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 their 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 six months. And we have 39 more enhancements slated to debut this spring.
Team LBC has poured our hearts + souls into this project and we’ve welcomed almost 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.
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 14 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 3000+ 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 our members with. 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!
4. How many other brandowners 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 car pool 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.
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 haven’t ever 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!