Suzanne Barker

Co-Founder of When I Shop

Suzanne Barker is the Co-Founder of When I Shop. She grew up in Auckland, New Zealand where she had an adventurous childhood sailing on her family’s yacht.

She has a creative background, having studied visual arts and started her career as a picture editor in the media industry. She moved into trademark portfolio management and founded an online e-decorator business.

While up-skilling in digital marketing she identified the struggle that brands and shoppers have in finding each other. She convinced her husband and technical co-founder Max Loddo to start When I Shop with her. The mission of When I Shop is to help people consciously find quality brands in niche areas and shop in a more informed and intentional way.

Where did the idea for When I Shop come from?

I got the idea for When I Shop while using Instagram. Brands and shoppers heavily rely on Instagram to find each other but there aren’t tools for users to specifically find brands in niches.

Instagram deliberately frustrates this process to force brands to advertise to users and I figured there had to be a better way that was advantageous to both brands and shoppers.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day always starts early, between 5:30 – 6:00 am. That’s a good first step to making each day productive for me. I prioritize work that requires the most brainpower for the start of the day and leave things that are less intensive for the end of the day. I walk my son to school and pick him up. I trade that off by working an hour or two in the evenings. If I’m dead tired I delay my work until the next day because I would rather protect my health and productivity for the next day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Having a great collaboration partner is crucial to seed ideas and ultimately determine if they are worth attempting to bring to life. My husband and I often introduce ideas to each other and apply robust critiques. Almost everything fails our tough judgment. If we think there might be something worth pursuing, we introduce it to experts in that area to get another opinion. When I Shop is the only idea that we’ve had an unwavering conviction for.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m excited to see the trend of more conscious consumption starting to take shape.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I work fast and try to make every single minute count. I can concentrate for long periods of time but I must be working in complete silence. I am basically a music killer!

What advice would you give your younger self?

If you have a plan that’s very important to you don’t let anyone divert you away from that plan because you will regret it.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

We are moving into a period of deglobalization and local and automated manufacturing will rapidly change the global economy.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read a lot. I believe everyone should carve out reading time in their daily routine and be strategic in what they read to further their knowledge. I always read for at least half-an-hour every night before I sleep. It has made a massive contribution to my understanding of how to build a business the right way.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

My Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills are my secret sauce. I honed my skills by writing blogs and building websites. I believe it’s an essential skill to bring to a start-up, especially if you are a non-technical founder.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I started a small online e-decorator business before When I Shop. It quickly became apparent to me that I lacked many skills to build an online business. I overcame it by quitting and upskilling. It was while I was upskilling that I recognized a gap which eventually resulted in When I Shop. If I never exposed myself to learning new skills I never would have seen the opportunity.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A news subscription platform to access premium news content from a raft of reputable news organizations from around the world in one place.

The un-checked censorship that Facebook and Twitter are applying to news should concern everyone. Tech giants are to blame for the demise of good quality news journalism and the massive spread of misinformation.

News organizations should get off social media and join forces on a platform where they can create a singular paywall and share in advertising revenue.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently purchased a weighted blanket because I don’t always sleep well. There’s something very relaxing about climbing under a 7kg blanket at the end of the day.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I have been using the app for years to run David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity system. I assign contexts to efficiently batch phone, computer, and errand tasks. I also like the Next, Someday, and Waiting tabs so I can quickly brain dump my life.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Matt Mochary’s book, The Great CEO Within. Matt coaches tech startup CEOs in Silicon Valley. His book really is a gift to the entrepreneur community.

He has a whole chapter on the Getting Things Done (GTD) system. I was excited to learn that the majority of successful CEOs that he knows use the GTD system.

What is your favorite quote?

Get sh*t done.

Key Learnings:

  • Find lessons in every failure. Recognize that the low points are what make you the most resilient person you can be to take on the challenges ahead of you and succeed.
  • To never quit is terrible advice. Quitting can sometimes be the best thing that you do.
  • Listen to advice but be sure to only take action on what resonates with you 100% and leave the rest behind.