremendously underserved and I can’t help but notice that they’re just waiting for a platform to come along and serve them and their needs. TIVVIT isn’t just for micro’s, macro’s or nano’s. It’s for femoto’s, atto’s, zepto’s and yocto’s!! If you have a friend who’s ever asked you “where did you get that?”, TIVVIT is for you! The playing field is evening out and TIVVIT is here to serve those who don’t currently feel like they have a place in the social shopping landscape.
Acceptance to prestigious affiliate networks is currently only available to bloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers. The question I keep asking myself, is why isn’t everyone able to earn off their style like bloggers and influencers can? Well, not they can.
Everyone has a different style. How do you plan to create a vast and varied community of fashion enthusiasts?
Absolutely, and we carefully designed the UX to (hopefully) cater to everyone. Early in beta testing, we held several days worth of focus groups at the NYU Incubation Lab that consisted of our vast and varied target demographics. We listened to what they liked, didn’t like, would like to see more of, less of. I believe that the success of this app will come from one thing and that’s listening to what the user wants. It’s a platform created for users so it’s my goal to be adaptable and lean into the direction that users feel TIVVIT benefits them most with.
What is your ultimate mission for the TIVVIT app?
It is my hope that TIVVIT becomes second nature, just like online shopping. Long run, it’s my hope that my story and TIVVIT become a conduit for how the narrative of how the channels of retail is changing and how influence is much, much more varied and inclusive than we currently think it is. It’s just about tapping into the right places.
TIVVIT launches this month. You can download it now in either the Apple & Android App Store. Congrats to Jenny and Fred – we’re so proud of you!