I’m really happy to have Andreea Ayers on the show today. Out of all of the possible products to try to sell online, selling t-shirts is probably one of the hardest. But Andreea managed to take her t-shirt business to over 6 figures in profit by being extremely focused and by leveraging publicity.
Today, Andreea runs the popular site LaunchGrowJoy.com where she teaches other people how to run a successful online wholesale business.
Get My Free Mini Course On How To Start A Successful Ecommerce Store
If you are interested in starting an ecommerce business, I put together a comprehensive package of resources that will help you launch your own online store from complete scratch. Be sure to grab it before you leave!
What You’ll Learn
- How Andreea sourced her first products and found her first vendors
- How Andreea started designing her own shirts without any knowledge
- How Andreea tested her market before placing a bulk order overseas
- How Andreea convinced her first store to carry her products
- Why Andreea decided to sell her products wholesale as opposed to retail
- What it’s like to be a wholesaler and how to run a wholesale business
- How Andreea got her products featured in over 200 magazines
- How Andreea used Facebook to promote her products
- How Andreea used Pinterest to promote her site
Other Resources And Books
- MD Kitting Solutions Fulfillment House
- Andreea’s courses on how to get publicity for your business
- The Attractor Factor: 5 Easy Steps for Creating Wealth (or Anything Else) From the Inside Out
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)
If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/contest and if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more information. Now onto the show.
Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s you host, Steve Chou!
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quite Her Job podcast. Today I have Andreea Ayers with us on the show. Now I did not know Andreea at all until she randomly emailed me one day and I’m so happy that she did because it opened my eyes to a brand new blogger/ecommerce entrepreneurial that I did not know about. Andreea runs launchgrowjoy.com a blog where she helps entrepreneurs sell their own consumer products via wholesale and publicity. So here is what stood out about Andreea for me, out of all the business ideas that I get pitched about on my blog I tend to discourage people from going to extremely saturated niches like selling t-shirts for example, but Andreea not only successfully started her own t-shirt business, Tees For Change, but she also managed to grow this business to six figures. Then she started another business in a highly competitive niche selling organic soap and she was doing pretty well too until she decided to shut it down. Now today Andreea helps other entrepreneurs get their products featured in magazines and in the press and she is also very knowledgeable about Pinterest, and with that I am very happy to have on the show.
Andreea: Thank you so much Steve I’m so exited to be here talking to you today and to your listeners.
Steve: Yeah really glad to have you. So Andreea I’m very curious, how did you come up with selling t-shirts, and what was so special about your t-shirts such that you managed to get celebrities to wear them?
Andreea: So I launched my t-shirt business in 2007 and the reason I launched it is because my husband and I were moving from– I grew up in New York City so we were moving from New York City to Boulder, Colorado and it just happened that I was also four months pregnant at the time and I always had sort of a side business in addition to my corporate job. So, I’ve worked in corporate America for companies like Mackenzie and City bank, Starwood hotels near Kenversity and a whole bunch of other places and when I moved to boulder I –, my goal was to get a job so that we sort of have more stability and have health insurance and all of those other things that come with getting a good job and I landed here started going on interviews and it was really really hard for me to get a job, and obviously part of it had to do with the fact that I was pregnant and I was starting to show, and part of it also I think had to do with the fact that I didn’t really want that job whatever the job it was going to be because I knew I would probably be quitting after my son was born a few months later.
So I thought about turning that part time entrepreneurial thing that I’ve been doing for quite a few years into a fulltime gig, so I thought alright so what do I love to do, what do I know how to do and what can I do to turn this into a business. So I had a couple of different ideas but one that really stuck out with me was the idea of launching a t-shirt line. Now I did not know anything about ecommerce or fashion or even how to start t-shirts but I had a pretty good marketing background. So I knew that no matter what product I would launch that I would hope that I could make it successful. So I ended up doing this t-shirts line and part of my passion was to use eco-friendly materials and eco-friendly inks so one of the things that I think made my t-shirts stand out, and remember this was in 2007 when it wasn’t as easy to find eco friendly clothing and eco products so that definitely made my brand stand out.
The other thing that I think made my t-shirts really successful was that I decided to really get specific about what niche I was going to focus on, and when I first started I honestly had no idea about getting really specific and narrowing down your audience. I really thought I could just sell the t-shirts to any one and I would be a millionaire in a year because everybody buys t-shirts right. So once I realized that it was kind of impossible to market with a non existing budget to everyone, I decided to again think about what I love to do and what kind of communities I wanted to be involved in, and that’s when I decided to focus on yoga studio owners and women who do yoga. So whenever I would design a t-shirt most of my ideas I made sure that they would appeal to some one who does yoga and I think it took me a couple of months to find that niche but once I really narrowed down on that that’s when my sales started to really take off because I was really speaking to women who do yoga and I’m someone who does yoga. So I sort of already knew what that market was like because I was my own customer in a sense. So it just made it a lot easier.
Steve: So can you just describe to me what eco friendly t-shirts really mean because t-shirts are traditionally made out of 100% cotton right?
Andreea: Yes but what happens is that cotton uses a lot of pesticides and it’s very, very toxic to produce, so what I decided to do is that I decided to use organic cotton in my t-shirts and there are no pesticides used on organic cotton and also I decided to experiment with t-shirts that were made out bamboo so that’s definitely – yeah so it was a mixture of bamboo and organic cotton and in addition I also decided to have my t-shirts printed with non toxic inks, because all of the inks that you see on the t-shirts they are highly toxic, they give off a lot of fumes there are not made from very environmentally friendly materials. So it was the material itself on the shirts. It was the ink that I used and then also my hand tags were printed on recycled and recyclable paper as well. So it was the combination of all of those things that made it eco friendly.
Steve: Okay I see so you actually kind of caught that movement sort of in the beginning because that was when back then I don’t think there were that many clothing stores that were doing that sort of thing. Today you can find those all over the place I believe.
Andreea: Yes, that’s true I caught it right at the beginning and I remember I had such a hard time finding an eco friendly t-shirt manufacturer because there was hardly anyone who was doing it. So it was definitely a hard process for me to find sourcing but once I sold it in 2011, then I mean every t shirt brand had an eco friendly line so it was definitely a lot more widespread. So I do feel lucky that I sort of got there in the beginning right as it was starting.
Steve: It’s never luck. So just curious can we talk about the sourcing aspect a little bit. So where did you actually get these products sourced from?
Andreea: Sure, so I initially went to American Apparel because they were one of the few that would do eco friendly t-shirt so I got– I ended up buying into their organic line but I found out their cut and the material wasn’t quite what someone who does yoga would be interested in because usually yoga clothing is more light more, it’s more airy, it’s more stretchy and usually it’s not made just out of cotton right. It usually has some sort of spandex or Lycra or some other material that makes it a little softer and a little stretchy. So I found out that the American apparel t-shirts weren’t really selling that well for me just because it wasn’t in line with what my audience wanted and then I ended up going with another company called Alternative Apparel and they had really nice organic cotton line that was just super soft.
The cut was really nice. It was definitely really feminine and what my audience was into and then about two years after I started using their t-shirts, I realized that there were a ton of other companies that were sort of my competitors and they were all buying the same t-shirts that I was buying from Alternative Apparel except they were printing them with different designs. So that’s when I decided to branch out into finding my own manufacturer and get my own t-shirts custom made. So I did a lot of online research and found this company out in Turkey who was working with bamboo and I loved their cuts and I ended up actually working with a broker in the UK who sort of facilitated everything. So I never actually had direct contact with this company in Turkey, but it was my broker in the UK who would facilitate all of my orders all of the shipping and all of that. So by the time I sold the business I did have my own custom made t-shirts that no other brand had. So that was definitely helpful to increase my sales.
Steve: Okay let’s take a step back, so how did you find that broker in the UK?
Andreea: I actually went online. I goggled and I found a whole bunch of companies I was looking for eco friendly. So I would type in things like organic cotton t-shirt blanks or organic cotton t-shirts manufacturers or apparel manufacturers that are sustainable. So I would make a list. I had a spread sheet where I would put in all of them and then I would reach out to them via email and I would say hey this is what I am interested in. What are your minimums? Can you send me samples, what are your shipping times? What are your production times? And then based on the answers that they gave me plus cost obviously because that was a huge thing. Based on that and then the samples that I got, I decided to go with the t shirt that I thought would sell the best. So it was really just googling things and making a list of companies that were making t-shirt blanks.
Steve: So did you – you mentioned that you designed your own t-shirts, did you mean just the designs that went on the shirts or the shirt themselves – like the fit?
Andreea: So it was both. Well I didn’t actually design the shirt but the manufacturer made the shirts specifically just for my company. So they gave me different choices, different patterns to choose from. Different colors and they basically said here is what we have available. We can go with what we have available– we could go with what we have available and customize it specifically for you with your logo, with your own colors or you can totally design your own but I think for me because I didn’t have a design background and I didn’t quite know where to go to find someone to design patterns I decided to go with one of the cuts that they had already made but I had so may to chose from that it was super easy and then I picked my own colour as well. So that’s how that happened.
Steve: Okay, so I know for us we do quite a bit of importing and what were the minimum order quantities and how did you kind of– Did you know that these t shirts were going to move before you placed the bulk order? How did you kind of proceed with that?
Andreea: Well yes I think by that time I definitely knew that they would move because I had quite a few retailers in place. I think I had about 150 retailers at this time and they all would email me and ask,”hey are you coming out with a new line are you — do you have anything new, what can we buy that’s new, and I realized that if I had my products in stores they would always going to want stuff that was new. So I knew that they would sell and plus based on my previous sales history as well because at that point I was getting steady orders. I was moving through quite a lot of t-shirts which definitely wasn’t the case when I started but by that point two years in– and plus I had set up events that I was going to do so I was doing some trade shows and selling t-shirts directly to through the trade shows and I was also starting to get a lot of press. So I did invest the minimum– I think the minimum quantities was I want to say at least 5000 t-shirts to start with and it was probably something like120 of each size, of each colour, of each style if that makes sense. So I put together a whole bunch of colors and styles and made– met their minimum of 5000 t shirts.
Steve: Okay and how much was the outlay. How is the cost per t-shirt back then?
Andreea: Back then it was around anywhere from like 4.67 to the long sleeves were maybe closer to eight dollars. It was like something closer from five to eight I would say.
Steve: Okay so if I was to summarize you had already had sales using your US vender–
Steve: And you were already working with your stores and boutiques and then once you got to a certain point you decided just make your own in Turkey and by then you already had a customer base and you knew that you could move these. So the minimum quantity wasn’t that big of a deal.
Andreea: Exactly, yes and I already had the funds in place to do it. I mean I did have to get out a line of credit at some point to pay for some of these but I knew that they would sell very quickly and what I would also do is that I would also try to pre sell so I would reach out to my wholesalers or my retailers and I would say hey this is what’s coming, are you interested and that gave me a good indication too of whether or not my t-shirts were going to sell because if I see my retailers get super excited and they be like “oh my God I can’t wait until you get these t-shirts in, let me know and here’s my order,” then I knew that I was going to sell them, plus I started building my online sales as well through publicity. So that really helped also.
Steve: Okay so let’s talk about that. How did you get the first store to carry your products?
Andreea: So the first store was actually a yoga studio. So what I did as soon as I decided that I wanted to be focused on working with yoga studios and women who do yoga, I went and got a copy of yoga journal magazine and in the magazine they have a directory of yoga studios in the US. So I made a spreadsheet, I sat there and copied and pasted all of there email addresses. They also gave you the owners’ name who owned the yoga studio. So that was really helpful because I could actually personalize my emails to them and after I — I think I think they had about 300 yoga studios in the print directory and then I realized that they also had an online directory that had even more yoga studios, so I basically went through their online directory, copied down their email addresses and studio names and the owners name and I started emailing them one by one and telling them about the T-shirt line, telling them that it was eco friendly.
And I think the other thing that really helped me was that I also decided to plant a tree for every shirt that I sold, and that’s another thing that made me really stand out and it made my brand a little more unique. So when I would reach out to these yoga studios, I would tell them that the T-shirts were eco friendly, that we would plant a tree for every shirt that I sold, that they were printed with non toxic inks, and that their purchase would really make a difference. And I think that really helped to make me stand out a little bit more, plus the designs on the T-shirts were something that was really in line with the Yoga community, so I think all of that combined really helps. So that’s how I was able to get, I think maybe my first like ten to twenty stores, and then it sort of grew from there.
Steve: So the Yoga studio itself sold their own apparel, and that was– they had a little store to go along with the Yoga studio – is that correct?
Andreea: Yes, exactly. So they– some of the Yoga studios have their own brand, some carry other brands, but a lot of Yoga studios have a little boutique inside the studio, and it’s a way for them to make extra money.
Steve: Okay. This sounds a lot like Lulu Evan; it sounds like you were doing this before they even got started. We’ll get to that – I have a lot of questions. So, you’re getting your first initial orders– so first of all, first question I have is; how come you decided to go wholesale as opposed to just your own online store?
Andreea: I was actually doing both at the same time, so I– the reason I decided to focus mostly on wholesale in the beginning is because it was more of a straight path than trying to sell online, because, I knew that I wanted to target Yoga studio owners, and I already had all of their contact information, but then once I saw that they were coming back and reordering and there was more interest, I thought, ‘wow, I think I’m onto something here’ and, yes I was definitely selling at lower margins than I would online, but the orders were more steady, they were ordering a few hundred dollars worth of items at the same time, and they would keep coming back over and over again. So, in a way, once I got one account, it was sort of easy to grow that into re-orders. Whereas with online sales, you know some people would buy a T-shirt for themselves, and then come back and buy another one as a gift, but it wasn’t a case where they would buy month after month because there’s only so many T-shirts you could get that are a certain style. So, in the beginning, about 85% of my revenue came from selling to stores, and by the time I sold my company four years later, it was about 65-35%.
Steve: Okay. So how did you dance around the pricing with– so how did you prevent yourself from competing directly with your wholesalers– not your wholesalers– your end boutiques.
Andreea: The thing with T-shirts is that people really love to try them on, and they love—they want to see how a T-shirt fits so, in some ways I feel like my– the fact that I had my own online store was actually really helpful for the boutiques because I would list all of them on my website as well, and I would constantly throughout my site encourage people to go visit their local store so they can try on the T-shirts…
Andreea: And then every time that I would get a press mention, I would also email the boutique owners and let them know that there was a huge press mention that just came through let’s say Red Book magazine – and ask them if they wanted to stock up because I knew that people– whenever I would get a huge press mention, a lot of people would rather go to the store first, and try the T-shirts on, rather than buy directly through my site. So I don’t necessarily think I competed with them, but I think, in a way, I really helped to increase awareness of their store as well.
Steve: Okay. So in a way, your online store was meant to drive more traffic to your retailers as opposed to– the main intention wasn’t to just make online sales for yourself per se.
Andreea: Exactly. Yes and I think almost always if someone came to my site, and they saw that I had a local store, then they would almost always go to the local store instead of buying through my site, but the people who lived in cities where I didn’t have any local stores, then they obviously didn’t have a choice, so they would buy through my site directly.
Steve: Okay. So, if you can give us a brief overview about how you ran your wholesale business – so what were the minimum order quantities and what were some of the terms that you instilled when you were working with retailers?
Andreea: Sure. So my minimum order quantities; I started out with a minimum of twelve shirts, and then I realized that that was kind of too little, because I started speaking with other people that were selling wholesale, and I started going to trade shows, and they said that the more varied of a product line that someone has in their store, the more likely your products are to sell. Because if someone sees, let’s say someone goes to a store and they have ten T-shirts to choose from as opposed to four – they’re more likely to buy because they have more choice. So I was advised to increase my minimums to– instead of twelve T-shirts to increase it to $150 minimum, and that was a lot more that twelve T-shirts, so that’s how I was able to do that.
My other terms were that I didn’t accept any returns on wholesale, and that’s because I was going through launching new lines all the time, so if someone came back a year later to return T-shirts, for example, those were already off of my website, I had sort of moved on and there was not much that I could do with them so I made it clear from the beginning that I wasn’t going to take returns especially from wholesalers. And I think that’s pretty much the name of the game when it comes to wholesale – unless you’re working with a huge store where it’s like a whole foods or Bloomingdale’s or something like that where you do have to be a lot more flexible and possibly accept returns – but I worked with smaller retailers specifically for that reason; because I knew they were used to not having to return stuff. But when I was selling my T-shirts to my retail customers on my website, then I definitely took returns.
Steve: So what were the markups – was it just like a 2X markup from your wholesale and then the retails would mark that up 2X again?
Andreea: Exactly, it was exactly that. And then when I started to work with sales reps, I marked it up a little more. But at that same time I was able to lower my costs, so especially when I went with the 5,000 T-shirts from– in one order. So I was able to keep my prices somewhat consistent because my manufacturing costs had gone down.
Steve: Okay. And so I imagine you were getting a whole bunch of T-shirts shipped to you; did you have some sort of warehouse or…
Andreea: So I started out with having everything at my apartment at first, and I bought some shelves, and had everything on the shelves and I did all of the shipping and packing myself, actually, for the first two years. And then, at that time I was pregnant with my second child and we needed an extra room in our house, and plus I was starting to get more busy and I was spending so much of my time packing or shipping, that I didn’t really have time to market or do any of the sales. So that’s when I really decided; all right, if I really want to continue with this volume, I have to get a fulfillment house. So I ended up getting a fulfillment house and it was really interesting because, with the fulfillment house – the way that happened is that – I was featured in a local business magazine – and this was when I first launched my business – and there was a fulfillment house here in Colorado who worked specifically with smaller business women and entrepreneurs.
So she reached out to me about maybe six months after I started my business and she said, ‘I have a fulfillment house, we work exactly with entrepreneurs like you, if you ever have a need for a fulfillment house, let me know; I would love to work with you.’ And I didn’t really have a need for that until about two years. So I had kept her contact info on file, and when I was really ready – after two years I said ‘all right, now I’m ready, I’m about to have my second baby, I’m getting a ton more orders, I’m running out of room in my apartment; can we start working together?’ and she was super excited and it was actually in a way I think it’s what saved my business and what allowed me to really grow it. Because, I think, if I had been still packing and shipping myself with a second child, I don’t think I would have had much time for any of that, so, yes.
Steve: I don’t know how you did it with a single child, to be honest–
Andreea: He slept a lot during that first year, so that was really helpful, and my husband helped a lot too, so – he was staying at home with our kid, or with our son, when I was working, and so on, so we were able to sort of work out a schedule where I can work – my husband was in grad school at the time, so he had a little more flexibility– he wasn’t gone all day working, so I think that that was another thing that, I wouldn’t have been able to do it if he had a full-time job.
Steve: Okay. So how did using a fulfillment house affect your margins?
Andreea: So, it definitely affected my margins a little bit, but I looked at it as an investment and it was really a good investment, because I couldn’t spend five hours a day packing and shipping, or I couldn’t spend five hours a day reaching out, doing press, trying to get mentions, getting my shirts to sell a breeze [phonetics] and all of that, so, it did cut into my margins a little bit, but it also happened to be sort of at the same time where I was able to lower my costs by a dollar or so. So that I think that was really helpful. And I think the other thing was the T-shirts – which wasn’t the case with my soap business – was that the T-shirts are so light to ship and it was under a dollar at that time postage prices weren’t as high as they are now. So it was under a dollar to ship one T-shirt and I was charging $4.95 to ship so part of that cost went into my fulfillment houses. So in a way it kind of paid for itself, but when I would do let’s say free shipping incentive or something like that, then obviously I would have to pay for the cost of that myself, but usually my shipping fee paid for my fulfillment houses.
Steve: Okay. I was just curious what the terms were with your fulfillment house at the time…
Andreea: It was a pretty easy. She was really flexible, I think, because she worked with a lot of smaller entrepreneurs, so it wasn’t a case where I had to have a minimum amount of orders or anything like that, she wasn’t charging any monthly storage fee – I know that, a lot of fulfillment houses, you have to have crazy minimums, you have to pay storage fees, you have to pay extra charges per package and if you do any sort of inserts you had to pay more, but this one was really straight out, it was a flat fee per package and then for whole sale orders it was sort of a sliding scale based on the amount.
Steve: Okay. So maybe you’ll have to give me the name of that fulfillment house so we can link it up…
Andreea: Of course! I’ve been recommending that fulfillment house ever since I started working with them, and it’s amazing – it totally transformed my business.
Steve: Okay. That’s good to know. So let’s go to the heart of the matter and what I’ve wanted to know since the beginning. How did you create buzz around your products, and how did you get it featured in over 200 magazines, newspapers and TV shows?
Andreea: Sure. So that was something that I didn’t even really know existed when I started, I thought that only big brands get to be featured in national magazines, right, because you see all of the big brands and they have huge budgets so I thought ‘okay, that’s never going to happen for me’ so I started small – I started with blogs. And I was reading a blog one day, and the blog was all about being happy and living the happy life and how to create happiness in your life, and one of my popular T-shirts at that time was a T-shirt that said ‘Choose Happiness’ on it, and I thought ‘there’s a blog about happiness, I have a T-shirt all about happiness – maybe I can reach out to them and ask them if they want to feature my T-shirt.’ I had no idea how any of this worked, but I emailed them and said ‘hey, I just found your blog; I love it, I just launched a T-shirt line and I think my T-shirt would be really appealing to your audience who’s all about finding happiness, and, would you be interested in featuring it?’
And they wrote back to me right away and they said ‘Oh, we love your branding; can you send us a sample? We’ll try it out and we’ll write about it.’ And that’s when I realized ‘So I have to send out samples – it doesn’t quite work for me just to send them photos,’ because I thought, ‘why would they need to see a sample right, I could just send them a photo, they can post the photo up on the site and I don’t have to really invest into shipping and all of that.’ But I realized that that’s not how it works, so I ended up sending them a sample, and they loved the T-shit, they wrote about it, and I started seeing traffic come from that blog and I thought ‘maybe I could do this with Yoga blogs, maybe I could do it with some mom bloggers, because they do product reviews all the time, and I was personally reading a lot of mom blogs at that time because I was just newly pregnant, and then had a baby. So it sort of organically grew, and I realized that that was such a great way to get traffic back to my site and get sales, and also to grow my email list as well.
I started to learn more about publicity and how it works, and I started working with a PR company. They actually approached me and I decided to– it was a huge investment for me at the time – it was $2,000 per month, and I had to commit to at least three months of using them. But they are the ones who sort of introduced me to working with magazines. They were able to get me a few magazine mentions, and then after that three month contract was over, I thought ‘maybe I can try to continue this and do it on my own, so I started reading blogs about PR, reading books, listening to interviews, attending online PR courses and events and webinars, and I sort of started to just do it on my own. I started sending out emails, learned about editorial calendars and how magazines– they work on like a three to six month schedule, and, let’s say in July is when they’re working on their November or December issues.
So I sort of started working backwards and planned my launches in accordance with the magazines’ calendars – so that way I can pitch for mother’s day gifts, or I ended up launching a T-shirt that was all about breast cancer awareness and donating part of my profits to breast cancer awareness and almost every magazine in their October issue because that’s when breast cancer awareness month is. Almost every Magazine has a roundup of products that are either pink or that give back to breast cancer awareness. So I decided to create a T-shirt that was specifically for that cause, so that’s how I was actually able to do it and I realized how much I loved doing it, and I started to focus a lot of my efforts on doing this on a monthly basis. So it was a slow and steady raise, but it definitely helped for me to have steady press mentions every month.
Steve: So walk me through this. So how did you find out who to contact and how did you contact them? What did you write in that first initial approach email?
Andreea: Sure, so at first I started with using a service like helper reporter out I’m, sure you’re familiar with it.
Andreea: And I was able to specially more round like Mother’s Day gifts or holiday gifts and that’s how I was able to start out one way that was really inexpensive and then I learned about media databases. So there are places like Cission media database, or MyMediaInfo.com I think there’s Vocus and a couple of other databases where you compared annual fee and get access to contact information and editorial calendars for magazines. So I ended up paying that annual fee and I think when I first did it, it was around 3400 dollars a year which was a huge investment for me, but the way I looked at is that, all right 3400 dollars for a year is a lot less expensive than 2000 dollars per month.
So if I want to keep this publicity thing going that might be a good investment for me. So I ended up investing and I tried out all of the different media databases. I tried out Cission and Vocus and MyMediaInfo and I think a couple of other ones and then finally decided on Cission which was my favorite one, and they also had editorial calendars. So you go in there and see for example what Oprah Magazine is working on for this month and who the contact person is. So that was really helpful. Again I learned all of the other things that they were working on and I would email the person who was working on it and tell them why I thought my T-shirts would make a great gift for Mother’s Day or during the April issue a lot of them write about eco-friendly products because April is Earth Day, and they want to self celebrate Earth Day with eco-friendly products.
So I was able to find almost every month a theme that my T-shirts could fit in and by that time I ended up having a men’s line as well. So for Father’s Day I would pitch – pitch my T-shirts and I also started reaching out to Men’s Magazines. I also ended up launching a baby and kids line and reaching out to some of the kids and Parenting Magazines as well. So having a more varied product line, really helped me to get all of these placements across different types of magazines. But before I had a database, I would really go to Barnes & Noble, look at a magazine, see what they are working on and sometimes they would – sometimes the magazines have like a product roundup in the beginning of the magazine and it says there who put that page together and so I would just look.
I would Google that magazine and see if I could find their email – the email address of that editor or that writer and if I couldn’t find that online I really would just call them. To call up the magazine their editorials office and say hey I wanted to reach out to this person would you mind giving me their email address, and sometimes they would give me their email address, sometimes they would say, all of our email addresses are the same you can just do first name that last name@– I don’t know–timeink.com or something like. So I started to write all of those things down but– and that’s what I did at first before I learned about this database but once I heard about the database and decided to invest in it, it was really as simple as logging in, finding the person’s name and getting their email address from there.
Steve: Okay, so was that your primary means of advertising your company? Did you use any of the paper click services? Did you ever buy advertising on blogs? Used PLA’s and that sort of thing or…?
Andreea: Oh yeah. I did buy some Ads on blog’s that I thought were relevant and some of them were more like an eco-friendly blog and the other thing that I did is that I also had an affiliate program so I used – I signed up with sherrysales.com.
Andreea: And set up and affiliate program and I think I was paying maybe 15% or 20% and I reached out to a lot of bloggers that way as well. So it was more of an incentive for them to feature me because they would get a free T-shirt plus they would get a commission for any sales that came through to their site as well and…
Andreea: So I did some affiliate marketing and then I also that’s when Facebook and Twitter were starting out. I didn’t know anything about Pinterest back then although I know if I – if I knew about Pinterest I’m sure it would have been a really great avenue for me as well, but I was using social media and then I also knew about the importance of building your own newsletter as well. So I would– every time I would go to events I would have a signup sheet where people could enter and let’s say win a T-shirt and then I would– they would– that’s how they could get on my email list and I also had an email list on my website as well. So those combined were definitely how I was able to get most f my online sales.
Steve: Okay, so if you were to start all over again which avenues would you start with and how would you prioritize them?
Andreea: I think definitely publicity would be the first one that I would start with and the thing about publicity is that it’s more of a long term process just because especially the magazines work with that really Longley times. So when I started my sale business, it was sort of a way for me to start over again and I went right out and really launched with publicity. So I reached out to blogs that I thought were a really great fit and the great thing about working with blogs is that it’s a lot more, or it happens a lot quicker than it does with a magazine, so you can approach a blog today and in a week you could have a feature on the blog. So it was a lot more faster, it was– traffic would start coming in right away from those blogs mentions, and then the long view was the publicity and I launched my soap business in July.
So that was the perfect time to reach out for holiday gift guide. So when the holidays came around I already had all these press mentions. So I think if I were to do it all over again definitely publicity would be the first thing that I would do, and that includes blogs and magazines and then I think social media is the other thing. So, I have experimented with Facebook ads for my soap business and for LaunchGrowJoy.com and I didn’t know about Face book ads with my T-shirt business but I think if I knew about it back then, that’s another thing that I definitely would have done because you can get so targeted and so specific, and you can grow your list really quickly, you can advertise during specific times for example like Mother’s Day or holiday gifts, or eco-friendly products and so on. So, I think those three things and then obviously constantly to be growing my email list and to focus on that would be another thing that I would recommend and that I would focus a lot of my time on.
Steve: So I was just curious. Did you use Face book to help promote your soap business at all or?
Andreea: I did yes, yes. So Facebook– I took out some ads, I did a contest, I worked with bloggers through Facebook as well and yeah – and I saw a quite great return on that.
Steve: So just curious since I’ve been doubling with Facebook ads as well. How did you structure your ads and what did your landing page look like?
Andreea: Sure, so I decided with Facebook to actually to do a contest, so I set up an app on Face book. I used a service called Funpageology.com, and they allow you to– I mean it’s a more to some of the other ones like I think Wildfireapp maybe they’ve changed their name I can’t remember, but you basically just build an app on Face book and when I would set up my ads people would go directly to that app on Face book and when would have– I ended up recording a video. It was super quick I think under a minute and I encouraged people to enter their name and email address and win a year’s worth of soap and I– right who doesn’t want to win a year’s worth of soap.
So I ended up getting a lot email addresses that way and a lot of buzz around that and then people would share it, but the thing that I did with the Facebook ads is that, I structured it so that I could reach out to not only other soap companies that I thought were my competitors, but also other companies that had similar products because all of my soaps had again inspirational words on them just like my T-shirts.
Andreea: So I reached out or I targeted – like inspirational jewelry companies which there are so many out there. I targeted other soap businesses– there’s a lot of like inspirational journals and mugs and candles and inspirational gifts. So I targeted a lot of those audiences as well and plus some eco-friendly bloggers and mom bloggers and all of that. So I think the reason I had success with my soap business and the Facebook ad is because I really targeted to specific audiences who liked all of these other companies and I assumed that if they like this company then they probably would like my soaps as well.
Steve: Okay, so the whole point of that was to get email addresses which you then would market to directly once they were on your list?
Andreea: Yup, mm-huh, exactly.
Steve: Yeah that’s what I was actually getting at when I asked you that question because a lot of people they buy Facebook ads and they just point it at their store and that traditionally doesn’t work very well.
Andreea: It’s right, that’s true, you have– mm-huh.
Steve: Okay so also on your website you they always say that you teach a course on Pinterest. So I was just wondering how you use Pinterest for your businesses as well.
Andreea: Sure, so it’s really interesting because with Pinterest I sort of discovered it by accident and I was looking at my Google analytics one day and I think Pinterest was like the third or fourth refer on my website and I thought how much this Pinterest thing I’ve never been on it. let me go check it out and then when I went on it I was kind of confused because I thought okay, I’m seeing mostly products for women here and I have LaunchGrowJoy which – where I teach people how to market their businesses so how do the two tie in together? And then I Goggled you know how do you know what has been pinned from your site and all of these things.
So I found out what articles people were pinning and I think the reason I was having success with Pinterest is that with some of my articles I created little graphics that had the title of the article in it, so that way when someone came to my site and they would see my articles that– and they were relevant to them they would actually pin my image that was on my site. And the other thing that I did too with Pinterest is that I– when I first launched LaunchGrowJoy I ended up interviewing a lot of entrepreneurs, and a lot of those entrepreneurs would pin their own articles from my site to their Pinterest board which I had no idea they were doing that I think that went for a year before I even really knew that they were doing that and then it slowly started to gain traction.
And then I decided to open up an account and really get more– have a plan around Pinterest, so I ended up launching this infographic and it had nothing to do with like product or fashion, but it was an infographic titled 30 ways to promote your blog post and it was targeted towards entrepreneurs that had a blog, and I was giving them ideas on how they can get their content out there rather than having to write more, that they would have to promote more and get a lot more over it. So, that infographic was crazily enough reap end over 50,000 times now which is crazy and I still you know I don’t spend that much time on Pinterest anymore now although I still like I still pin all of my articles that I write or any other let’s say now that I’m talking to you when your podcast goes live if you post it on your site, I’ll pin it to my Pinterest board as well.
So I still do things like that every time I have a guest post or an interview, or I write my own post on site as well. But it’s not as you know obviously that doesn’t get rip end 50,000 times but for some reason this infographic people just loved it and I still get so much traffic and I think still now my– so much of my traffic comes from Pinterest even more so than Facebook and I spend so much more time on Face book. So once I really realized the power of Pinterest, and I started to get really specific and I started to talk to other entrepreneurs who were having success about it, I realized that I probably this is a great tool for any entrepreneur that has a product. So I started teaching entrepreneurs how to do it, and that’s when I decided to create my own Pinterest course as well.
Steve: Okay, so did you use Pinterest at all for your soap business or?
Andreea: I did yes and I was getting the turn of traffic from Pinterest. It was my top-refer outside of Google…
Steve: Really, wow.
Andreea: From my Pinterest as well, yes. Mm-huh.
Steve: So what are some of your strategies on getting people to pin your soaps?
Andreea: Sure, so some of my strategies is that I also did a contest on Pinterest just like I did on Face book and I was able to– now that I had built the list, I was able to reach out to list and ask them to pin their favorite soaps. I also– the other thing that I did that worked really well is that I had my designer create quotes. So I did some research, made a list of like my top 200 favorites quotes, and I had my designer create these little images that reflected my– the branding that I had on my soaps and put one of each quote on these– it was like maybe like a 400 by 400 image and every day or a couple of times a day I would pin one of those images and that image had my URL the SoapsToLiveBy.com URL at the bottom and I would link it back to my site.
So I started pinning these things a couple of times a day and quotes are spread like crazy on Pinterest, and people would see that quote they would love it, they would re-pin it and a lot of times people clicked through to see where that quote leads and then they would land on my soap page and sometimes I would link for example if I had a quote about hope and I had a soap that said hope on it, then I would link from that code directly to my hope soap and that helps.
Andreea: Yeah I mean it really, really helps. So a lot of times they weren’t even pinning my soaps, they were pining or and re-pinning these quotes that my designer had created and I would just upload on a daily basis.
Steve: That’s a good idea. So how did the contest work? How did you know who’s been pinning your stuff and how did you announce the winner and that sort of thing?
Andreea: So with the contest I– well on Facebook I had all of their email addresses so I just randomly picked the winner, but on Pinterest I asked people to tag and I think it was like a soaps to live by tag, and then I would see who tagged their photos with that and then just pick a random person to win from there. But Pinterest was a little easier because you could do this hash tag thing and that really, really helped and sometimes I would ask people to leave a comment. So another way you can structure a contest is to have people– so I put a photo of all of my soaps on one board, and then I would ask people to say which one of the soaps was their favorite and they could just leave a comment in the comment section, but then the other requirement was for them to also follow my boards.
Andreea: So that was easy because all of the comments were right there.
Steve: Right and so you draw traffic to Pinterest and Face book pages through your email list as well for this contest initially right?
Andreea: Yes and I also had it at times on my home page of my soap business.
Steve: Okay, these are all great ideas.
Andreea: Yeah, I mean they worked really, really well and by the time I was doing this for a few months with the soap business I was starting to see some of those press mentions in magazines, so then traffic started to grow from there as well and I didn’t have to spend as much on doing Facebook ads.
Steve: Okay, well great we’ve already been talking for 50 minutes, it actually blew by. I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but a couple of questions I ask everyone, you seem to be a very driven person. Were there any books or publications that kind of influenced you in any way to take on this world of entrepreneurship?
Andreea: I mean I love reading books especially business books, so I mean I’ve read everything from– like one of my first books that I remember, it was called “The Attractor Factor” and it was by Joe Vitale and it was basically a book about how you can have anything you want if you just go out and start working towards it. So I think that really inspired me because instead of like waiting for someone to hand me a job or to hand me a promotion or a raise, I realized that wow I could really do my own thing here and build my own future.
So I think that was one of the earliest books that really, really influenced me in terms of deciding to launch my own business, and then obviously I read things like “The 4-hour Work Week” and “The E-myth” and all of those kinds of books as well that I think every entrepreneur reads at some point. And then one other thing that I wanted to mention I think Entrepreneurial magazine was huge for me as well and just reading stories from other entrepreneurs, and learning about different ways that people have success as an entrepreneur was really inspiring and I mean I still continue to read Entrepreneur magazine and Fast Company and all of those business magazines as well.
Steve: Okay great, and so Andreea where can we– where can people find you online if they want to contact you?
Andreea: They can find me at lauchgrowjoy.com.
Steve: Okay and you mentioned earlier that you started a podcast; you want to tell us about where we can find the podcast as well.
Andreea: Sure, so that podcast is on iTunes and if you search for launch grow joy that should definitely come up and I love doing the podcast. I think it’s such a great way to connect with my audience on a much more intimate level, so I’ve been having a lot of fun with that.
Steve: Okay, great. I know I will be going to check it out right after this interview. So, thanks a lot Andreea, thanks a lot for coming on the4 show.
Andreea: Great. Thanks so much Steve; it’s been fun talking to you.
Steve: Okay. Take care.
Isn’t Andreea cool? After this interview ended, Andreea and I spoke for another half an hour, and she really is an amazing person. Even with two kids, she still manages to go full steam into her various businesses, she’s willing to try new things and she’s constantly learning. Now, when she didn’t know anything about making clothing, she picked it up; when she knew nothing about publicity, she figured it out. In fact, her interview gave me some great ideas on how to promote my own online store via publicity and Pinterest.
For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode 27, and if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud, but it helps keep this podcast up in the ranks, so other people can use this information, find the show more easily and get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show, and please tell your friends, because the greatest complement you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person, or just share it on the web. And as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner every single month. For more information about this contest, go to mywifequitherjob.com/contest, and if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini-course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit, in our first year of business; go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more information, and thanks for listening.
Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.