Let me guess - you're in a different field than you started with? And, thanks to that pivot, you've learned skills you never thought you would learn? Congrats - you're a pivoter!
I'm a pivoter too. So is Replica customer Stephanie Willoughby, the creator of a bath and body product line that was recently featured in Good Housekeeping!
Stephanie attributes much of her success to three things: active learning, understanding what branding really is, and deeply understanding your operating costs. Her lessons are too valuable not to share so let's dive in! Yes, it's a long blog post but SO worth it, if I do say so myself.
LEARN TO SPEED LEARN
Reading has been absolutely key to Stephanie's success. Before launching Indulgence Spa and Body, Stephanie had been a hairstylist, gotten her PhD for educating at-risk teens, and owned a couple small businesses including a custom bakery. With all those pivots, there was a lot to learn about each industry and about business itself. That's why Stephanie spends her free time reading. "Read as much as you can about your field. And also about business in general and finances."
I couldn't agree more. If YOU would love to read about business but can't find the time *cough* all of us *cough*, the solution is "speed learning"! With this technique I went from snail-slow reader to crushing 100 pages an hour while retaining everything. Here's how I do it:
- Buy a physical book AND its audio book. Audible is a great app with almost every book you could want
- Turn the audio book to 2x speed
- Listen to the audio book as you read the words on the page
- Adjust the speed up or down so it's as fast as possible, while still being easy to follow along
- Every time you get an idea, pause the audio and take notes on the back page of the book. This will collect your full brainstorm in one place, rather than strewn throughout the pages.
Why does this work? Because your brain sees and hears the sentence at the same time. Listening or reading alone at this speed doesn't work, but combine them and you're golden! With this technique, I can read a whole business book in one short flight.
As soon as you finish a book, reread your notes and decide which ideas you should act on. Do this by "putting a PRICE on every opportunity". If you aren't familiar with this strategy, you can watch the replay of the Facebook Live event I did a few weeks ago in the Replica VIP Community. Find it in the "Events" tab. Or, stay tuned for my new YouTube series, coming soon.
BRANDING IS NOT A LOGO
Even before she launched Indulgence, Stephanie knew the importance of branding. And not just colors and logos - those are part of branding, but they're honestly the smallest part. Branding is the feeling and the experience your customers get when they choose to buy from you. "Figure out who your ideal customer will be... know what experience you'd like them to have with your brand or product," Stephanie told us.
Fortunately, brand experience is the culmination of little things that don't cost much: an insert in your box, a thank you card that comes a month after an order, or simply finding ways to listen to your customers' requests. I'm sure you can brainstorm ten more ideas if you give yourself 20 quiet minutes.
For Stephanie, branding has a lot to do with her product photos. This Body Polish photo featuring the Lush View Surface was actually the one that landed Indulgence in Good Housekeeping! "We've gotten so many orders from our scrubs after taking this photo. Replica Surfaces has definitely helped take our products to another level!!"
Branding takes time and thought, but it creates an experience for your customers. It's why they choose you over a business that just sells a product.
EMBRACE CODB (COST OF DOING BUSINESS)
One of Stephanie's best pieces of advice is to price your products or services so that you leave margin for yourself and for unexpected expenses. "It's really easy to fall into the trap of trying to have the lowest price, but you can actually end up losing money and time if you don't crunch those numbers in the very beginning."
From running Replica, I've also learned that your business has fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs come at regular intervals and stay the same regardless of revenue. Examples are employee salaries and software subscriptions. Variable costs fluctuate based on how much you sell. Examples are inventory and shipping.
To really understand your costs, consider creating a spreadsheet. This is how I do it:
create two columns: "Fixed" and "Variable".
Under "Fixed" list all the fixed costs you incur in a month.
If you incur a particular cost every three months, divide the cost by three to get a monthly average. Add it under the "fixed" column.
To calculate your variable costs, take your last three months of inventory, packaging, and shipping costs and divide each of them by three. Include all costs that go into making, packaging, and shipping your product to the customer. Don't include fixed costs like wages, software, or rent.
Add your fixed and variable costs together to determine your break-even point. This is how much you need to sell every month to cover costs. Everything you earn above your break-even point is "margin".
Why is it so important to understand your margin? Sometimes new opportunities or unexpected costs will arise - you need margin for that. By keeping costs lean and following Stephanie's advice of pricing your product to include margin, you can cover unexpected costs with much less stress.
My technique for dealing with an unexpected cost is to breathe deeply and calmly repeat "CODB, CODB" - it's just a Cost of Doing Business and your well-planned business can handle it!
Today is actually a really great day because Stephanie still has a handful of Summer Collection Body Polishes left (they're the ones in the Lush View photo)! If you love decadent bath and body products as much as I do, you can shop Indulgence (and learn more about Stephanie) here.
Did you enjoy getting to know Stephanie and learning from her experiences? Do you want to talk more about branding or becoming your own CFO (Chief Financial Officer)? Pop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know! I'll keep sharing success stories and business tips if you want to hear them.