Missed the Wholesale Matchmaker Screen Share tour?

Wholesale Matchmaker Screen Share Tour

Earlier this week, I hosted a live screen share tour of my Wholesale Matchmaker service. I invited visitors deep into the belly of the software and behind the curtain of my matchmaking process in a candid peek at this powerful wholesale tool, which is designed to streamline buyer outreach efforts while keeping you focused and accountable.

 

I captured the tour on video in case you couldn’t make it to the live event. I hope you’ll pour a mug of something delicious and dive in for an intimate peek into the biggest project in Lucky Break history…

 


I’m proud of the way that Wholesale Matchmaker has helped hundreds of creative, product-based brands save time while building their confidence and building smart business systems, too.

 

If you’ve been thinking about joining my Wholesale Matchmaker community, then there’s no time like the present. Last week, I announced that I’m retiring LBU Live, the intimate wholesale mentorship that I’ve taught for the past three years. I’ve merged the LBU curriculum with the matchmaking power and software tools of Wholesale Matchmaker to help my members create unstoppable retail programs.

 

I’m calling this new membership tier the “LBU Cohort” and it’s designed to amplify the education and support within Wholesale Matchmaker in a big way. This video explains more about the LBU Cohort, but here’s what you need to know right now: the cohort is open for enrollment twice per year for just ten days.

 

The doors are open right now, and I’ve rolled out the red carpet for members through Monday, February 13th. There is a cap on participation so that I can be absolutely certain that I serve each of my members well. And if we reach capacity before February 13, then I’ll need to pull up the drawbridge and seal off the cohort early. Long story short: I wouldn’t dilly dally.

 

Have questions? Reach out to my Client Concierge team and they’ll be happy to get you squared away. Ready to reserve your seat in Wholesale Matchmaker? I’d love to have you!

 

Meet the Maker – Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

Today we’re excited to take you “behind the scenes” with Lucky Break client and Wholesale Matchmaker member Stephanie, who runs the artisan jewelry company Metalicious from her studio in New York, NY. Stephanie handcrafts family heirloom pieces from recycled metals and ethically mined gemstones – and the result is nothing short of stunning. Welcome, Stephanie – thank you for sharing your story with us!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Stephanie: My dad had his own computer business when I was growing up (hello, nerd family). I loved that he had the freedom to work on things he loved the most and that he could take vacations with us whenever he wanted. He was an incredibly hard worker and he taught me that failure is really an opportunity to learn how to succeed.

Growing up it seemed totally normal to be an entrepreneur, so even when I worked for other jewelry companies I knew it was only a matter of time before I had my own business. 12 years ago when my first son was born, I took a leap of faith and started Metalicious. I worked out of a small corner of my bedroom during his naptime and at night, and sold my jewelry at craft fairs on the weekends.

Over the past 10 years I’ve grown my online business to where I can rent studio space and have 2 part time employees. I feel incredibly grateful. Now it’s my own kids who think about what kind of business they will run someday. My little one loves to brainstorm ideas about how to increase sales. He even did a video “review” of my jewelry on YouTube.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Stephanie: When I first started Metalicious I didn’t have a plan (which is step 1 of what NOT to do). My jewelry was very geometric with hard edges and no gemstones, no color, just sterling silver, brass and bronze. I thought it was very chic and very “New York.”

Well, customers would ask me all the time to add gemstones and color, but I didn’t listen (step 2 of what not to do). After two years, my sales weren’t increasing so I finally swallowed my pride and opened myself up to my inner creativity.

The flowing swirls and colorful gemstones that now define my line brought in wonderful, new customers: people looking for alternative engagement rings and unique wedding bands. Metalicious.com is now the place to go for couples looking for something different from what’s already out there.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Stephanie: I create wearable art. Jewelry that tells your story. I feel so lucky to be able to hear the stories of my customers: the mom buying buying a ring for her daughter to remind her to be strong in the face of bullying; the couple buying wedding rings that connect them to their childhood when they walked through wheat fields together; the architect proposing to his fiancée on a mountaintop. Each story is unique and I am so grateful to be a small part of their journey in life.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Stephanie: Online exclusively at Metalicious.com – but I’m working on connecting with retailers so that more people can find my work in person.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Stephanie: As a mom, wife, and business owner, it’s pretty hectic. I wake up at 6 or 6:30 and it’s a frenzy of eating, showers and getting dressed before my husband and I split walking our boys to school. Then I walk to my studio – everything is walkable in NYC and it gives me time to get into the right headspace for the day.

Once I’m at the studio, I read emails, answer customer messages, and try to get through my Inbox. My assistant Rebecca comes in 3 days a week, so when she’s there we’ll talk about the tasks we need to accomplish for the day, goals for the week, and chat for a little bit over tea. She is like my right arm at work and a wonderful person, so I really enjoy our chat time. Then depending upon what is due that week and what my goals are for the day, I will do some benchwork, work on the website (listing new items, working on photos, etc.), do research for a blog post, post on social media, plan out new designs, do “big picture” planning, etc. I work most days until 4-5pm, when I pick up my kids.

I try to carve out family time for the evenings and weekends and stick to that as much as possible. Establishing boundaries is really important for me – otherwise I could work. All. Night. The best thing I ever did was to start a ritual where I take 15 minutes before bed every night to plan out my schedule for the next day, which gets everything out of my head so that I won’t forget it the next day. It has done wonders for my productivity.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

1) What is your goal with your business? What is the reason for it to exist?

2) Is there truly a need for what you’re selling (outside of family and friends)?

3) Would you be happy spending 60-100 hours per week doing this?

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Stephanie: I think it’s a combination of things. Exercise helps me reduce stress, so I try to do small workouts 3-4 times a week. I also feel better when I have a plan, so I use a planner where I write out yearly, weekly and daily goals. When I feel a little lost, I go back to my goals and they help center me.

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Stephanie: Hiring someone to help me with doing the things I’m not good at, or things that take me away from big picture thinking, is always a great decision. When I get to a point where I spend more time doing repetitive work and less time thinking about how to grow, then I know that I should look for someone to take some things off my plate. Rebecca’s position has grown from doing shipping and running errands to brainstorming marketing ideas, doing customer service, running reports, etc. You can always start by hiring someone just a few hours/week and go from there.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Stephanie: I was really resistant to learning about SEO, and got lazy about updating keywords. My business, which had always grown year-to-year, went flat. Luckily as a small business, I was able to make changes quickly, so I put in the time to learn about SEO and keywords, then updated my listings. Within a few weeks my business was back on track, and I learned a powerful lesson to not get complacent or lazy. You can always learn more and make adjustments in your business to stay on course.

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Stephanie: Living in NYC, I literally walk past soup kitchens, homeless people and food lines every single day. So I’ve chosen City Harvest as my cause. They rescue over 150,000 pounds of food per day from supermarkets, restaurants, and banquets and deliver it directly to food banks and community shelters in over 500 programs across the city. They host mobile greenmarkets where they give away bags of veggies to families each week in 5 of the most needy boroughs. It’s an amazing program to volunteer for, and at the end of each year I contribute to them on behalf of my customers. Last year I was so grateful to be able to donate enough to feed 2,000 families. I’m so thankful for my awesome customers, who enable me to give back to my community.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Stephanie: 1) GoDaddy bookkeeping: Since my business is all online, I’m able to link all my accounts here so I can see a snapshot of how my business is doing (profit/loss). I check it daily to make sure I’m on track to hit my financial goals or to see if I’m overspending anywhere.

2) Endicia for shipping: I use the Dymo label printer with it and it changed my life. No more waiting on lines at the post office; we just print our labels and drop our packages into the mailbox. And Endicia gives free tracking, which helps me give great customer service.

3) Excel: I’m a spreadsheet maven and love analyzing my numbers. So I use Excel to create reports to track my social media, bestsellers, sales, and even to create pricing. I would kiss Excel on the mouth if I could.

 

ethical-crafted-metals

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Stephanie: In a few years, Metalicious will continue to grow as an online presence. We will have a small team of people working to delight our customers and create fresh, delicious jewelry designs. Metalicious jewelry will be available in a select group of retail stores across the world so customers can see and feel the jewelry in person.

 

LBC: You’re a member of our Wholesale Matchmaker program. Can you  share a bit about how being a WMM member has affected your business?

Stephanie: I found Lela right before she opened Wholesale Matchmaker and I signed up as soon as I could. It’s helped me develop linesheets and has systematized my outreach. I feel like I have a solid foundation and have been contacting stores since December.

Since joining WMM I’ve put together gorgeous linesheets that I’m proud to send out to retailers. Having everything in one place makes it really easy to do outreach and follow up, and the email templates are not only helpful but they save me tons of time figuring out what to write. I also love the calendar with the reminders, it keeps me focused on building my wholesale business on a regular schedule. I’ve been working on outreach steadily and now that I have the support of WMM I feel confident that I can make it happen.

I also did a 1-on-1 call with Lela when I was designing my website. She honed in on what made my brand unique and gave me great, actionable tasks to make a website that I’m really proud of and that resonates with my customers. Lela is a generous, kind-hearted, super smart woman and I feel so lucky and grateful to have found her and the Lucky Break team!

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

LBC: Lela recently made the decision to retire her flagship “how to wholesale” program LBU Live, and is rolling that extensive curriculum into Wholesale Matchmaker. You were among the first to join the LBU Cohort within WMM! Can you tell us how you feel about embarking on this new experience?
Stephanie: I am really excited about the LBU cohort because I’ve already gotten so much out of the community in the ways of support and information from the other members. So the thought of having access to the LBU program at such a great price with the additional support of other members in the group going through the same hurdles I am is an incredible gift.

 

LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Stephanie: It would absolutely be chocolate. It’s a big deal when I tell my kids I love them more than chocolate and if I wasn’t already married I would marry chocolate. It’s kind of scandalous now that I think about it.

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?

Stephanie: Helping my kids with their homework. I hated homework as a kid and would do anything to avoid it, so now that I have to help my own kids it’s like torture. Please send us a tutor!

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Stephanie: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt… That one line helped me shift my mindset about self-confidence in a big way.

 

Meet the Maker - Stephanie Maslow Blackman of Metalicious

 

Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Sarah Swell, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re honored to work with you and we’re cheering you on!

 

Interested in Wholesale Matchmaker? Now is the time. The LBU Cohort offers 12 months of matchmaking + 12 months of wholesale education and support. A limited number of spots are made available just twice per year for 10 days – and the LBU Cohort just-so-happens to be open to new members right now! But don’t wait too long – the LBU Cohort is only open for enrollment through Monday, February 13, 2017. If we reach capacity before that date, then it will close up tight early and won’t reopen until June 2017. Click here to learn more and enroll!

 

A look back at 2016…

luckybreak2016retrospective

Life often flies by in a blur, but I love the process of closing out a year and taking two steps back to look at what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown over the last twelve months. After feeling like I’ve been in the weeds, it’s helpful for me to zoom out and gather insights into the year that was. Each year, I compile a little retrospective here on the Lucky Break blog about the year that was…. here’s how 2016 shaped up for me!

 

 

look back 2016

 

LOTS OF NEW CLIENTS: Over the course of the last twelve months, I had the pleasure of working alongside 561 brands who tagged Lucky Break in to help in one capacity or another. This year saw notable growth in a few particular product categories: I’m working alongside more apparel + accessory designers and stationers than ever before. I’m excited not only by the size of my community these days, but by the diversity in the products we make, too.

 

HEAPS OF FREE BUSINESS COACHING: I streamed live on Periscope 72 times this year, offering more than 80 hours of free business coaching. In the process, I amassed a following that’s 20,130 people strong and those lovely people thanked me by offering 1,889,056 hearts for the effort (thank you!). In 2017, I’m parking Periscope for a bit to launch a new podcast created especially for makers + product designers. More on that soon…

 

A BRAND NEW CLASS: 28 savvy brand owners joined me for the maiden voyage of my new semester-long brand development program. And I popped the bubbly for 49 more brand owners as they graduated from Brick House Branding throughout the year. In 2017, I’ll be making space for 90 more brands in BHB. Heads up: my next enrollment period opens on January 10 for the spring semester!

 

RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME GROWTH: I grew the Lucky Break email list by 27%, the company’s overall revenue by 60%, and my team by 33% this year. I was thrilled to welcome Eileen to my motley crew of empire builders last May. That means that there are now four of us working full-time to help you hustle smarter and leaner. Woohoo!

 

MY BIGGEST BUSINESS PROJECT IN 14 YEARS: I launched my most ambitious project to date with Wholesale Matchmaker. The technical logistics were 837 times more complicated than I ever imagined and I had to temporarily freeze enrollment after 100+ brands joined within the first twelve hours, but… hot damn, that was a good time! Since that launch in June, my team has built a mind-boggling amount of technical scaffolding to support new members, which proved to be a necessity as an additional 100+ members poured into the Wholesale Matchmaker community.  To date, my team has built comprehensive profiles for 2,498 awesome shops that adore artisan goods, and rolled out more than 100 new software features in six waves of software upgrades. We’re a special kind of exhausted, but we’re also incredibly proud of what we’ve built.

 

TRAVELING + TEACHING + COCKTAILING: I talked my way across the country (again). I was invited to speak at business conference from coast to coast… Ventura CA; Nashville TN; Tampa FL; New Orleans, LA; Greenville, SC; and a few other spots. Meeting entrepreneurs face-to-face is incredibly energizing for me and I look forward to meeting many more of you in 2017. I logged 67,178 miles on Delta this year and I plan to log a few more in the coming year!

 

(more…)

Where Are They Now? Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS

Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS

rbs_mainlogo_500px

 

Are you wondering what happens to my LBU or BHB 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? This week we’re continuing a new series in which we’re catching up with graduates who are truly “leveling up” their creative businesses. I hope you’ll join me in cheering on these makers + product designers!

This week we’re talking to LBU and Brick House Branding alum Aubrey Miller, who recently launched a complete rebrand of her company REDBUDSUDS (formerly known as Redbud Suds Soap Company). After months and months of hard work, her resulting branding is a thing of beauty, from the inside out. I’m thrilled to be sharing her transformation with you today. Welcome, Aubrey!

 

Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS

 

LBC: Why did you originally launch your company?

I started my handcrafted business Redbud Suds Soap Company because I was in between jobs, happened to have a little extra time on my hands and had just fallen head-over-heels for soap making. Turning the hobby into a business seemed like a no-brainer. What else was I going to do with all that soap? I had no idea what Pandora’s box I had opened!

 

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

The tipping point for me was when I decided to turn my accidental hobby-business into a purposeful, full-time venture. Two things compelled me to invest in a rebrand:

First, the heart of the company (the mission) needed to be brought from the background into the foreground. My personal life goal is to get people excited about examining their personal habits and making better choices for the environment. I knew by incorporating my life passion into my brand, I would have the fuel I needed to keep at it when the going gets rough. Because, let’s be honest – getting a business off the ground is frickin’ hard.

The other reason was practical: as I dug deeper into the actual business of my business, it was clear that the value of the products wasn’t adequately being represented by the current branding. If I was going to run a sustainable business (aka stay in business), I needed to shift my price points. Rebranding as REDBUDSUDS has freed me to effectively communicate the value of what I create and allows me to ask what its worth with confidence.

 

redbudsuds-medley-and-chocolatte

A “before” shot of Redbud Suds Soap Co. products, pre-BHB and LBU

 

LBC: What professionals did you tag in to help with the rebrand process, and what parts did you opt to DIY?

After DIY-ing the entire first rendition of Redbud Suds, I was eager to have a professional take my ideas (honed by a lot of hard work in Lela’s Brick House Branding and Lucky Break University) and pair them with stellar visuals.

I searched for a long time before I found a professional graphic designer / web designer / web developer who felt like a good fit. I also opted for professional photographs for my website.

It was really hard for me to let go of doing “all of the things.” But bringing professionals on board has actually helped me clarify and focus. Now with REDBUDSUDS I can create and market what I do far more efficiently and strategically.

 

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

My biggest obstacle was (and is) learning a new kind of workflow. I have to be organized.  I have to plan ahead. This is a must when working with others, and especially when working with a limited budget. Staying organized is hard for me because I’m always on the go, always feeling like I need to be “doing” something. It takes conscious effort for me to stop, organize, and plan. But planning, prioritizing, and creating systems is so important – for growth and for sanity. So important.

 

Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS

An “after” shot of REDBUDSUDS soap, post-BHB and LBU

 

LBC: What, if anything, survived from your original branding?

Pretty much everything changed! The name is really the only thing that remained (mostly) intact: Redbud Suds Soap Company to REDBUDSUDS.

 

LBC: Did the rebranding process take longer or prove to be more challenging than you anticipated?

Longer? Yes. Cost more money? Yes. Feel scary, like, “what the heck am I doing?” Yes. When you build a business from scratch, every single day means confronting some kind of fear. But the dream of seeing the vision in my head play out in real time makes all the effort completely worth it. I am finally confident enough to reach out and pitch my products. Already since rebranding REDBUDSUDS I have had some pretty incredible opportunities for collaboration that definitely wouldn’t have happened before.

 

Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS

 

LBC: What role did Lucky Break play in your decision to rebrand and/or in the execution of your rebrand?

I blame Lucky Break for everything! I’m kidding, but in all seriousness, the resources, the rich coursework, and the LBU Alumni Coaching Community that Lela and the Lucky Break team offers has given me a handle on how to approach this wild world of entrepreneurship in a way that feels manageable…usually. I appreciate how Lucky Break doesn’t pretend to hand answers to you on a silver platter, but rather teaches you how to start asking the right questions. Running a handmade business is a constant learning process, and Lucky Break is like a toolbox filled with tools that ask questions, too.

 

LBC: How you do you feel now that you’ve come out the other side? How has your perception of your brand evolved?

I am SO excited to finally be able to share this hard work with the world. It feels great to have high-quality graphics and photography to back up the quality and the positive environmental message that was there since the beginning.

 

Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS

 

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

Yes! I am thrilled and honored to have been selected to team up with Pleasant Valley Trailers, an awesome company that makes vintage-style teardrop trailers and mini-RVs.

Starting July 2016, REDBUDSUDS shower bars will be included in every purchase of a T@B, T@G, Little Guy, Silver Shadow and myPod teardrop trailer and Cirrus truck campers all across the USA. I’m so excited that our “adventure soap” can be used to help new owners of these mini-RV’s feel at home in their new spaces!

 

LBC: What advice would you give to somebody getting ready to start this process in their business?

First and foremost, know what your end goal is. Who is your ideal customer? What are your ideal sales channels? Wholesale? Brick and mortar? Online? Honing your preferred end customer and desired sales channels before you begin the process will save a lot of headache. Even though it’s a giant pain to figure out, you will only have to do it once instead of confronting the question every single time you face a new opportunity.

Also, remember that no one conquers the world in a day. Give yourself the grace. Focus on doing do one thing well every day. Simple daily efforts truly do add up to big things.

 

Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS

 

Many thanks to Aubrey for spending a few minutes with us. The entire Lucky Break team is cheering you on!

 

Are you an LBU or BHB Alumni with some big news to share? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “LBU/BHB ALUMNI” as the subject line. We love to celebrate alongside you and shout out your success…

 

Yay or nay? Offering exclusive products to a wholesale account

offering exclusives to wholesale accounts

As part of a retailer buyer’s job to scout fresh merchandise, they’re always on the prowl to discover the latest and greatest… and preferably, an exclusive.

 

Exclusive products are those which are offered to a specific retail accounts, with an agreement that they won’t be offered to other retailers. In this way, a shop can proudly proclaim they have something that no one else does, and that’s a rich intoxicant in the world of retail!

 

offering exclusives to wholesale accounts

 

What to do when a sweet account comes calling with a request for an exclusive product? Take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions…

 

1. IS THIS PARTNERSHIP WORTH THE EFFORT?

There’s no doubt that exclusive products are a powerful lure for potential retail partner. However, they need to be a “win-win” for both of you. Take an objective view of this…

 

• Will it open the door to an account you’ve been itching to get into?
• Will it help materialize any press opportunities?
• Will it fortify a relationship that’s already blossoming?

 

You can’t reasonably offer exclusives to every account you serve, so you’ll need to make strategic decisions with your best interest in mind. Remember: You’re under no obligation simply because an account inquires about possible exclusives!

 

2. WHAT CAN I EASILY CREATE WITH MY CURRENT RESOURCES?

You needn’t reinvent the wheel. What can you easily create from available materials and packaging that both tickles the retailers while minimizing your investment and risk?

 

• If you’re a jeweler, can you offer a beloved piece in a new metal or stone?
• If you’re a bath + body maker, can you offer a new lotion fragrance or a hot new lip balm flavor?
• If you create tea towels or ceramics, can you create a special colorway for an existing design?

 

There’s no need to break the bank. Assess your current inventory and think creatively about putting a new spin on existing offerings for minimal cost.

 

3. HOW CAN I PROTECT + NURTURE THIS RELATIONSHIP?

I recommend formalizing the exclusivity via a simple, self-crafted document that you both sign. In theory, you could draft a brief email outlining the exclusivity and ask the buyer to hit “reply” to confirm the details. Collaborations with small, independent shops likely don’t need to be polished by attorneys, but you’d both be best served by outlining…

 

• What characteristics of the particular product are exclusive?
• How far will that exclusivity extend?
• Under what conditions will this exclusivity be maintained?
• If those conditions aren’t met, what happens next?

 

Choose your exclusive partnerships wisely and they’ll serve you well!