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The Next Big Thing – How Parker Baby sells $300k or product / month online

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I spoke with Sam Huebner, the founder of Parker Baby about the ups and downs of running an e-commerce business. We chatted about how they prioritize product development, vet their manufacturers and acquire customers.

If you want to listed to the audio of the interview you can get it here.

Product: Practical baby products to make parents’ lives easier.

Sales Channels: 100% online

Sales / month: $300k

Margins: 17% net

Location: Parker, CO (HQ); China, Cambodia, India (manufacturing); Kentucky (fulfillment)

Founded: 2015

Team: 2 Full time, 2 Part time

What does Parker Baby sell and how did the company come into being?

We sell baby products, primarily textiles. We sell whatever my wife comes up with that might make our lives a little bit easier. Back in 2015 my wife and I had twins, I was working in investment banking and we were spending a lot of money on baby products and my wife had some ideas to improve on some of the products that we were buying and using every day with our twins. We started off with some very simple bibs that my wife designed.

We put the order into a manufacturer in India who we continue to use today. They just kinda took off. We continued to put out new designs, moved on to a couple of new products and about a year later I quit my job in investment banking and pursued Parker Baby full time. We’ve gone from those first few SKUs to about 45 SKUs today and grown our team from just my wife and I, to still my wife and I, one other full time employee and another a part time employee. We actually have four kids under the age of five so we’re still able to come up with product ideas pretty regularly because we’re in the thick of it. I think that gives us a little bit of an advantage in that we really do use every product that we design and sell daily.

Was it an active choice to keep your products to one-size-fits-all, rather than having multiple sizes per SKU?

Our original goal, and we still pursue this to a certain extent, is that our product line would grow as our kids grow. We have started offering toddler sized items and we’re going to continue to develop some of those as our kids get older and we see needs for products that are similar to baby products that we already have that we can develop quickly and easily. We still have a laundry list of product ideas that we want to pursue some day. Fortunately one of our part time employees is pregnant and we tell our employees that whenever they have an idea for a new product, or a way to improve a product, that we’re all ears because you gotta stay on top of trends with baby products.

How do you take that laundry list of product ideas and decide what you want to bring to market?

We try to prioritize products that we believe have a larger market and that’s because I feel there’s less risk if we’re launching a product that is proven to sell by competitors and we know the volume is there. My wife will be able to tell me if she thinks a product would be useful as a parent or how much a mom would be willing to spend on a product or how many of her friends are using this or would use that.

The next thing we focus on is how quickly are we going to be able to develop this product and how complex it is. Do we have a supplier that we already use? And if we do, we put that to the top of the list. Depending on who the supplier is and what is their minimum order quantity, can we get away with a low minimum order and develop this product to test the waters? And then if it ends up being a home run, can we quickly scramble to make more of it?

Our supplier relationships are really important when we consider new products because we’ve really developed some good relationships with our suppliers and have a lot of trust with them. They know how our process works as we develop a new product. It really allows us to get products to market to market quicker and more efficiently.

How do you go about vetting your manufacturers?

It’s a process that has evolved over time. When I was doing this as a side business we found our first manufacturer, who does our bibs and several other of our products, on Alibaba. We got lucky with him. He’s been super easy to work with. I flew out and visited him face to face last year for the first time. More recently it’s been largely referrals. We’ve hired a consultant as a product developer and she has had relationships with factories overseas with some other brands that she’s worked with in the past.

We’ve been able to use those relationships to build out some of our products. It’s always great when you can get a referral from someone who’s worked with the factory because you don’t really know what to expect when you are interacting via email or even on a phone call. You hate surprises in the product development process and as you get to know and develop these relationships with suppliers you can minimize those headaches. Now I try and visit every factory face to face.

I think meeting face to face is incredibly important. I understand there are people who have never met their manufacturers face to face and it works for them. But I really like to see who I’m doing business with, see their operation, see how they operate, and see how they treat their employees. All that stuff is super important to us and I think it really is mutual. I think they really value those relationships where you take the time and effort to get over and visit them. I’ve found that the best suppliers are really proud of what they’ve built. They’re proud of the businesses they run, which is no different from how we operate.

A lot of online brands are starting to veer away from Facebook and Instagram as User Acquisition channels because of the cost. Are you still using those channels?

We’re definitely feeling the same pressure that everyone else is. I think the only thing that might be different on the social media side is that we’ve always felt this pressure. The baby market is saturated on social media and it’s always been pretty expensive for us to advertise on those platforms. It’s no secret that our target market being moms spend a lot of time on social media. In the past year we’ve adjusted our priorities and how we’re spending our advertising budget to focus more on Google ads and Google product searches.

It’s been a battle, but that being said our social media presence is a huge part of our branding and it’s a huge part of how we validate ourselves as a business and how our customers are able to validate us. So we put a lot of time and effort into our social media accounts. We use it as a way to engage and interact with our customers.

What percentage of your sales come from Google, Organic, Social or other channels?

In terms of paid traffic Google is at least as much as our social media traffic. Email marketing has been incredibly effective for us and we’re gonna spend some time next year really trying to focus on optimizing our email marketing. I think we’ll start to see our social media advertising start to drop and hopefully our email is able to pick up on that.

Since your target market is moms, have you found Pinterest to be useful?

We have tried some paid advertising and we’ve found that it just does not convert. People had warned me about that with Pinterest. It [Pinterest] is more idea based rather than looking for something to purchase or to spend money on to really convert. We haven’t spent a ton of money on it because we worked with their team for a long time to try to get to work and it just did not end up being effective.

Do you think Pinterest doesn’t work because the users are too early in their purchase journey (they are just looking for ideas) or because the platform is restrictive?

That’s a really good question. I don’t think it’s the actual platform. I think it really is the user base. I just don’t think people who browse Pinterest are inherently buyers. Whereas on the Google search console or Amazon you’re more likely to have that intent to purchase.

What ROI are you seeing from your paid channels?

It really varies in the three to five [multiple] range. The low end being social media but it varies throughout the year. In the fourth quarter we’ve seen a lot of pressure that’s been limiting us on the ROA [Return On Assets] side of things whereas email is always pretty steady. On Google shopping we have been steadily improving, taking advantage of some smart shopping campaigns this year that really took a few months to get going. The first couple of months were tough, but they’ve really started to improve and even in fourth quarter have continued to improve, so we’re optimistic about those going into 2020.

Have you had any channels that are a complete flameout?

We dabbled on eBay for a little while but from a branding standpoint just didn’t feel like it was a good fit. Amazon has always been our bread and butter but we’ve seen a lot more pressure, as has everyone else, recently on Amazon [with] a lot more competition.

Do you feel there is an undercurrent of merchants turning their backs on Amazon due to the experience?

I don’t know that I would have ever described it as a great experience. It’s been serviceable. It’s hard to complain because we are able to grow our business quickly. Because of Amazon we didn’t have to hire customer service right away and we didn’t have to have a warehouse where we were fulfilling hundreds of orders every day right away. From that side of things it’s really tough to beat Amazon as a seller. But in the last 12 to 18 months things have gotten worse because they made it very apparent that they’re just going to nickel and dime sellers.

I feel like there was a fundamental shift right around a year ago to prioritizing the cheapest items in their algorithm. That’s been a tough change for us because we’re an American business and we are not the cheapest. We’re not selling directly from the factory. We’re not selling the cheapest baby products out there. We are fully compliant with our product safety testing which isn’t cheap. We don’t hire overseas. We hire everyone here in the U S and so we have these additional costs and Amazon has made it very apparent that they’re gonna prioritize the cheaper items. That’s been a tough, tough battle for us over the last 12 months.

What tools does Parker Baby use to keep the company moving forward?

  • Inventory Planner: Frankly we just haven’t done a great job of managing inventory, forecasting sales and it’s been a really effective tool for us to make sure that we’re minimizing our stockouts, which as you probably know can be detrimental on marketplaces like Amazon.,

  • Gorgias: We use it for all our customer support. It’s been really affordable for a business our size.

  • Easypost: On the fulfillment side of things we have been using Easypost for over a year now. We had some issues on black Friday 2018 with a lot of our orders because of the sheer volume but this year we did even more volume and we didn’t have any hiccups. They figured things out and we’ve been really pleased with how they’ve been managing the fulfillment for us.

What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting an e-commerce business?

I’m going to be a little biased because I come from a finance background, but it is incredibly important to know your numbers. I’m amazed at how many small businesses just don’t do a good job of staying on top of their books. Early on I think we did waste money in places, that if I had been more diligent about keeping up with our books, that could have been avoided.

What is your net profit margin goal for next year? What is your sales goal for next year? If you are going to cut back on your advertising, how is that going to affect your margins? How is that going to affect your sales? And if you are going to see a decline in sales, how is that going to affect your purchasing capacity and your ability to get better pricing on your products. Understanding all that stuff is really hard for entrepreneurs without a finance background. Definitely spend some time learning that side of the business, using the resources that are available to you to really get a grasp on the finances.

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😎How to Get Webdesign Clients FOR REAL

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I've been receiving many messages lately on how difficult it is to get webdesign clients. The majority of stories revolve around potential clients ignoring you or disappearing after a first promising exchange of emails.

So I decided to put together an article, listing what I do to book Webdesign clients FOR REAL. Everything in this article is based on pure practice and my personal experience.

If you want to watch the video version of this article, click here (and like the video since you're there 😝).

Research on your clients

As I always say, everything starts with research. The wrongest thing you can do is to send duplicate emails that you create in batch for everyone you want to work with.

The client needs to feel that the email is original and written just for her.

I don't know you, but I immediately spot a "copy and paste" proposal to work with me. I receive duplicate messages all the time on Linkedin, and I stop reading them after the second line.

I take into consideration just the ones I feel genuine, and the ones where I see that the person TRULY knows who I am and what I do.

That's why research is fundamental before writing the email.

Visit your addressee's website and take notes. Get familiar with what the client does. Then write the message sowing here and there information you grasped from your research.

I'm aware that this approach takes way more time than bombarding 100 clients with the same email. That's why you need to sort clients.

When I'm looking for website redesign gigs, I discard all the companies with a presentable website. Researching and pitching my service to them would be a waste of time.

I reach out just to clients who could need my help. This allows me to reduce the time I spend collecting info.

Focus on them

In case you offer Webdesign services, it's useful to highlight what are the flaws of the client's website, and how you could solve the problem.

This part is what makes your approach different from the crowd.

Clients aren't interested in your previous experiences and history. What they truly want to know is if you can be an asset to them and how motivated you are.

The fact is that usually, clients don't even know what their problem is. If you can show their website's flaws, and then you show how you can fix them, they will pay attention.

Showing what needs improvement

But what's the best way to show what you can do for the clients?

Visual explanations is the answer.

When I contact a client, I rarely write a plain text email. I use videos and images, instead. They permit me to show visually what are the parts to improve on their website.

In case I want to shoot a video, I use Loom. Loom is a great tool to film screencasts, upload them online, and share them through a private link.

If I want to attach an image to my email instead, I use Skitch to add notes on the website screenshot.

I've been using pain emails for a while before realizing that almost everyone responds better to videos and images. So why not using the same approach in my emails.

This turned out to be the right choice. Since I use videos and notes on screenshots to promote my services, I saw an increase in positive feedback.

Working before getting paid

In case you definitely want to work with a specific client, you can go a little farther with your strategy.

Instead of notes on the existing website, you can create a new version of this client's homepage.

This method needs more time and energy, but it's so far the best one I used to collect clients. If you want to impress someone, there's no better way than working for that person without getting paid.

To reduce the time it would take you to create a new mockup, you need to use website builders. They allow you to come up with a fresh design quickly, using drag-and-drop.

I've been using Elementor for years, and it made a huge difference in finding web design clients. With Elementor, I can create a webpage in a matter of an hour and send it to the client as an example of what I can create for him.

And if you don't want to invest too long creating a new template from scratch, Elementor gives you a vast list of templates you can choose from.

You can try Elementor here.

Tailor your service

The last advice I can give you is to be honest and specific with your clients. Promise just what you can deliver, and promote tailored services for your clients.

The more tailored they are, the better they will work.

While the majority of web designers propose a 360degrees service (blending with the background), you can be the authority in your distinct topic.

Niching down gives better results than being the all-round expert.

And if you need an extra push to convince them to hire you, offer a trial period. Propose to work together for a month in order to see if you're good for each other. If at the end of the trial, you're not a good match, no hard feelings.

What about you? What are the techniques you use to get clients for webdesign?

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In this ‘new normal’ it’s not more time, but THIS, that’s the holy grail of life and business

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Has anyone else secretly worried that they accidentally manifested a worldwide pandemic? Because the top 3 things in my future vision journaling for about a year now have been:

  1. My husband works at home (so I don’t have to do all the childcare)
  2. I run my business in just a few short hours a day
  3. We spend lots of time together as a family

“Not like this!” I journal frantically on day 1 of lockdown.  It feels like those awful wish reversals you get in fairytales where your wishes are indeed granted, but only in the most ironic and terrible ways.

Abracadabra! The world’s now in peril, your kids rarely leave your side, your husband’s going to work from home (but only emerge to look in the fridge), oh and here’s your new work day: AKA the crack of dawn, and “crikey, it’s midnight!” Enjoy!

On day 2 of lockdown I realise I do not have the patience of Mary Poppins and that our teachers are indeed underpaid; perhaps my children are going to have to settle for ‘The School of Life’ for a few weeks (or even months?!).

On day 3, I have a mini meltdown in the shower and sob into the soap dish over the future of the world, my business and my children (who are apparently now destined to be educated by a mentally unstable mother who doesn’t even know what a number bond is).

But on day 4, something miraculous happens: I feel better!

Months and years of mindset work and gratitude finally kick in, and I emerge from that dark place of fear, mourning and worry we all seem to have been tipped into, and realise that:

Yes, we’ve been forced to slow down, and yes, we’ve been forced to create space, and yes, it’s happened in the most horrible way; but even with all the extra scariness and worry and uncertainty; without the rush of the old world and the necessity to live our lives around someone else’s timetable, I can finally see the truth in that saying that, with change, comes opportunity.

We can either use this time to freeze and bemoan all the plans and dreams that will now have to be postponed or forgotten; or we can stop focusing on all that we’ve lost, and redirect our attention to all that we’ve gained.

I hate to say this, but for me and anyone else with children and/ or a job that can be done from home, more time isn’t necessarily one of those things we’re gaining – so don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you’re suddenly going to be able to write your book or launch that new membership program…

But actually, after a few more days in our ‘new normal’, I realise that although my days are definitely longer and fuller and involve far more parenting and far less actual working than ever before; it has also meant that I’ve had to pare back everything to the pure essentials, and there’s no doubt about it, this forced simplicity has created something I now suspect is more precious than that holy grail of more time: it’s given me back my headspace.

Because without the rush that bookends my days; the school runs and the work trips, the homework, the social events, the clubs, appointments, obligations, and all the other mental acrobatics that go into running a 21st Century life, I realise that it’s not lack of time that’s been stopping me from doing all the things I want to do, like write my book, or tap into my business vision, have more self care, or be more present with my kids (time is just an illusion, after all).

No, the thing that’s really been holding me back, is a lack of room in my mind to see things clearly, a lack of space to daydream, and a train of thought that’s constantly being stopped and diverted.

Maybe it wasn’t the new skeleton schedule, or personal development seminar, or more help around the house that I needed to help me achieve those dreams. Maybe what I really needed all along was a pattern interrupt; something that would slow me right down. And suddenly here we have it; the mother of all pattern interrupts; not really holding us back so much as reining us in, so we can slow down and see the opportunities already here.

So 2020 isn’t exactly panning out how I’d planned it – I’m sure you know how that feels – and while I know there’ll still be moments of frustration, fear and sadness for all of us, I’ve decided to take what the universe has given me (more family time and more togetherness), embrace the change, go with the flow, trust, and look for the opportunities that were here all along.

And you know what? Maybe that’s how slowing down to speed up really works; because in the little under 2 weeks since this all began, that book that’s been sitting outlined in my google docs for months has already been turned into a mini ebook ready for my VA to make pretty in Canva (and the extended version is on its way); and that membership I’ve had all the content for but no ‘time’ or energy to launch – it’s going live later this month so I can serve more people who need what I’ve got.

Yes, the road ahead is uncertain right now, but I’m beginning to trust that I’ve got all the tools I need within me to weather the storm (or at least Amazon Prime, probably does). So now’s the time to stay out of fear and stay in momentum; to show up and serve with no other agenda than serving; to be scared without being scary (as Brene Brown very aptly said); and to look for the opportunities that were already there.

And hopefully, when this is all over, l may still not know what a number bond is, but at least I’ll be ready to rise with the tide. Will you rise with me?

Words by Cate Butler Ross.

The post In this ‘new normal’ it’s not more time, but THIS, that’s the holy grail of life and business appeared first on Female Entrepreneur Association.



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A Broken TV Led This Entrepreneur To Build A $3.5 Billion Business

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Girish Mathrubootham has built an incredibly popular startup from the ground up. A company that fuels businesses of all sizes, and is probably becoming far more important in the wake of the big events of early 2020.

Girish recently appeared as a guest on the DealMakers podcast. During his interview he shared how he has raised hundreds of millions of dollars through a Series H fundraising round, been through rebranding, built cloud-based global software solutions, and has even created what he calls an alternative model for designing software. His company Freshworks has even acquired 12 other organizations according to Crunchbase.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

Everything Started With An MBA

Girish was born in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He grew up in the small town of Trichy. He left college in 1996, and the job market was tough. So, he applied for an MBA program and headed off to Chennai.

After completing his MBA he went on to work at software companies HCL Technologies, Cisco, eForce, and Zoho.

The Art Of Transitioning

Mathrubootham has become somewhat of a master of transitions throughout his career. He was a Java programmer, a trainer, an engineer, and then VP of Product Management. A position he says is great training grounds for becoming a CEO. Then as a founder, you add HR, finance, and sales.

In a recent Tweet, he wrote that “Building a company is like building a product where culture is the UX for employees and customer experience is the UX for customers.” Although he has clearly surrounded himself with some of the best minds and advisors today, Girish is a big advocate of just learning by doing. No matter how long you go to school there is a lot you’ll never be given to prepare you for real life. You have to allow yourself to be curious about learning new things.

Then it’s also about building a great team. He says the age of rockstar talent is over. It is now about building great teams. You want product managers who can see things from a user’s point of view. You want designers who prize craftsmanship and attention to detail. In developers, you want the ability to break down complexity to simplicity.

All Good Startups Begin With Experiencing Personal Frustrations

Girish Mathrubootham’s story started with a broken TV.

In 2009 he was moving back to Chennai, India from Austin, TX. Among his belongings being shipped was a Samsung TV. It arrived broken. No amount of emails and calls and requests managed to get any results from the insurance he had paid for.

A year later he hit an online forum to share his terrible experience with others. The very same day he was contacted by the president of the company and had the money in his bank account.

This was his eureka moment. He saw the shift in power from the companies to the people and individual customers.

Leaning on his experience of building help desks before he set out to build his own first product, Freshdesk which would later rebrand to Freshworks.

Building A Global Digital Business

Girish quickly assembled a team of six to develop the product. Finding product-market fit wasn’t much of a challenge. What appeared more challenging was to build a big business with this out of Chennai, India, and to ever hope of being fundable at the VC level.

After nine months of development, they launched. Within 30 days they had their first customer. It happened to be a college in Australia. Their first six customers represented businesses on four different continents. They had instantly gone international. They were doing it all remotely. This was back well before most thought of going 100% remote.

After hitting 100 customers in their first 100 days, and doubling that in the following 100 days, they got noticed by investors. Accel and Tiger Global gave them a few million dollars.

While they were doing well in the SMB sector with this remote business model, and even gained large international franchise clients, they saw they were missing out on a lot of business.

Many bigger companies were just used to being sold in person and doing face to face meetings. They weren’t the type to search for Google and buy software online.

So, they began setting up small teams and offices in Europe, Australia, and the US.

Today, they have 3,000 employees, across 13 offices, with customers spanning 126 countries.

They expanded their product line and kept adding services for small to enterprise businesses.

For others thinking about their own startups, Girish’s top advice includes to just go for it. If you are scared of becoming an entrepreneur, accept that it is hard, but look at how many others are doing it successfully. You can too. Learn how to learn, and start doing.

It has worked out well for Girish and Freshworks. They’ve already raised almost $400M, from tier 1 investors including CapitalG and Sequoia. Storytelling is everything which is something that Girish was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:

  • The best practices for pulling off a rebranding
  • What was more important than the money when bringing in these top VCs
  • How the Freshworks Software Academy is lifting kids out of poverty
  • How a high valuation helps your startup
  • How they turned a Twitter attack into an epic PR moment
  • The concept of Indian Democratic Design
  • Alternate design models

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