Does the thought of working with your sister make your eyelid twitch a little? Over and over, Sarah and I hear from other Mompreneurs about how impressed they are that we work together. “My sister would drive me crazy!” they say. The truth is, sometimes Sarah and I do drive each other crazy, but when we interviewed Jess Piestrup and Whitney Acheson of Moody Sisters Skincare, we discovered we weren't alone.
Despite the craziness, working with your sister can be a wonderful way to grow a business. Chances are, you each bring different strengths to the table, and there's no one who will love you, quirks and all, quite like a sister will.
Whether you have a sister or not, there's so much to learn from Jess and Whitney's story. They've figured out how to cater to their target audience with a strategy that we think is pure genius! Beyond that, they routinely find MORE members of their target audience by partnering with bloggers. Hear all the details about how they achieve success, plus some funny sister antics too!
On the Podcast
01:59 – How Solving Skin Problems Became a Business
05:48 – From Hobby to Full-time Gig
07:50 – Using Test-Panels to Skyrocket your Success
10:43 – Blogger Outreach: Where to Go + What to Do
15:09 – Getting Great Photos
17:11 – A Photography Secret You Should Know About
19:09 – The Best Source for, well…. Sourcing things!
20:43 – A Moody Sisters Setback (+ how they recovered)
22:59 – Tips on Teamwork
26:01 – How to Work with Your Sis (without going crazy!)
29:13 – The Tool that Kicked their Business into High Gear
31:37 – Adorable, Fun, and Crazy Mom Moments
How Solving Skin Problems Became a Business
Whitney has struggled with allergies and skin sensitivities for many years. It was difficult to find any skin-care or hygiene products that she could use. Even simple things like washing her face were a struggle!
Whitney’s sister Jess chimed in with advice on using essential oils and making products at home. The sisters met on weekends to create new products and test them out.
As they worked and created, they thought to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a business where we could create different bath salts or skincare products?”
As they honed their skills, they realized that their products were pretty great! Whitney set to work designing and printing little labels on her InkJet printer, and soon the sisters took things from a crazy idea to an Etsy shop.
The Moody Sisters received orders their very first day on Etsy. At that point they knew they could turn their skin-care hobby into a business.
From Hobby to Full-time Gig
From October of 2010 until May of 2013, The Moody Sisters continued to treat their Etsy shop like a fun hobby. They spent those years putting their feelers out there to see what people liked, what they could make well, and what their identity would be as a business.
As their sales started growing, getting together once a month to make products wasn’t cutting it anymore. Both Jess and Whitney were spending a lot of time on the shop while balancing other jobs. Jess was working full-time in the corporate world, and Whitney was working for another company from home. Life was getting too chaotic to do both jobs well.
At the same time, Jess’ family was considering a move across the country. She wasn’t happy with her current job, so that along with the growth of the business made both Moody Sisters decide to go all in and make their skincare biz their full-time gig.
How a Test-Panel can Skyrocket your Success
When you run a business online, it’s often much more difficult to figure out who your target market is and find a way to get in front of them. You don’t have the luxury of seeing each customer walk into your store and give you immediate feedback on your products.
Jess and Whitney came up with a killer solution to this problem: They created a test panel!
Picking from some of their most loyal customers, they asked these ladies if they’d be willing to answer questions about the business and test new products.
This test panel of fabulous women helped the Moody Sisters determine what new items their customers wanted and in what directions the business should go next.
They’ve been a tremendous help to Jess and Whitney, and in exchange, they receive credits for products from the Moody Sisters that they already love.
Blogger Outreach: Where to Go + What to Do
Connecting with bloggers has been huge for Jess and Whitney’s business. They share several tips on how to find the right blogs and what to do once you’re there.
Where to Go
- The Moody Sisters always start by asking their customers about their favorite blogs and what they’ve been reading lately. Chances are, if their customers are reading those blogs, their friends and other members of their target audience are too. They do polls with incentives on their Facebook page or they ask their test panel for recommendations.
- They look for blogs themselves. Since Jess and Whitney embody their target market, they know that analyzing what they enjoy reading or what their friends are talking about is a great strategy. Whitney says that if a blog isn’t appealing to her, she’ll pass on a partnership. If she’s not interested, chances are her customers won’t be either.
What to Do
Since Moms often purchase based on feedback from other moms, Jess and Whitney find that reviews are much more valuable than giveaways for their business.
Whitney says, “The most valuable content we can have is having someone get a product of ours, try it, absolutely fall in love with it, and want to tell the whole world, because you can sense their enthusiasm and their honesty in the review.”
When a reader already trusts that blogger, she’s more likely to give the products a try too.
(Speaking of endorsements – Sarah has tried several products from Moody Sisters Skincare and loves them! Jess and Whitney didn't ask us to say this; we just wanted you all to know!)
Getting Great Photos
Once the Moody Sisters decided what colors, look, and feel were part of their brand, they knew they wanted a professional photographer to take their photos.
They asked a friend who typically does family photography if she might attempt product photos for them. Samantha Witt gave it a try and continues to do an amazing job taking all of The Moody Sisters product photos.
Jess and Whitney send Samantha boxes of their products, backgrounds, props, and huge lists of what they’d like, and Samantha does the rest!
(We recommend this technique as well. Beth Anne’s friend Ariel has taken all of the outdoor, lifestyle photos in The Amateur Naturalist shop.)
Psssst! A Photography Secret
How do the Moody Sisters achieve the fun, but natural feel of their Skincare Products through photos? They have a secret source!
They buy vinyl photography backdrops from the SwankyPrints Shop on Etsy. There are thousands of options to choose from!
Recently, Whitney purchased some 12 by 12 squares to tie in the feel of their brand with their Instagram account. How smart is that?!
The Best Source for Sourcing things!
Jess and Whitney are part of the Indie Beauty Network. They obtain their business insurance from the network, but the group provides support in so many other ways too.
There’s a private Facebook group that’s full of other men and women with independent beauty businesses. There are soapmakers, candle makers…. you name it! There’s always someone who’s willing to help them to find suppliers for new ingredients they want to try, or find the same supplies at a better price.
It seems that no matter what venture you’re part of online, developing relationships in your niche is so very important. (Anne + Abby both speak to the integral role blogging buddies have played in their success!)
A Moody Sisters Setback
When Jess, her husband, and their daughter decided to move across the country, The Moody Sisters thought they had developed the perfect plan to move forward with their business.
Jess was supposed to take over product production and shipping from her new home in Florida. Whitney was going to handle online listings and customer service.
Once Jess arrived in Florida, the sisters quickly determined that product production would not be an option there. Cosmetics are highly-regulated in Florida, and you cannot make anything out of your home that has to do with beauty or skincare.
The sisters scrambled to find a way to move forward. All of the supplies were shipped back to Cashmere, Washington where Whitney lives, and they had to re-structure all of their job duties.
Tips on Teamwork
So how did Jess and Whitney move forward and decide who would work on which tasks?
After listing out every single task that had to be done each week or each month, delegation was based on 2 Factors
- What does each sister enjoy doing the most?
- What is each sister realistically good at doing?
The Moody Sisters have broken down tasks like this:
Detail-oriented Jess handles the details of each product listing, checks for grammar and accuracy. She’s also great at customer service, so every email from customers gets funneled right to her.
Effervescent, Idea-Girl Whitney tackles new strategies, social media, and some aspects of branding and design.
(Sounds like a great way to figure out how to delegate. This might apply to your blog or business and the team you’ve assembled too!)
How to Work with Your Sis
Always full of crazy, big ideas, Whitney says, “Jess having to reign me in on a daily basis is probably mind-maddening.”
Yet Jess admits that without Whitney, they wouldn’t have a business at all. “She comes up with the awesome business ideas, and then I just try my best to make them work.”
(Jess and Whitney’s relationship sounds so similar to Sarah and mine that we were cracking up! I have to say, it’s wonderful to work with someone whose strengths are so different from my own, and someone I can be incredibly honest and open with. We might not have a business without me, but our business would have no direction or focus without Sarah!)
A High-Powered Business Tool
Jess and Whitney use ShipStation to fulfill and ship all of their orders. The program can pull orders from both their Etsy shop and their Squarespace site. Product information can be entered and saved so that every time a given product is ordered, the program automatically assigns it a shipping weight.
ShipStation also sends out email notifications with the attached tracking number. The whole process is automated, which makes the Moody Sisters’ job so much more enjoyable.
Adorable, Fun, and Crazy Mom Moments
With Jess having a fourteen year-old and Whitney having an 18 month and a 6 year-old, there’s always something crazy going on with the Moody Sisters’ kids! Tune in to hear the latest.
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