Women in Tech: Cassie Sneglar
Thank you for having us Cassie. You are absolutely trailblazing online at the moment, which must be an amazing feeling, but, who is Cassie Sneglar?
Thank you! The embarrassing truth is that I’m quite a simple creature, passionate about and driven (to what I am pretty sure is an abnormal degree) by discovering beautiful places, talented people or game-changing products and sharing them in the most original way possible.
I’m from South Africa but have studied and lived all over the world. I launched my first business in Australia, before moving to London to launch The X Cartel. I particularly love that the business allows me to travel to amazing places around the world – all in the name of research.
That being said, the excitement of The X-Cartel does not always reflect my own life. I spend most of my time at our offices between South London and Hong Kong with my amazing team, running between endless meetings or reviewing changes to the site late at night! I’m a bit of a perfectionist - I trained as an architect and that eye for minute detail has rather annoyingly stuck with me.
I am also a mental health ambassador for SADAG, Africa's largest mental health support and advocacy group.
Tell me about how you began your online journey.
In 2012, I needed to figure out social media for a resort-wear label I started while working as a freelance textile designer in Sydney called CASLAZUR. I created a bunch of social media accounts to test out what type of content worked for me and attracted followers. A lot of them didn’t take off, but eventually, I found the perfect recipe.
A few years and half a million Instagram followers later, I became frustrated by the limitations of the experience I could create for my community on someone else’s platform. That’s when I started playing around with my idea for The X Cartel.
You’re currently taking on the digital world; you’re a fashion designer and a mental health campaigner. With so much happening, what inspired you to launch The X Cartel?
Whenever I am not being challenged or lack a creative outlet, I get a specific type of dissatisfaction that results in a lot of weird and wonderful ideas.
Before I started The X Cartel, I felt frustrated that I didn’t have the freedom to offer a more original and engaging experience for my followers. My background in Architecture and Fine Arts gave me a different perspective on the potential for the internet to be used as a medium to create a visually engaging, immersive environment for everyone to enjoy together.
I wanted to offer more than the mundane ‘catalogue-y’ vibe that has become the default for most digital publications or e-commerce sites. So, I created The X Cartel where the experience of the site was the primary focus. The products I feature are curated and endorsed, but they are only a part of the overall experience, not the raison d’etre.
What do you think makes The X Cartel different?
My goal was to create an original online environment where the ultimate goal wasn’t just selling you whatever the highest bidder was offering me to get on the site, but actually to give people a good time. As a result, I try not to take it all too seriously and just offer up whatever little discoveries have ‘sparked joy’ for me as Marie Kondo would say.
What has been the most challenging thing so far and how did you overcome it?
Probably the fact that there wasn’t an existing example that I could draw on to help explain my idea. Trying to build a site which didn’t sacrifice aesthetic and an intuitive user journey was a tough but fun challenge. Trying to explain the idea to investors was tougher!
Blind determination and surrounding myself with an amazing team with a strong shared vision have been the key ingredients to overcoming obstacles.
Who is your ideal customer?
Anyone who has a couple minutes to kill who wants to enjoy a mini virtual vacay or discover something new and inspiring.
It really is a new type of online experience - whether you’re sat in an uber, waiting for an appointment, or looking for some Monday morning escapism - I think anyone can find something that they love exploring The X Cartel.
What are your thoughts company culture and hiring the right people?
In my experience, the people I work with are the entire heart and soul of an idea. When they have the right kind of energy, a positive mindset and an ability to see solutions and opportunities within setbacks, it makes achieving your goals so much easier.
When hiring, I would say look for people who fit your values, vibe and the tempo of your existing team. If a person can match your enthusiasm and dedication, then it doesn’t matter what skills they arrive with. You can learn skills, but it’s a lot harder to learn emotional and social intelligence so prioritise those. Happy work-wife (and extended family) happy life!
Honesty and trust are key to the culture. Everyone should feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns and opinions. I also like to ensure that my team have a shared vision and values and really believe in and care about the project that they are working on.
What would be your top 3 tips for female entrepreneurs getting ready to launch a tech product?
Know your competition and your customer. And learn as much as you can from each of them. If there is direct competition and you aren’t offering anything original to what is already out there, then rather wait until originality strikes.
Don’t wait until everything is ‘perfect’ before you launch. Mistakes are going to get made either way, so you might as well learn from customer feedback rather than theoretical issues which may or may not pan out to be important to the success of your idea. A lot of people I know struggle with not feeling good enough and would rather wait until everything is perfect before putting themselves out there. This is SO daunting as it makes the inevitable failures hurt even more! You need to back yourself!
Be responsive to analytics and what customer behaviour is telling you. I am obsessed with our analytics reports. I read them in bed like an over-zealous accountant. Don’t stick so rigidly to your initial concept that you alienate the end user. That being said, stay true to your original vision and concept and trust your gut instincts.
Running any business is hard work – how do you maintain the balance between work and home? Is there such a thing?
I’ve realised it is impossible to do both perfectly. I think it’s a part of the challenge that we all face as entrepreneurs; is understanding that a new business is completely made up of whatever energy you are putting into it. The more energy you put in the better!
But it’s so important to realise that we all have our limits and that ultimately, we need to look after the fuel source for the long-term success and survival of the idea. So, I try to take a more holistic view of things and see the time I spend looking after myself as refuelling the tank for the business. It also helps that I can kind of get away with calling a bottle of wine at a new restaurant with friends ‘market research’. That definitely helps.
What is your vision for The X Cartel?
We have had an amazing first year, I couldn’t have envisaged growing so quickly and now I am confident that the sky is the limit! I am constantly coming up with new ways to create a more fun and engaging space for my community to come and play. We have some really cool new interactive ideas we will be testing over the next couple of years. So, stay tuned.