Each month we have the honor of interviewing WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US. This month we talked to Isabelle Ohnemus, founder & CEO of EyeFitU. During the interview, we discussed the challenges of being a first mover in your field and what it means to be a female entrepreneur. Isabelle also shared with us some valuable career tips that she has learned along the way.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current position.
My name is Isabelle, I am the founder and CEO of EyeFitU, which is an AI sizes service solution for fashion retailers. My background is in economics but during my studies, I was also interested in coding which sparked a strong interest in the tech industry.
Afterward, I started working in the banking sector. I specialized in derivatives and was working with institutional clients on the Japanese market. I was then headhunted by Crédit Suisse in Zurich before ultimately working for Merrill Lynch.
At that time. I also started organizing fashion shows over the weekends through my charity work at the Swiss Red Cross. I was involved in the organization of the galas in Basel, Zurich & St Moritz and I realized that the women I met during these events were often struggling to find unique and beautiful pieces to wear.
My hobby was to try and find designers who were not known in Zurich and introduce them to those women. There wasn’t a lot of transparency regarding sizes when buying online at the time. I had to deal with returns and it was overall very frustrating. It led me to think about possible solutions to prevent such high levels of returns. This is how I started EyeFitU, a Size-as-a-Service AI software company for apparel retailers. We use machine learning to achieve better results, in our case how to be more precise with our sizing recommendations.
My coding classes gave me the tools and knowledge to manage a tech team. My CTO and our team of developers are always keen to show me new things and I am always happy to learn. It is very important to always keep learning!
Which aspects of your work are you the proudest of?
Being granted two patents made me and the team extremely proud. I am also very proud of the fact that the current EyeFitU team has not changed since the beginning, which shows strong loyalty and is a testimony to our strong company culture. The team is spread between Zurich, Minsk, and the US and we are all working together towards the same goal.
What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech? What did you learn from it?
When you start something from scratch, there is little competition but you have to educate customers first which can be a challenge. Having a size engine recommendation was not a top priority at the beginning.
The direct-to-consumers approach is now forcing many brands to embrace solutions that can positively impact their bottom line. Additionally, COVID has accelerated the need for improved online shopping experiences.
It can also be difficult to hire talented people as a start-up in Zurich when you are competing with big names such as Google.
Do you feel that women face different challenges than men? Have you experienced that?
Yes, I have absolutely! I feel that investors tend to be tougher with female founders. When you meet an investor, you want him to invest because he believes in you and in your business model and not because he has to respect a certain quota.
Additionally, we, as women, tend to be more focused on our careers and our family and sometimes neglect the networking aspect of our life. Men truly excel at networking and you see the impact of that at every stage of your career.
Networking should be a central part of your career.
Speaking of networking, you are also a member of the female founder collective! Why is it important for you to be part of a female organization?
I think it is very important! The female founder collective gave me the opportunity to meet amazing people. For example, my colleagues and I met Rebecca Minkhoff’s brother at a conference and he was very interested in the EyeFitU story. You could see that he was very aligned with his sister’s purpose of creating a platform for women from any background. Initiatives that promote networking for women and share insightful content are really amazing.
N.B: The Female Founder Collective is a network of businesses led by women, supporting women, co-founded by fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. Their mission is to enable and empower female-owned and led businesses to positively impact communities, both socially and economically.
Who is your role model and why?
I am a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg. She is committed to giving young women the tools to be assertive, confident and to believe in their worth.
More recently, I would say Whitney Wolfe who created Bumble. Her story is very inspiring for the young generation as well.
What advice would you give other women in tech?
Don’t be afraid, create your own company, be an entrepreneur. As women, we tend to be a bit more risk-averse but we need to get out there!
Don’t be afraid to become an entrepreneur.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is in the omnichannel space and extending that to brands. For example, brands would be able to anonymously capture the measurements of the consumers when they come into the store. They would then be able to improve their manufacturing processes based on that information and ultimately reduce excess inventory. We can therefore have a positive influence on the environmental impact of the industry.
Anything else you’d like to say to our readers or pass them on their way?
Machine learning & AI is the future and we need more women in that field.
We would like to thank Isabelle for her time and for sharing her inspiring career path. There is certainly something to learn from her path for all of us. Thank you, Isabelle, for being a woman who inspires us! 💛
Author: Anne-Sophie Scharff
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