The Lucky Break Calendar – May 2018

May2018

Am I the only one who had to do a double take when I flipped the calendar and it said May? 2018 is rolling along and it’s already time to begin thinking about holidays for the wholesale market. Time – and the holidays – wait for no one my friend.

 

This month the LBC team is busy attending The HSCG Soap Conference where we can’t wait to give hugs and mingle with our favorite alumni. Will I see you there? Be sure to stop by the booth to say hello to me and the team and pick up some Lucky Break swag while you’re at it.

 

Whatever you’re up to this month, know that I’m cheering you on!May2018

Closing Doors and a Meditation on the Nature of Change

Visiting a Bedouin camel farm in the United Arab Emirates during a business trip to Dubai.
Visiting a Bedouin camel farm in the United Arab Emirates during a business trip to Dubai.

Visiting a Bedouin camel farm in the United Arab Emirates during a business trip to Dubai.

 

In the fall of 2003, I started an apothecary company. Truth be told: I had no earthly idea what I was doing. NONE. I was in the midst of a messy divorce, taking my first steps as a newly single mama on some pretty wobbly legs. I was broke, scared, and deeply humbled. I was raising two sweet toddlers who needed heaps of support and I was woefully low on energy and opportunity.

 

 

I had no job, no college degree, and no economic security. What did I have? A sharp mind, a burning desire to build some stability as quickly as possible, precious little to lose, a deep commitment to my children, and just enough chutzpah to believe that my life could be different than it was in that moment. As it turns out, that was enough.

 

Early packaging and some rudimentary photography... it was a "make it work" moment!

Early packaging and some rudimentary photography… it was a “make it work” moment!

 

With no prior business experience and very, very few dollars, I launched Bella Lucce from the kitchen of my 800 square foot house just outside Knoxville, TN. A few years earlier, my sister had navigated a health crisis, and that scare spawned my desire to know more about what I was putting in and on my body. I began making my own skin care and body care products with natural ingredients, and you could often find my oldest daughter Chloe and I mixing up bath salts, body soaps, and face creams in our kitchen. I never dreamed that my hobby would flourish into a business- I simply wanted to have more confidence in the products I was using.

 

 

Fast forward to 2003 and I had moved into my parent’s spare bedroom on the opposite side of the state while working through my divorce. Both my daughters, my dog, and myself all snuggled in tight in a single bed. After being turned down for a waitressing job at a local steakhouse and standing in line for food stamps at my local social service agency (note: This is what “rock bottom” feels like), my mother gently suggested that perhaps I should set up a booth at the local farmers market to sell my products on weekends while I looked for a “real job.”

 

 

I took her advice… not because I had any real hope that the effort could be successful, but because I was suffering from a dearth of opportunities. I was woefully low on options, and my bills were accumulating quickly and what the hell else was I going to do?

 

Bella Lucce's first commercial kitchen in. It was *tiny* and we outgrew it within six months, but I was positively giddy about having my own space.

Bella Lucce’s first commercial kitchen in. It was *tiny* and we outgrew it within six months, but I was positively giddy about having my own space.

 

Oddly enough, I landed my first wholesale account before I landed my first farmers market. The details of the how and why seem unimportant at this moment, but my beloved Bella Lucce took off like a rocket ship. Within twelve months, I had signed my hundredth wholesale account. I cranked out bath bombs by hand as I watched PBS with my daughters, sitting on the floor together each afternoon. The girls and I ate dinner on boxes of empty jars that doubled as our dining table. And each Saturday, I’d load up my mother’s old minivan with packages and head to the post office. The attendant diligently weighed and stamped each one, a line of patient souls growing outside the door as they triaged dozens of parcels.

 

 

In 2004, I remarried and relocated to South Carolina. Signed the lease on my first commercial space, which I outgrew just six months later. Bella Lucce started appearing in magazine editorials fairly regularly. I signed our first distributor and jetted off to Dubai for my first trade show. 250 accounts, then 500, then 1000. A European distributor and training sessions in Vienna. Business dinners in Rome. Press junkets in Kuwait. Custom development meetings in Jordan. Distributors in Scandinavia, Madagascar, and South Korea. Sell-outs on a home shopping network. Ingredient sourcing trips to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the jungles of Ghana, and in villages down the rutted, red clay roads of Uganda as I worked to build ethical supply chains for dozens of exotic materials.

 

Bella Lucce has enjoyed press coverage around the world. A sampling, from left-to-right: Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S.

Bella Lucce has enjoyed press coverage around the world. From left-to-right: Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S.

 

And with all of that explosive business growth came building expansions. Hirings. Firings. A lawsuit or two. Pitch decks. Sales meetings. Investor meetings. Vendor meetings galore. Being courted for a reality TV show. Walking the halls of Congress to lobby for small business. And lots and lots of time on planes. Which lead to…

 

 

Lots and lots of time on my therapist’s couch. I’m not in the least bit ashamed to share that with you. Growing a business has been the singular most challenging experience of my life. I’ve survived divorce, cancer, cranial tumors, natural childbirth, and bankruptcy… and I’m here to tell you that none of those experiences challenged me more than growing my business. Nothing forced me to go further outside my comfort zone. Nothing forced me to believe in myself more. Nothing forced me to become a stronger leader, or to check my expectations at the door, or to face down my darkest fears, or to become a more attuned “people reader” than running a multi-million-dollar manufacturing firm that hundreds of people around the world counted on to feed their families. Let me tell you, friend: THAT is some heady stuff.

 

Thankfully, our packaging and photography got better over time. I'm especially proud of this handmade soap, wrapped in a beautiful handpainted mud cloth that I sourced directly from Mali, Africa, retailed in handmade baskets that I sourced directly from Uganda.

Thankfully, our packaging and photography got better over time. I am especially proud of this handmade soap, wrapped in a beautiful handpainted mud cloth that I sourced direct from Mali, retailed in handmade baskets that I sourced directly from Uganda.

 

I love the hustle and there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than dreaming up (and pursuing) new opportunities. But while so many of us pray for the kind of opportunities I enjoyed, I can tell you that explosive growth is both a blessing and a curse. Overtaxed adrenals. Cash flow crises. Kids who miss their mom. A husband who often got the remnants of what was left of me at the end of the month rather than my best. And one very, very tired Lela who felt like she had summited the mountain of business only to find that the view at the top wasn’t quite what I had expected. It took me a long time to make peace with that difficult realization, but I finally came to my senses while on a beach in Thailand.

 

 

In 2011, two senior managers resigned at my company in the span of one week. There was no great scandal underlying those departures. One was following her husband to another state as he began a new job; the other was simply tired and fried. I was accustomed to people coming and going- that’s part and parcel of business. But my #1 and #2 leaving in one week was more than my brain could process. It was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

 

Perched atop a forklift in Genoa, surrounded by our Italian distribution team in their warehouse.

Perched atop a forklift in Genoa, surrounded by our Italian distribution team in their warehouse.

 

I calmly told my husband on Friday that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but I was going to find somewhere pretty in which to have that breakdown, away from the watchful eyes of my daughters. Sunday afternoon- less than 48 hours later- I boarded a plane bound for Phuket. I spent 10 days face-down in Buddhist temples, journaling on the beach at sunrise, and meditating daily in a floating sala surrounded by lily pads. I took wheatgrass shots three times a day, retired to bed by 7pm each night, and forced myself to take inventory of my life and my business.

 

 

And what I realized in those ten days was this: Bella Lucce was my training ground, not my destination. I had always seen Bella Lucce as my “end game”- the alpha and omega of my entrepreneurial life. But I realized that the experiences I’d accumulated were simply a set of training wheels, preparing me for what was to come. The idea of using the wisdom and strategies that I’d cultivated in life and business to support others was born in a kayak, drifting through a series of caves in Southeast Asia. I flew home and got to work. Fifteen months later, Lucky Break launched in November of 2012.

 

If you must have a nervous breakdown, this is a lovely place to do it, yes? My villa had an outdoor shower, a meditation sala, and a private pool. I did some good thinking here...

If you must have a nervous breakdown, this is a lovely place to do it, yes? My villa had an outdoor shower, a meditation sala, and a private pool. I did some good thinking here…

 

A lot has happened since then: I’ve watched my sweet girls enter adolescence. I waved one off to college in the Midwest. I relocated from Columbia to Atlanta. I’ve been blessed to do some passion work via nonprofit boards and personal philanthropy. I’ve seen much more of the world. But at the end of the day, I’ve also been working 80+ hours a week for more than five years, balancing Bella Lucce and Lucky Break. It’s been a fulfilling (but tricky) five years.

 

 

Lately, I’ve been feeling the need for a purge, to burn away that which isn’t essential. I asked myself about what’s serving me well. I meditated on what facets of my life are challenging me to grow. I took inventory of what feeds my energy and what drains it. I thought about what’s “next” for my family. And the more deeply I dug into my own psyche, the more I realized that I’m clinging to Bella Lucce because of my own insecurity.

 

Sitting in on an lesson at a rural school in Morocco. We eventually sponsored that school for several years, supplementing teacher salaries while providing a library, playground supplies, and backpacks filled with school supplies to the kiddos. Some of my favorite work!

Sitting in on an lesson at a rural school in Morocco. We eventually sponsored that school for several years, supplementing teacher salaries while providing a library, playground supplies, and backpacks filled with school supplies to the kiddos. Some of my favorite work!

 

She’s like a warm blanket that I’ve been clutching for fifteen solid years. So much of my identity is tied up in my role as the founder of Bella Lucce. In the back of my mind, I’ve always known that if Lucky Break fails in spectacular fashion, I can always fall back on my beloved Bella Lucce. Will people even recognize my name if that company ceases to exist?

 

 

It’s time to find out.

 

 

I’m finally ready to pull the ripcord. Cut the umbilical cord. [Insert your own odd analogy about cords here.] It’s with great pride (and a tinge of sadness) that I share that the doors of Bella Lucce will be closing at the end of this week. I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t some tears as I cleaned out my office a few weeks ago. But my family and my teams (at both Bella Lucce and Lucky Break) have been so incredibly supportive of this decision, and I know in my gut that this is the right move.

 

Teaching a workshop in Ghana. The ladies and I created a shea butter- based hair pomade product that's still created and sold today. All proceeds benefit a nonprofit that works with widows and orphans.

Teaching a workshop in Ghana. The ladies and I created a shea butter-
based hair pomade that’s still sold today. All proceeds benefit a nonprofit that works with widows and orphans.

 

Change is a hard concept for me. I often joke that I practice Buddhism because the heart of the religion is this: the world is in a perpetual state of change. And I’m stunningly shitty at processing it. There are facets of this decision that are bittersweet. But mostly, I feel excitement. I’m excited to welcome additional mental and emotional bandwidth as I streamline my life and reduce my “to do” list. When I think of flying off this cliff and fully spreading my Lucky Break wings, I’m giddy at the thought of what that could mean for me, my family, my team, and my clients. And thanks to some clever deal-making, pieces of Bella Lucce will live on, even if they aren’t visible in an incarnation that you immediately recognize. *wink*

 

 

I started my first business because:
1. I wanted to prove to myself that I had the power to fashion my life into whatever I desired.
2. I wanted to role model tenacity and courage (on nearly reckless levels) for my daughters.

 

 

One of my favorite sourcing trips: learning about cocoa production in St. Lucia.

A sourcing trip to St. Lucia to learn about cocoa production (these are beans drying in the sun). I so enjoyed the sourcing trips: rose farms and essential oil distilleries, raw clay being pulled out of the mountains, argan oil cooperatives where women smashed nuts between rocks, protected shea parklands in East Africa, and spice factories in India. Every drop of it has been fascinating!

 

I’ve recently come to realize that my life has gotten a bit more bloated than I prefer. My soul is stirring and it’s time to shake things up. To again show my daughters that whatever served you well yesterday may not be what serves you well tomorrow. That part of our journey involves constantly taking stock and fine-tuning our existence. And that sometimes those “fine-tunings” morph into big leaps of faith… but those leaps of faith are always where the magic lies.

 

 

This has been the most wonderfully transformative fifteen years of my life and I’m grateful for every step. Starting a business is a revolutionary act and I’m so proud to support product-based entrepreneurs who are on similar journeys. It’s unimaginably hard, but this work is so worth doing.

 

I once took the Bella Lucce team skydiving. Good times! We also enjoyed some amazing travel all over the world. You all are what I'll miss most!

I once took the Bella Lucce team skydiving. Good times! We also enjoyed some amazing travel adventures together all over the world. You all are what I’ll miss most!

 

I hope you’ll join me in raising a toast to dozens of employees over the years, 15,000+ wholesale orders, 60+ passport stamps, and almost 2 million products sold. It’s been a wild ride and I will forever be grateful for this adventure. If you have a memory of Bella Lucce, then I hope you’ll share it with me in the comments. When we close the doors for the last time on Friday, I’ll be on a boat floating somewhere off the coast of Mexico. But I’ll have a good bottle of Malbec at the ready and I’ll be indulging in a walk down memory lane. I hope to be able to come here and read your memories, too.

 

 

Onward and upward, friends. Always.

 

 

Dissecting the DNA of a Stellar Brand

DissectingaStellarBrand-Main

If you’ve been around for a hot minute, then you’ve likely heard me preach that good branding is more than skin-deep. It’s more than a good name. Much more than a pretty logo. Truly standout brands are built from the inside out, infusing every facet of the company’s marketing with a strategic focus on the customer.

 

DissectingaStellarBrand-Main

 

I host an intensive, 8-week brand incubator that teaches creative, product-based entrepreneurs how to drill into the very core of their brand to discover what makes their product collection unique, and then we dip that freshly minted core into layer after layer of strategy in every facet of brand development. To borrow a line from Willy Wonka: It’s the branding equivalent of creating an Everlasting Gobstopper.

 

Many of us think of a “brand” as the visible aesthetics of a product or company. It’s the iceberg that we see protruding above the water level. But if we dive beneath the surface, we can quickly see that the mass of the iceberg sits beneath the water, sight unseen. This large mass is where the real strategy comes in; the piece that peeks above the water is simply the visible indication of all the goodness you can’t initially see.

 

Brand development- when done right- is strategic, methodical, and deceptively simple. I thought it would be fun to dissect a solidly-built brand to understand how it’s crafted a focused dialogue that has deep resonance with their target customers. One of my favorite examples of branding done right is Juniper Ridge.

 

Juniper Ridge was founded in 1998 in Oakland, CA. They’re creators of liquid soap, perfumes, incense, smudge sticks, and more. The brand is inspired by the great outdoors, and I lovingly refer to Juniper Ridge as “the ultimate hipster bath + body brand.” They’ve grown an audience of 64,000+ Instagram followers, and the products can be found in hundreds of stores across the U.S.

 

But why is Juniper Ridge so successful? I think they do five critical things and they do them exceptionally well. Let’s dissect this brand together…

 

JuniperRidge

 

 

1. Juniper Ridge has niched-down to target a very specific customer.

 

The company has no interest in being all things to all people. Their demographic is fairly young. Largely male. Adventurers. Campers. Hikers. Lovers of the outdoors. They don’t mind getting dirty, and they likely drink whiskey. They probably like motorcycles and chances are good that they prefer vintage models. It’s a thin slice of the population… and that’s the point. They’re not worried about your grandmother, or Beverly Hills princesses, or teenagers. Juniper Ridge knows precisely who they’re pursuing, and they pursue them with both focus and passion.

 

If your ideal customer sketch looks something like this >> women, aged 30-60 who need time away to take care of themselves >> then we need to talk. That’s not going to cut it. Though it seems completely counter-intuitive, the trick is to go narrow, not wide. As you narrow your audience, you make yourself more irresistible to that audience. And you need to crawl into the heads of this specific audience to understand what makes them tick on an intimate level.

 

 

2. Juniper Ridge has positioned that customer as the hero of their brand.

 

There’s a key mental pivot that successful brands must make. It goes something like this…

 

your brand >> the sage mentor
your product >> the tool
your customer >> the hero

 

Simple, eh? But the results of truly making this mental shift are profound. The aim of every brand is to feature their customer as the hero of the story. Your brand is helping them step into a more fulfilling version of themselves, and your product is the means by which they accomplish that evolution.

 

So what do Juniper Ridge customers want? A life that’s brimming with adventures and great stories. Look carefully at how they create their products. Analyze the visual and written stories that they craft around those products. Scrutinize the packaging. Peek at how the brand gives back to specific philanthropic efforts. Peep their social media and watch how the stories play out there. Discover how they invite customers to take part in the product creation. Without a doubt, Juniper Ridge customers are the heroes of the brand!

 

 

3. Juniper Ridge has created unique, meaningful differentiation around their products.

 

Bath and body companies are a dime a dozen these days. But Juniper Ridge isn’t your average b+b brand. From their site:

 

We formulate Wilderness Perfume by distilling and extracting fragrance from wildflowers, plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings that we harvest on the trail. All Juniper Ridge products are 100% Wildcrafted and produced using old perfume-making techniques including distillation, tincturing, infusion and enfleurage.

 

A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end. These formulas vary from year to year and harvest to harvest, based on rainfall, temperature, exact harvesting location, and season. The exact formula depends on what we find in the wind, a conversation with the living, wild ecology.

 

We’re building a new fragrance grammar of the American West. Every Juniper Ridge product has a harvest number stamped on it. Look up your product’s harvest number on our site to see photos of the plants and our fragrance extraction techniques.

 

No, seriously. These cats take what can best be described as a 70’s creeper van (the kind you warn your daughters not to park next to in darkened parking lots) and they take the staff on camping trips, where Juniper Ridge collects plant materials and distills that material on-site in the van as they sit around the campfire.

 

And then they craft richly textured stories of the adventure for each trip, carefully stamping each product with a number that traces it back to that story. So their customers can interact with the site to relive the epic adventure that birthed their products.  They go so far as to epoxy the bottom half of their “Field Perfume” bottles and roll them around in the soil of their harvesting locations.

 

A bit quirky? Absolutely. But this is pretty brilliant stuff.

 

 

JR-1

 

 

4. Juniper Ridge has evolved into masterful band of storytellers who create a unique brand experience.

 

The brand crafts powerful stories, both in words and in pictures. For example, consider this snapshot of how the team winds down the day on one of their harvest trips…

 

Running the still takes about two hours, at which point we’ve already started the campfire again and are grilling up some burgers. Somebody busts out our old friend, the whiskey flask, and the jokes parade in kind. The plants we gathered today didn’t yield enough oil to make an actual product, but that’s okay with Hall, who’s getting philosophical as he digs into his burger. “I think everyone needs to be part of something bigger than themselves,” he says. “Religion does that for some folks. For me, wilderness is my church, and the trail is my ritual.” Damn straight, Hall. Pass the whiskey.

 

And images from those trips often show Hall (Juniper Ridge’s founder) crawling along the ground collecting plant material and inhaling it so deeply that you could swear he’s huffing it. Don’t believe me? I respectfully sumit this as Exhibit A:

 

JR-2

 

The tales are rich and vivid. Infused with personality. And the images capture the nuance and vibe of the experience. Note the gritty nature of that photograph. Behold the beanie. Pay attention to the dirty nails and the wild earth behind him. Every drop of this is intentional.

 

 

5. Juniper Ridge has raised the bar to present a quality, consistent brand aesthetic.

 

Finally, Juniper Ridge stays true to the aesthetic they’ve developed for the brand. The logo, fonts, and color palettes are thoughtfully designed and consistently used. Even the tape that seals the shipping boxes is branded, strategically reflecting these key elements and creating a visual tag of sorts.

 

The packaging design is also true to their core: glass (rather than plastic) is used whenever possible. Much of the secondary packaging is bio-degradable. Until the company scaled up to its current mondo-sized iteration, the bottle tops were embellished with fallen limbs to harken back to their “interacting with nature” core.

 

JR-5

 

And the product photography? Swoon. Crisp. Well-styled. Beautifully executed. The selected props reflect the lifestyle that Juniper Ridge customers are interested in pursuing. You’ll see wood, rocks, moss, candles, campfires, pine sprigs, and hiking boots used as props. Each inclusion is deeply intentional, and no detail is too small. Above all, this story must be conistent in order to build trust. And trust is the currency of the modern economy.

 

JR-6

 

Well played, Juniper Ridge. Well played. May I humbly suggest hopping on their mailing list and perhaps making a purchase for yourself so you can see how the company carries that unique experience all the way through to product delivery?

 

You, too, can take a page from that same playbook. To be clear: I’m not suggesting that you create the ultimate, outdoor-inspired, hipster bath and body brand.  Nor am I advising that you begin distilling essential oils in a van in the woods or start rolling your products around in the dirt. That’s been done (and done well), but you can absolutely put your company through those same paces to discover what makes your products unique, who you truly want to sell to, and how to communicate your brand’s full value in a compelling way to those people. That’s’ what brand development is all about!

 

Want a sage hand to guide you through that process?

A cheerleading squad to keep you motivated?

A structured system to ensure that you do it right?

That’s what Brick House Branding is all about… and I’d be honored to help you raise the bar on your brand development. Enrollment closes tomorrow for the very last semester of 2017. Reserve your seat now, and we’ll spend September and October working side-by-side to discover how to make your brand matter to the people you want most.

 

I’d be honored to help! If you have a question about how Brick House Branding works or whether or not it’s right for you, then reach out and say “hello.” My team would be happy to answer your queries and clarify how BHB works.

 

P.S. All images courtesy of Juniper Ridge, who retains the copyright.

 

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!

 

 

Meet me in New Orleans!

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Have you heard? I’m heading to New Orleans next month for a special event sponsored by Stay Local + Good Work Network! These amazing nonprofits are hosting a day-long workshop for makers, artists and product designers who are keen on cracking the wholesale market and I’m thrilled to be presenting 4 solid hours of wholesale workshop goodness.  Even better? Registration for Stay Local + Good Work Network members is a mere $20, which includes refreshments, lunch and  some fun entrepreneurial swag from Lucky Break. Not a member? You’re welcome to join the fun! Tickets for non-members are just $75 and I promise to make it worth every penny. This workshop is jam-packed and I’m doing-cart-wheels-excited to hit up the Big Easy with makers on the move. Reserve your seat + let’s turn up the volume on that burgeoning empire of yours…

 

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I’ll be teaching all morning and the afternoon will see a fantastic session on branding and an expert panel hosted by some fantastically successful makers who are rolling up their sleeves to offer insight + experience.  Here’s the run-down for the day…

 

DETAILS
Time: Wednesday, September 9, 2015, from 8am-4pm

Location: Café Reconcile (1631 OC Haley Blvd.)

Cost: $20: StayLocal and Good Work Network Members // $75: Non-Member (Includes workshop, lunch, and refreshments)

 

AGENDA
8am: Doors open

8:15: Featured speaker Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting will explain:
– Laying the Foundation: Product Pricing + Wholesale Policies
– Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Designing Line Sheets & Order Forms
– Making the Sale: Finding Stores + Woo’ing Wholesale Buyers

12:30: Lunch catered by Cafe Reconcile

1:30: Branding Session

2:30 Q&A Expert Panel with…
– Tippy Tippens of Goods That Matter
– Tereson Duprey of Fuzzi Buns
– Molly Babineaux of Loomed

 

Seats are very limitedClaim one now and I’ll see you there!