Do you all remember my guest from several years ago, Amy Gabriel? She was crushing it then and she has grown even more since. I can’t wait for you to hear about her growth and the story of her business, LippyClip®.
Amy provides a super-smart organizational tool for women so they don't have to dig around in their purses all the time. She’s going to tell us more about her product, how she narrowed in on just this one brilliant product, and how she's grown her business over the past couple of years. Are you ready?
Press play on the podcast player below to listen to the full interview.
From Side Hustle to Single Best-Seller
Amy says, “I started this business to support our family while my husband finished graduate school. That was the sole goal of the business- just to get him through graduate school. Over time, I would add new products. So we did some personalized stuff for a while and we tinkered around with a lot of different things. But the LippyClip was always our best seller and so a few years ago, we made the decision to only do that. We fully branded everything as LippyClip and dropped all of our other products. And that has really been a strategic move for us.”
Variety and Value Keep the Customers Coming Back
You might think that having just one product would limit your sales but that’s not the case for Amy. They have just one product but they sell it in a variety of patterns, releasing new collections all the time. (And we all know how fun it is to get a new pattern or color of our favorite product, right?) Consistently offering new styles and patterns keeps the customers coming back.
“I think too because we sell a product that is at a very affordable price point that is considered an impulse buy, it's a super great giftable item. We have customers that will come every holiday season and purchase, you know 10, 20, 25, 30 – however many they need for all different kinds of people in their life, whether it's their team of people at work, or all their children's teachers, or the group of women they're in Bible study with. So that has helped us a lot because now we’re known as the place they come to for the LippyClip when they need to buy group gifts, or when they just want something new for themselves.”
This is such a super smart, super fun item and definitely makes a great impulse buy or gift item. I think you will be amazed to know that these clips sell for about $8-$15. I’m sure you’ve heard the business advice that you can't build a profitable business unless you've got higher-priced products. Generally, that’s true but it is by no means set in stone.
Amy has a multi-six figure business and she’s proof that you can make any clever, incredible product into a profitable business.
What Is a LippyClip Anyway?
At this point, you may be wondering what a LippyClip is. Amy explains, “We like to say that the LippyClip is a simple yet clever product. It's something that you didn't know you needed, but now you can't live without it. The LippyClip is a very simple lip balm holder that clips onto your key ring or your purse hardware. It clips onto diaper bags. It clips onto backpacks. It clips on anywhere you choose. We have really sturdy, really beautiful hardware, and then we have hundreds of different designs, everything from solid colors to the trendy cactus. We even have a Lux line, which is our high-end luxury vinyl and for the sports lovers, we have LippyClip Game Day in sports colors. Basically anything you can think of, we have. So it is a product to save you time so that your lip balm is always within your reach.”
(Oh man, I know that struggle well! I know if I leave my lip balm or lipstick loose in my bag without a LippyClip, they end up gross in no time – all covered with crumbs – yuck!)
Multiple Sales Platforms
One of the biggest strategies Amy has used in her business which has served her so well over the years, is to have a multi-platform mentality. (As Amy reminds us, this didn’t happen overnight and if you’re just starting out you shouldn’t try to do everything at once!)
Having multiple platforms for Amy means having as many different sales channels as possible.
“My mentality is always if somebody is going to go to a website and look for a LippyClip, I want them to be able to find it there. So for example, Etsy. We still maintain a presence on Etsy because we started there even though we have our own store now. Several people, many years ago, first bought from us on Etsy. And so for them, Etsy is where they go to find a LippyClip because that's where they bought their first one. Next time they go back to Etsy and look for LippyClip, I don't want their search to come up with nothing. It’s not our full product line but if a customer is looking for us on Etsy, I want them to be able to find us on Etsy.
“The same is true for Amazon. We have a small collection of products available on Amazon because if a customer is shopping on Amazon, and that is their platform of choice to shop on, I want them to be able to find that us there.
“Each of these platforms -and there's several more for retail- but each of these platforms all are different sales channels and different revenue streams for us.
“That has served us so well over the years because if one falls apart, or suddenly stops performing well for us, then all of our eggs aren't in one basket and the business is not at risk.”
Such a great tip when you’re dealing with the roller-coaster of retail and e-commerce and the economy not to have all your eggs in one basket!
Using PR to Grow the Business
Amy’s sister actually works for the business as well. She brought the idea of media pitches to Amy and they decided to go for it. Amy guides the overall vision but her sister does all of the day-to-day management of the program.
“I guide her about what paths we want to go after and what our media pitches should be, but she really does the day to day work of it. And that has been such a joy to me to watch her do that, to watch her enjoy it, and watch her thrive with it. But it's also been a huge benefit to our business.”
Are you ready for this? LippyClip was featured in a Mother’s Day Gift Guide in Us Weekly!
“That was our first media feature, and it was the biggest one. It led to a lot of sales but it also just gave us so much credibility, both on social media, with our public retail followers, but also with our wholesale stores who took that image of Us Weekly and shared it and said, “Hey, we have the LippyClip, which was just named in the Mother's Day gift guide Us Weekly- we have that in our store. So if you want to come by this weekend and pick it up for your mom for Mother's Day, here you go.’ And that obviously led to a lot of reorders from the stores so we were really excited to see that.”
Tracking Sales from Press Coverage
We all know that data is important when making business decisions. I personally love analyzing all the data I get when I run Facebook ads but sales from something like this are a lot harder to track.
Amy says, “It is really hard to track. I will say that the Shopify analytics that we use on our store at Lippyclip.com are really helpful and the press for Us Weekly was actually a digital press, not the print magazine so we could see those click-throughs that were coming from their blog post, which was very helpful. So in those first 24 to 48 hours, we did see probably a 50 to 75% increase in sales just for those two days and then it kind of tapered off but the social media posts continued to do really well. And so for our wholesale orders, those continued to come in for the following week or two.”
The credibility boost from press coverage is an on-going asset for the business.
“It's just another piece of collateral, I feel like in our business. Just like you have good branding, and you have your logo, and you have really good photography and your product packaging. Now we have these media features as part of our website that says all the places we've been featured or the people we've collaborated with.”
Tips to Get Press Coverage
I asked Amy to share any tips or best practices that they use to get press coverage. She says make it personal and follow up.
“I think what my sister has done that has been most successful is she is very warm and friendly. She gets very specific in her emails to these magazine editors and uses their first name. It's not a canned email- she uses the magazine name, she uses the type of product that they're searching for, and she makes sure that it feels personal to them. We use the same language about our own product just for brand consistency but she makes it very personal.
“She's also very good at follow-up. I will say most of the time she doesn't hear back on the first response so follow-up is very, very important. I would say for sure the warmness and the personality that comes with the initial email is very important. And then following up because the majority of her responses do not come on that first email.”
Making Wholesale Work With a Low Retail Price
A big growth strategy for Amy has been selling her LippyClips wholesale which can be very hard to profit when the line item sells for a low price.
Even I was a little skeptical of this product that retails for like $8.50 up to $15 each– how in the world does she make wholesale work?
Amy’s first tip – minimum orders
“A customer cannot come in and just spend $25-$30 on wholesale- that's not a wholesale order. They have to hit those order minimums. That helps because when you're shipping 20 items will go in a box so in some ways, it's easier to ship wholesale, because I can pick and pack those orders a lot quicker, and get them all in one box, as opposed to shipping twenty LippyClips in twenty different boxes.”
Amy’s second tip – order bulk supplies
“When we have a new LippyClip come out, there may be 50 to 100 of that design. So ordering and producing in bulk helps us to keep our cost of goods down so that we have that margin within our wholesale pricing to still be profitable on wholesale.
“I always tell people that if you're not priced right for retail, you cannot be successful at wholesale. So if you're trying to do wholesale, but your retail pricing is not making you enough money, then you need to go back and revamp your pricing. And make sure that your retail pricing is where you need it to be so that your wholesale pricing can still be profitable.”
Oh man – did you hear how she snuck that tip in? Pricing correctly is so important and something that I know a lot of business owners struggle with. Make sure that your retail pricing is where you need it to be so that your wholesale pricing can still be profitable!
Multiple Wholesale Platforms Too!
Just like Amy has embraced the practice of having multiple retail platforms, she also has her product available through multiple wholesale outlets as well.
Retail sellers can purchase wholesale directly on the LippyClip website but stores can also purchase through other places as well, such as Tundra.
“It's a fairly new website but it has really been good to us. It is a place where you can go if you own a store. They tell you all the paperwork you have to submit in order to be approved to shop there. It's almost like an Etsy for store owners. And so they shop at wholesale prices, those orders come directly to me, and then I package them up and ship them. And Tundra handles all of the payments, which has been a big blessing to us.
“Just like with retail where we have a presence on Amazon and Etsy as well as our Shopify store, we've taken this same approach to wholesale. So we do have wholesale on our own site where customers can apply for wholesale access and shop wholesale there but we also sell on Tundra which has helped us to gain new buyers by getting new eyes on our product. Those buyers may not have known about the LippyClip or may never have come to our site and opened an account, but they opened an account with Tundra. And while they were shopping on tundra, they found us.”
Tundra is a new platform with no fees to be a member. Amy has thoroughly enjoyed working with them.
“I think they're doing a great job. They're really organized. And like I said, their support team has been really friendly. I'm just a seller there. I'm not a buyer so I can't speak to how the buyer experiences but as a seller, I see nothing but good things ahead for this platform.”
Hey friends – I’m super excited to share with you that Tundra is offering my listeners a $50 credit towards your first order as a buyer! Just go to: go.tundra.com/bbm to sign up.
Tips for Expanding Into Wholesale
Let’s say for example that you’re an Etsy seller. You’ve got your pricing figured out and you’ve streamlined your creation process. How do you expand into wholesale?
Well, you’re in luck because Amy has some awesome tips for how an Etsy seller can find those wholesale platforms and get started with your wholesale business!
Reach Out to Local Stores
Start with stores that you know and love, particularly in your own community. Amy says, “So there's no shame at all in telling a store owner you have an Etsy shop. You can set up a 50% off coupon code or whatever your percentage off is, and they can go shop in your Etsy store and get wholesale pricing there.” That’s an easy way to use the existing shop infrastructure.
Sign Up With Tundra
We’ve already talked about what a great user-friendly platform this is for setting up wholesale!
Connect With Groups of Shop Owners Online
Amy recommends a Facebook group called The Boutique Hub.
“It's a B2B hub and they have a website called The Boutique Hub which is a paid monthly membership. You get access to their Facebook group which is full of thousands of boutique owners who are constantly looking for new products for their shop. A monthly membership with The Boutique Hub will enable you to post in these groups, to share your product with them, to comment on posts when shop owners are looking for something specific.
“Say for example, let's say a boutique owner posts ‘I am having an event. It's cactus themed, we're planting these cute little cactuses, and I'm wanting some cactus swag, some cactus products to sell or to give away at this event.’ And so for me, I would say ‘Oh, well, we have an aqua cactus lippie clip that would be perfect for you.’ And she says “Great, I want to order 100’ or however many she wants to order.
“It's really a great opportunity to connect with those store owners personally and build your relationships with them. And I love The Boutique Hub. I've been a member there for over two years and so many of our stores come from The Boutique Hub and come from me interacting in that Facebook group on a regular basis and just building those personal relationships with those store owners.”
Building Relationships Is Super Important For a Successful Business
Amy and her sister are such a great example of building relationships in business. Her sister is incredible at being friendly, being personal, and building those personable relationships to get press. Amy is also building great relationships with wholesale platforms and boutique owners. And it makes such a difference!
Confession time, friends! I have to say it took me a long time- I'm kind of stubborn. I'm pretty independent. The fact that building a successful business relies a lot on building relationships- it used to really bother me. And I kind of didn't want to accept that. But it is so true. All of it relies on successfully building relationships.
Recently Amy started personally calling business owners who had placed their first wholesale order with LippyClip.
“I'll say I just wanted to let you know that your order is shipping today. I hope you enjoy it. And just really make it personal. That has helped us a lot. It's helped people feel like they're valued and they are valued. it helps them know that their business is important to me and to my business, and that I want a relationship with them. I want more than just a screen relationship with them and I want to be more than just a name in their email inbox. I want there to be a personal connection.
“I recently changed my email signature to have my picture in it. That was pretty bold for me, because I don't do that a lot. I took one of my headshot photos and made it into an email footer for both me and for my sister who's sending out PR emails. When people get those emails they see that there is a face and a real person behind that email name. It makes the connection so much stronger and so much deeper. And that's really important to me to make sure that people know that I value you. I'm smiling at you through this email, and I hope you're smiling back.”
(Do you not just love that?! So great!)
Amy has plans for a more cohesive and stream-lined outreach program in the future but in the meantime they send emails to their wholesale list on a weekly or bi weekly basis, letting them know what's new in the shop, and what specials are running.
Another great tip from Amy! Having an email list of your wholesale clients and letting them know when you've got new products out and just staying top of mind in that way is so smart. I think something that a lot of us forget to do.
Amy says she got this idea from my podcast episode with Annie Quigley where we talked about Instagram stories and how over the course of the week, so many different people would have seen the stories even though it wasn’t the same person every day, having multiple opportunities to be seen was important.
“Our email open rates are, you know, they're just standard, they're not 80% or anything super impressive, but it's always different people. And so I send those emails every week.Typically Monday is a really good day to do some wholesale marketing, because that's when a lot of the buyers are ready to buy. I don't have any data, just most of our wholesale sales come in on Mondays so I send out wholesale emails on Mondays. But if one person opens it next week, they may not open it again for another four weeks, which is just a really good reminder for all of us that you have to share your message more than once. You have to remind your audience who you are, and how you can help them. And that is so important for all of us to remember as marketers.”
Consistency is key! We really need to share our message of who we are and how we can help over and over and over again.
Okay, friends – wasn’t this such a great episode? I love hearing about the different ways Amy has grown her business. It’s a great reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all growth strategy and that relationships are important!