#LBCWantsToKnow >> August 2018: Wholesale

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Wholesale

#LBCWantsToKnow Wholesale

 

Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion on a specific subject.  For the month of August, we rolled up our sleeves to chat about wholesale. If you’re serious about getting a foot in the door with shops for the all-important holiday season, then August is the month to make that happen!

 

What’s the one thing about wholesale that you wish you’d known when you started?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

whitneymanney: Net terms

 

bathedinglaze: The true cost of obtaining a retail customer versus wholesale customer.

 

mamasudsllc: How much I needed to raise my prices to make 💰

 

rockcreeksoaps: How important it is to build a relationship with my wholesale accounts and maintaining good contact and follow up with them. Also never be afraid to contact an account, they get busy, and won’t remember to order until it’s too late, and then they might shop around instead of stocking with you again!

 

standardwax: How hard it is to be nimble or make changes when you have 300 buyers counting on your consistency!

 

sassypantsdesign: Uhhh, Lucky Break! 👍💓🙏🏻🙌

 

MY THOUGHTS: These are some juuuuicy answers that had me nodding my head! I’ll weigh in quickly on each one.

 

  • Net terms can be immensely tricky for newer makers, and I’ve learned that 90% of problems can be prevented on the front end by communicating professionalism, having strong systems in place, and not shying away from things like checking references before extending credit and sending payment reminders when the due date passes. Many of us are uncomfortable with money discussions, but I’ve found that buyers follow the tone we set and we need to start of on strong footing… much easier than trying to prepare things on the back end. Also, not every brand owner is in a position to offer trade credit, though buyers love those who can!

 

  • The cost of obtaining a retail customer is generally higher than that of obtaining a wholesale customer, and the lifetime value (total dollars spent) by a wholesale customer is much, much higher. This is an often overlooked facet when clients ask me why on earth they’d sell their wares at “half the normal cost.” The fact is, selling at wholesale produces efficiencies in creation and shipment that drive costs lower, which means that it cost less to make and ship a wholesale product versus the same product sold at retail. So while you are selling at “half” ($24 retail, versus $12 wholesale), your profits aren’t exactly halved. Add in the higher customer acquisition cost and lower lifetime value of a retail customer, and wholesale looks more and more attractive.

 

  • It’s true that selling in wholesale means that you need to know your costs intimately. While you might be able to eek by in direct-to-consumer channels without knowing where every penny goes, wholesale won’t provide you that luxury. Lucky Break clients frequently engage me to help further their brand development and raise the bar on their visual presentation, increasing the quality of their value communication in the process.  The end result? You can charge more for your products and put wholesale within reach.

 

  • Wholesale buyers often tell me that we pursue them like lovers until we get that first order, then we vanish like ghosts. Regular followup is *essential*, which is why I recommend both group communication (vis a vis a quarterly wholesale email campaign) and individual communication (emailing the account individually to check on stock and see how you can help). Getting that first order is hard, but the second and third orders should be much, much easier. Don’t ghost your buyers and allow those accounts to shrivel. You’ve worked hard to get the seed into the ground, and regular watering will yield big results!

 

  • There’s an important pivot that happens when transitioning from hobby-business to business-business. The primary focus shifts from the making to the marketing and production, which can catch many product designers off guard. It’s awesome to have a robust lineup of stores carrying your work, but that also means that speed boat turns evolve into cruise ship turns, making change slower and more laborious. I think that’s why it’s so incredibly important to ensure that you’ve designed scale-able products, priced them correctly, and packaged them smartly from the get-go, though some evolution is expected and a natural part of business life.

 

 

What methods do you use to collect wholesale orders?
What do you love or loathe about them?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

soymuchbrighter@shopstockabl + my own standalone website 👍🏻

 

shopjanery: Since we’re a pet bed company, we use highly trained dogs to retrieve and deliver orders. Just kidding. 😁 I built a private portal within my Shopify site, using Locksmith to take online orders. However, I also accept orders by email, phone, order form, you name it. If they meet my minimums, I’ll take their order in whatever way is easiest for them!

 

saltwater_design: Order form, but most end up just emailing. I guess it’s one less step for them!

 

charliemadisonoriginals: I accept them by email. I’ve been struggling with figuring out a different option but haven’t found the perfect solution yet😉. I love @shopjanery’s Locksmith idea – I’ve been considering that too!

 

gavinluxe: Via email

 

sassypantsdesign: I’ve used order forms (various kinds, from simple to interactive) but most seem to prefer email, which is fine with me. My dream is to implement a separate wholesale ordering section on my website. It’s in the plans, after I get a mountain of other things done.

 

bougiequaintrelle: Website, email, or phone.

 

halfpintnaturals: I’m looking up Locksmith stat. I have a form that one shop uses out of the lot of them. Most email and call.

 

normalsoap: We currently get orders by email but would love a website as a part of Shopify for our customers to order directly from!

 

soapymomma: We take wholesale orders by phone, email, and through our website. After Etsy wholesale closed we added an app to the website that allows us to tag a customer as wholesale so that wholesale pricing is offered after our stockists have set up a wholesale account with us.

 

olivemyskin: Any way I can get them! What works best for all has been sending a blank order form with orders, then they fill it out for their next order, scan or take a phot and email to me. Working on a wholesale portal on the website. I don’t like phone orders though. Too much room for error.

 

MY THOUGHTS: I firmly believe that those brands that succeed in wholesale are the brands that make working with them painless and intuitive. That means understanding a buyer’s needs, establishing clear policies, supporting the stockist after the sale, and making the submission of those orders as easy as possible! Here’s a list of my preferred solutions (from most-desired to least)…

 

MOST PREFERABLE: A separate, wholesale-exclusive website with unique logins that you can assign and track. This allows you to tailor the entire experience to the wholesale buyer: displaying wholesale pricing, enabling ordering by the case, scaling shipping fees for larger orders, preventing checkout when cart totals fall below order minimums, previewing new collections before they hit the public eye, and providing a platform for the download of wholesale-specific marketing tools like shelf talkers.

 

An app that enables you to assign regular website users into a group of wholesale buyers. This enables online ordering, though it has its share of limitations. Essentially, you’re retro-fitting a retail site to work for wholesale buyers, as opposed to designing a wholesale experience from the ground up. Wholesale buyers log in to your website to see wholesale pricing.

 

Email. This is a convenient option for buyers that they can use 24 hours a day and it requires minimal investment on the front end from the brand owner. I appreciate that orders are written, which minimizes confusion.  Ideally, you offer a branded order form to buyers who can complete it and return it, further reducing the chance of errors.

 

LEAST PREFERABLE: Phone. Some buyers (especially those who are new to your line) just want to talk it out. If that’s the case, establishing regular office hours will help. If that’s not possible, aim to get back to buyers within 24 hours. In any scenario, it’s wise to summarily that order via email and receive confirmation that it’s correct before you begin production.

 

Each of these methods enables you to harvest orders from wholesale buyers who are already aware of your brand.  But what about those buyers who don’t yet know you exist? That’s where platforms like Faire (formerly Indigo Fair, Stockabl, and Wholesale Matchmaker come in! And I recommend that any brand that’s serious about wholesale invest significant energy into Instagram, as more and more buyers are using that platform to discover new brands.

 

 

Have you ever suffered through a wholesale nightmare?
What did you learn from the experience?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

bainamourbath: Had a client that would not pay for weeks and weeks until she was ready to place another order. Would come into my brick and mortar and treat my managers rudely. Needless to say, I sent her a divorce letter that she was not happy about. Although she bought a decent amount of product, sometimes it’s not worth the headache to deal with certain clients. I had to focus on who I wanted representing my brand and she was not it.

 

MY THOUGHTS: Amen and amen! There are some customers who aren’t worth having, and recognizing that is a powerful evolution. But if fifteen years as a full-time business owner have taught me anything, it’s that. I’ve gently dismissed wholesale buyers from my product-based brand (and consulting clients too, for that matter). It’s always a last resort for me, but some opportunities aren’t worth the stress they generate and time they consume. It’s important to have an arsenal of good customer negotiation skills and strategies at the ready and equally important to know when cutting your losses is the best available option.

 

This also hearkens back to something we’ve already touched on in this post: effectively managing trade credit accounts. I’ve learned that customers will get away with exactly what you allow them to get away with, some communicating that you’re a serious professional, establishing expectations, and drawing healthy parameters is key. It’s infinitely more challenging to fix these issues after they arrive than it is to prevent them from happening in the first place! With that in mind, remember that we train people how to treat us. 

 

What strategies do you use to promote your wholesale stockists
+ make them feel like partners?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

normalsoap: We try to show them new products when we have them. We try to treat them with free product they can use … and thus fall in love with. Just a few nice things we try to make them feel special. Don’t forget a holiday card thanking them and telling them you look forward to the new year!

 

MY THOUGHTS:Those are some stellar ideas, and there’s no shortage of things that we can do after the sale to help our buyers feel like partners, increasing the chance of reorders and long, fruitful relationships.  Some quick ideas…

 

  • Wholesale-exclusive newsletters delivered at least once per quarter

 

  • Hand-written “thank you” notes tucked into each order

 

  • If you create consumable products (body care, candles, soap, makeup, specialty foods, etc.): Including samples of other products in outbound orders

 

  • Offering marketing tools such a POP displays and shelf talkers to increase sell-through

 

  • Direct contact at least once every 8 weeks to check in on sales and see how you can help

 

  • Remembering your accounts at the holidays with a small gift

 

  • Promoting your wholesale partners via a store directory on your website and through social media “shout out’s”

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram, where every month we chat about all things business. I’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll lend your voice. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in! In September, we’re chatting about all things website.

How to Pack a Pallet

How-to-pack-a-pallet-Square

More and more Lucky Break clients are packing pallets these days (hooray!). Whether they’re bound for Anthropologie, Home Goods, TJ Maxx or subscription box companies, many of us are tackling big corporate purchase orders and the mondo-sized shipments that go with them. I thought a tutorial on how to properly pack a pallet might prove helpful. If you’re ready to start working with products at a larger scale, then I hope this post takes some of the mystery out of the process!

 

How-to-pack-a-pallet-Square

 

How to Pack a Pallet of Product

Step 1: You’ll use case packs and larger shipping boxes, much like you likely already do. For instance: if you’re shipping candles, we wouldn’t want to pack large boxes of 48 candles each. That would be hard to stabilize and leave the product vulnerable to damage. A better option would be to pack those candles into case packs of 6 or 8 candles each.

 

Once those smaller “case pack” boxes are packed and taped shut, you’ll then load those case packs into a larger exterior shipping box. So we might have one large shipping box that contains 8 case packs containing 6 candles each, for a total of 48 candles. A series of those boxes are prepared and individually weighed, carefully noting the weight of each.

 

Step 2: You’ll load those larger boxes onto a wooden pallet.  You can often pick these up free locally- check home stores, flooring stores, etc. Note that your boxes shouldn’t overhang the edge of the pallet… everything should fit inside the pallet’s “footprint.”

 

Step 3: Start with your heaviest boxes and layer them on the bottom. Unless your boxes are square, I recommend packing the layers “criss-cross” style. So layer one boxes all go in one direction, layer two boxes are rotated 90 degrees, layer three boxes are packed the same way as layer one, and layer four boxes are packed the same way as layer two, etc. Don’t pack much higher than you are tall!

 

Step 4: Once all the boxes are loaded, then wrap the pallet with plastic wrap. Wrap multiple layers all over the pallet, starting at the bottom and working your way up by physically walking around the stack. Be certain to wrap the actual pallet as well- if you simply wrap the cargo on top of the pallet, then it can slide off. Be careful to wrap the top half of the wooden pallet itself once it’s loaded with cargo to effectively attach the boxes to the pallet.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5: Affix a shipping label with the destination clearly displayed. I recommended typing this in Microsoft Word (large type!) or a similar program, printing the label on regular paper, then affixing the label to the wrapped pallet via clear shipping tape.

 

Step 6: Affix a detailed packing list in a clear shipping pouch to the exterior of the pallet, next to the shipping label. The packing list should list your contact details as the shipper, the contact details of the receiver, and then carefully note the number of boxes per pallet, along with the contents of each large shipping box.  Be certain to reference any purchase order numbers attached to this shipment.

 

Three important things to note:

  • When you arrange the pickup, you’ll need to give the trucking company the weight and dimensions of the pallet. The dimensions are easy enough to determine with a tape measure. But to get the weight, you’ll either need a jumbo-sized floor scale you can roll the pallet over (read here: $$$), or you can weigh each box as it’s added to the pallet. Simply tally them all up and add 20# for the pallet.

 

  • If you plan to move the pallet around your space, then you’ll need a pallet truck. If pallets are something you’ll be wrestling with often, then a pallet truck is a wise investment. You can sneak a peek of one in action in the video below.

 

  • If your facility doesn’t have a dock, then you’ll need to let the trucking company know when you arrange the pickup. They’ll send a liftgate truck which has a hydraulic lift on the back. That lift can lower to the ground and that truck will have a pallet truck inside. The driver will use the pallet truck to guide the pallet onto the liftgate and lift it back into the truck. Liftgates are usually an additional fee of $50-150, but there’s no way around it and no regular truck can pick up a pallet off the ground, so be sure to indicate this need when you first speak to the shipper!

 

 

 

 

What questions do you have? Drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to help! If you’ve packed a pallet, was it easier or harder than you imagined?

 

MANY THANKS to LBU alumni and Coaching Community members Unique PL8Z and Sequoia for generously sharing their videos to accompany this post.  I love watching you ladies take care of business! xo

 

#LBCWantsToKnow >> June 2018: Holiday Wholesale Outreach

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Holiday

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Holiday

 

Every month, I ask my Instagram community to lend their voices to a focused business conversation so we can crowd-source meaningful discussions. I call it #LBCWantsToKnow and it’s one of my very favorite things of 2018! Though the mercury is peaking and all the wee ones are out of school at the moment, I’ve got the holidays on my mind… because the wholesale march generally begins in mid-summer.

 

When do you start planning for holiday wholesale outreach?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

  • canardlabs: July 1st. Our Holiday Catalog Insert is launched and sent along to our reps and rep groups! We order the Fall/Winter ingredients in May. Make the products and photograph them in early June, then release them to our peeps by July 1.

 

  • olivemyskin: August is when I start. Keeping records from prior years helps tremendously. It make order placing easier.

 

 

MY THOUGHTS: The holidays often catch makers and product designers off guard and our holiday game plan needs to kick off much earlier than many new business owners realize. Buyers for most categories start scouting for new merchandise in late July and August.  If you’re ever perplexed by when they’re on the prowl, look towards the trade shows for your product category.  Those always occur in at the start of prime buying seasons, so it’s an way way to remember when you need to turn up the heat.

Many of us experience an annual retail slump in the summer months- retail consumers (both those that shop online and those who flock to brick + mortar stores), are otherwise distracted with summer plans. They’re out of rhythm, focusing on other endeavors, and we don’t have the benefit of any major gift-giving holidays in June, July, or August.  Though it’s painful to see revenues wither in these months, that also makes this period “prime time” for holiday prep. Finish up any new product development, tee up your fall releases, polish marketing materials, and line up a concerted push for wholesale attention. Then launch those efforts in August and keep the heat on for new buyers straight through late October.

 

In my experience, December is pretty much a ghost town in wholesale, but that’s generally a blessing as most of us are swamped with retail orders. November typically sees a steady stream of orders, but they’re generally reorders from stockists who are selling out inventory or existing accounts who are a tad late to the game on holiday ordering. But August? September, and October? Prime time to get on the radar of new shops you’re itching to get into.

 

 

Will you be releasing new products for the holiday season?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

  • olivemyskin: Holiday scented candles and warm, spicy soap

 

  • woodenheartdesigns: Adding new products now based on my best selling items and revamping some things so I don’t feel so overwhelmed right before the shopping season starts. My biggest challenge is always finding work/life balance during the peak season.

 

MY THOUGHTS: “New” is the lifeblood of wholesale, and seasonal launches are essential to this market segment. But that doesn’t necessitate that you launch 87 new products or jump into an entirely new product category! Seasonal fragrances for those in the apothecary or candle space, fresh colorways or prints for textiles, a thoughtful jewelry collection of several capsule pieces…. that’s really all you need. And for those in the gift space, bundling existing products into gift sets in ready-to-go packaging is always a smart idea.

 

Ideally, those products are ready to launch in July. I recommend using that month as your benchmark, then doing some quick reverse math to map out deadlines for each step of the development process.  Whether your product development takes 3 months or 6 months, the process usually starts months ahead of when we imagine it would!

 

 

Black Friday + Cyber Monday promotions: Are they a blessing or curse to your business?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

  • lillabarnclothing: We do a small biz Saturday online event with one of a kind pieces and other unique items that aren’t usually available. Trying not to do too many discounts, but this seems to be a fun event especially for our insider group.

 

  • stellachroma: Thanks to you, we don’t do percent discounts often at all and I think business is better because of it. We may do a free shipping and gift with purchase deal this year rather than a price discount.

 

  • horsefeathersgifts: We use Black Friday to clear out any inventory we no longer want on our site. It’s always been a big hit with our customers.

 

  • lotionbarcafe: I am closed on both those days. I am an ambassador for small biz Saturday and that has been the best!

 

  • zhibathandbody: Bundles and free gift wrap is what I do most; occasionally free shipping. Deep discounts were never effective. I set up automation for Black Friday & Cyber Monday, then work up a nerve to do a live event on Small Business Saturday.

 

MY THOUGHTS: It’s terribly easy to let discounts be the death of small business.  A steady stream of percentage-or-dollars-off promotions or occasional deeeeeep discounts serve to hamstring creative brands. They move the needle away from value and center the discussion on price (which really isn’t what you want to focus on, unless you’re a discount brand). They train you customers to only shop when your products are on sale.  They undercut your wholesale partners, which jeopardizes those relationships. All the way around, they get a hard “no” from me.

 

With that said, I’m keenly aware that these are the biggest shopping days of the year and consumers are accustomed to a buffet of offers during Thanksgiving week. I recommend a few things…

 

  • Starve your customers a bit. Not literally, but figuratively. Pull back on your sales throughout the year to make your holiday promos more special.

 

  • Consider adding value rather than deducting dollars. There are are many creative ways to structure offers and incentivize ordering. Consider offering free shipping (or a lower free-shipping threshold than your usual), adding complementary gift wrap, increasing loyalty points on purchases made during a promo period if you offer a loyalty program, etc. Bonus product (buy this, get that) or deluxe samples are always welcome offers, too.  Essentially, do anything other than give people what they often get for less dollars than they usually pay for product. Ideally, you collect the same number of dollars, but those dollars stretch further.

 

  • Transition to a 2.2x wholesale pricing structure. If you create a $22 candle, then offer it for wholesale at $10, rather than the typical keystone of $11. That means that your recommended retail price (and the price your charge on your own website) is 2.2x wholesale, rather than 2x. If you pivot to this type of pricing structure, then you’ll attract wholesale partner like bees to honey and you give yourself a 10% off cushion when you run sales. So your $22 candle can sell for $20 during a sale, and you’ve still protected your stockists by not charging your own customers less than 2x your wholesale. Everyone wins! An occasional 10% off, especially when coupled with a value-added promotion is far better for a brand than a temporary 20, 30, or 40% slash in price.

 

Want to chat more about the power of smart promotions and how you can structure them? I’m offering a free business workshop via FB Live in September to chat about this very thing! Join me on Lucky Break Consulting’s Facebook page on Thursday, September 27 at 2pm Eastern/ 11am Pacific for a live conversation and some rich Q+A.

 

Also, I invite you to join me on Instagram in July I’ll be hosting a conversation about pricing and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in!

 

 

Where are they now? Gates Councilor of Burly Stone

BURLY STONE LOGO NoBg

BURLY STONE LOGO NoBg

 

Are you wondering what happens to my Brick House Branding alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum + new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work?

 

I’m back with another round of “Where Are They Now?” case studies and I’m doing-cartwheels-excited to show you the serious waves my BHB graduates are making!

 

TGatesCouncilor

 

Say hello to Gates of Burly Stone

This week, I’m thrilled to introduce you to the official rooster in the Lucky Break hen house, Gates of Burly Stone. Gates recently rebranded Burly Stone after graduating from Brick House Branding, and he’s here to share how he injected a whole lotta handsome into his brand. Welcome, Gates… We’re so honored to have you!

 

LBC: Why and when did you originally launch your company?

Gates: We launched Burly Stone in April of 2014. Initially, it was just the outgrowth of a hobby – my hubby and I had started soap making in the summer of 2013. Before we knew it we were making more than two people could use, so we were giving soap away like it was candy. Once we got the hang of it, we had friends and family begging us for more, so it became a side hustle for us. When I was laid off in August of 2014, it felt like the universe giving us a sign, and it became a full-time endeavor.

 

As for the “why?”: We fell into a niche we hadn’t seen, and one that suited us: high-quality handcrafted soap made with guys in mind. We had been in business in one way or another long enough to realize that we might just have a little bit of lightning in a bottle.

 

 

LBC: At what point did you know it was time for a rebrand?

Gates: About two years ago we started to feel like we were bouncing off the edges of our brand. By this I mean that, while still happy with Burly Stone (and we had many folks who LOVED what we had in place already), we knew that there was a limit to how far our current branding would take us. We had grown and developed new products (hand balms, shave soaps, etc.), but hadn’t planned for that growth within the brand itself, so we just started slapping stuff together and hoping it would stick. We realized that we had taken the current brand about as far as it could go.

 

We wanted to be in larger markets, bigger stores, and have a truly professional presence. Our old look wasn’t polished and cohesive enough to get us into those doors. So in summer of 2016 we knew we needed to pull the trigger on a rebrand.

 

 

The Burly Stone logo BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

The Burly Stone logo BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: Please share a significant realization about the brand development process that you discovered while in Brick House Branding.

Gates: At the start of the process we were like “No worries – this will be a cakewalk. We’ll just polish some stuff up, pull together a new logo and that’ll be it.” We realized pretty quickly that doing it halfway would be far worse than not doing it at all. To do it effectively, to really arrive at a solid rebrand, you have to be willing to dig deep, to shed your preconceived notions of who and what your brand is. It’s hard work with a TON of heavy mental and emotional lifting.

 

You have to be willing to throw away EVERYTHING that came before. You may not have to, but if you’re not willing to pitch it all if needed, you may well miss the mark on your rebrand.

 

 

LBC: What professionals did you tag in to help with the process, and what pieces of the branding puzzle did you DIY? 

Gates: We are incredibly lucky that we have a very close friend who happens to be an awarding winning designer. She’s worked with multi-million dollar brands, so being able to pull her in as our designer was a huge benefit. With her, we knew the visuals of the rebrand were in good hands, so it left us free to deal with the rest. Once the packaging was done, we splurged on our product photos – we used POW (Product On White) Photos, and the results are well worth it!

 

We didn’t have the budget to farm everything else out, so we plugged away on our own. I’ve done enough writing in my time that I felt I could handle the product descriptions, “about us” page, and the other written elements. While the end results may not be worthy of Shakespeare, everything hangs together and has the right feel. We’ll count that as a win.

 

As for the web site, luckily Shopify is mostly plug and play. We found a theme we liked (the Turbo theme from Out Of The Sandbox), and pushed through. It’s not 100% where we’d like it to be, but it’s pretty damn close. We’re budgeting money for web work in the coming year. We did have a friend who does a lot of web work help us out with a few minor things – just helping us refine the look a little. Don’t be afraid to reach out to knowledgeable friends and family!

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the rebranding process?

Gates: FEAR.

It’s a terrifying process, deconstructing your “baby”. You’re afraid that it wasn’t good enough before, and that it won’t be good enough after. You’re afraid to fail. Each step get a little more frightening because you’re pushing your brand in new and unknown directions. BHB is a deep dive, and that dive isn’t always comfortable.

 

But then things start to click. For us it was on our second round of logos. After BHB we spent weeks setting up brand inspiration boards on Pinterest for our designer, but the first set of logos she created just weren’t working. We left that meeting with a pit in our stomach. Out of the dozen logos she had pulled together, we only saw two that had any glimmer of what we were looking for, and even those felt far off the mark. But she worked with those two, and on the second round things started to gel. Suddenly we could start to see the new brand coming to life, and the pit in our stomach wasn’t fear, but excitement.

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

LBC: How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?

Gates: I’m glad you used the word “evolved” in the question, because that’s key. Over the course of BHB, everyone attending had their own “a-ha” moments about their brand. For us, it was that, while we tore Burly Stone down to its very foundation, the new look has its roots in where we started. Our rebrand is an evolution of our old branding. Everything we had done before wasn’t wrong, but BHB helped us clarify every single element of what makes up our brand.

 

In a nutshell? We used to say we were “Rugged with a refined edge”. Now we are “Refined with a rugged edge.” It’s a subtle difference on the surface, but it means the world to us. It’s led to massive shifts in how we speak as a brand, stores we reach out to, and who our ideal customer is.

 

 

LBC: Are your products are being received differently by others since the rebrand? How has their reaction evolved?

Gates: What’s great is that people seem to get it. They can see bits of the “old” Burly Stone in this new look, but see the overall elevation of the Burly Stone brand. People used to like our products, but now we’re starting to see that people love us as a brand. They’re running their hands across our shave soap labels and “oohing and aahing” over the look and feel. We’ve also learned how to speak to our ideal customer, and the results are starting to show. Thanks to BHB we’ve got the opportunity to develop a rabidly loyal customer base.

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: Can you share a recent win that you’ve realized because of the rebrand? 

Gates: There is a certain store that we have been dying to get into. We reached out to several times – emails and postcards, and yet we’ve never heard back from them. We reached out to them again after our rebrand and they responded along the lines of “Yes, THIS is what we were waiting for from you.”  We sent them a sample kit, so keep your fingers crossed.

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

LBC: How did the Brick House Branding experience help shape your branding process?

Gates: I can honestly say that without BHB, the Burly Stone rebrand would have flopped. I mean, it may have looked okay, but the foundation wouldn’t have been there. Lela lets you know right off the bat that this is going to be a deep dive, but she doesn’t just throw you in the deep end. The course is designed in a way that eases you into the rebranding process. It helps you deconstruct your brand, to peel back all the layers, and get to the heart of your brand. I can’t think of a single element of the rebrand that the course doesn’t cover – and there are dozens that I hadn’t even considered before I took BHB. I mean, who even thinks about whether or not to use exclamation points?

 

Looking back, Brick House Branding was vital to our rebrand. It’s incredibly comprehensive and well designed, and every painstaking step is soothed by Lela’s loving southern charm. BHB was a life saver for Burly Stone.

 

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the brand development process? What advice would you give to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process?

Gates: A good, solid rebrand will take time – more time than you think. It was over a year from the start of Brick House Branding until we relaunched Burly Stone, and we were working on it constantly. Even after launch there are dozens of pieces floating around that we haven’t had the time or energy to deal with yet.

 

If you’re doing it right, rebranding is a time consuming, emotionally draining process. You can expect sleepless nights, upset stomachs, and more than one “Oh god, I’m in over my head” moment. But if you push through and follow the sage advice contained within BHB, you’ll emerge with a stronger, more thoughtful brand that ties more intimately to your ideal customer. You won’t just have a logo and products, you’ll have a brand, and that is worth its weight in gold.

 

Thanks for catching up with us, Gates! We can’ t wait to see what comes next for you + Burly Stone … We’re cheering you on!

 

If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2018, then I also hope that you’ll consider joining me in the spring semester of Brick House Branding. This 9-week brand development mentorship dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment opens on April 17!

 

 

How does your wholesale matchmaking service stack up?

DOES YOUR WHOLESALE MATCHMAKING SERVICE DESERVE YOUR FINAL ROSE?

I’ve been working in the entrepreneurial trenches as a wholesale strategist for a loooong time, consistently + intently listening to the struggles of my clients. My goal has always been to understand your pain points… the pieces of this wholesale puzzle that continually trip us up on the regular. My experiences working alongside hundreds of creative brand owners has made me deeply aware of the commonality of our obstacles:

 

• We’re not confident about which stores to approach.
• We struggle to carve out the time needed to discover new stores + introduce our work.
• We’re being passive in our communications with retailer, waiting for them to come to us. Part of that is confidence. Part of that is time. And part of that is organization.

 

So my team and I rolled up our sleeves, dug our heels in and developed a solution. A squad of nine people worked for more than 7 months to birth what is now Wholesale Matchmaker. Breathing life into this new service proved to be biggest project of my entrepreneurial career: in terms of manpower, time, and dollars invested. We’ve continued to expand and refine the service, too, launching more than 100 upgrades in the first twelve months. 

 

Team LBC has poured our hearts + souls into this project and we’ve welcomed more than 300 members in early months of the program. And while I do believe that I have the prettiest baby in all the land, I concede that I do not have the only baby in the land. I’m often asked what makes Wholesale Matchmaker so unique and I thought I’d pull back the curtain and bit and share why I’m so confident of the power that Wholesale Matchmaker delivers for moving your business forward.

 

 

DOES YOUR WHOLESALE MATCHMAKING SERVICE DESERVE YOUR FINAL ROSE?

 

 

If you’re a maker or product designer in search of a matchmaking service to tag into the ring and help you connect with new stores, then these are the questions I’d be asking any potential service providers in order to ensure that they’re the best fit for your business.

 

1. What’s their wholesale pedigree?

 

I launched my apothecary brand way back in 2003 and it’s been in continuous operation for 15 years now, turning a profit each year. I’ve never once laid off an employee, despite a decade spent in interesting economic times. Each of my globally-inspired products is still made in small batches by my team in a workshop that’s just 2.7 miles from my South Carolina home. In the course of steering that company, I’ve landed more than 1400 wholesale accounts and fulfilled 13,000+ wholesale orders. And in case you’re wondering: I bootstrapped that company every inch of the way: no loans, no grants, no, investors. Just blood, sweat, and tears… and lots of them.

 

After years of informally helping my entrepreneurial friends, I launched Lucky Break Consulting in 2012. I now simultaneously run both companies, but Lucky Break has been my labor of love for the past four years. It’s provided an opportunity to help more than 2,000 creative brand owners build their businesses. This work has proven to be both the hardest and most rewarding of my life.

 

Wholesale strategy has been the centerpiece of that work and I’ve graduated more than 300+ brands from my LBU wholesale mentorship. That gives me both a breadth + depth of wisdom about a variety of product categories: from stationery brands to jewelers and apothecary brands to apparel designers. I know wholesale like the back of my hand because I’ve enjoyed a seat on both sides of the table: as a successful product maker and as a guide for many other product designers.

 

Here’s what that experience has taught me: It’s one thing to know how to do something and it’s another thing entirely to be able to teach others how to do those same things. I feel confident wearing both of those hats and I think the success that the brands I work with are realizing is a testament to my ability to do both of those things with ease.

 

 

 

2. How do they select which stores to pair you with?

 

Wholesale Matchmaker puts some wicked cool technology into play, helping my team of retail experts connect you with best-fit stores for your unique brand. We’ve invested thousands (no, seriously… thousands) of hours building profiles for 4000+ independent, maker-friendly shops across the U.S. Each one has been hand-built by my team and then loaded into our proprietary software. We tag every store with key information: product categories, aesthetic vibe, price points, location, and more.

 

When you join Wholesale Matchmaker, we collect some important information about your brand: what products you make, how your price points play out, your past wholesale experience, what parts of the country you want to work within, the kind of stores you envision your products on the shelves of, and the kinds of brands you want to sit alongside.

 

Then we let the magic of technology do some of the heavy lifting for us. The system we’ve developed enables us to quickly sort through that library of 3000+ stores to find ones that match your specific needs. But we aren’t content to let software algorithms determine your fate. My team of retail experts carefully cross-checks each store suggestion.

 

We have your website up on one screen while we scrutinize the store profile we’ve made for each shop on another screen. Even with the magic of all that technology, we still reject 4 suggested stores for every one that we accept and match to a member. There’s an art to choosing the right shops and we know two things: a) No amount of technology can replace a discerning eye and b) Finding good stores takes time.

 

 

3. How effective are their matchmaking efforts?

 

I’ve tagged in a whip-smart team of software engineers to help me keep an eye on Wholesale Matchmaker and understand how well we’re serving our members. I can pull a flurry of reports with the push of a button, measuring a small tsunami of variables in real-time. And you better believe that my team and I watch those stats like a hawk.

 

Our current rejection rate is pretty stellar: it’s just 3.2%. Essentially, for every 100 stores we propose as a match to a member, they take a pass on about 3 of those. That means that 97 out of every 100 leads pass muster with our members and we’re pretty damn proud of that track record!

 

 

DOES YOUR WHOLESALE MATCHMAKING SERVICE DESERVE YOUR FINAL ROSE?

 

 

4. How many other brand owners do they recommend those stores to each month?

 

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how large our store portfolio is, or how many members we serve, or how pleased our members are with our matchmaking skills… if those amazing buyers are being bombarded by hundreds of our eager members each month, then the conversion rate will be lower.

 

To put it simply: if Team Lucky Break initiates a stampede that leads to the door of a single buyer, then our members will have a harder time landing the account. So we keep a pretty close eye on how often we’re recommending any single store to ensure that our member pitches get the attention they deserve.

 

I just pulled some data from the last 30 days and our most popular store was recommended to less than 5% of our members. In fact, 80% of our February 2017 store matches were suggested to 5 or fewer members last month. We keep the herd thin so you can shine, and we do that very intentionally.

 

 

5. What’s the member retention rate?

 

This is also known as “How pleased are the people?” And I’m proud to share that just 2.2% of Wholesale Matchmaker members paused their membership last month. That number is pretty steady from month-to-month and we recognize that it won’t ever be zero. We appreciate that our members may choose to take a break from wholesale, or a break from their businesses altogether. But the fact that 97.8% of them double-down each month and continuing work with us is what I’m most proud of.

 

 

6. Can this service grow with your business?

 

Success in the wholesale arena relies on an interesting web of understanding: it incorporates not just wholesale strategies, but a deep awareness of the fundamental principles of product pricing and brand development, too. My work with creative brands often taps into those other areas and I’m proud of the fact that we can support our clients in a holistic fashion.

 

We’re all pressed for time. There’s a fair number of over-hyped programs out there, making it a challenge to understand who you can count on to move your business ball forward. I love that when one of my clients needs help with a piece of their wholesale puzzle that taps into these other arenas, I have resources at the ready. They don’t have to launch a scavenger hunt for additional help or round up recommendations. And because I work with many Wholesale Matchmaker members in other facets of their business, I have an unusually holistic view of what’s happening.

 

Team Lucky Break is here to help, as much or as little as you need us. Since I’ve been deep in the entrepreneurial trenches for so many years now, I’ve developed a pretty robust support system for product-based brands and our clients appreciate how much we “get them” and simplify their business.

 

 

7. How accessible are tech support + wholesale education materials?

 

What good is help if it’s hard to reach, right?

 

Lucky Break is a bit of anomaly in the consulting world in that we actually keep office hours. You can ring us up Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm and reach a live person who understands both small business and how Wholesale Matchmaker works. We’re a small-but-mighty team of four women who are passionate about helping creative brand owners succeed. Three of us have product-based brands of our own, so this is territory we know very, very well.

 

Once you dive into the Wholesale Matchmaker community, you’ll discover a host of ways that we can support you. My ten-part “Speed Dating” video series illustrates the fundamentals of wholesale so you can polish your program… and it’s available to members 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 

I also make myself available by phone twice per month to answer member questions. From triaging tricky retailer relationships to ensuring that whatever you’re working on at the moment is timed to coincide with current buying cycles, these calls keep us all on track and motivated to move forward as a community. They’re recorded in case you can’t attend live and the MP3 playbacks are portable, so you can listen in the carpool line, on the treadmill, or on the subway.

 

And we transcribe every word of those calls, too, so you can skim the table of contents and see if the information is relevant to where you are in business at the moment. If it is, you can either keep reading or reference the time stamp and fast forward the call playback to the exact minute mark you need.  Time is precious and I do my very best not to waste yours.

 

There’s a special kind of magic that happens on our group calls, too.  Sometimes you simply don’t know what questions to ask (I mean… you don’t know what you don’t know, right?).  And hearing questions from others often sparks strategy ideas for your own brand. Even better: these calls build community, which is something that so many solopreneurs crave.

 

Essentially, as a Wholesale Matchmaker member, you’re guaranteed to be on the receiving end of 2 hours of ultra-accessible wholesale support and you have the power to guide those conversations. 

 

 

 

8. What are people saying about the service, and- more importantly- why are they talking?

 

And here’s where things get a bit sticky. I made a vow long ago not to operate as an affiliate. I want my word to be my bond. When I make a recommendation, I want it to be because I believe strongly that something is right for someone, not because I’ll financially benefit from making the connection.

 

Virtually every coach and consultant I know works as an affiliate for programs they enjoy, and practically everyone I’ve tagged in to help me grow my business has recommended that I begin an affiliate program ASAP, because it could easily double my income. But that’s not my jam and I’ve never accepted a penny of affiliate money.

 

That also means that I don’t pay anyone to promote my programs either. If you see someone raving on Lucky Break or Wholesale Matchmaker, it’s because we’ve served them well. They get no kickback. No discount. No special favors. No extra anything, save for good karma and the satisfaction of knowing that they helped a fellow entrepreneur find the right product or service for them. The best recommendations are the ones you can’t buy and they’re the ones I’m most proud to have.

 

 

If you have any questions about how Wholesale Matchmaker works, who it’s designed for, or whether it’s right for you, then I hope you’ll reach out. We’re lovely peeps and we love to chat business, wholesale and otherwise. Be in touch and we’ll be happy to help!