Building out Main Street for online shoppers

Posted 2020-07-23
It was a straight flush at this year’s BC Business 30 Under 30 Awards with four UBC Sauder alumni and one staff member making the list of B.C.’s most enterprising young business leaders. In this summer series, we interview one winner each week and find out what entrepreneurship means to them.

Kaylee Astle is helping to revolutionize the retail industry for both customers and business owners. As Director of Operations & Finance for tech startup Spocket, she and her team are giving people what they want: a way to start a business of their own.

Spocket facilitates online retail sales through a process called dropshipping. While it’s not new – dropshipping has been around since the days of mail order catalogues – Spocket’s user-friendly app takes e-commerce to the masses.

“We help entrepreneurs build their own online businesses,” explains Astle, age 29, who graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and International Business (Honours) from UBC Sauder in 2013.

Dropshipping eliminates the need for a physical store. Merchants launch their online store on a platform such as Shopify or Woocommerce without actually purchasing any inventory. They simply add products to their store and when a customer places an order, Spocket flows the order through to the supplier who packages and ships it to the customer. The merchant makes a profit from the difference paid to the supplier and charged to the customer.

“Our merchants never have to touch the inventory,” says Astle. “Our app makes it possible for them to just focus on product selection, sales and marketing.”

Spocket is making a name for itself in dropshipping due to its premium brands and fast delivery, as well as seamless technology that makes onboarding a breeze.

“We have 60,000 merchants across five continents,” notes Astle. “Every day, a mom from the United Kingdom or a teacher from Saudi Arabia is becoming an entrepreneur with us.”

Growing a tech company is hard work. Astle keeps her stress in check by getting outside and getting her heartrate up.

Since joining Spocket in early 2019, Astle has helped the company triple its revenue and more than double its head count, but supporting people to realize their dream of becoming an entrepreneur is what feeds the soul.

“In addition to helping people earn some income, we’re helping them take a hobby or an idea and develop it into something while learning new skills in the process. That’s what makes building this business so special.”

While she’s proud of the fact many of Spocket’s merchants are women, Astle wishes there were more women in the tech sector. It gets lonely being the only female executive in the room.

“Many people still think that a career in technology is for developers and software engineers. We need to change that mindset and encourage more women to go into STEM, whether in a technical role or business-oriented role such as operations, customer success or product management.”

Prior to joining Spocket, Astle co-founded MobSquad, a tech talent company that helps engineers relocate to Canada while still working for their organizations remotely.

At networking events and speaking engagements, Astle will urge women to cast aside their perceptions that tech is just about coding and math.

“I truly believe technology enables us to be more creative problem solvers. You can sit in a room with 10 people and talk about a complex problem and become so creative in terms of using all kinds of tools and resources to get to an end goal.”

It was during a student internship in her final year of UBC Sauder that Astle went to work for software giant SAP and fell in love with tech. Up until then, she was planning on becoming an accountant.

“My advice to students is take co-ops and internships that you didn’t originally see as part of your education. That way you can find out what you like and what you don’t like.”

For this 30 Under 30 winner, building a business, transforming the online retail marketplace and supporting a growing global network of entrepreneurs are three things that add up to a dream job.