In conversation with Grace Gould & Erica Allen, co-founders of a female-friendly tech community and shopping site called SODA Says. SODA Says is an online curation of lifestyle tech, carrying (and covering) everything from wellness products and sex toys to home and beauty products and aiming to bridge the gap between our lives and the ever-evolving tech industry. The strength of the brand rests in how passionately curated and rigorously tested each product is, and we’ve been impressed as we’ve started using their products. We love the headphones and are (needless to say) super psyched to start trying out their sex-tech products….
Sign up for the SODA Says newsletter (which discusses tech in a non-techie way) and you’ll receive a voucher for 10% off the items on the site, you’ll also be entered for a chance to win a $100 voucher to spend on lifestyle tech!
Erica: 42, originally from Texas, British and American
How did you guys meet?
Through our mutual friend Hanna in New York. She has a great eye for people and thought we’d be a perfect fit. She was right.
What’s the story behind the name?
SODA stands for School of the Digital Age. We added Says to stress our intention to offer a clear point of view as well as to reflect the community aspect of sharing thoughts and ideas on technology.
Are you primarily a shopping site or a community site?
We think of ourselves as “community-led commerce.” Our community is interested in tech and comes to us because they want to hear our non-serious, non-jargon voice. Tech is everywhere these days and can be divisive and confusing; our kids live in a digital world and are growing up with phones glued to their palms. Then, there’s my generation who aren’t natives in that world at all. SODA Says aims to close that gap by leveling the conversation.
The commerce side of the coin is simple: Grace and I both love tech products. We come from heavy retail backgrounds. I worked at Farfetch and Net-a-Porter for years and Grace worked at Apple. We love the discovery part of finding the best products in the industry that consumers don’t know about. Most of our partners are small companies that are super passionate about that one product they are making. We tell their brand story to our community.
What are the challenges of being a woman in tech?
It’s so much easier than it was 20 years ago (when Grace was 10 and I was 22!). Growing up I actually remember some of my mother’s friends telling me that women’s brains weren’t built for technology. Needless to say, this is bullshit; it’s about exposure.
What’s it like having a Millennial as a business partner?
I love Grace’s optimism and exuberance. She’s confident and accomplished which gives her an edge, but she’s also very comfortable showing her vulnerability. She told me recently that as founder/entrepreneurs it’s perfectly normal for us to wake up every day asking ourselves what the hell we are doing. I love that!
What’s your favorite product on the site?
Definitely the Happy-nes headphones. They are one of our bestsellers and I use them all the time – at the gym, for work, for just lazing around so that the kids think I’m busy….
Grace: 30, London, UK
What’s the SODA Says mission?
SODA Says is about showcasing all the incredible new technology products and services out there to a broader community of people. We’ve both worked in tech for our whole careers and have always been that friend or daughter who recommends the newest app or the newest tech gadget. We decided to build this into a business. People come to SODA Says to discover what’s next in technology products, from wellness and smart home to fashion tech accessories. We’re also having the conversation about how these products impact your life.
What’s it like for you having a business partner in her 40s? Do you feel a generational difference and how does that play out?
I’m in awe of how Erica manages to run this business alongside being a mom, and it’s an added bonus that her daughter Evie (9) tests our products and gives her honest input. She also has experience scaling e-commerce businesses, which, needless to say, we need!
What’s your favorite product on the site?
The happy-nes phone cover! I have never received as many compliments on anything as I have this phone case and strap. I am literally stopped on the street by people asking me where I bought these from. The colorful strap is handwoven in Istanbul and clips onto the clear case so you can walk around hands free with your iPhone.
What are some of your biggest business challenges?
Fighting against the waste culture in electronics is really tough. As a brand, we put sustainability at our core. We are working hard to reduce our plastic waste as a business, and our packaging is all plastic-free. We’ve discovered some great sustainable products recently, including a speaker made of recycled plastic which we’re launching on SODA Says later this year and Pela, a biodegradable phone case which you can bury in your garden to decompose when you upgrade your phone! But we’re always looking for more plastic free or recycled products.
Second, I’d say that competing with Amazon is really tough. We choose to be a voice for smaller tech brands that love our curation and being in the same shop as other great quality products. On Amazon, other companies knock off their designs, take their IP and then they have to share a shelf with them. It’s a David and Goliath story.
That said, our customers email us saying they love the handwritten notes in our gift boxes and our unique product assortment. Messages like those keep us going when we’re feeling overextended!