Career Spotlight: Elin Carlander, COO at Xlash
We had a chat with Xlash’s COO, Elin Carlander, about how she built a successful career in the e-commerce field, what it takes to reach a C-level position in a male dominated industry, and how to put a DTC-brand on a hyper-growth trajectory. Read on for the full interview.
Hi Elin, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us! Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and how you ended up where you are today – where did you start and what challenges did you face along the way?
I was raised in a family of entrepreneurs where I learned early on that nothing in life comes for free. You have to work hard to get to where you want in life, and I’ve embraced that mindset for as long as I can remember. When I was 19 years old, I moved from Växjö to study at the Stockholm University where I graduated in Economics, Cultural Geography, Business Administration and Logistics. Since then, I’ve gone from various extra jobs to careers within real estate, fashion, logistics and e-commerce. Of course, there have been many challenges along the way, but I’ve always believed that nothing is impossible if you work hard and dedicate yourself to what you do. Maintaining that mindset has played a huge part in getting me to where I am today.
Cool! You mentioned that you previously worked in various jobs within different fields. How did you end up pursuing a career within e-commerce?
I have always had many different interests that I’ve been curious to explore, but after my employment at Steen & Ström I realized there was something about working with logistics and the consumer journey within B2B and DTC that really fascinated me. This fascination eventually led me onto continuing my career at Odd Molly and Hunkydory, where I was involved in implementing their first DTC-store back in 2011 – something we were quite early to adopt at the time. Since then I’ve been all-in on e-commerce and more specifically DTC. It’s a very exciting and fast growing space to be in.
You’ve had a long and successful career in the e-commerce industry, despite it being a fairly male dominated field. How has it been to move forward in your career as a woman?
There are rarely any shortcuts whether you are a man or a woman – only hard work. I’ve been very privileged to have managers who’ve allowed me to grow and take great responsibility throughout my career, which has given me the confidence to believe in myself and my skills. I have chosen to work within relatively male-dominated areas such as logistics, technology and real estate. Of course, it's been challenging, but I made a decision early on to see the challenges as an opportunity to be a role model for other women – instead of letting them weigh me down.
"I made a decision early on to see the challenges as an opportunity to be a role model for other women – instead of letting them weigh me down."
How did you end up at Xlash?
Prior to joining Xlash, I spent ten years building my career and learning the ins and outs of running an e-commerce brand at Odd Molly and Hunkydory. I will always love the Odd Molly and Hunkydory family, but the time was right to try something new. I met Svante Gabrán who is the CEO of Xlash and got very intrigued by the culture they wanted to create at the company. As previously mentioned – I come from an entrepreneurial family, so joining a smaller brand with huge ambitions was something I wanted to be part of.
What are the key factors behind Xlash’s success?
One of the main reasons is our two founders, Svante Gabrán & Daniel Korhonen and their genuine interest in the beauty industry. Besides the fact that they are amazing entrepreneurs, they have great knowledge of the industry and are all very passionate about the Xlash brand. Another reason is that Xlash actually has a great, high-quality, product that actually gives our customers great results. And of course, that we’ve taken the time and effort to recruit the right people at the right time.
Xlash has grown annual revenue from 0.4-18 MEUR in just four years of time.
What sets Xlash apart from other beauty brands?
Xlash's strength is that we have results-based products that are produced by qualified suppliers with many, many years of experience. Also the fact that we collect feedback and involve our customers in the creation of new products, which makes our brand relevant to our customers. The customer experience is our brand.
You recently launched Xlash’s new and improved e-commerce experience on the Centra platform. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you decided to partner with us?
We decided to switch to Centra last year, and the main reason for that was that our business had grown significantly on markets outside of Sweden. We needed a globally scalable system that could handle a global business in order to become more efficient and grow faster. This scenario is common for brands that grow fast in a short time, as most platforms today aren’t built for managing multiple markets in an efficient way. Our new setup on Centra is user-friendly for our employees, and the customer experience has been significantly improved thanks to a great collaboration with our agency, Made People. I was involved in implementing Centra for Odd Molly, so I already knew the benefits of the platform and how knowledgeable and service-oriented the Centra team is. Also, the fact that Centra has support for both DTC and B2B was also an important factor, as we were in need of a complete solution that could handle our sales across all channels.
The new site has been built on Centra, and designed by web agency Made People, to strengthen the brands digital impact and fuel its international expansion further.
Do you have any "career moments" you’re particularly proud of?
In the beginning of 2021, we realized that we needed to recruit the right competence into the company to be able to keep growing at a fast pace. Recruiting can be a pain, but at the end of the year, we had tripled our team and gone from 10 to 35 people in the company. I am incredibly proud of that part of our growth journey and the amazing team that we have today.
The competition is fierce out there. How do you, as a brand, make sure to stay relevant?
I think the most important thing is to build something that you genuinely believe in and that makes your customers feel something. Something that creates value for the customer and has clear competitive advantages from other companies within the same field. In order to do so, it’s crucial to be able to understand consumer behaviors and needs, and adapt the user experience accordingly. This requires constant work towards being present, gathering feedback, and interacting with the customers. In five years, I hope and believe that Xlash will continue to be the fun, creative and genuine organization we are today.
Great stuff Elin! Before I let you off the hook I have one final question. What advice would you give to other aspiring women that are looking to pursue a career within e-commerce?
One of my best pieces of advice is to take the time to learn from others. Look at other successful brands, identify the keys behind their successes and how they’ve managed to scale their businesses. By doing so, you can avoid a lot of pitfalls. Also, spend time on recruiting the right people and surround yourself with colleagues you trust and that have the same drive as you. Last but not least, work hard – nothing comes for free.