What if your customers marketed your product for you everywhere they went? That would be amazing, right? That's exactly what happened to Katie Alarid when she created her adorably unique baby turbans. Immaculately accessorized babies were marketing her product all over the country, and her business has grown enormously in less than two years' time! Katie's turbans are now in 23 boutiques, and she sells even more of them from her own online shop.
Is there a product you can create that would market itself? Can you make something so unique, eye-catching, or useful that people can't help but talk about it? I think you can!
On the Podcast
01:10 – See A (Tiny) Need, Fill A Need
06:21 – A Business is Born
08:04 – Getting Into Boutiques
12:00 – Driving Online Traffic
14:48 – Instagram Strategy = Cute Babies
20:40 – Why Starting with Wholesale has Made Katie Successful in Retail
24:43 – Honoring Boutique Owners
28:59 – The How + Why of ReBranding
32:52 – BluTaylor’s Preemie Program
39:07 – Why ‘BluTaylor'?
41:06 – Katie's Adorable Mom Moment (Her tiniest business partner!)
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear from Katie and learn how to get your customers talking too!
See A (Tiny) Need, Fill A Need
On the day Katie’s little girl came home from the hospital, she promptly threw up in her hospital-provided hat which sent Katie scrambling to find a replacement. Katie insisted on keeping her daughter’s tender head covered and protected from germs, so she whipped up a creation with some extra fabric and her unique design was born. Visitors later that day commented on how cute the ‘baby turban’ was, and Katie’s business was inspired. (We just love how Katie saw a need and filled a need in the same afternoon!)
A Business is Born
Someone suggested to Katie that she ask a local shop in town to carry the baby turban. While the compliments of friends and family are great, Katie wanted that ‘real live stranger’ factor we mentioned in Episode 127. Being a savvy business mom, Katie made her sales call with her adorable daughter in tow. And of course, her baby was wearing a product sample. That did the trick! That shop placed their first order and, from there, word-of-mouth helped Blu Taylor organically spread. Katie and her husband also decided to purchase a website to establish their brand's online presence.
Getting Into Boutiques
A boutique owner 70 miles away from Katie picked up the baby turban and quickly contacted other boutique owners about carrying the item. During a Holiday House Junior League event in Little Rock, Blu Taylor set up a booth and sold turbans. Customers from that event – with their little girls modeling the turban hats all over their towns – actually brought the word back to other wholesalers in their areas. Talk about organic growth!
Every time a customer goes outside wearing their adorable turban, the company grows. People can't help but talk about how cute little girls look in these unique hats. They stand out! Blu Taylor is currently in 23+ boutiques, but surprisingly Katie finds that her online retail storefront is stronger in terms of sales.
Driving Online Traffic
Katie finds that Instagram is a great driver of online traffic for her business. She sends her Instagram photos to Facebook and Twitter, responding to comments on all platforms promptly. Katie believes that her product is unique and something customers are excited to talk about.
A testament to the strong word-of-mouth referral Blu Taylor enjoys is how her products have spread to new markets. Katie notices that if she receives an order from a new state, like Oregon for example, in a few weeks she’ll receive more orders from that state. Once again, as that Mama's little girl is spotted all over town in her unique accessory, other mamas ask her about it and promptly head online to get their own!
Katie has personally experienced the ‘Wow!’ factor of her own product. Her husband jokes that their daughter needs to take off her baby turban in stores so they can get through shopping quicker… otherwise everyone stops them to talk about that adorable hat!
Instagram Strategy = Cute Babies
Katie sees the largest portion of her online traffic come as direct traffic via Instagram. In addition, people see her brand name on Instagram and then type in her website directly or search for her on Google. Katie has several tips on how she makes consistent sales with Instagram.
- Post consistently. Consistency is key when it comes to Instagram. Katie tries to share at least three pictures a day. Her tip is that every 6 to 9 posts should display a complete representation of your company. For Blu Taylor that means sharing pictures of their products and preemie program, sharing photos from happy customers, and providing general information about their brand. Katie says it is important to plan out an Instagram strategy.
- Make connections using Instagram’s ‘Explore’ search. Katie suggests using the ‘Explore’ search on Instagram. Katie would use this feature to find moms who just had a baby girl, liking and complimenting them. Or she reaches out to moms who may be in the NICU, offering to send a preemie hat to their baby for free.
- Don’t be afraid to recycle posts. Katie doesn’t follow a strict system but, generally, while thumbing through old images if she sees one that garnered a lot of likes she will reuse that image. Katie’s philosophy is that the people who saw her Instagram post at 7pm 2 months ago won’t be the same people who see her post at 8am 3 months from now. Makes sense!
- List your website in two places. Interestingly, Katie will put the text of her Web address (www.BluTaylor.com) at the bottom of many of her Instagram posts. Her analytics suggest that visitors are leaving the app and manually typing in the Web address into their mobile browsers. What a great idea to have your website in two places, profile and post! Regardless of whether that post link is clickable, people see your web address one more time and it sticks in their memory even more.
Why Starting with Wholesale has Made Katie Successful in Retail
Katie has experienced nice profitability with both retail and wholesale, which you don’t often see with a handmade business. BluTaylor began as a wholesale business, selling their hats in bulk to various boutiques, and eventually began to sell their hats online in their own boutique and at shows. Katie finds that women usually don’t give themselves enough credit for their time and skills when setting prices. BluTaylor operates by setting their retail prices after a wholesale price is set. This ensures that the business is profitable no matter who they sell to – boutique owners or direct to their customers.
Starting out with distributing her products in boutiques has really helped Katie’s pricing model. With boutique prices on her baby turbans in place, Katie already knows what a healthy profit margin is for her product and can set the retail price accordingly.
Katie has also found that doing some market research has helped her set retail prices. She asks her customers how much value they place on the product and then sets prices accordingly.
Honoring Boutique Owners
Katie’s business model really values boutique owners. Initially, BluTaylor did set a lower wholesale price, but as the cost of production grew, Katie found that she needed to increase her wholesale prices to make her business work. It was scary, but she had to approach her wholesale accounts to let them know about the price increase. Katie found that moving up both wholesale and retail prices incrementally softens the news of a price change.
Though Katie feared many boutique owners would bail ship, only one account decided to not carry her baby hats out of 23 total. That one lost account is easily worth it considering that Katie's time and talent is now properly valued, and her business is sustainable.
Katie's philosophy when dealing with boutiques is that no other person in their business will be buying their products at the level boutique owners will. She wants to give her boutique owners respect, so she will never undercut them on her own site. It's truly a smart, and caring strategy, if you think about it. Eliminate cross-competition and everyone wins!
Rebranding: The Why + How
When BluTaylor was founded in the summer of 2012 with a different business name, ‘Baby Turban’. The phrase accurately described her product and was easy to remember. But as word spread about her adorable baby turbans, customers wanted the product in larger sizes for their older children, and even for themselves! Creating a ‘Baby Turban’ kids' line felt off. And Katie found that older customers were hesitant to wear a product with the word ‘baby’ in the name. To make her brand more accessible, ‘Baby Turban’ became BluTaylor.
In a smart move, Katie bought multiple domain names with iterations of both business names, and linked them to the new site, BluTaylor.com. Katie did not notice a decline in sales after her rebrand, and made it a point to share information about the re-brand for several months in all of her packaging and on social media.
Katie’s customers are so loyal that she even had one contact her in a panic: “There’s a new shop called BluTaylor and they stole your design!” Katie had to laugh. What a dedicated fanbase!
BluTaylor’s Preemie Program
When Katie’s son was born, he spent four days in the NICU after a high temperature scare and rush to the ER. While their time in the NICU was short, she felt for the many families who experienced much longer NICU stays.
As Katie developed her baby turbans, she realized that the unique design snugly fit the head of a preemie very well. She challenged herself to create a hat small enough for a micropreemie and succeeded. Since the skin of a micropreemie is so incredibly sensitive, they are only able to wear a few pieces of clothing – like hats. After creating the micropreemie version of her hats, Katie sent a few to families at their local NICU, and a BluTaylor tradition was born.
BluTaylor custom makes baby hats for families who request one on their website. The hats are a gift. Since no mom is really prepared for the arrival of a premature baby, Katie wants to bless the families with a needed item. Something as simple as providing a cute baby hat creates a sense of normalcy for the families, and gives them hope.
‘Blu’ stands for blue, the color of hope. And ‘Taylor’ is a fun way to represent tailor-made. With each hat purchase, a preemie-size hat is donated to a family with a daughter in the NICU. Katie knows that many moms in one local hospital received a hat via BluTaylor’s preemie program. A nurse contacted Katie to thank her for the donations, and said their NICU looks like a runway with all these en vogue baby girls!
Katie's Adorable Mom Moment
Katie’s youngest daughter, Charlotte, was the inspiration for Blu Taylor and has worn her mom’s adorable creations from day one! You'll have to tune in to hear about the adorable move she does because she's just so used to serving as a product model. It's too funny and too cute!