In a world where Tumblr stars, Snapchat phenoms, and aspiring Instagram models rack up the kind of online following that rivals traditional celebrities, Erin Yogasundram holds center court.
Like other young people, Yogasundram has an Instagram feed peppered with selfies, memes, and close-up snaps of nail art. But unlike many 23-year-olds, her photos elicit responses like “My queen!,” “Why are you so perfect?” and “MOM”—which, in teen speak, is arguably the highest compliment of them all. Considering Yogasundram has spent the past three years growing into an entrepreneurial, albeit polarizing, role model for generation Z, the labels are surprisingly accurate.
Yogasundram, a New York native, is the founder and CEO of the online boutique Shop Jeen. Just like its creator, the shop favors pouty selfies, funny celebrity references, and the kinds of cleavage-and-butt-baring outfits that practically guarantee school detention.
The site’s homepage feels like a dizzying combination of Tumblr gifs, 1990s nostalgia, and the incessant strobe lights in a dark karaoke room. Those who can train their eyes to move past the emojis and the blinking lettering are offered the opportunity to shop hundreds of items of merchandise, all of it slogan-centric and painfully trendy. Bestsellers include swimsuits with “Supreme Bitch” printed on the chest, a “Turnt Jesus” iPhone case, and a coin purse that reads “Weed Money”.
Shop Jeen clearly isn’t for everyone (including all members of the population older than 20). But for a massive corner of the internet, its founder is Literally Everything.
Yogasundram created Shop Jeen in 2012 while she was a student at George Washington University. As sheexplained to New York magazine, the inspiration behind her business derived from prior fashion internships at Alexander Wang and Vogue. “All of the internships solidified for me that I didn’t want to graduate and go work at any of these places for $30,000 a year,” she said.
As a teenager, Yogasundram earned supplemental income by selling everything from celebrity autographs to Celine bags on eBay. She used her savings to build the e-shop from her dorm room. In the beginning, Shop Jeen was accessories-only, with Yogasundram constantly scouring Etsy for jewelry and bags that she could resell online. It was a one-woman operation: Yogasundram built the website, and modeled and shipped the merchandise herself. But when her business became too big for her dorm, the then college junior decided to abandon her full-ride scholarship and expand her business. She’s since grown her team (which includes creative director Amelia Muqbel) and recently relocated to LA to expand even further.
From the beginning, Shop Jeen’s success has been inextricably tied to social media. Yogasundram told the Cut that she built up the shop’s initial Instagram account by following every single person who followed Nasty Gal, a brand with a similar aesthetic (and a similarly driven female CEO). After these other accounts followed her back, she’d unfollow them a day later. The strategy clearly worked, since @ShopJeen has managed to reflect a clear-cut vision that’s snowballed into 411,000 followers within just a few years.