Connect with us


Conscious Business Leadership – Manish Chandra, founder/CEO of Poshmark



(This is one in a series of articles and interviews about conscious business leadership, which is about leaders creating and promoting workplaces of understanding, honesty, and compassion, for the betterment of their employees, their community, their organization and world.)

I recently met Manish Chandra, the founder and CEO of Poshmark, the mobile marketplace for women to buy and sell clothes from each other, whether directly from their closets or by creating their own boutique. We were at PoshFest (1st-2nd October), Poshmark’s annual fashion conference which brings together hundreds of stylish, entrepreneurial women from all across the country for a weekend packed with inspirational speakers, educational panels and workshops, fun parties and networking opportunities. This year they made conscious efforts to bring wholesale brands to the fest to support their Poshers to stock their own boutiques online and not just sell out of their own closets.


Prior to Poshmark, Manish had been the founder and CEO of Kaboodle, Inc. which was sold to Hearst Corporation in 2007.

Manish, how do you keep making these new and successful startups?

I started meditating in 2005, that’s when I started to see things differently. One truth I have found is that when a company helps people to connect and empower one another – magic happens.

I knew I wanted to create a very people-centric business. This means a business where people love coming to work. So it was a conscious decision when I started my first company. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot that I am now applying to Poshmark. We are proud of how we built the company and the community. There were principles that were hidden before that are now more obvious to me – I can state them more clearly. For example, one of the core things about Poshmark is the way you merchandise the items is by supporting each other. The whole merchandising system is built so that the only way Poshers can gain more audience is if they share and promote other Poshers. The sharing, unlike other markets, where you pay other people to promote your items, is free. This is based on a thesis that in order to build a scalable marketplace we have to focus on love and sharing love. If you focus on love money comes. But if you focus on money, nothing comes. The reality is if we are just chasing money, then eventually we basically get tired, exhausted. Even if we have enough money we really are not there because every one of us essentially wants to be loved – and that affects the way we think about the business and community.

It was reported that Poshmark has amassed more than 1.5 million sellers, who engage with the app an average of seven times (and 25 minutes) per day. At PoshFest, I can see that you have a whole room of women committed and collaborative. 

On the flip side, there are reviews which are very unhappy with you service and customer service. How do you handle these people who may be unhappy with your service?

We have to keep growing at every dimension of the company. I feel that at every stage of growth you have to keep improving the company. But the app reviews are a mixed thing. I take negative reviews with a pinch of salt but then again whatever feedback we get, we have to keep improving. At each stage, there are things we are doing well and there are things we are not doing well. We have to take the things we are doing well and keep expanding the way we look at it is, that for me, one of the principles I learnt. This is the only thing can sustain long term happiness is growth.

If you are not growing as a company; as a human being; as a person; you are not happy. It doesn’t matter how you are growing but you have to keep growing. If you are growing from a business perspective or from a personal perspective; growth is not always easy and simple. Growth has pain involved but we have to keep growing. Growing is what we we have to do as a company. Growing is what we have to do for our sellers. Growing is what we have to do for our employees. I have to do it. I feel when the company is not growing; I am personally not growing. So you have to keep forcing yourself to grow.

That’s interesting, so how do you as a leader keep yourself growing or forcing yourself to grow?

By surrounding yourself with people who are pulling and pushing you in different directions. Challenging you. When I started Poshmark, I had already built a successful company, Kaboodle. One of the things I saw with a lot of entrepreneurs is when they start a successful company; the next company typically fails. So I spent a fair bit of time before I started this company talking to a lot of people about what causes them to fail. I don’t know if you have ever heard the classic story where the emperor is naked and no one tells him. This seems to happen in the second company. Since you’re successful for the first time, nobody wants to give you advice anymore. Everyone thinks that you are always absolutely right. So it very important to have people who can challenge you whether they are your advisors etc. For example recently I joined a group which is focused on CEOs of a certain type of scale and size who are growing. I just attended my first offsite and got really good feedback. This group is called 10X CEO. They have given me feedback about my assumptions that I never challenged and I have been thinking about it. It was a very deep challenge that they give me as a feedback and it came from two to three people.

You did see a link from your mindfulness to your business. How would you suggest that to other leaders who are hesitant or not keen on being so self-reflective.

I feel that for me the spiritual journey that is happening and the physical journey that is happening is very deeply connected. For example, one of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. I refer to it not just in life but also in business. I quote from it most often. For me, there are four books which I call “the paths to happiness”. They are all spiritual books not business books.

Just like how Steve Jobs gave out The Autobiography of a Yogi at his funeral? So what are the four books?

They are The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.

Each of them like Jonathan Livingston Seagull is challenging the norm. Each is reminding us about following our own journey. For me, there is a lot of pragmatic advice we get but the real deep advice is spiritual.

I am curious about Poshmark’s expansion plans. As a coach to leaders, and repeatedly, while companies may already have traction and clients but the scaling is the real challenge.

Yes, it is it is the real challenge. You hit the nail on the head. The challenge with scaling is focus. You can be in a business where there are no opportunities. Poshmark is in a business where there are tons of opportunities. A trillion dollar market globally. Examples include China, Europe, and other big markets with temptations; big celebs want to work with us; big fashion brands and indie designers. We just launched kids and men’s too. The key I am working through is as you are scaling how do we maintain focus. Rather than die by a thousand cuts. What makes you successful in the past obviously we have to grow these areas but we have to challenge them too. There are sacred cows in any organization. If you don’t challenge them you don’t grow but if you kill too many of them; you will die as well. It’s this balance. I don’t say I have mastered it but at every point you can figure it out.

Scaling is such a hard problem. Each stage you have to stretch and challenge it. Initially you are so resistant, you say why do I have to it some other way why can’t it stay the same? Then you suffer and the suffering makes you realize that you have to force yourself to keep growing because if you can’t force yourself to do it proactively, you have to do it reactively.

I so agree.

Not that I always remember it. Sometimes you don’t want to change. You’re so happy with the way things are. But like for this event I stepped back and the next generation of leadership in the company – I didn’t even know what was happening. I had the high level thing of what they were doing. And they did such a great job and if I was leaning forward too much they wouldn’t have done such an amazing job. New people were brought in for help with overall event management. Those people have a different freshness.

Bring in great people. Great thought processes stretch and when you bring in good people they also respect where things are coming from but then take you into a new direction. The key is people want to be respected for where they are coming from but they also want to be brought to a new place. Then when they see the new place they don’t want to go back to where they were before because they see all this new things.

I called it aligned. It’s like all the canoes are aligned but they don’t have to look like they are going the same direction. As opposed to before like robots we followed linearly and in one same direction. In the canoes metaphor, some team members may go ahead and they can get to see the new direction and lead the way.

That’s a good metaphor. And in that journey, you find great partners.

How do you choose these people? Great people. Great partners. Do you have a process at Poshmark?

We do have a process. We focus on skill sets and background and a fair bit of time on the culture partnership. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same but we have to fit in a certain way. We work on the Love principle; the Growth principle and the third principle which is very, very, important to us. Every person is unique. If you look at our team and our women at this PoshFest they are all unique and at the same time, all of us feel strange. If we close our eyes we feel something is wrong with us and something is not right. I call that your own unique weirdness. We try to be something otherwise than that weirdness. We try to be the opposite. The only way for us to grow is to embrace our weirdness both as an organization and as a human being.

The principle of Weirdness. That’s a very strong principle. We want to bring people who want to embrace their weirdness. Great organizations die because they want to be someone else. I spend very little time focus on competition and much more time figuring what is our unique weirdness and how can we grow that. Sometimes we have to be determined and focused.

For example, last night we did our own fashion show and we wanted to do it a certain way. We didn’t want a classic fashion show with models. We wanted a fashion show where our community were the models. We partnered with independent brands and our audience was the people who buy the brand to stock in their boutiques on Poshmark. We had women across the country in all shapes and sizes participate and a couple of them walked with their kids. The clothes they were modeling were from our Wholesale Marketplace which sells wholesale and our community sellers were watching it as an audience. We didn’t compromise in any way. We didn’t hire models, we didn’t work with any season.

So looks like Tracy Sun and you started Poshmark and now it is scaling and disrupting the fashion business as usual as you intentionally are not aspiring to be someone else. It’s almost as if you are saying, closets is like each woman’s inner selves and through Poshmark, we are opening up these up. And this is our weirdness and seemingly other people like our weirdness too.

We encourage everyone to embrace their weirdness. We have college dropouts and MBAs from top schools internationally working alongside us at Poshmark. Colleagues from Japan and France – people who are different and bring different points of view. We really appreciate each other.

If a fairy godmother came and granted you a wish. What would be wish for your company as you scale?

We want to be the largest fashion platform in the world

Why you and not someone else?

Because we empower people. We focus on empowerment because every person wants to feel good and beautiful about themselves. Doesn’t matter who you are how you look and how you feel – the empowerment is uniquely being able to take that journey. That journey is not just about selling but feeling who you are. I feel that is just a massive thing that is happening across out the world. Not just in social media. Mobile communications. Globalization. These set a trend that is irreversible. If you go to any part of the world people aspire for similar things – people want and aspire for same thing. So why don’t we do it together?

So I am going to push it a little and say that even if women are not making all their money on Poshmark, it’s already a success. Since what the community and expression is actually the return on investment.

Absolutely. As I said, if I die tomorrow I will be a happy man.

To learn more about Poshmark, please see

Are you a startup looking for investment? Come join me at Expert Dojo’s “Q4 Investor Festival – Where Startups Meet Investors” in Santa Monica, from October 24 to 28. Details at

For information about Turning Gen Y On, my recently-published book to help leaders overcome workplace challenges with their Gen Y staff, please see


Women on Top in Tech – Dawn Dickson, Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. and Founder of Flat Out of Heels



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Dawn Dickson is the Founder and CEO of PopCom, Inc. (formerly Solutions Vending, Inc.), the company behind PopCom Kiosks and the PopCom API, which provides a software solution to make vending machines more intelligent. She created the company after her own struggles to find vending machines that could sell her roll-up flat products, Flat Out of Heels, at high-traffic areas like airports.  She was awarded First place in the PowerMoves NOLA Big Break pitch Competition and second place in the 2016 SBA Innovate Her Challenge.

What makes you do what you do? 
I love solving big problems and working with amazing people to get it done.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
After working in the vending industry for three years selling Flat Out of Heels in vending machines in airports and nightclubs, I was frustrated with the lack of data I was able to collect from my hardware. I also wanted more engaging and interactive experiences for my customers and after speaking with several retailers they felt the same way. That is when I decided to focus on PopCom and developing a software solution to solve the data problem in self-service retail.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)? 
The fact that I am not the usual, leadership demographic is the main reason why I was up for the challenge. The industry is in need of a change and I believe someone with a unique and different perspective and experience is needed. I look forward to collaborating with the industry leaders and veterans to build a product that everyone loves and finds value in.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
I am involved in several different industries and sectors – retail, self-service retail, hardware, software…so I have to learn a lot of information quickly.  There are several people that I look up to, follow their career, and seek advice from. I was fortunate to be able to participate in some of the country’s top accelerator and entrepreneurship development programs, including Techstars, Canopy Boulder, and the BIxel Exchange – the mentorship and network I gained from these programs has been invaluable and very instrumental in our progress.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
I have learned that spotting talent takes time, it takes patience, and building relationships with people and networks to meet new people, most of my connections come from introductions. I focus on finding the right fit for the company culture, there is a lot of great talent out there, but the culture is different, I want us to be on the same wavelength. I am fortunate to have met some great people through the programs I was in that came on as mentors, advisors, and eventually full time team members. I take time to get to know my team individually and understand what their personal goals and ambitions are, ask them what their dream job looks like, understand their needs so they can be happy at work and be fulfilled. I believe in self-care and making mental health a priority, if a person is good within themselves they radiate positivity and are more productive.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I am a black woman so I am diversity. Naturally, we attract people we can relate to and have things in common, so I found that my team was heavily female and my diversity initiative was finding more men…when I thought about it I found it funny. Now I have a balanced team of men and women from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives which is exciting.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
To be a great leader you have to be a team player, my rule is I never ask someone to do something that I would not do myself. I also have a rule to give the team the freedom and flexibility to work when and how they are most productive. That means some of us working different hours and being in the office different days, but happy team builds the dream!

Advice for others?
My advice is never give up if you believe in it. I started my company selling shoes in vending machines in 2011, it took me 7 years, a few failed hardware attempts, and many people telling me it would not work because the market was not ready. I was patient and what I believed would happen is happening. In May PopCom is bringing the PopShop to market, a next gen smart vending machine to sell and sample products. Our API will be ready in July and for the first time vending machine and kiosk owners can understand their conversion rates and have the level of data and analytics available that eCommerce stores have, but better. It has been a long journey and I feel it is just getting started, but I am only here because I never gave up.

If you’d like to get in touch with Dawn Dickson, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about PopCom, please click here.

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Elaine Zhou, Co-Founder of China Women Equipping Center



Elaine went on a journey of self discovery and once she knew her true self she could be successful in her own business.

What’s your story?
I am very proud of where I came from and I am grateful for where I am living and working today. Singapore is my adopted home and it is my aim to always contribute to and serve this country and its people.
Twelve years ago, I moved to Singapore for an internship opportunity. I was twenty one years old and I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t speak English, I didn’t understand the culture or the customs. Everything was new and strange to me. Everything was difficult, but my parents had tremendous faith in me.
My parents have worked diligently on the family farm to raise us and send us to college. My parents had a huge influence on me. The important things I learnt from them are to love, to never give up, to be a hard worker and to have a can-do attitude. These are the qualities that I embrace in my daily life.

What excites you most about your industry?
We offer more than just training. Our business is a resource to be leveraged for transformation, improved teamwork, leadership behaviours, communication skills, relationship skills, coaching skills and increased job satisfaction and productivity.
Our passion and purpose is to help people grow as leaders and to create tremendous results by serving others well. We take people to daring destinations, beyond their imagination.
My greatest joy is to see people grow, change and transform and live a purposeful life; this is what motivates me to do more and do it well.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in China and I have spent all my adult and professional life in Singapore.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore and China.
Singapore is a very sophisticated and systematic country. It is a structured and highly efficient business environment and people are generally nice and honest. Also, the convenience and diverse culture is a great advantage for people who want to settle down there, no matter if they are from the East or West. You always feel at home in Singapore.
I also like China because of its fast growth. The population and the market is here. However, it takes time to settle in because of the language barrier and the very different traditional culture. But you will also find it is very interesting and you’ll want to learn more about China. The people are nice if you know them well. It is always about relationship first and business second, and when you are in a business meeting, you really have to master the skill of “reading the air.” It is a skill to let people know and understand you; your values, your background, why you think in that way or why you do or do not do certain things. Doing business in China is like swimming in the ocean; it is an abundant ocean and it is full of risks. Always know your values and stay true to yourself and make decisions close to your heart. It will help you see things more clearly and get things done in a way that doesn’t violate your values.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Be yourself, Elaine.” That is the best advice I have ever received. It was a big ‘aha’ moment for me. It was also the moment I truly and honestly looked within myself. I realized that when I am being my true self, and not trying to be someone else, I am able to connect with people instantly in a genuine and authentic way. It is a great feeling.

Who inspires you?
There are so many people who encourage me, lift me up and challenge me everyday. My mentor, John Maxwell who helped me discover my purpose in life; Michael Griffin, for his passion for Christ which is contagious and Wayne Dyer, my spiritual mentor who passed away in 2016. Also, people who are living with a purpose and striving everyday for their dream, they really inspire me. My clients, mentees and students. When I see that joy and peace in them, that inspires me to do more and do well. My team inspire me, especially when they said, “Elaine, I joined the business because of you.” They inspire me to make it work for the team and the business because it is beyond my own self interest. I am grateful for having so many people in my life who inspire me.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
China is a big country, we all know that, and it is also an internet giant. Recently on a team meeting, one of the directors who manages a successful beauty business, shared with us, that everybody is on the internet, especially on WeChat. People are obsessed with online communities – for ordering food, getting taxis, forging relationships, connections and friends. Almost anything and everything can get done online. But right now, there is a new trend; more and more people want the “offline” experience. It usually takes one to two hours from one place to another in Beijing, but people want to make the effort to have a real connection with other people, to attend networks, seminars, workshops and business meetings.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I started my first business when I was 24 years old, it failed. One year later, I started my second business and after a year and a half, I closed down the operation. After several painful experiences and two failed businesses, I started to look within myself, and seriously and intentionally invested in my personal growth at the age of 28. If I could turn back time, I wish I could have grown a lot earlier. I strongly believe that the level of our success is determined by the level of our self growth and we are always learning, everyday. But I also understand it is not the only way to live. I also consciously and intentionally try to live in the now. It is a beautiful and great way to live. In fact, I am grateful for what I have gone through; the pains, setbacks and challenges in my earlier life.

How do you unwind?
I like to stay connected with nature. For example, taking a walk barefoot on the grass and smelling the roses on the street. Having a beer or coffee along the riverside with friends; reading a good book; hunting for nice restaurants; swimming or running.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand – nice beaches, food and people.
Bali – fantastic beaches and food, great people.
Malaysia – Nice food and people, particularly Langkawi, Penang and KK.
Of course Singapore, it is always a place dear to my heart. It’s my home.
There are a lot of other interesting places in China which I am still exploring.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill
The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Tao Te Ching: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Wayne Dyer
Developing the Leaders Within You by John C.Maxwell
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
These are some of the books that truly transformed my thinking and shaped my values.
I used to read a lot of different types of books, from sales, marketing, branding and management to different business models. I found it is really hard to master all of it and I was not optimizing my own strengths.
Entrepreneurship is a skill to be learnt. But it is really important to recognize what we are good at and what we are not so good at. We can not be everything.
Entrepreneurship is a journey of self-discovery and soul searching. It is all about learning and striving. We should try and always remember why we started our business in the first place.

Shameless plug for your business:
The China Women Equipping Center, is something both my team are I are very proud. We have put our hearts and souls into it, to help women in China grow and transform. As a developing country and with the rise of China, people are not lacking in money, everywhere is full of opportunity, but the challenge is the civilizations, values and faith. In fact the Chinese government puts a lot of effort into improving and shaping the international image to ensure it is making progress. But people are still facing a lot of pressure, especially women.
One of our business partners who is runs traditional Chinese medicine retail stores, shared that 80% of his patients are female, and the reason they are coming to see him are anxiety and depression.
Our China Women Equipping Center creates a safe and comfortable environment for women to help build their values and characters. My local team and I are very passionate about our mission and purpose. Beijing is our headquarters in China. We are planning to take three to six months to establish our business in Beijing and grow and expand to other major cities in China after that.

How can people connect with you?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

Continue Reading