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You may know Bethenny Frankel from reality TV shows like The Real Housewives of New York City, but her biggest financial success has been founding Skinnygirl Cocktails. After selling the company for an estimated $100 million in 2011, the entrepreneur started her own talk show. A regular segment on the show, Bethenny In Your Business, gives mompreneurs the advice and tools they need to take their business to the next level.
Bethenny recently helped Stacey Tibbitts transform her creative product into a successful small business. The mother of three started Love-N-Notes in 2011 as a way to support her dyslexic daughter. Lilli had a tough time going to school, so Stacey would write special notes of encouragement and put them in her lunchbox. After receiving compliments and encouragement from school staff, Stacey designed a line of love note napkins and started selling them on Facebook.
“I’ve had a lot of jobs, but I’ve never really known what I wanted to do with my life until I started doing this,” Stacey said. “Having this be successful gives me an opportunity to put my kids through college, get some tutors for Lilli so she can be successful in high school, get a house — all the things that everybody really wants to have.”
But she faced multiple challenges, including a lack of entrepreneurial experience, professional marketing and capital. Before going on the show, Stacey had invested $4,000 in her business but had yet to make a profit. “It’s very frustrating to want to do something so badly and not be able to do it,” she said. “I’m at a dead end… I do need Bethenny’s help.”
So Bethenny partnered with Bigcommerce and RetailMeNot to get this mompreneur on the right path. Here are six key takeaways from Stacey’s journey that can help you transform your own small business.
1) Carefully consider your brand
Bethenny’s first piece of advice was to rebrand Love-N-Notes as Mini Messages. The new name is a better fit for a children’s brand without limiting the business to a single product. It also removes the “-N-” that could make the brand difficult to find online. When it comes to optimizing your business for e-commerce, you want a concise name and matching URL that is easy to understand, remember and search for.
2) Know when to grow
“It is very hard to sell these napkins and make a lot of money,” said Bethenny. “You’re going to have to expand, not too much, but I think that you have to create a a whole concept… It could be an entire line marketed to children.” Stacey was already ahead of the game by having a unique product, but sometimes the secret to small business success is thinking bigger. Building out a complete line of products can help Stacey attract a larger audience, capitalize on her brand and diversify her risk.
3) Build a home base
Stacey had been exclusively selling her Love-N-Notes on Facebook. “You have to take the next step now,” advised Trae Bodge, Senior Editor at RetailMeNot. “You are starting on the right track with Facebook, it’s a great way to reach out to your existing consumers and introduce yourself to new consumers, but the next step is a website.” Even if you sell on other platforms, having your own website will help you build your brand, tailor the shopping experience to your product and establish trust with your customers.
4) Find the right tools
Building an online business can seem overwhelming at first, but when when you break things down it’s amazing how little you actually have to do. The trick is leveraging the right platform and integrations rather than reinventing the wheel. Stacey’s favorite part of Mini Messages is the design, so we set up her Bigcommerce store to run itself. Thanks to integrations with Stripe and USPS, she doesn’t have to pay attention to the backend and that means she can focus on the products.
5) Maximize your market
Stacey relied almost entirely on social media and word of mouth to market Love-N-Notes, building a loyal but limited fan base. Her appearance on Bethenny’s show was the perfect excuse to rebrand as Mini Messages, expand her reach and promote her new online store. In addition to the great consumer-facing exposure, the show also provided Mini Messages with a booth at the Playtime New York children’s trade show so she could connect with retailers and distributors. By selling directly to consumers on her site while also establishing wholesale relationships, Mini Messages can scale to profitability even faster.
6) Create a personal connection with your customers
Mini Messages is a business built by a mom for moms. And since Stacey created this product organically based on her own need, she has unique insights into the market she is trying to reach. This helps her with every aspect of running her store, especially connecting with shoppers and converting them into buyers. “I do think people are going to connect to your story,” said Bethenny. “I have friends with special needs children, you struggle more than any other mom, and every mom is struggling. We need help and it is OK to ask for help.”
Bigcommerce was honored to chip in and help Stacey grow Mini Messages with a free store for a year, e-commerce mentorship and $10,000 in capital. Ready to take Bethenny’s advice and build your own e-commerce business? Download our free step-by-step guide to launching your dream store and get an extended free trial exclusively for Bethenny fans.
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