Podcasts

The Power of Listening to Your Customers with Nicole Murphy

The “why” behind Tall Size 

Like many of the most successful companies, Tall Size was born out of a pain personally experienced by its founders, Nicole Murphy and Kayla Alexander. Nicole, the CEO and founder of Tall Size, recognized a gap in the market through her own experience as a six-foot-tall woman, alongside her co-founder Kayla, who stands at six-foot-four. Their journey to Tall Size began from a shared frustration trying to find clothes that fit.

After pouring in hours of research to finding brands for tall women, they realized that the brands existed, but were challenging to find. Nicole explains, 

“[...]we were like, wait a second. If we are tall women, we've been tall women our whole lives, we had no idea any of these brands existed. I'm sure we're not the only ones.”

So instead of creating a whole new product line, as initially planned, they built a directory of fashion brands for tall women.

After the directory received overwhelmingly positive feedback in tall communities on forums like Reddit and Facebook groups, they also understood from their users that it was frustrating to go to separate websites, pay shipping multiple times, deal with different customer service experiences, etc. This pushed them to look into launching a marketplace— where customers could not only find brands but also check out. 

How Tall Size attracts and onboards sellers

Getting sellers to join a marketplace is a common challenge faced by operators — especially at the beginning. It's a classic chicken and egg problem: You need suppliers to attract customers, but you need customers to offer value to suppliers. For Tall Size, this challenge was no different. 

Nicole explains that they leveraged the traction they had received from the directory— sharing that many of the brands were grateful to have further exposure through their website.

“In hindsight, we brought them along the journey with us of building whatever the solution could be. And so when it was time to seek out brands that would agree to be on our platform, I think we just used the traction and the response that we saw from that directory as a way to pitch the idea to them.”

Nicole dives deeper, outlining the steps she and Kayla took to attract and onboard sellers to their new marketplace, including:

  • Setting a goal: Nicole and Kayla identified that they wanted to bring on five brands
  • Providing a visual: They mocked up the site and showed potential suppliers what their products would look like on the marketplace
  • Effortless onboarding: “We did everything,” Nicole tells us. To make it as frictionless as possible for vendors, they asked for 15 minutes of the brands’ time to get their API credentials and they set up everything from there. The Tall Size team still does this today but will start to introduce more self-serve as they scale. 

Nicole also emphasizes the fact that the brands they work with have an understanding and appreciation for the problem they’re trying to solve at Tall Size. Most of the brand owners are tall women themselves so they’re on board with the concept and understand the need for better discoverability. 

The importance of understanding your customers (and listening)

Tall Size built community amongst their buyers in a way that many operators dream of: organically. 

As tall women themselves, Nicole and Kayla have a deep understanding of the pain points they’re trying to solve. They’re building a product that they want to use. 

And while their baseline understanding of their customers is strong, they always have their ears open for feedback to continue learning and iterating. In fact, it's a huge driver for their roadmap. 

But getting feedback from customers can be easier said than done. Nicole advises:

“I would just say, try to find those micro-communities of people and use those to your advantage in the early days. I think as you grow, you'll be able to create your own community that you can tap into. But those existing communities were huge for us for getting our business off the ground.”

Nicole gives some examples of how they’ve followed their customer feedback and behavior patterns to create a better buying experience:

Measurement data and filtering

Garment measurements are very important to Tall Size customers. A lot of practical data, like sleeve length, shoulder width, and the torso on a one-piece bathing suit, are not available on mainstream retailer sites. And if they are, you certainly can’t filter through them. 

At Tall Size, they ensure they have all the measurement information their customers need that most brands overlook, or don’t consider including. 

In-Person Shopping

Buying from a new clothing brand online, before knowing how it fits you, can be tricky. That’s a piece of feedback Nicole was consistently hearing from customers. While they loved the accessibility of the tall clothing brands, many of the brands were new to them and they didn’t know how they’d fit or what the quality was like. 

Part of this came down once again to understanding the context in which a tall woman shops. Even stores that carry tall brands, often won’t carry them in store. So many tall women miss out on the luxury of being able to walk into a store and try on a piece of clothing before purchasing it. 

This led the Tall Size team to launch a few pop-up shops across North America. Customers were able to come, try things on, and make purchases through their marketplace software. 

Nicole shares, “[...]it gave us that opportunity to serve our customers in a way that they've truly never been served before in their entire lives. So that's been really special.” 

Recommerce

There’s no question that the popularity of recommerce is growing. But when tall women are shopping on re-sale platforms, they face the same issues as shopping for new clothing — not enough supply, a lack of the right information, etc.

Not to mention, it takes tall women so long to find clothing that’s going to fit them right that when they no longer want the clothing, they can't bring themselves to donate it somewhere it will never get used again. 

Nicole was seeing reselling happening organically amongst the tall community. People would share their old clothes through Facebook channels, DMs, and otherwise. So Nicole and Kayla decided to start a resale platform. This initiative helps further solve the needs of their customer and also allows them to alleviate some of the supply pressures, enabling them to bring new options to market at different price points. 

The Tall Size Marketplace Vision: Solving for Supply

Where will Tall Size go from here? 

Nicole stresses the constraints of supply and how they plan to overcome the supply barrier in the future. 

A large part of their strategy will be seeking out new brands and finding ways to collaborate with them to create tall sizes of already successful styles. 

Niklas asks Nicole what the pitch for a business collaboration like this would look like. Nicole’s response can be summed up in three words: Know your customer. 

There are over 150 million tall women globally — 10% of them are in the U.S. alone. And they’re “severely” underserved. While it is a niche market, it’s not going anywhere. 

For many retailers, major challenges for offering tall sizes are the cost that goes into acquiring the customer, catering to that customer, and adjusting to their buying patterns. They simply don't have access to the data and expertise required. And to invest in catering to that new audience segment doesn't outweigh the return. 

That's where Tall Size comes in:

"[...] ideally as we grow, we have the data, we have the access to the consumer, we can help you penetrate this customer base at a fraction of the cost. And it helps us stay true to our mission of bringing more options to the customer and making it easy for them to find them. "

Advice for Marketplace Operators: Find community 

Nicole leaves marketplace operators with two main pieces of advice and they both center around finding the right people. 

Firstly, find other marketplace founders. Despite having experience in ecommerce, Nicole found the nuances of building a marketplace can be a lot more challenging. Without a community of people around you who are in the same boat, it can feel lonely. 

Nicole mentions Everything Marketplaces have a great resource and a “game changer”. Nicole describes finding a marketplace founder community as “a big unlock for me that’s been helpful. It’s also validating that this [building a marketplace] is actually really hard and really weird and challenging. You’re not alone in that.”

Secondly, she recommends bringing your customers along for the ride. She explains, 

“If you’re creating a marketplace that solves a real need in the space, I think your customers will be a big part of what you build, how you build it, and how it’s received.”

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Transcript

(Nicole Murphy)

So my goal with Tall Size is to build our brand to be the company that has the most knowledge on the tall consumer. So what they're buying, what their sizes are, what they need, what they can't find, et cetera, and the most access to them from like an audience building and a community standpoint, because I think that'll open up a lot of doors for partnerships with other brands to help us bring more and more options to the market. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Welcome to Operation Marketplace, a series where we talk to the people behind marketplaces, we dive into their mission, how they found success, and talk about the hurdles that they faced along the way. I'm your host, Niklas Hallusa, co -founder and CEO of Nordical Commerce.

(Niklas Halusa)

Hello, everybody, and welcome to Operation Marketplace. I am Nicolas Roussa, your host and founder of Nautical Commerce. Today I have on the show Nicole Murphy, who's the CEO and founder of Tall Size. Great to have you on the show. 

(Nicole Murphy)

Thanks for having me. I'm excited. 

(Niklas Halusa)

So Tall Size, I've been pumped about for a while because it's a theme of marketplace that I think has a huge amount of potential not just for Tall Size but in all kinds of niches in the industry and something that e -commerce and marketplaces particularly well suited for which is finding and understanding a particular buyer, a particular psychographic profile and somebody who's been underserved historically and who may not be on the top of any individual retailers, brands, you name it, you know, their mind or their priority list. But in aggregate is a really big buying group and is a huge market and, you know, still needs things and spends a lot of time discovering and, and toll size. You'll hear the exact story from Nicole in a moment, but has found a niche like that and found a niche that's not going away. They are, I believe the first ever online marketplace for talll women. With that said, Nicole would love to hear the Genesis story of tall size. 

(Nicole Murphy)

Sure. Well, I'll just start by saying I'm tall. Obviously people can't tell, but I'm six feet tall. I have a co -founder, Kayla, who is six foot four. We've known each other since we were in grade seven and it was actually our height that kind of brought us together in the early days. I remember she came to my school like halfway through the year and I was always like head and shoulders above everybody else in my class for as long as I can remember. And I remember when she came to my school halfway through the year, I was like, Whoa, she's taller than me. And we immediately bonded and have been bonded ever, ever since. 

And so it was actually our shared experiences and challenges as tall women that really led us to create tall size and it quite honestly it just kind of came out of nowhere. 

It was one of those things where I was walking my dog in the freezing cold weather here in Toronto in the middle of winter. And this situation was going on where my wrists were exposed to the cold weather, the cold air, my ankles were exposed, like my jacket, just like the shoulders of my jacket weren't wide enough. So I'm like squeezed into this thing. And I just kind of had it. It's something that I dealt with my whole life but just kind of internalized it, I guess. And I remember just coming home that day and calling Kayla, she was like one of the few friends I have who's taller than me and by quite a bit. And I was like, Kayla, where do you get your clothes? Because I'm tired of like wearing stuff that just doesn't fit me properly and just sacrificing how my clothes are supposed to fit and look and feel. Yeah, where do you get your clothes? And she's like, Nicole, I've been shopping at the same brand called Long Tall Sally since I was 13 years old. And I was like, what?

She was probably already six foot at 13. Yeah, exactly. I remember she would tell me stories that her parents, she comes from a tall family. Her brother is six foot 11. Her dad is six foot five. Her mom is five 10, I believe. And her sister is five nine. So she comes from a very tall family. And she told me stories of like her parents would save up all their money for two shopping trips a year where they would drive down to Mississauga where there was like one store at the time that long tall Sally, or I think it was called Tall Girl at the time. And they would just buy a whole bunch of stuff. But the thing that was really tough for Kayla, who's in grade eight, grade nine, and she's already super tall, is these clothes were made for like mature women. So she's like this grade eight wearing like business attire because it was the only thing that could fit her. Or she's shopping in the men's section. I've had that experience myself as well, where I went to go get shoes and I just immediately had to go to the men's section because I didn't carry my size. 

So anyways, long story short, we just, what turned, like what started as vent session between friends on a phone call led to tall size. 

I think in that moment, we both realized that we both shared this problem, but just never talked about it our whole lives. And there's a lot of downstream implications I think comes with not being able to just find stuff that fits you as anybody from a confidence and a self -esteem level feels kind of crappy and it slowly chips away at your confidence for your whole life. 

So, Kayla and I are both in different ways, we've always been very passionate about building women up and elevating young girls and young women. She has basketball camps and stuff like that for young girls. And me and my career, I've always, as a people manager, I've always done everything I could to kind of elevate women in their careers and advocate for them and all of that. So yeah, it just became this like burning problem that we just weren't okay with and decided to try to figure out how to be a part of the solution instead of just dealing with the way it's always been. 

(Niklas Halusa)

So where do you start? You have the idea. What do they say? Ideas are cheap. You've built a real marketplace here. Then what? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Yeah. So the marketplace was never part of our idea, to be honest. We kind of fell into it. 

So at first, we're like, all right, I guess we're going to go create a clothing line for tall women because there's only three or two that we're aware of, and they've been around since 1950. So we need something new. Neither of us have experience in fashion at all. So we started doing a bunch of research. And while researching, because we were spending hours researching, knowing that we were about to invest a lot of time and potentially money into this, we probably spent more time than the average tall woman would do researching this space. And in doing so on page two, three, four, five, up to 20 on Google, we actually saw all of these smaller tall brands that existed and a lot of them founded by tall women because they had to sew their own clothes or they just had to figure out how to make their own clothing because nobody else was. And then I think kind of that turned into their own little businesses. But yeah, we were blown away by how many of these brands we found. And so we were kind of like, wait a second. Like if we are tall women, we've been tall women our whole lives, we had no idea any of these brands existed. I'm sure we're not the only ones. 

And so instead of going like full on into creating a clothing line. I have a bit of a marketing and kind of technology background. I always say I'm very dangerous with like no code tools, but that's about as far as I can go from the technical side of things. So I remember just using a no code tool, I think it's called softer. And I just built this like directory where essentially tall women, so all the stuff that we found, we just put it into this directory where tall women could go and just say, okay, I'm looking for jeans that have a 38 inch inseam and I need them to ship to Canada or I need to ship to the US, like what brands are out there? And it would just return all the brands that kind of met their criteria. And we would just push them to all their individual sites. So that's kind of where we started. 

We found a bunch of like Reddit forums and Facebook groups full of tall women sharing the same issue, sharing links to stuff. And we dropped the tool in those and people freaked out. They were like, oh my God, I had no idea all these brands existed.

And we started hearing feedback that like, this is so great, but it's annoying that I have to go and place separate orders at all of these websites and have to pay shipping multiple times and deal with different customer service and all that. And so that's then what kind of nudged us one step further towards the marketplace. I was like, I wonder if there's technology out there that allows us to just bring all their products onto one place so that like tall women can just do it all in one shopping cart, make one purchase. And then on the back end, we must be able to shoot the orders out. And that's kind of, I didn't even know what a marketplace was, to be honest with you. It was just that idea of like, this must exist. And then after some research, we started to stumble across like marketplace software and ended up going that route. And that's kind of where we're at today. 

(Niklas Halusa) 

I mean, this is actually typically the story of mabe some of the best founders in marketplace, the ones who actually didn't know about marketplace and discovered it as a tool to solve very specific problem that they they had, in your case, trying to go and connect a huge amount of long tail providers into a single place. 

The initial kickoff with the online communities around tall women, I think makes a lot of sense to me. How did you get into the vendor community? How did you go and build that out and what was the reaction to what you're trying to build?

(Nicole Murphy)

Yeah, that was challenging. So I think what we did was when we figured out, okay, there is software out there that exists that can allow us to do this. The first thing we did was kind of just set up our Shopify front end just to have a website of some sort. And then we already had done the research of what brands were out there. 

And so, we had our hit list or target list of brands that we would want to onboard onto our platform, but we had nothing to show for ourselves. You know what I mean? Like we didn't, I think we had like a hundred followers on Instagram. All we had was this tool that we built or this directory that we built. And we actually, when we built that, even before the marketplace seed was planted, I remember we were messaging the brands being like, Hey, just a heads up. We built this thing. We featured your brand, like just hope this helps drive more traffic to you. It's getting good response. And they were all just super grateful. They thought it was a great idea. And so that was kind of cool, I guess now in hindsight, and I'm thinking about it, we kind of brought them along the journey with us of like building whatever the solution could be. 

And so when it was time to actually, yeah, like seek out brands to that would agree to be on our platform, I think we just used the traction and the response that we saw from that directory as a way to pitch the idea to them. I remember our goal at the beginning was to have five brands. I was like, if we can just get five brands to connect to our platform, then at least we can show the concept of what we're trying to do. And so what we did was we just like mocked up what it would look like. 

So we just, instead of having the integration, we just created the products, like a handful of their products and just kind of showed what it would look like. And luckily, most of the brands we've started with smaller brands versus like bigger brands, they were all looking and they still are all looking for ways to get their brand out there and reach the consumer. And so I think they saw that as an opportunity, they liked the concept because again, most of them are tall women. So they know exactly what the pain is. And the problem is that we were trying to solve, which is really that discoverability piece of all the different options that are out there. And yeah, like most, we're just lucky that most of them like were willing to kind of just go on the journey with us. What we did was made sure that like they barely had to lift a finger. So all of the vendor onboarding was like extremely white glove. We did everything. All I needed was basically like 15 minutes of their time to get their API credentials and everything else was we did it all. So that was something in hindsight that I'm really glad we did. Cause I think that can create a lot of friction for people if it's like a huge undertaking. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Yeah. And do you, do you still do that? What's the, what's the process for you today? 

(Nicole Murphy)

We still do that to this day. Um,I think something I want to do or we will need to do as we scale and start onboarding more partners is introducing more of an element of self-serve. And that's more on the maintenance side, I would say. So when they've got new products, just making sure their new products are like all ready to go. Like, you know I mean? Like just making sure that that maintenance part right now, that all goes through us. It's all very like we service all of the brands. But I imagine as we grow we will need to introduce a little bit more of a self -serve component. 

(Niklas Halusa)

That makes sense. And so clearly, both because of your own passion and the fact that you face this problem yourself, and a little bit from your marketing background, I expect that clearly community building is something that one, made tall size what it is today, but it's also something that you guys spend a lot of time on. 

Can you talk a little bit more about how you go and build awareness around tall size and how you build the community of your buyers and your sellers. 

(Nicole Murphy)

Sure. Yeah. I would say that it's honestly, it's all happened pretty organically because I think something that we all share individually as tall women is that we're often like the one tall person in our friend group. Right. And so we've never really had like, that's why I like flocked to Kayla as soon as she came to my school. I'm like, you and I were friends for life now because it's really, you don't often come across other tall women. And so you internalize a lot of the feelings that come along with it. And it's, it's very interesting because I think, um, when you, it's, it's very different. I think the perspective of tall women from people who are not tall, it's like, Oh, that's so great. I would love to be tall. And like, there is some truth to that. Um, but there's also a lot of challenges that come along with it that you maybe the average person wouldn't think about, right? 

So like some, like things I remember is like trying to date as a tall woman and society telling you that you have to be taller than if you choose to date men, like you should be taller than or sorry, you should be shorter than the man. Right. And so that eliminates majority of the dating pool. And so there's all these feelings that come along with that and not being chosen or wanted. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Is there tall sized dating on the road map, classified ads on the marketplace?

(Nicole Murphy)

We've gotten that question a lot. And I just can't I just can't wrap my head around that. So no, that can be a challenge for somebody else. But we'll see. You never know. So yeah, that's just, that's one thing.

And then I think again, another kind of societal pressure is like you grow up being shown on movies and everything that women are supposed to be small and petite. And when you're shopping in the men's section, cause stuff doesn't fit you or you weigh way more than your friends or you go to the doctors and your BMI. Like I've always been told by doctors that like my BMI index is way off the charts, but I've always been a fairly healthy individual. It's just like things like that are very odd. And so we again, because we're the only ones dealing with that in our groups, we kind of internalize it and we go through that on our own. And so I think what happened naturally with this was that in these Facebook groups or on these forums and now at our pop-up shops in person, it's like, oh my God, I've never been in a room with other women who share these same experiences. And so I'll be honest, like all the community building stuff that we've done has just been natural. Like it's just been- We found each other almost and it's like we kind of just build off of that. It hasn't been super intentional. But I think something that's been really important is just listening to our customers and they're very loud, like they have opinions and they want to be served in a certain way. And so Kayla and I are always just listening and using that to kind of guide us towards what brands we bring on the platform with the experiences like the pop ups were a result of our of our customers telling us they needed them. And so yeah, I think that's just been our number one priority. And that's just kind of led to like a really strong, strong knit community so far. 

(Niklas Halusa)

So talk about specific asks from your customers. What is, let's get into the dirty details. What's specific about your buyer and the way that your buyer behaves? 

(Nicole Muprhy)

Sure. I feel like I have such a long example. I'll go with some like on-site like UX type stuff. 

So length of garments is very important to our customers. So knowing what the inseam is on a pair of jeans, knowing what the sleeve length is on a long sleeve shirt, knowing the dress length, shoe size, obviously that's pretty important and intuitive, but the width of the shoulders on jackets needs to be wider for us. The torso in a one -piece bathing suit needs to be longer. So there's all these things that we've just we've never often like mainstream retailers don't specify that stuff. So you go on any retail site and look at a pair of jeans. Like I can guarantee you majority of them won't list the inseam. And if they do, you have to click into each one. You've got to scroll, you've got to read. Like you can't just go on a website and be like, okay, show me all the 36 inch inseam jeans. You can't do that.

So those are some things that we pay very close attention to and make sure that there's filtering options on our website where you can filter by inseam, you can filter by sleeve length, you can filter by long torso, body suits or swimsuits, dress length, et cetera. We've got very detailed size charts. So basically just making sure they have all the information that they need that most brands overlook and don't even consider including because it's extra work.So that's one big one. 

And then I would say in -person shopping was a big one. So when we built the marketplace and got some traction, got some brands on there and people using it, the feedback we kept hearing that we couldn't help ignore was like, people were saying, this is so great that all these brands are in one place, but I've never heard of a lot of these brands. So I don't know how they fit. I don't know what the quality is like. Like I wish I could just walk into a store and shop like a normal human being, because for context, a lot of retailers, even if they offer tall sizes, which most of them don't, there's no way that they're giving those sizes real estate in their brick and mortar stores, because they just don't move fast enough. So we don't have the luxury of walking in and being able to go into a change room and try stuff on. And so we're dealing with a lot of trial and error through online ordering. And so that's what led us to be like, OK, they want in -person shopping. Let's give them in -person shopping. How do we figure that out? And then we tested out a pop -up shop model in Los Angeles and Chicago last year where we had a bunch of our brands, we had like 10 to 15 of our brands display a bunch of their products that looked like a retail storefront. They tried everything on and then it was actually connected to our marketplace software. So if they wanted to buy something, instead of going up to a checkout counter, there was QR code hang tags on every item and they would just scan the item on their phone that they wanted, the size, add it to their cart and they just placed the order. And then our software would kick out the orders to our partners and they would fulfill. So it made it fairly easy for us to pop up and pop down because we didn't need to carry all the like backroom inventory with us. And it gave us that opportunity to serve our customers in a way that they've truly never been served before in their entire lives. So that's been really special. 

That's become like a huge part of our strategy now and also really big on community building. So it kind of checks a bunch of different boxes for us. 

(Niklas Halusa)

What share of brands then on your store today are specifically catered to tall size women versus how, you know, what share is you finding the long tail inventory of brands that'll sell the stuff? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Yeah, that's a good question. I would say probably 80 to 85 % of our brands are dedicated to tall women right now. That's where we started. That was the easiest sell for us. 

But there are like, I'll use there's a swimwear brand called Andy. And they happen to have so they have a regular size clothing. But they also introduced long torso swimsuits. And so for example, we approach them and we only list their long torso suits on our website. There's some shoe brands as well that they might carry size six to 14. We only list size nine to 14. So we've started to move in that direction. I think that as a marketplace, we're always balancing supply and demand. I think supply is always going to be the constrained side of our marketplace.

There's not a lot of people out there creating these types of garments. And so we've started to kind of go in the direction of not just tall, like exclusively tall brands, but what brands are out there that have items in their assortment that would work for our customer. And like, let's take on that searching task and go and find those and bring them onto our platform so that our customers aren't all spending hours of their time doing that work. So we really want to make that easier for them. 

(Niklas Halusa) 

You mentioned earlier that there are very specific things that you have to filter by measure, know about all these different products that you buy. How much time do you need to spend educating or customizing the way that your vendors provide information, sell, et cetera, for you to be able to provide that experience to your buyers? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Good question. I would say the brands that are exclusively creating for tall women do that already. The ones that don't, it's usually just asking them for extra information about their garments that they send over. And then once we have that, we're kind of good. 

So it's actually not too, too bad. I think it's just that action of going the extra mile to make sure we... Like they have the information. I think this is the thing, right? Like when you create a garment, you have all of those measurements, you have all of those sizes. It's just extra work to put that on the product pages and create the filters and merchandise the products accordingly that most retail brands don't do. That's why we're here. So I think that's what we do is we go that extra that extra mile to make sure that we've got all the information needed for our customers. But it's usually not a huge lift for our like our brands. They have it just a matter of getting it. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Makes sense. And since you mentioned supply constraint, how much of your supply side is based in North America? And how much do you have to go, you know, abroad? Are you sourcing stuff from all over the world? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Right now, it's all North America, all US for the most part. We have a couple of Canadian brands. We've got one. We just onboarded our first international brand. So they are based in Ireland, I believe. But they get a lot. They're a shoe brand. They get a lot of their shoes from Italy. 

(Niklas Halusa)

I was going to guess that was going to be the automatic direction here. I'm sure that you have all kinds of brands here.

(Nicole Murphy)

Oh my gosh. To me, that's the thing that like nags at me the most is right now we only ship to the US and Canada. And I would say 95 % of our business is in the US. We are Canadian, so we have soft spot for Canadians. And so we wanted to make sure that we were serving that market from day one. But yeah, Europe, the UK is like a huge opportunity for us to expand to. I think.

I get overwhelmed by the complexity of the back end and how to do that with shipping and logistics and returns and duties and taxes and all that. And that's to be honest, that's what's prevented us from doing it yet. But we have started onboarding international or overseas suppliers who are trying to reach the US market. So that's kind of how we're starting to dip our toes into it. 

(Niklas Halusa) 

In principle, your ability to identify regions to go into is nearly a very easy exercise. It's cross -referencing average height by population. There's your punch list of places, countries, states, you name it, that have a problem, right? And the numbers are huge. 

(Nicole Murphy)

Yeah. And I think, yeah, that's, it's fairly straightforward. I think we already kind of know what our key markets are and where we would focus our attention. The UK is a big one.

Northern Europe, I would say, is big. Australia, and then continuing to penetrate the US and Canada is probably where we've got our sights set. 

(Niklas Halusa) 

What do you sell today and what would you like to be selling to the users that you have today? 

(Nicole Murphy)

We sell across all categories right now. Shoes, clothing, active wear, loungewear, business attire, evening wear, everything. 

Do we have as much options in each of those categories as I would like? No. I would say our biggest gap right now is like everyday elevated casual wear. 

So I think that's kind of when we're thinking about what other brands we want to bring onto the platform. It's like, who can meet that need for us? And there's going to be honestly, I foresee a world in the future where we can't find the brands that we need because there is such a constraint on the supply side. And so a big part of our strategy will be seeking out brands who have these styles, who consumers love to shop from and how do we work with them? How do we collaborate with them to create tall sizes of the styles that they already have and already do well and sell those to our customers? Because I think it helps those brands tap into a market and a customer base that they don't have. Because a lot of tall women, like I was saying this to someone yesterday, if I'm walking in the mall, I won't even step foot in half the stores because I'm like, oh, Levi's doesn't carry my size or this brand doesn't carry my... It's not worth my time. Right? And so, unless there's some marketing efforts around extended sizing with these brands, the tall woman just assumes you don't have their size. And so we want to work with brands to help them be more size inclusive, but do it in an efficient way. Because right now, you actually said at the beginning of this podcast, tall sizes is at the least of their priority.

If anything, they would tap into plus and petite, maybe even maternity before they ever go into tall. So my goal with tall size is to build our brand to be the company that has the most knowledge on the tall consumer. So what they're buying, what their sizes are, what they need, what they can't find, et cetera, and the most access to them from like an audience building in a community standpoint, because I think that'll open up a lot of doors for partnerships with other brands to help us bring more and more options to the market. 

(Niklas Halusa)

What does that look like to work with one of these companies to try to increase their selection? They obviously have all kinds of existing processes, all kinds of red tape you want to proceed. First of all, what's the opportunity that you pitch them? What's the money here in them expanding their selection? And two, what does it look like to change the way that one of these businesses works? 

(Nicole Murphy)

When I think about market size, what we know is that there's over 150 million tall women globally.

When you start to narrow in on markets, like for us, like thinking about just our key markets, et cetera, that can get smaller. But even in the US alone, there's about 15 million tall women, not to mention Europe, not to mention Canada, et cetera. And so there's quite a bit of tall women to tap into. And the thing about them is we're all so severely underserved. It is wild. 

And the thing I think that's interesting is, so yes, it's a niche market. But it's a market that's not going anywhere. It's not trendy to be tall. We're always going to be tall. And I think what's really cool is the tall consumer proves to be a very loyal consumer. 

For example, my co -founder, Kayla, has been shopping at the same brand for 20 plus years, not by choice necessarily, but like it is just the, it's just facts, right? Like that's, we have two or three brands to choose from. And so we continue to go back to those brands. And so I think that's where the opportunity lies. 

When I think about our business and the potential and a lot of what we've heard and talking, we've been talking to a ton of folks on the retail side of things to understand like, why don't you have tall sizes? Like, why aren't you dabbling here? And for them, it's just like the cost that goes into acquiring that customer, catering to that customer, adjusting patterns for that customer when they maybe don't have the data and the expertise to do that well and properly just doesn't outweigh the return that they get. So again, if those customers don't know that that brand is catering to them, they might run a test, produce all these tall -sized garments and be like, oh, well, they didn't sell fast or they didn't sell well, so it was a failure, let's not prioritize it. And so I don't think that's changing anytime soon, to be honest with you. I think the plus size market has seen some gains and I think the petite is having a moment right now too. But I think because the size of that market is so much smaller, I believe plus size is like 70 % of the US population and petite is 40, tall is like 11%. 

So that's that I think in terms of like, how do you actually execute these partnerships to be determined? We haven't gotten there yet. But what I envision is us just coming to the table leveraging our community to crowd source essentially like what do they want from these brands? If they could vote on which styles they wanted, what would that be? 

And then our customers, we have a ton of size data on our customers already. So giving the brand the expertise of like, okay, here's how much you need to extend the rise. Here's how much you need to move the knee placement down, adding the length to the knee and just, and going about it that way and testing and learning from there, I think is the goal. 

(Niklas Halusa)

If you can have a Gucci X North Face collab and that sells I want to see a, you know, North Face X tall size. 

(Nicole Murphy)

I love it. That's the goal. 

(Niklas Halusa)

All these sports brands want to sell to basketball players. They want to have an image. There's a marketing story here. 

Nicole Murphy

A hundred percent. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Even if it's not a big business story, there's plus size, there's petite size, you know, there's exercise of saying, okay, I see that consumer. I recognize that consumer. I will come towards them. I want to branch out to something that I think we've seen over and over again is a, is a, is a really strong marketing story for some of these brands. So I hope that you do manage to make it work. 

(Nicole Murphy)

We will. It's just a matter of when. Just a matter of when. But yeah, I'm hopeful. 

(Niklas Halusa) 

Let's say 15 million in the US, you can build a big, big closing line. 

(Nicole Murphy)

Right. Yeah. So after we ran a survey and we're really looking at what were some of the factors that affect a woman's shopping experience across all heights. And something that stood out with the tall consumer that we didn't see in the other height segments was price was not an issue at all. But the bar that went across the most was availability. Like that was their thing. They just couldn't find it. And so what that tells me is like this consumer probably hasn't spent as much money as the average consumer on clothing and shoes in her lifetime. So just give her the options and she'll pull out her wallet. Like she's ready to buy. So I think that that's a huge untapped opportunity for us, but also for other brands that might be looking to collaborate with us in future. 

(Niklas Halusa)

What else did that survey tell you? What have you learned about your buyer that maybe has surprised you?

(Nicole Murphy)

I'm not going to lie. A lot of it's not surprising because I've lived it, but a lot of it's very validating. And I think I'm a huge data nerd. So any opportunity I get to kind of pull together data and have numbers to back up what we're talking about becomes very important when we're talking to investors, when we're talking to partners, other suppliers, et cetera. So some things that we've learned and been able to kind of validate with with market research is just validating that the experience of shopping with a tall woman as a tall woman is brutal.

So we had the classic like on a scale of one to 10, what would you rate your shopping experience? And it was like, when you did the calculation, it was negative a hundred is the worst and we averaged at negative 82. So we kind of use the NPS calculator to figure out what the NPS score of their shopping experience would be. And what's been really special, something I love is that after somebody shops with us, we send them out a survey to give us feedback on their experience. And we ask them to rate their shopping experience with tall size in particular, and our MPS is 65. So it's amazing to see that we're just getting started and we've already been able to bring somebody from a negative 82 to a 65 on what I believe is still very limited assortment. 

We've got some user experience things that we still need to iron out, but I think that's been really cool. One other, actually this one surprised me. So one question in one of the surveys we did where I think we had just over 1,500 women, tall women fill it out was what are some words that you would use to describe your experience as a tall woman? And I gave 10 options and they were positive and negative opposite. So it would be like understood, misunderstood, acknowledged, overlooked, accepted, rejected, celebrated, whatever. So I had a bunch and then we left an open field where they could put in their own words. 

And the two that stood out by a long shot was overlooked and misunderstood. And so what that tells me is that the fashion industry doesn't see this consumer. And even when they try, they don't try hard enough because they're not asking the right questions. They're misunderstanding the needs of this consumer and they're really not able to follow through in the right way. And then when we looked at some of the written responses, like really sad things coming through, like gigantic, freak of nature, intimidating, monster, like things that that really kind of just like validate that feeling as sometimes as people might not think of, that tall women can often feel like very large or whatever the word is. And so I think our goal is always to, how do we help women be more confident in their bodies? I think clothing is one piece of that, but through community, bringing them together with other people with shared experiences, education, so partnering with stylists to teach them how to dress their bodies.

That's all super important to us. But yeah, I'd say those are some of the cool things that we've learned so far. 

(Niklas Halusa)

What would you recommend to somebody else who's starting a business for how to get all of this information? How to get the survey out there? How do you get 1,500 women to respond? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Yeah, I would say whatever existing communities of your customers exist, tap into those. So if you are, I don't know, building a business around camping, like are there Facebook communities out there for people who love to camp and share tips on camping? Are there forums? Are there just basically go find your people, especially if you're operating in a niche market, they already exist somewhere. You just got to go find them and tap into those. So tap into those to get your business off the ground. So whether it's market research or you've created your MVP and you want feedback on it. If you want to do customer interviews to get some more qualitative feedback. I would just say, try to find those micro communities of people and use those to your advantage in the early days. I think as you grow, you'll be able to create your own community that you can tap into. But those existing communities were huge for us for getting our business off the ground.

(Niklas Halusa)

And now one of the things that I understand you're also venturing into, you mentioned a lot there, stylists and God knows what else, but is, is re commerce. Can you talk a little bit more about that? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Yeah. This was,again, driven by customer feedback. 

So something that I said earlier is the supply side of our business is always challenging. It will always be challenging. And so Kayla and I are always thinking of ways like how do we bring more options to our customers? So that was kind of one thing that led us towards launching a resale platform. But then again, we also heard rumblings and something we felt ourselves is that because like resales a thing right now. Right.

And so when you're shopping on resale platforms, you face all the same issues that you do when you're shopping for new stuff. They don't have the proper filters. It says something's tall, but it's like not maybe tall for like a five foot eight person. But if you're six foot two, that's no good. So there's just all those usability issues still exist. So those platforms aren't you can't use them as a tall woman. And so that's from a buying standpoint. And then from a selling standpoint, like if you've got stuff that's tall, that fits you, but you just want to get rid of it. I can tell you from my experience, and we hear this from our customers, I cannot donate that. I just can't bring myself to do it because it took me so long to find something that fit that I'm like, if I donate that at Value Village or whatever, it's just going to sit on that. No one's going to buy it. The chances of a tall woman finding that or someone's going to buy it and try it on at home, be like, oh my God, this is way too long and they're going to throw it out. And so it's almost like when we find stuff that fits us, it becomes like a little prized possession that we're like, If only I can just give this to another tall woman. 

And so that is what we were kind of seeing in our community. People just being like, hey, I have these jeans. I want to get rid of them, but I can't bring myself to donate. Does anyone want them? And so we were kind of seeing this just happen through Facebook channels, through messages, DMs, et cetera. And that's when we decided like, OK, well, why don't we create like our whole goal since day one was to be the go to shopping destination for tall women globally. And that's when we were like, OK. we've got the new stuff going. Why don't we separately have a different part of our platform that people can use for resale? And I think it helps us solve some of that supply issue as well. Just bringing new options to market at different price points. I think that's another challenging part about specialty sizes. They're always quite expensive. So it does give us that opportunity to give our customers more options at a lower price point if needed. 

(Niklas Halusa) 

How do you focus between all those things? You've got quite a lot of balls in the air. 

(Nicole Murphy)

I mean,I don't know, to be honest, we kind of just do a little bit of everything. I think the challenge is like with the with the industry we're in, it's not like there's a unlimited supply of brands that we can go and bring onto the platform overnight. It's a slow burn. Like it's a OK, let's find these brands or let's convince them to create a line or or whatever. So I think if we were in a market where we had more supply, it would force us to focus and be like, okay, we're just doing new and let's focus on getting as many of these brands as quickly as we can. But the reality is that that's not our space. And so things are going to take longer. And so while the industry is evolving and while we're growing, what are different things that we can do to add value in the meantime, right? And that's where resale came into play. It's where our pop -ups come into play.

Yeah, it's kind of just how the cookie's been crumbling so far. And are we going to see a dedicated tall size store on Fifth Avenue in New York? It won't. I guarantee you if we had a permanent store, it would go out of business. And I think this is the challenging part about this niche market is it's niche, but it's very dispersed. So there have been brands, some of these bigger brands that have been around for a while that have tried permanent locations, they don't work because it's just too...too niche and too dispersed. And so that's why the way that we do our in -person is through the like limited time pop -ups that travel around. 

(Niklas Halusa) 

From your experience, what matters and what doesn't matter? And is it what you expected? So, you know, if you think about what makes a difference right now for success of your online marketplace, what do you worry about on a day -to -day basis for, you know, making the, obviously in the end you want to make the most money, make the experience best? Where are you spending your time? 

(Nicole Murphy)

I worry about a lot. But I would say the part that worries me, I mean, I think supply is always a thing for me is, will we ever be able to access the amount of supply that like we know we need to create the type of experience that we want? and to be the leader in the space. 

So that's always, I would say that's probably my number one worry and how does that evolve and what does that look like over time? 

Another piece that's challenging from a marketplace standpoint is convincing larger brands to integrate with your platform and get integrated into their existing operations. When you're just a small drop in their bucket in the early days, it's hard to make that argument. So I think something I worry about is like, will we ever get some of those bigger brands, that would be a huge supply unlock for us. I don't know. And so that's another worry. I think the last piece is also just fit. I'm just always like, how can we make sure that the customer can find what they need? And they're getting that in the first shot. And they don't have to still return and do all that. It's hard. I think that's for any business. Fit is challenging with online ordering. But yeah, I would say that's probably where most of my worries are. But I would say one thing that has been helpful is that our customer base has been very forgiving and patient with us. So I think they're just so grateful to have the options and they're grateful to see a brand focusing on them, that they're patient. So like if there's issues with the backend.

Like our inventory sink isn't happening in real time and we accidentally sell something that actually is sold out. They're always so understanding when we reach out and we say, hey, sorry, this actually isn't available anymore. Or like they're understanding around the fact that they've got to shoot or send their returns back to two different places and it's not just one single package. So that's been really helpful. We also had one of our suppliers, Move Warehouses, was our biggest supplier. They're quite a big business and It added like four to six weeks to their fulfillment time. Like they usually fulfill in like three to five days, but it was taking four to six weeks for their packages to arrive. So I had to send out all these emails to our customers being like, I'm so sorry. It's going to be super delayed. If you want to cancel, just let me know and I'll cancel your order. No one canceled their order. Everyone's like, I don't care. Like where else am I going to get stuff? I'm like, I might as well just wait. It's all good. Thanks for letting me know. So it's things like that, that would never fly with like a typical e -commerce company that I think because our customer base is so underserved that it's given us a lot of room to just make those mistakes in the early days. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Powerful story for why focusing on a customer, really understanding them and really solving their problem makes sense as a business, right? Even if you get a lot of freedom to operate, even if you are a startup and even if you have some healing issues, if you actually are solving a problem that people want to have solved, that would be clear with you. It's a super inspiring story for anybody who's looking at a, or should be an inspiring story, for anybody who's looking at building a marketplace, trying to build a new business, whatever it is, is the power of actually understanding your buyer and going so deep with them and really trying to solve their problem and being customer focused. Because in the end you know, people typically say that, you know, customers are, you know, they can often denigrate their customer and say they're ungrateful, whatever else, but you actually will get a lot of goodwill in return for you being genuine in your intentions of trying to really solve some of their problems. 

Just a little bit to wrap up here. What advice would you give to either building marketplaces or thinking about building marketplaces that you wish you had known when you started this business?

(Nicole Murphy)

I think the first thing I would say is find other marketplace founders. I think that was something that I struggled with a lot in the early days is like I came from like e -commerce and consumer SaaS businesses from my marketing career so like I'd seen some stuff, right? I've seen how a consumer SaaS product is built. I'd seen how an e -commerce company is built, like a direct to consumer e -commerce company. I'd never worked for a marketplace before. And so what I quickly learned was some of the nuances that come with building a marketplace that like a consumer SaaS business or a direct to consumer e -commerce company that creates and manufactures their own products, it doesn't face. And so I just felt kind of like lost and lonely in the early days. And so I actually came across a community called Everything Marketplaces that has been like a game changer. I always was, I'm like, I have founder friends, but again, there was never, they were never marketplace founders and I could never talk about some of the weird dynamics that come along with starting a marketplace. And so when I came across Everything Marketplaces and it's just this online community of like, I think it's like 2000 marketplace founders, I was like, oh my God, I found my people. And it's so helpful because everyone in there is in the same boat. So we're all really helping each other.

They often have marketplace experts come in. They often partner with brands that can give you discounts on tooling and stuff that marketplaces often need. And so that was a really big unlock for me that's been really helpful. It's also just validating that I'm like, okay, this is actually really hard and really weird and challenging. You're not alone in that. So I would say that. I think another piece of advice I would have is just to be really patient. I think again, because of some of those dynamics with marketplaces where you've got to convince and onboard the supply and you've got to onboard, you're kind of running two different businesses at once. It just takes longer. It's challenging. It's harder. So I think just be patient. You got to kind of sign up for the long haul for sure. When you're building a marketplace, in my opinion.

 Lastly, I would say, and this kind of just goes to what we were talking about right before, but just bring your customers along for their ride.I think if you're creating a marketplace that solves a real need in the space, I think your customers will be a big part of what you build, how you build it, and how it's received. So something I tried to do in the early days, and I think this is because I came from some really well -established companies, is I always tried to make ourselves look bigger than we actually were. And I don't think that was the right thing to do. I actually think being more vulnerable and being more open on, here's where we're at. We're two people, three people building this thing, I think really encouraged our customers to want to support us in any way that they could. And it's been a huge help.

(Niklas Halusa)

I've actually had the same experience. The fake it till you make it is actually often the wrong advice. I think the opportunity you have as a startup is to show your vulnerability, but your intention and your speed of improvement. I say, okay, I might not be there yet. But I will be, and I know I'm be honest with you what value I will bring, and that is an important value. And so work with me on the way. Now one of the things that I did want to just double click on is you said you've had experience in normal e -commerce and SaaS that's so different from marketplaces. Is there anything that you can put on that that's tangible on what you're doing? what those differences are, what makes it so different running a marketplace? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Again, this is just my own personal experience. So I might be off base here, but I think you, I just find you have more control. So like if you're creating a product, for example, you, you manufacture such product, you bring such product to life. You kind of control how many products in your are in your assortment, like how quickly are you able to bring them to market depending on what manufacturer you choose or how much you're willing to pay the manufacturer. You know what I mean? So I think there's so much control you have specifically on the supply side of things that we, I don't feel we really have. Like I feel even right now there's still many brands that aren't on our platform that I have yet to be able to convince to join our platform. And I kind of just have to trust that it'll happen and wait it out and keep growing the demand side to hopefully convince them in the future. But it's not something I can just go and like pay a bunch of money to have, or it's not something I can just make happen with whatever resources I have. You know what I mean? So you kind of have to be, that's where the patience comes in and the trust and the faith that it'll all come together in the end. So I think that's some of the dynamics. And then I think it's just the balancing of both sides. So it's like, In my experience, like since the beginning, for the last two years, we've been very focused on the demand side. Let's get people to the platform so that the suppliers we do have are happy. But then if you ignore the supply side for too long, you've got this demand who's not happy with the options on your platform. So then you're like, okay, crap, now I got to go make sure I'm bringing on more suppliers. But as a small team, it's hard to be in both places at once. So I just feel like I'm on this like teeter totter all the time of trying to balance both sides. And those are some of the nuances and I think the unique things of running a marketplace that I haven't felt as much in some of the other businesses. But mind you, I wasn't a founder of those other businesses. So maybe those things are happening in the background. I just wasn't exposed to them, but that's just kind of been my experience so far.

(Niklas Halusa)

I really enjoyed this conversation. I said, love this story. It's such an empowering story for for marketplaces in general of finding a group of people that's truly underserved and being able to aggregate all the options for them. It's why I'm in this business, because I think there are so many of these niches and there are so many fantastic founders and builders out there that know about a problem that other people just don't think about and they've lived it and they've experienced it that I want to be able to serve and I want to be able to help. And so, stories like this, obviously, fantastic for that. If somebody wants to go be involved with Tall Size, buy, sell, work there, invest, you name it, where can they find you? 

(Nicole Murphy)

Sure, so they can find us at tallsize.com. So if you guys do want to check it out, or if you know a tall lady, feel free to pass this along to her. So tallsize.com, super easy to remember.

Um, you can find me probably the best places on LinkedIn. That's I'm fairly active on LinkedIn. And then on Instagram, we're tall size at tall size. Um, and then it links out to kayla and I, um, both of our, our personal pages on there too. So that's probably where you can, you can find us most easily. So. Yeah. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Great. Well, proof that you are the first people attacking this space is the fact that you have the Instagram handle tall size and that wasn't taken already. 

(Nicole Murphy)

And you know what, that was like when I, that was also when we started this business, I'm like, what if we just cause my whole thing is I'm like, why is there a plus size and not a tall size category? Like that makes no sense to me. And then when I found the domain was available, I did have to pay like $2 ,000 for it, but it was available. So I was like, this, the fact that this is even available is just so validating to like how much opportunity there is here. So yeah, we were lucky to be able to snag that. That's been very helpful on the SEO side of things. 

(Niklas Halusa)

That's obviously a good hack maybe is go find the domains you want if they're taken, figure out who took them. 

(Nicole Muprhy)

Exactly, exactly. 

(Niklas Halusa)

Really appreciate the time. Thank you for sharing with us and best of luck. Thank you so much. Bye.