Handling the leap: How a corporate executive became an entrepreneur
Shira Yoskovitch’s experience as a busy executive and caregiver — paired with her passion and talent for finding “that right thing” — inspired her to create a personal shopping concierge service, Handled Concierge Services. She shares the lessons she learned in the process, and her best advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs.
By Marie Moore
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Handled fits the adage well.
Founder Shira Yoskovitch says her inspiration for the personal shopping service came from her own experience — not only as a busy executive, but also spending years with the added responsibility of caregiving for her parents. “During that time, my to do list was ridiculous; it was impossible. I was forever on the hunt for someone to just help me.”
At the same time, shopping was a task she actually enjoyed. So much so, Shira often took it on for others. “The truth be told, I have been shopping for my friends and some people in my circle, for the better part of 15 years. I have a friend who hasn’t bought her own pair of shoes since she was in high school.”
It took four years of mulling over the idea of starting a shopping service before personally and financially Shira felt confident moving forward — or at least recognized it was the time to have some faith in her idea. “I remember thinking, if I don’t do it now, I’m going to find myself in five years wishing to heck I had, and I’ll have missed the boat.”
So she set about creating the kind of personal shopping company that she could have benefitted from when she herself was stressed and overstretched. She chose the name — Handled — to reflect the breadth of the services that would be offered as a “holistic, end-to-end, solution provider.” Not only will her team complete whatever shopping task you give them (from clothes to gifts, from budget to luxury), they also provide their styling expertise, deal with returns and alterations, and deliver wherever it’s most convenient for you. They’ll even do a wardrobe consultation to make sure you’re using what you already have to the fullest.
With a background in supply chain management and operations, Shira was also well aware of the importance of making the process smooth and simple from start to finish, so the experience wouldn’t feel like a burden. She invested in technology (another field she’s experienced in) to make the booking process easy. “You can actually access us through various digital mediums, like your cellphone or a tablet, and book something with us like you would book something into your calendar — it’s an extension of how you live your life.”
Her biggest challenge since opening the business? Convincing women that there’s nothing wrong with getting help. “A lot of times there is this overwhelming sense of, ‘I couldn’t possibly send you to go shop for me, I’m Superwoman, I should be able to shop for myself.’ I liken it to the same argument of, do you use a drycleaner? Do you go to a car wash? Do you go to Starbucks for your coffee, as opposed to getting your coffee at home? All of those things are technically things we could do ourselves, however our time is better spent doing other things. I have the same conversation when it comes to Handled. Let us do the task that, frankly, there is no virtue to you doing yourself, for the cost of what you’d tip a delivery person.”
“You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”
Ironically, learning to ask for help was a key part of Shira’s journey while setting up Handled. As a self-described control freak, it didn’t come naturally to her. She’s been pleasantly surprised by how many people have stepped up to offer their assistance, or make a beneficial connection. She now recognizes it as an integral part of building a smart business, not only for the time saved and expertise gained, but also for giving her the ability to see the faults in her own plan. As Shira explains, when you work alone, “You start drinking your own Kool-Aid.”
Her focus now is on growing the Toronto business, with a near-future goal of expansion into more cities in Canada, as well as the UK. The uncertainty of that journey doesn’t seem to phase her, a trait she says she picked up spending years as an expat, travelling to new, weird, and wonderful places. “I got so used to forever being lost, that it stopped scaring me. You get lost, you make a plan, and you move forward. You put one foot in front of the other, and if you do that for enough time, it becomes a skill, a resilience like anything else.”
She also credits the skills she learned in the corporate world for setting her up for success as a business owner, but she advises aspiring entrepreneurs not to let cautious knowledge-collection stop them from jumping on an opportunity. “If you have an idea, you are never going to get 95% of the solution worked out beforehand. You need to have enough courage of your own convictions to take a leap.”
The biggest reward so far from taking her own leap and launching Handled? It has allowed Shira to devote herself to a career she’s passionate about. “The truth is, I love it. I love finding that right thing, and by the way the right thing could be a Joe Fresh or it can be a Gucci, it doesn’t really matter — it’s the right thing.”
Handled is your personal shopper at your fingertips. Get the right look for an occasion or event, or build an everyday wardrobe filled with perfect pieces that work for your lifestyle. All you need to do is tell us what you want, and set the budget and timeline. We handle everything — yes, everything — from there. Get started at itshandled.ca
Handled is a proud sponsor of the 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.