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Meet Lena Khouri of CURIO in Mar Vista

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lena Khouri.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Lena. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
It all started with a last-minute shopping emergency…

It was Saturday afternoon and I needed something to wear. I was flying out for a wedding the next day and hadn’t had time to shop for a dress. It was too late to shop online so I had no other option but to go to a crowded mall in LA. I ended up buying something generic but on my way home stumbled on a small boutique where I purchased a dress I actually liked.

When I got home I thought: With technology today, why isn’t it easy for me to search for what I want from home and find it at a boutique near me without going to the mall? It would save me time and I’d feel good about supporting a local shop.

From this experience, CURIO was born.

With a mission to take the hassle out of shopping while supporting local stores, we launched an app with a shop-by-chat service so you can easily find products you want and get 2-hour delivery to your door. We have women’s and men’s products that vary in price and are typically in the $50-300 range. For us, it’s about sourcing quality and affordable goods from local makers & creators.

We launched CURIO in Los Angeles in May 2018 with the belief that convenience doesn’t just mean buying from Amazon and that supporting local small businesses is a better way to shop.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It hasn’t always been a smooth road but we’re grateful for the tough times because it’s taught us so much. When I quit my job in October 2017, I had $10k in the bank with nothing to fall back on – just a vision to bring this idea to life. My co-founder, Christine Outram, and I were hustling to launch the app as soon as possible from that day on. We had a small team of developers in Europe working on building the app while the two of us were fundraising and reaching out to boutiques to work with us.

It seemed like we had everything going in the right direction. We got our first investment check, we had a team, boutiques were excited, but our product development was delayed several months which meant more time paying a development team and our personal money was running low. Luckily, the universe was on our side and somehow my paid off car being totaled in an accident turned into me finding a very cheap (and rare) lease on a new car which gave me an extra few thousand dollars to keep going. That coupled with more family/friends fundraising allowed us to launch the app right before summer.

Being a founder is never easy but it’s completely worth it.

Please tell us about CURIO.
There are 3 core things we focus on: community, convenience, and curation:

1. Community – Supporting local makers & creators is at the core of what we do and why we do it. We started this company because we saw an opportunity to use technology to connect locals with unique small businesses in their city. Our big audacious goal is to put millions of dollars back into local economies by making it easy for people to buy products from the hundreds of incredible shops in their city.

2. Convenience – We strongly believe that convenience shouldn’t just mean buying from Amazon and that supporting local small business is a better way to shop. Our technology enables our customers to buy quality goods and get them delivered in under 2 hours. They can chat with our in-app stylist, Audrey, to help them find what they’re looking for. It’s as simple as chat, get, done.

3. Curation – We don’t just put any boutique on our app. We find the best shops that have a story and offer a unique collection of products that you won’t find anywhere else. We also use our chat feature to curate options for each customer so that they have a personalized experience from Audrey.

The thing I’m most proud of is that we’re building a business with a purpose. Buying from local small businesses generates 70% more local economic activity per sq. ft. then big box retail. That means we make our city better by buying quality products from creative small business owners. With hundreds of boutiques and local brands in our communities, we have the opportunity to make a really big positive impact.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
We built a website and uploaded products from different boutiques by hand in our early days to see if we were building something people actually wanted before spending money on an app. We pulled all the products down once we saw there was demand and started building the app but we could have kept the website up longer to gather more data while building the app.

We learn from every decision and we don’t have any regrets. We look at everything as an opportunity to improve and do it better next time.

Pricing:

  • Most of our products fall in the $50 – $300 range

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Emily Birren

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