Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, home of the–I was going to say ambitious upstart, which is true, but also home of the sometimes aggressive interview, apparently.
Andreea’s laughing. I did this one interview with an entrepreneur who just was not revealing enough and I was open about how if you’re coming here to do an interview on Mixergy, you’ve got to reveal. This isn’t the place where I ask you your favorite color and you get to just keep promoting your company.
Anyway, a lot of people seemed to like that interview. I thought some people would be too intimidated to do an interview with me after hearing one that was a little bit open. But they weren’t. I actually got a lot of positive feedback, including from the guest that you’re about to meet.
Andreea Ayers was the founder of Tees for Change, a t-shirt company which she built through media and she emailed me and she said, “Not only did I get a lot of press hits for it, but I can actually tell you what I did and teach your audience about how I did it and how it helped me grow my company and sell it.” So, I invited her here to talk about that business.
Andreea: Thanks so much Andrew for having me on. It’s fun to be chatting with you today.
Andrew: I kind of cut my intro short there for a second because I also want to say that you’re starting another business right now but I don’t see the–there it is. It’s GetMediaHappy.com. That’s a site where you’re going to be teaching media strategy to entrepreneurs, right?
Andreea: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: You know, one of the things that I do before an interview is I search my inbox to just get a sense of any past conversations with the guest and I found an email from you from 2011 when you joined the Mixergy mailing list. So, you’ve actually been listening to Mixergy for a long time, huh?
Andreea: I have. Yeah. It’s one of the podcasts that I listen to on my walks in the morning and I love it.
Andrew: You go for walks every morning?
Andreea: I do. It’s one of my productivity tips where I get out for at least half an hour every morning before I come back to work.
Andrew: And 2011 is when you launched your business. I could see why you would have discovered Mixergy back then, right?
Andrew: I just can’t believe how many t-shirt companies can do really well. I would have thought the world had enough t-shirt companies. There’s no room to sustain others. But at your height, how much revenue were you doing?
Andreea: I was doing a little over $160,000 before I ended up selling my t-shirt business. You’re right. There are so many t-shirts out there and it’s such a crowded market. I work with so many t-shirt entrepreneurs who don’t make it because it is so competitive.
Andrew: $160,000. Were you profitable?
Andreea: I was. Yes. And I was paying myself and I was supporting my family because my husband was going to grad school at the time.
Andrew: What did you sell the business for?
Andreea: I’m actually not able to tell because I had to sign a contract. I can say it was six figures.
Andrew: It was six figures. Over $500,000?
Andrew: Okay. All right. So, let’s go back and see where you came up with the idea. You saw someone at your prenatal yoga class who had a t-shirt that made you say, “Huh, there’s something to this.” What did the t-shirt say?
Andreea: Yeah. I was in a prenatal yoga class and someone was wearing a shirt that said, “Be present,” on it. I saw that t-shirt and it really made me stop. I was like, “Whoa, what does that mean? Why did it really get my attention?” because it’s just a person walking by in my yoga class wearing a t-shirt. It really made stop and think about my life.
It made me stop and think about what I was doing and it happened to coincide with the fact that I was looking for a job and I couldn’t find one. So, I thought I loved that t-shirt. I want to do exactly that. But I want to do it in a more stylish font and not exactly say, “Be present” because obviously I don’t want to copy what someone else is doing, but do that and do it better and do it for an audience that was women who did yoga. So, that’s when I got the idea.
Andrew: Was it that the t-shirt said, “Be present,” and you said to yourself, “You know what? I should be present.” And then the business idea came or was it that you looked at the t-shirt and said, “You know what? If somebody’s buying this t-shirt, I can make t-shirts like that. I can make a business like that?” It is the second or the first version?
Andreea: It was the first. It was the first and then immediately the second.
Andrew: So, the t-shirt actually worked.
Andreea: Yeah. It worked because it really got my attention, but at the same time, I thought, “I would love this t-shirt but a different color, a different font.” And then I thought, “If someone’s buying it.” And then I walked in the little yoga studio boutique and they had that t-shirt in there, I thought, “I can do this. I can do it better. I can launch a business and I can have it in this yoga studio to sell this t-shirt to other people that are doing yoga here.” I ran home, started doing research online about starting a t-shirt business and it all just started from there.
Andrew: So, what does it take to start a t-shirt business?
Andreea: Yeah. It takes a lot. I think looking back at it, had I known what I was going to get myself into, I think I would have maybe not gotten myself into. But I’m really glad I did because I was so naïve. I had no idea what was going to be involved. So, I started researching how to buy t-shirt blanks, how to get t-shirts made, how to screen-print t-shirts and all of the different methods that you could use to get a t-shirt made and I started ordering samples and learning how to launch an online store.
This was back in 2007 when like there was no Bigcommerce or Shopify or any of those platforms that allow you to setup an online store in like five minutes. So, it was such a learning experience. But I was excited.
Andrew: Why was it so hard? Why did you have to even print out your own t-shirts? I’m looking at the shirts right now. You had four different t-shirts in four different colors. Couldn’t you have just gone to one of those sites that will print your t-shirts on demand and send it out to your customers?
Andreea: Yeah. So, there was Zazzle, which I think was the one that was the most popular one. I definitely looked at that. But the problem with that is that I was going to only making $3 to $4 per t-shirt and I wanted to make more because I knew there’s no way I could pay myself and invest back. There’s no inventory that you have stock, so there’s really no risk, but I also wanted to make a bigger profit margin and they didn’t have any of the styles that I wanted. I knew I wanted to do organic or bamboo. They didn’t have any of that. I know they do have some of that now. But I wanted to do like pink and light blue and fun colors. They didn’t have any of them.
Andrew: Why did you want to do bamboo? I understand pink and light colors because that would appeal to customers. But who cares that it’s made out of bamboo? Why did that matter to you so much?
Andreea: Yeah. It mattered to me because I’m really into eco and organic products. Part of my job history before you go back to me being an entrepreneur, I worked for a company called The Green Guide and I did a ton of research on eco-product and eco-brands. That was really my world for a while. So, I really knew that I loved being a part of it.
After knowing what goes into making a t-shirt, I felt like I can’t know this and make a regular t-shirt. It just defeats everything I stand for. I had to go organic, even though it was crazy expensive, no one was really doing it at the time. But I guess it ended up working out to my advantage.
Andrew: I see your first t-shirts went on sale for $28 each. How much did it cost you to get the bamboo t-shirt without anything on it?
Andreea: Without anything it was anywhere from like $4.88 to $5-something depending on how much quantity I got. And then to print it, because it was a one-color print, it was anywhere from like $125 to sometimes as low as like $0.70 per print.
Andrew: So, under $7 was your cost and you sold it for $28.
Andrew: How did you know how much to sell it for?
Andreea: Good question. I knew I didn’t want a cheap brand. So, I knew I didn’t want to sell a $10 t-shirt or even a $20 t-shirt. I also did some research with the yoga studios. I went to a couple of yoga studios in my area. Some of them were selling shirts around the $30 mark and I figure, “Well, if they’re doing it and it’s selling, maybe that’s what I can charge for my t-shirts too.” Some of them were not even organic and I knew people would pay more if it was organic. So, I felt comfortable with that. But I soon realized that even that wasn’t enough, sadly.
Andrew: You mean you had to charge even more?
Andreea: I had to charge even more.
Andreea: I had to increase my prices to $32 and even $34.
Andrew: Why? What was the expense that went into it?
Andreea: So, there were a ton of expenses because as a business that has a product, you have to buy inventory. So, what would happen is I would sell out of my shirts and I would need a huge chunk of money to make more shirts. It’s not like selling a service or creating a course. You really need to spend the money on inventory and that was my business model.
Plus, I was the only one in my house making money with my husband in grad school. I knew like the first two months when I was selling for $28, I had enough money to put back into my business, but I couldn’t pay myself enough. So, I thought, if I’m going to spend all my time doing this and turning this into like a full-time thing, I better be able to pay myself. So, I knew I had to charge more.
Also, because I really bootstrapped when I started, then I realized that I’m going to have to pay for marketing and I’d have to pay for other things that I hadn’t anticipated and even things like once I started to get in stores, they wanted hang tags because they have to a have a place to put their price. I was like, “Oh, there’s more to it than just the cost of the t-shirt and the screen printing. So, I kind of have to charge more.”
Andrew: Talk a little bit about the pressure of being the sole provider for the family, especially when you’ve got a new child.
Andreea: It was kind of fun, actually.
Andrew: It was?
Andreea: It was. I don’t know. I felt like I was making a difference and I really wanted to–not that I had to prove it to myself that I could do it–but for me, I just love providing and I think I’ve always been that kind of person that just loves to provide.
Andrew: So, you didn’t have any late nights or sleepless nights where you said, “What if I don’t sell anymore t-shirts, then we’re in trouble?”
Andreea: You know, I didn’t. It’s interesting. It’s so crazy. I knew that I could make it work. I didn’t know how, but I knew that it was going to be successful. At the same time, I’ve always had jobs on the side making money. I feel like pretty much anything I would start would create an income for me.
Andrew: What’s another job that you had on the side before this?
Andreea: I sold stuff on eBay. It was making me quite a lot of money. I self-published a book. I was living in New York City at the time. Because I was so into organic and green living, I published a coupon book for healthy living in New York and a ton of people bought it. I even got it into Barnes & Noble and I was selling it online. So, all of those things really set me up for the fact that if I really want to do it, I can actually do it. It was fun. Even now, my income is my family’s main source of income. My husband’s gone back to work. He works part-time. So, he still brings in money, but I’m not the sole but the primary financial provider for our household.
Andrew: Wow. Wow that you’re so comfortable with that. I’m always–I think my makeup is that I always feel like everything is going to go away unless I fight. That’s why I start my interviews with a fist in the air because I’m going to fight. Something is going to go wrong and I will deal with it and then I’ll battle it until I win and then I’ll have to deal with the next one. But you don’t have any of that. You’re a New Yorker too like me.
Andreea: I do have that, I think. There’s so much fighting that I do, but I actually like it. I feel like it’s fun and it’s cool to overcome challenges and roadblocks. Believe me, I’ve had so many in my businesses. But I would rather do this than be tied to a 9:00 to 5:00. I’ve had plenty of jobs that were really great, nothing wrong with having a job. But I know for me, I just feel so much more like myself when I’m working for myself.
Andrew: You grew up on a farm. Do you remember the first time you walked into a supermarket and saw that food was just available without having to farm it?
Andreea: I did. It was crazy. So, yeah, I grew up in the city, but I would spend a lot of my time on a farm in Romania. It was crazy. My grandparents, because I would stay with them for the summers, they had chickens and pigs and it was like, “Okay, what are we going to have for dinner tonight? Let’s go grab a chicken.” It was like that sort of thing where it’s like I would go and if you want an apple, you’d go to the apple tree and get it. So, it was quite interesting.
Even when we lived in the city, you went to the supermarket, but they sold stuff like detergent and not really food. You would get your food from the farmers market. So, when I walked into the supermarket, I remember I got fresh off the plain, not speaking a word of English and I was with my dad and we stopped at a supermarket to buy bananas because there were no bananas in Romania because it’s just not the kind of climate that grows bananas.
I just remember seeing a whole bunch of bananas and oranges and I was like, “Oh my gosh, you can buy this in the supermarket.” And then obviously all of the other products that you can get, and I was just like, “Wow, this is like a whole new world opened up to me.” Now I look back and I’m like wow. Now if you were to go back to Romania, obviously the supermarkets look like they do here, but back where I was growing up, it looked nothing like what we have now.
Andrew: You were 13 when you moved from Romania to New York. What part of New York did you move to?
Andreea: I moved to the Upper East Side. So, it was 66th Street and First Avenue.
Andrew: I moved there soon after college. That’s an expensive area to move to, especially when you’re coming in from another country.
Andreea: Yeah. Well, it was actually still really cheap at the time because this was in 1988. So, it was much more affordable. I think what happened to New York after that is a bit crazy. But I think we were paying like $400 in rent. So, it was not–
Andrew: That’s it? Wow.
Andreea: That’s it.
Andrew: I don’t remember my rent, but it was pretty expensive but it was worth it because if you live in the Upper East Side, you could come upstairs and have great brunch or go out at night to bars. All right. So, coming back then to this t-shirt idea, I see the four statements that you have on here, “Stay Balanced,” “Choose Happiness,” “Stay Strong,” “Be Courageous.” Where did you come up with those statements?
Andreea: I was actually thinking about what would I want to see on a t-shirt and what would appeal to the yoga population. And I wrote down a whole bunch of things. I emailed everyone I knew. I told them my idea. I sat down with my husband. We made lists. I came up with so many different ideas. These are the ones that really spoke to me at that time. So, I decided to go with those. “Choose Happiness” actually is the one that sold the most out of any t-shirt that I’ve ever had. That ended up becoming a best seller.
Andrew: Who’d have known? If I would have seen this–frankly, the site looks very plain. What platform did you create it on back then?
Andreea: Oh my goodness. It was a platform called Zen Cart. So, at first, actually, it was just HTML. So, I knew a little bit of HTML and I designed a really basic website. I had my sister do a logo because she was a graphic designer. So, she did my logo and then I put it all up using HTML. I had a PayPal shopping cart button. I had that I think for at least a year, if I’m not mistaken and then I was like, “Okay, I’ve totally outgrown this.” I couldn’t download customer names and emails easily. It was just I totally outgrew it.
So, I hired a developer and she designed my site in Zen Cart. I had that for a few years. I felt like I outgrew that. Then I switched over to Bigcommerce by the time I sold my business.
Andrew: I remember interviewing the founder of Bigcommerce here on Mixergy about how he hustled, how he built it up. If you guys haven’t heard that interview, you’ve got to go back and listen to it, really incredible story. I didn’t know at the time that it was going to become as huge as it is today. Bigcommerce is giant.
Andreea: It’s pretty big. Yeah.
Andrew: All right. So now you’ve got your t-shirts. You’ve got your website. What we still haven’t found is customers. Where did you get the first customers?
Andreea: Yeah. So, my first customers actually came from Etsy. So, I put up all of my four t-shirts on Etsy. I started getting sales right away, like within the first day that I’m put them up. I thought, “Oh my god, this is so easy. I can do this.” But then after like the first few days, the Etsy sales sort of stopped coming in. It’s obviously because I didn’t know about refreshing your listing and listing more products and all of those things that you have to do to sell on Etsy.
So, I thought, “Okay, I better focus on my own website because my Etsy days are over,” even though it had been less than a week. I started reaching out to blogs. That first weekend that I launched my website, I was determined to get into yoga studios, so I sat down.
I had like the annual directory from Yoga Journal Magazine of hundreds of yoga studios in the country. I put them all in an Excel spreadsheet. I put them all online. I Googled a list of yoga studios and put those in my spreadsheet. I had 3,000 yoga studios on that spreadsheet by the end of the weekend and then I spent the whole next week just emailing yoga studios and being like, “Hey, we just launched this. I think they would be awesome for your yoga studio. What do you say?”
So, many of them were like, “This is great. We love the fact that it’s bamboo.” They just absolutely loved that. Again, it was not something that a lot of other brands were offering. They just started ordering up t-shirts and buying them. So, for a long time, most of my income, about 75% to 80% percent came from selling to yoga studios.
Andrew: This idea of using a spreadsheet is something that comes up a lot in your story, spreadsheet as a contact management software. So, what do you do in your spreadsheet? Do you just put in a list of all the names of the yoga studios and their phone numbers and their email addresses? What else do you do to keep this thing organized?
Andreea: Yeah. I would go on the about page of the yoga studio and try to see if I can find the yoga studio owner’s name because I would have loved to reach out to them and say, “Hey, Martha,” or whatever their name was.
Andrew: You would personally do this? I know that you had a list of thousands, 3,000 or so yoga studios. You did this for all of them?
Andreea: I did. My husband and I, actually. When our little baby would go to sleep–by this time, I had my baby, I would just go and make a list of my yoga studios. He helped me. He would be like, “Okay, OM Yoga,” and he would tell me the URL and I would type it in and I would go to the website, make sure it’s still there and go to the about page. Often times I think with yoga studios you’ll find that you can find all of this info. So, yeah, I found not for every yoga studio, but for a lot of them I was able to find them.
Andrew: I see. I’m typing in OM Yoga. I get OM Power SF, which I guess that’s a local OM Yoga. Let me see if I can find their contact information in the about page. What I do for stuff like that is I go to BetterWhois.com and I see who registered the domain and then I get their contact information.
Andreea: That’s a good idea. I wish I knew about that at the time.
Andrew: I can’t believe you did it all yourself and you didn’t just outsource it to Mechanical Turk or to someone on Elance or something.
Andreea: Honestly, I knew nothing about outsourcing. I really thought–and obviously I’ve grown up since then. Now I know better and I outsource a lot of things. But back then, I really thought if you want to start a business, you have to do it yourself. I did outsource my t-shirt screen printing because obviously I wasn’t ready to buy and invest in screen printing equipment and learn how to use it and all of that. But I really didn’t know about outsourcing online.
Andrew: How did you find the screen printing place?
Andreea: So, I went to Google and I typed in “Colorado screen printing companies,” “Denver screen printing companies,” and I ended up finding–I found one in Denver and one in Boulder. The one in Denver, I ended up going with them because their minimum was only 24 shirts per design and the one in Denver was 72. So, I was like 72 is way too much. I can’t do that right now. But I ended up switching to the Boulder one with 72 not too soon after I started.
Andrew: I see. You just wanted local because I guess you were in Colorado at the time.
Andreea: Yeah. I wanted to save on shipping costs. I knew that I was already paying to have the shirts shipped and I didn’t want to have to pay to get my shirts shipped back from the printer. Then I also knew that it had to make sure that everything looked okay before it went to print. So, the thought of like having to mail stuff back and forth–I was so determined to get it off the ground ASAP that I wanted to speed up as much as I could.
Andrew: I could see how much work it would be. I went to OMPowerSF.com and in the about page there’s nothing. There’s no information about the company, at least not about who owns it. So, let me type it into Better Whois. Oh, that leads me over to GoDaddy because GoDaddy doesn’t make their data available to sites like Better Whois, but that’s okay. That leads me over to a GoDaddy page where I type in the CAPTCHA. Boy, this is already a lot of work.
Andreea: Well, you know, if I didn’t see it on the about page, I would just move on.
Andrew: I see. And then you’d just email them and just send them something generic.
Andreea: I would say, “Hey, whatever and then whatever my pitch was at that time.”
Andrew: This led to a page that just says that their registration is hidden and they’re hosted by HostGator, which actually happens to be my sponsor. So, why don’t I just use that as an opportunity to do my sponsorship message?
HostGator.com/Mixergy–one of the reasons why a lot of websites like to host on HostGator is because HostGator is reliable and frankly it’s very inexpensive. That’s why so many people who I’ve interviewed have said, “I started my site on HostGator.” It’s reliable. It’s inexpensive but they still give you unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth. They give you free one-click installation for things like blogging software, shopping cart software, membership scrips, etc. so you can turn your site into anything you want.
Frankly, I’ve got to say I could probably have started your t-shirt company on HostGator. I don’t even need to make my own first few t-shirts. Maybe I go to Zazzle. I have them create me the first 20 t-shirts. And if the statements that I make and everything looks good and people are actually buying it, then I go through the trouble of buying t-shirts and having somebody print my statements on them. What do you think of that?
Andreea: Yeah. You could absolutely do that. So, I highly recommend it. I often think it’s a good idea to test out your stuff before you put it out there. For me, the reason I did it is I really was so specific in terms of the style and the fabric they wanted and they were just not offering it. But if you just want a regular t-shirt, that’s a great way to go.
Andrew: I talked to one of our Mixergy Premium members about what he was up to. He told me about all these different sites. I said, “They all make money?” “No.” I said, “Which one does make money?” He said, “The t-shirt site.” I looked at it and he came up with these really clever t-shirts, stuff like, “I bang on drums because I can’t hit people,” or something funny like that for drummers. It was really a funny set of t-shirts. That’s what he had on his website and that’s what was producing revenue for him.
So, if you want to get into the t-shirt business or the blogging business or so many others and you want to do it on the cheap, go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. The site doesn’t have to look beautiful. It doesn’t have to do everything exactly perfectly the way you want it. You don’t have to print your own t-shirts or your own posters if that’s what you want to sell. You can start by working with sites like Zazzle to have them print it and ship it out for you. But the important thing is you just get started, see what works and build on that and see what doesn’t work or doesn’t feel like you and then cut that out and try something else.
If you want to go to HostGator and you go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, they’ll give you 30 percent off. HostGator, frankly, is already really inexpensive, but it will be much more affordable after you go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. And to help you get your business of the ground, they’re going to give you a $100 AdWords offer, a $100 search credit on Bing and Yahoo ads. They’re going to make it easy for you to build your site, get some early advertising and hopefully build up a business with real customers and real growth and then you can start doing more and more of it internally and taking more of the profits and shoveling them towards better design, better functionality, etc.
And as you grow, HostGator will continue to support you and if you have any trouble, this is the one company I know of in the hosting space where you can actually call up tech support and talk to a real living, breathing human being. I had never seen that before. I tested it in a past interview. I got through to tech support within 90 minutes. I said to my guests, “What do you think? Does that make sense? What do you think of the way I just did that in 90 seconds?” And he goes, “That’s too long for an interview.” “You want to talk about yourself, not watch me wait on hold.” Outside of an interview, 90 seconds is no time at all and that’s how long it took to me to get through to tech support.
All right. I don’t want to oversell it, I just want to tell you guys really god service form a company many, many people in the audience have used to host their site. Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy.
All right. So, it’s kind of cool that they were hosted on HostGator. It fit in so perfectly. All right. Now you’ve got your customers and you’ve got your yoga studios. At what point do you start to go after media, the thing that really put you on the map?
Andreea: So, my next thing–I love reading magazines. It’s one of my hobbies. I knew when I launched my t-shirt business I thought, “How cool would it be to see my t-shirts in those magazines? It would just be a dream come true.” I started reaching out to magazines. I reached out to Oprah Magazine. That was like my number one thing. I was like, “I have to get in Oprah.” So, I reached out to Oprah and I didn’t hear anything back. I was like, “Okay, I’ll follow up again, heard nothing.”
It was a few months’ process where I would find different people at Oprah Magazine, whether it was like the senior editor or the assistant fashion editor or all of those different people at Oprah and I didn’t hear anything back from anyone. So, I thought, “Okay, I just don’t know what I’m doing with PR. Let me step back a little bit. Let me work out and reach out to other magazines.”
So, I started reaching out to smaller magazines. I reached out to a blog. My first blog that I reached out to was all about choosing happiness. So, I reached out to them and I said, “Hey, you have a blog about choosing happiness. I have a shirt about choosing happiness. I think your readers would probably love to know about it. What do you say? Do you want to do a review? Do you want to post it?”
They wrote back right away like, “Yes, we would love to. This would be a great fit.” They put my t-shirt up on their site and wrote about it and I got a few sales from that. So, I thought, “This is pretty cool. Someone else is driving traffic to me. I don’t have to spend money on advertising on do any of the other stuff.” So, I started reaching out to more bloggers.
Andrew: What’s the right pitch? Sorry, you go on. You started reaching out to more bloggers. I’ll come back to the pitch in a moment.
Andreea: Yeah. I ended up doing like press releases and distributing them through PR distribution services, which got me zero results.
Andrew: I’ve got one of them here.
Andreea: I ended up working with a PR agency, which was okay. They got me some stuff. But it was quite expensive. It was $2,000 a month at that time. I knew it was going to be a stretch.
Andrew: All right. Let me pause it here so we can dig in to each one of these. The first thing that you did was you went to bloggers. It’s really hard to pitch bloggers because if you throw up a WordPress site tomorrow, the next day, the day after you put it up, you’re going to start getting hit with PR requests from people. What did you write that helped you stand out, that helped you actually get a response?
Andreea: Yeah. So, I have to say, back in 2007, it was a bit different and like the blogger product review wasn’t as huge as it is today. But I think the thing that I did that I didn’t realize I was doing–and this explains why I didn’t have any success with the press release distribution–is that I reached out and I specifically told them about their blog and why I think that their readers would love to know.
So, it was super specific. I mentioned the choose happiness theme that they were covering. I talked about how I think my shirts would appeal to their readers because they’re all about choosing happiness. So, I had no idea that I was doing this. But talking to them about why I think their audience would really love my product really went a long way. There are other pitches that I sent. I’ve done mass pitches when I had access to an email list. It was so hard to get any responses back. I know it’s because it was a generic pitch that wasn’t targeted specifically to someone. I know even like when people pitch me all the time–and I get pitched all the time–if someone just sends me a press release, I automatically delete it.
But if someone says, “Hey, I just listened to your Creative Live course and I loved that you talked about this and I implemented this in my business and it really worked and I’d love to share my experience with that.” That’s going to get my attention more than if they send me a press release about the new product that they just launched. So, the thing that worked really well was me getting really specific and knowing where I can sort of fit in my products to what they were looking for.
Andrew: You’re so right about that. I’m looking at this one example. I’m going to call this guy out–Aaron Andre from AaronAndre.com. The guy sends me this giant long email full of bullet points, full of stuff that doesn’t relate to me at all except that it starts off with my name, “Hi, Andrew, hope all is well.” Then he just writes and writes and writes and I just completely ignored it.
And he emailed me back afterwards and said, “Hey, Andrew, I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to circle back and get your thoughts on the topic that I suggested for you and let you know that this guy is happy to discuss this topic on Mixergy. Just wanted to get your thoughts.” I emailed him back and I said, “I thought you were just sending this to every freaking person on the planet. Now when you send me something normal I can actually read it and respond.” So, then we had a conversation and we’re going to have the person that he suggested on Mixergy.
Andreea: Oh, that’s awesome.
Andrew: Go ahead.
Andreea: I was going to say I know that experience too. If you can get really specific and if you can–like, for example, for me, I have a blog. I do case studies. I do a lot of different things. I have a podcast. So, whenever someone is really specific and they say why they’re reaching out. They’re showing that they’re familiar with what I’m doing and they’re saying, “I would love for my client to be on your podcast and talk about XYZ topic.” Then I know what it is that they want from me. I feel like you have to ask for what it is that you want and what you want people to do because if you just send a press release or you send an email and you’re not saying why you send it, you’re sort of making that person’s job harder and they’re more likely going to ignore it.
Andrew: Let’s see if Aaron did that. “Hi, Andrew, hope all is well. I want to reach out to you to gauge your thoughts on exploring ‘growth hacking’ in depth with the folks who coined the term. What is ‘growth hacking?’ Today it’s a buzzword that suggests a sort of dark magic that is nefarious as it is effective. We’re told to believe it’s a form of cheating that ends up hurting users by tracking them and doings something they normally wouldn’t.”
So, there’s mistake here. We’re totally fine. “But is growth hacking really evil? What does it really mean? Lee Sun, the cofounder and CEO of Yazio, a growth tool for mobile apps used by,” oh my god. He’s not telling me anything. If he would have just said, “Hey, Andrew, I hear you’re into interviewing successful entrepreneurs. This guy Lee Sun founded Yazio and he’s the guy who created the term growth hacking. Do you want to interview him? What would it take to make him a good interview? And he’s a fan of yours.” Frankly even just lying and saying he’s a fan seems to work.
So, being specific about what you want, really important, addressing the person who you’re emailing with something relevant, like, “Hey, I know that you do interviews on Mixergy. I think you’d want to do an interview with this person,” is helpful. What else is helpful when you’re doing this?
Andreea: Keeping your emails short, which we’ve talked about before. I think if you open up your inbox and you see a message that’s really long, I don’t know about you, but I delete it. I feel like I don’t have time to look at that. So, I automatically delete it. So, if you keep your emails short and make it easy to read like bullet points or highlight things and not make it overwhelming for the person, that works really well too. The other thing that I think is so important is following up and not assuming that if someone doesn’t answer that they’re not interested and maybe they didn’t’ see it or they deleted it because it was too long.
Andrew: How many times do you follow up?
Andreea: I follow up–it depends. If it’s a magazine and I’m pitching my product, I’ll follow up specifically for what I’m pitching for just the one time. But then I’ll still reach out to that person a few months later with a different story idea. So, I might reach out with a Valentine’s Day gift idea and then two months later I might reach out with a Mother’s Day gift depending on what it is that I’m pitching. But I’ll never follow-up more than once on my initial email. I’ll just resend a different thing or a different idea.
Andrew: How do you keep all this straight in freaking Excel? How do you keep it straight in there?
Andreea: I don’t know. I sort it by the date I initially contacted them. I devote a day a week to PR. So, I knew that on that day, I had to do PR and I was doing nothing else. So, I like look at my spreadsheet, see who I emailed. I looked at all my notes and it really, really worked. I don’t know if I can do that now. Now I have other systems to do that for me. But back then, everything was so simple. I was focusing on PR or focusing on wholesale. That was really just my one focus. My Excel sheet really helped.
Andrew: So, I use Pipedrive for this. Pipedrive is so freaking good for it. But the thing about Pipedrive is you need to have a clear process. So, if you dump all the people who you want to connect with on the first column and the second column is find email addresses, the when you find an email address you move their card from the first column to the second. Then if the third column is make additional contact, then you do it and move the card right.
But it means that you have to have a really regimented, very systemized process for following up with people. Step one, get the people who you want to invite. Step two, get their email addresses. Step three, email them. Step four, follow up. Step five, etc. Do you have that clear a process or are you just kind of pinging them and seeing what happens?
Andreea: Yeah. I kind of do. But I also prioritize. There are some people that I always follow up with everybody once. So, everyone automatically gets a follow-up email if I don’t hear back. But then there are other things, like going back to my yoga studio example, like YogaWorks and CorePower Yoga, they have studios all over the country. So, for me, those contacts, following up with them was a lot more important than following up with one yoga studio who only had a small store in a small town.
Because of my research, I was already familiar with the yoga industry at that time, I knew who was really important and the people who were really important, just like with the magazines–like, Oprah Magazine is going to be a lot more important than a local magazine because their clout is much higher. So, I’m going to be more diligent about following up with Oprah than I will be maybe with like, I don’t know, St. Louis Tribune or whatever. So, knowing that and prioritizing I think really helped me a lot.
Andrew: Okay. So, let’s go back to where we are in the story. You contacted about 300 yoga studios. You got 96 t-shirts sold from that the first round, right?
Andreea: I did. Yes.
Andrew: And then you started to cultivate them and keep building on this process that we talked about. They’re the ones also who taught you about hang tags. You didn’t even know what hang tags were.
Andrew: What is a hang tag?
Andreea: The hang tag is the little tag that hangs form the t-shirt or the clothing that tells you the company, where the price tag is that has the barcode, where they have the barcode. It’s basically information about what it is that you’re buying. My first yoga studio–in my email I said, “We just launched.” Now looking back I probably wouldn’t have said that.
But so many other studios would write back and they’d say, “Oh, we’re really interested. But do you have hang tags? I know you just launched. Do you have hang tags?” I was like, “Oh, I know what hang tags are, but I’ve never made one. What do I do?” So, I Googled how to make hang tags. I ended up my first set of hang tags, I literally printed them on business cards and went to like JoAnn’s or one of those craft stores, bought some string and safety pins and like manually put every single one of them on. That was printed on business cards on my printer. So, it was really like–
Andrew: That actually gives it a very homemade feel.
Andreea: It does. Yes. But it was so much work.
Andrew: I can imagine.
Andreea: If someone orders 100 t-shirts, I can’t sit and print and like snap out 100 business cards.
Andrew: You went to Oprah to try to get more customers. Oprah didn’t respond. You went to blogs. You were starting to get some traction there. Then as you were saying, you hired a PR agency. It cost about $2,000 a month. Frankly, $2,000 a month for PR agency doesn’t seem like that much. I guess to me it doesn’t seem like that much. We’re a little further ahead at Mixergy. But when you’re starting that’s a lot of money. So, you come back and you start doing it on your own. You finally, after doing it on your own, you get into Redbook Magazine. What did you do to get into Redbook Magazine?
Andreea: Yeah. I had a lot of success with holiday gift guides. I ended up buying access to a media database that gave me contact information for all of these, like anyone you can imagine is in this media database, whether they’re a blogger or a TV producer, magazine editor. So, I made my list of magazines that I wanted to reach out to and I started emailing all of them about getting into their holiday gift guide. Because it was so specific, I started to have a lot of results because I would say, “Oh, my products are handmade. Are you doing handmade gifts this year?”
I also took a lot of PR courses and read a ton about how to pitch, what to say, what not to say and I think that educating myself on how PR works and how you should position your pitch, I think that’s what really, really helped me. At first when I started, other than that blog that I was reaching out to, I thought, “I have thousands of email addresses, why don’t I just blast everyone?” And my PR software let me do that. So, at first I just blasted 3,000 fashion editors and I was like, “This is not working.”
Andrew: What’s the software that you used that allowed you to get and then blast those emails?
Andreea: I used a few. I used Cision and Vocus, which were the two main ones. I also bought media lists from I think it was called My Media Info and there was another one. So, I was trying everything.
Andrew: What are those companies again?
Andrew: Cision I know is big. I never know how to spell their name though.
Andrew: There it is.
Andreea: So, Cision and I think either Vocus is another one but at that time, they were competitors. I think they just recently merged. Now it’s like one thing. So, those were tow that I used. There was another one called My Media Info. I don’t know if they’re still around. A lot of other ones have started since then. So, if you just type in media list or buy media list, you can find a ton of them that are available now.
Andrew: Okay. And then you learned about pitching them. One thing that you told me before we started was you said–I’m looking here at my notes–you want to know when the right time is to pitch these people. So, for example, if you want to be in the holiday guide, when’s the right time to pitch for that?
Andreea: Yeah. So, June, July and August is the right time to pitch for a November or December feature for the national magazines. They usually work about three to six months in advance. I found that out because as I was pitching magazines, I didn’t know any of this, sometimes I would pitch them where it was too late and they were like, “Oh yeah, we finished that three months ago. You should have reached out to us in February.” I was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll do that.”
So, as I was making these mistakes and hopefully not burning my bridges, but annoying editors and then as I was taking these PR courses, I was like, “Okay, there is a timeline. You have to email them in advance because there’s so much that goes into the production of a magazine.”
It’s interesting because when I was working at The Green Guide, which was a smaller magazine, we would get pitched all the time too. That magazine had such a fast turnaround. It was literally like they would put it together, everything in one weekend. Obviously they had done the research, but send it to eh printer and then mail it out. That process was so much shorter. That’s what I was going by. I didn’t really know that the national magazines.
Andrew: Six months just feels like a world away.
Andreea: It does. Yeah.
Andrew: Does it actually pay off? When you were in Redbook for the first time, did you actually get any traffic, any customers from it?
Andreea: Yes. A ton.
Andrew: You did?
Andreea: Yeah. And any time I was like in Self and Shape and Ladies Home Journal and all of the bigger ones, I would see a ton of orders coming in. The reason I know it was from the magazine is because I would always have people email me who would say, “I just saw your t-shirts in Self Magazine. Do you have this t-shirt with Choose Happiness in red? Do you have extra-large or whatever?” So, they would tell me where they found out about me.
Andrew: Was your house just packed with t-shirts at that point? It must have been?
Andreea: I took my son’s room, which was supposed to be his room, and I bought storage crates and storage shelves. We had him sleep with us in our room and his room became the t-shirt room. When I decided to go bigger and invest in more inventory, it was like packed with shirts. There were shirts that I couldn’t even unpack because I didn’t have any more room. At that point, I was like, “Okay, I’m big enough to the point where I need to get a fulfillment house and not really do this on my own.”
At first it’s funny. When I first launched, I was so excited about packing and shipping, as soon as an order came through I was like, “Oh my god, yes.” I’d print it out, run to my packing room, print it out and like take it to the post office. But then as more orders started coming in, I was actually dreading shipping. I was like, “Here we go again.”
I would ask my husband to do it. He kind of got tired of it too. I was like, “Okay, I’m not pursuing the bigger opportunities because I hate packing and shipping so much.” That’s when I was like, “Okay, it’s time to get a fulfillment house.” I got those t-shirts out of my house and hired someone else to do that for me.
Andrew: Fulfillment house–actually, there’s not really much to ask about it. It’s hard to find a good one. We use WhiplashMerch.com. I like them because they have an API.
Andreea: Cool. Yes. You have to interview a lot of them and you have to make sure they can meet your needs because some of them can charge monthly storage fees and they have minimums. If you know you’re not able to fill that quantity, you’re going to get charged a lot of money and make sure that the one you’re working for an meet your needs that you have.
Andrew: Let’s take a look here at my notes. “Then I started taking courses, subscribing to media databases, worked well with…” Let’s talk a little bit about the messages. How would you figure out an angle, a hook, to get yourself into these guys’ magazines?
Andreea: Yeah. So, the way I figured it out is that I knew that magazines have themes that they work on every single month. Like during July, it’s all about outdoor barbeques and Fourth of July and then sometimes they’ll do Made in America products. In August it’s all about back to school.
Andrew: How would you know if they’re doing a Made in America product? I understand the September issue is coming up for back to school and it’s going to continue for years. But how would you know things like barbeque or Made in America?
Andreea: You see it year after year. So, I am a huge magazine reader. I love reading magazines. Like every summer, June hits, July hits. They’re all about swimwear and like summer beauty products and outdoor and barbeques and outdoor gardening. So, I just knew that because of my experience with reading magazines. But then there’s also things like editorial calendars that you can download form magazines’ websites. In their editorial calendars that are specifically designed for advertisers, they will tell you the themes they’re working on throughout the year.
Andrew: Right. Because they want to tell advertisers what’s coming up.
Andrew: So, I just did GQ editorial calendar.
Andreea: I’m sure you are able to get it.
Andrew: Yeah. I was. I see it in Google search results pretty easy. All right.
Andreea: So, that’s one way you can really position yourself. So, I would position myself like back to school products because I had some kids shirts too that I launched. I tried to find a theme every single month so that I could pitch myself every single month. You kind of have to get creative.
Andrew: What’s your theme for August? How could you come up with one for august?
Andreea: For August it was back to school and I would focus specifically on pitching my kids t-shirt line. Then in September it was all about women’s fashion.
Andrew: What about July then?
Andreea: I didn’t have much in July. So, I think I sort of stretch edit. I was like products for summer. And my t-shirts were made out of bamboo, which is really breathable and it wicks moisture and sweat. So, I would talk about that.
So, really thinking out of the box–I’d be like bamboo is a great fabric for the summer months because it’s anti-bacterial, it wicks away moisture, all of those things that you wouldn’t think about normally if you’re wearing a t-shirt, but if you’re pitching that angle, they’re like, “Oh, right, that is true. Maybe my readers would love to have a product that wicks away moisture or whatever.” It was getting really creative and thinking outside the box here.
Andrew: I’m still going through this GQ editorial calendar. I don’t see that they’ll say what specifically they’ll talk about but I might need to look at this outside of this interview.
Andrew: I see that they say when they close an issue. So, the January issue, you need to get your ads into them by October 20th.
Andreea: Yes. And on the editorial side, it’s even sooner. So, if you’re in advertising, October 20th. If you are pitching for the editorial coverage, which is free, I would back up about 30 days in advance of that. So, September 20th is what I would say to pitch that for January.
Andrew: So, if you were emailing GQ, would you just find the right editor and send a chatty, short note or would you do something more formal than that?
Andreea: I was actually really friendly and chatty, more like I was talking to a friend. So, I would use their first name and I would say, “Hey, I know that your fall fashion issue is coming up in September and we just launched our men’s t-shirt line. These are inspirational shirts. They’re made out of bamboo. I think your audience would love them. Would you be interested in getting a sample and trying it out or would you like to feature it?”
It was really quick. I didn’t go into my story about why I created it. Although, if it was relevant to the magazine I would. But for example, for GQ, my story isn’t really relevant because they’re not going to talk about that. So, I would just focus on which issue I wanted to be in and like which feature. Sometimes I would give them ideas as crazy as that sounds. Sometimes like with Organic Spa Magazine, when I pitched my soaps, I said, “They’re handmade. They give back.” Because for my soaps, I also planted a tree because I knew the importance of having that component when it came to PR.
Andrew: Soap is a different business. What’s the name of the business?
Andreea: It’s called Soaps to Live By.
Andrew: Soaps to Live By. The trees was something that you did at Tees for Change. Every time somebody bought a t-shirt, you would also plant a tree. So, it wasn’t just that the material was eco-friendly and breathable and all the other stuff, but you would also plant a tree. How much does it cost to plant a tree? It seems like a very expensive thing.
Andreea: Yeah. It was only $0.10. So, I partnered with an organization called Trees for the Future. And for every $0.10 that you give them, they will plant a tree.
Andrew: That’s it?
Andreea: That’s it. Yeah. So, it wasn’t a huge investment on my part, but it was making a huge difference. They had level son their website. You had to like email them and say, “I’m a business that’s interested in donating.” You had to make a minimum amount of a donation. They put me up on their website. And yeah, so I sometimes would get traffic from there too because they linked back to me. It was such a small thing for me to pay in order to make a huge impact and to add more uniqueness to my story and my t-shirts.
Andrew: Wow. I had no idea it would just be $0.10. It seems like such an expensive, giant thing to do for the world. “Bonnie Hunt Show,” you were on that. How did you get on “The Bonnie Hunt Show?”
Andreea: So, for “The Bonnie Hunt Show,” I read somewhere that she was–this was in April. So, April, in the media world, it’s all about eco-friendly and earth day and all of the organic type of stuff. I reached out to one of their producers and said, “I don’t know if you’re planning on covering eco-friendly products during earth day, but if you are, I would love to share my t-shirts with you and possibly do a giveaway with your audience.”
A lot of those shows do giveaways. I think it’s something Oprah started but now everyone does giveaways. Then the producer wrote back and he said, “This is such a great idea. I know Bonnie really loves bamboo clothing. Let me run it by here and she what she says.”
And then he emailed me back and said, “She’s in. She would love to do this with you. Can you send 250 t-shirts for her audience as a giveaway.” I was like, “Oh boy…” That’s a huge investment, 250 t-shirts. But I knew it could have a huge payoff because it was a national morning show. I sent my 250 shirts. Earth day came. Her show aired.
And it was so crazy because she–and I don’t think planned it this way–but she took my t-shirt, she talked about them and she was like, “Oh my god, these are so soft.” And then her next guest came on and they started talking about my t-shirt and she was telling them how soft they are. He’s like, “Oh, I want one.” So, she gave him one and he put it on as they were being interviewed. So, it’s like the whole segment with him he was wearing a woman’s t-shirt that was my t-shirt. I got over $10,000 in sales that day just from that show.
Andreea: Yeah. It was pretty crazy.
Andrew: So, as you were talking, I typed into Google “Bonnie Hunt” and “Tees for Change” among other things just to see what I can see that’s said about it. An interesting thing that came up is a CourseCraft.net link to your course where you’re teaching how to build a business.
Andreea: Oh, interesting.
Andrew: Why is that interesting? Is that something that you’re publicly doing?
Andreea: Yes. I am teaching how to build a business. But I talk about how I was able to get sales form having my t-shirts on “The Bonnie Hunt Show.”
Andrew: No, it’s just one of many lines in this thing. The other thing that stands out to me as I look at it is your photo in it is fantastic. You’re an entrepreneur who has such great photos. What do you do to get such great photos? I feel like even if I hired a photographer I would just stare at him dumbly.
Andreea: Yes. So, my sister is a photographer and she’s an amazing one. So, she took a lot of my product photos. She’s taken my headshot photos and she’s just really, really awesome. And because I know her, I’m not as awkward. When I’m doing my photo shoot, I’m not just smiling or feeling uncomfortable.
Andrew: This one that I’m looking at right here, you’re not smiling. You’re all business. In fact, it looks like you’ve got grey hair in this one you’re so business. But it doesn’t look like I would like if I were not smiling. I would look mean like, “What are you doing staring at me.” For you it looks like, “I’m going to teach you how to do business right here.”
You then continued to build your business by getting into different spa stores–Canyon Ranch, Marriott. You also got into Whole Foods. All the same thing, this process of putting it into a spreadsheet?
Andreea: Whole Foods was a little different, but all of the other ones yes. So, Whole Foods–I was really lucky and I know this doesn’t happen with every entrepreneur that gets into Whole Foods. But I had their distributor reach out to me. He said, “I’m a distributor with Whole Foods,” and one of their employees bought your t-shirt and she really loves them. We’re looking to bring on a new apparel line. Would you be interested in selling to Whole Foods?”
At first I thought it was a joke because it didn’t come from the Whole Foods email address, it was just a distributor. So, I was like, “Is this a joke or is this for real?” But I wrote back to him and I said, “Yes, we would love to do this. Let me know. So, how much volume do you think they would buy?” He said, “We’re going to start out with our Southeast region,” which is like Atlanta and that region. I think it had 12 stores. He’s like, “It’s going to be at least 1,000 t-shirts.”
Andreea: So, I thought, “Oh my goodness. Okay. I can do that,” knowing that at that time I didn’t have 1,000 t-shirts in stock. But I said yes anyway. I emailed the place where I was getting my t-shirts from. I emailed my printer and I said, “I’m going to have a huge order form Whole Foods. Can you turn it around really quickly?” They both said yes. As soon as the order came in, we just went into production. They were kind enough to do it super-fast for me. So, that’s how I was able to fulfill that order.
But after that, I sort of knew that I would have to buy more inventory if I wanted to continue working with Whole Foods. That’s when I was like, “I can’t do this last minute thing anymore. I have to invest in inventory.” I ended up taking out a line of credit. I ordered over 5,000 at one time. I knew I had to do it if I wanted to keep selling to Whole Foods.
Andrew: What about Marriott and Canyon Ranch and those kinds of spas? What did you do to get into there?
Andreea: Yeah. So, what I did to get into there–I learned about this organization called the International Spa Association.
Andreea: And I joined that as a vendor. And as a vendor and as a member, they gave me a list of all of their other members’ email addresses which was buyers at their stores and at their spas. So, I downloaded that list, again, in Excel. I reached out to Canyon Ranch and Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons and all of these other hotels that I thought were a little more upscale and that could sustain a $34 t-shirt and a lot of them said yes.
Andrew: Tell me a little bit more about this process of yours for taking a list of strangers and systematically contacting them until you get enough customers to have it be worth your while and grow your business. What is your process?
Andreea: Really having my list. I think that’s part of it. Then it’s all about just sending an email that’s really friendly and that sort of answers the question why should they do this. So, when I would reach out to Canyon Ranch, I would say things like, “I know women who go there are really into spirituality and growing and all of this stuff and I think my t-shirts could really help them do that because of the positive messages. Would you be interested in carrying them in your store or at least trying them out?”
Andrew: So, knowing that about them–I forgot what you just told me about them because I was so disconnected from them–knowing that about them is a step in your process. So, the first step is you get your list and you put it in Excel. The next step is you fill up a column with information on each person, each person on the list that you want to contact.
Actually, it’s first get the list, then figure out who is the right target within that list, then it’s get some information on all of them. So, does that mean that you would spend some time going online and looking up all the companies that you wanted to do some work with?
Andreea: Yes. With the spa list, it had their title which said retail buyer. So, I knew that the retail buyer was the person that I needed to reach out to. It wasn’t the spa manager–
Andrew: It was the retail buyer. The way I would do it is I would say, “Let me see if I can look up Facebook or any information about the person. Let me see if I could find out any information about the spa by going to specific sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp.” I would do that in my notes column. I would do that for maybe 20 of them.
Then I would email 20 of them using something like ToutApp.com and I know you probably weren’t using it so that I could customize a message using some of the information I know about them in the spa, keep it short but keep it personal and make sure that I’m clear about what the goal is.
And then I would watch on Tout, did they open my email? If they didn’t, then before I start emailing the next 20 people, I would change my headline, the subject line I would say. If they did, I would see, “Did they click? How many of them actually clicked to see what my website and what my photos looked like?” If they didn’t, then I would change my content again. Then I would do the same thing for the next 20 but adjust things. Is that what would do at all?
Andreea: Not that. I didn’t have ToutApp or any of those, but I would see, “This batch of emails didn’t really get a response. Maybe I should try changing the subject line.” Then I realized really early on that if I used their name, their first name in my subject line, then it was going to get my email opened much more often than if I didn’t. Then I also realized that if I’m being really specific about what it is that I’m asking about, that would get my email opened.
So, I would say their first name, “Matt, are you looking to add some organic apparel to your boutique or something like that?” or, “John are you interested in gifts that give back for your holiday gift guide?” So, it was sort of like taking my subject line and kind of asking for what I wanted right in that subject line. A retail buyer is always looking for new stuff to add to their boutique. So, my email is probably going to be interesting to them to open it.
Andrew: That’s such a good attitude because I think a lot of people would say a retail buyer already has so much stuff in their store and so many people contacting them with more. You have a different attitude. You walk in saying they always are looking for new and interesting things.
Andreea: Yeah. And I also knew–it’s interesting because I did–I don’t want to go too much into this–but I had someone who was a sales coach and she really loved my t-shirts. She said, “I would love to get five t-shirts and in exchange, I will coach you on how to sell. Would you be interested?”
Andrew: For just five t-shirts?
Andreea: For five t-shirts. So, I said, “Sure, I can always use information on how to sell.” During the coaching call, I didn’t realize at the time but looking back now, I feel like it totally made a huge difference in my business because she’s like, “Do you believe in your product?” And I was like, “Of course I do.” She’s like, “Do you know how many people your product can impact?”
With your t-shirts, it’s not only the person wearing it but it’s also the person who sees the person who sees the person wearing it and you can have a domino effect and totally change someone’s day with just one t-shirt. Doesn’t that want to make you want to get it out there to as many people as you can? If you know the impact your product has, you would be doing a disservice to everyone to not let them know about it.”
She’s like, “If you can look at sales that way and look at it as it would be a shame if you didn’t let everyone know who can benefit for this product or service or whatever, if you didn’t let them know about it. If you’re not going to tell them, they might not know. It’s your job to share that with someone.”
So, once I looked at the sales process, which was the pitching process too, once I looked at it that way, I guess I felt like it had every right to reach out to them because I was providing them with something that was going to help them or their audience, whether their it was their customers or their readers or whatever it was. I think it was just that believe in my product and the impact that it could have.
Andrew: That’s such a good way of looking at it. I think if I told somebody to look at it that way, they’d think I was giving some airy fairy, happy clappy advice, but it’s true, right? You have to really believe in the product and not have such a cynical outlook on it. Here’s something that I don’t exactly know how to bring up and I don’t exactly know how it fits in your story, but again, I just search my inbox whenever I do a search for a guest. I see this Help a Report Out email form January 20th, 2010–let me search for your name in here. He used to have such–I just had it in there. There it is.
Okay. Summary, “Looking for spa directors, buyers, to talk to about retail. The media outlet is TeesforChange.com/blog. Deadline was January 22nd and here’s your query. I’m writing an article about retail trends and luxury spas, destination spas, resort and hotel spas and spas in general. I need to interview a few retailers or directors or retail buyers at these places. Please contact me with the subject line ‘Spa Director’ and I’ll mail you a short list of questions.”
What were you doing with that?
Andreea: So, two things I was doing. I was trying to get in touch with retail buyers, but at the same time–and I totally remember this–I was launching a blog for entrepreneurs and I was trying to write an article on how to get products into spas and how that blog was like two months long. It didn’t really live very long. But I was trying to get information from them about what they’re looking for in their spas when they’re looking for products so I can share it in my article. But at the same time, I was trying to use that information for my own advantage, I guess, to really learn about what it is that they’re looking for.
Andrew: Did it help you to learn from that?
Andreea: It did. Yes.
Andrew: It did. So, what you were doing is you were saying, “Look, I’ve got to get into the minds of these people that are going to buy my stuff if I want to get it into spas. If I call them up and say, “Can I pick your brain?” They’re probably not going to respond. But if I say I want to interview you for my blog with entrepreneurs, then they will. I see. That’s such a brilliant way to do things.
Andreea: it was just a text-based interview.
Andrew: In fact, it was so text-based. You were just going to email some questions to them. You didn’t even have t get on the phone with them.
Andrew: You leaner a lot form that. And I was able to use those strategies when I would pitch but also share those strategies with other people that were reading my blog who are looking to get into spas and other retail stores. I’ve done that so many times with not just that one topic, but like with everything else. I know for me, for example, one of my huge audiences are Etsy sellers. So, I’ll go on Help a Reporter Out and I’ll do a roundup of tips from Etsy sellers and I’ll say, “I’m looking for people who sell on Etsy,” which is exactly one of my target markets.
You have to have, let’s say, over 10,000 sales on Etsy and share with us one tip that has really helped you to grow your Etsy store. I’ll turn that into an article. I’ll go ahead and post it on my blog. I’ll send it back to them and ask them to share it. So, it’s such a great way to not only get content. That’s really useful because anyone who’s just starting out an Etsy blog or an Etsy store. They want to know who was 10,000 Etsy sales, how someone is doing it. So, it really serves everybody.
Andrew: I see. And then… What is it that you eventually hope to sell that people who you’re writing about ort the audience that they help you get?
Andreea: Yeah. So, I guess with my Etsy sellers, I have programs, like my PR program that teaches–
Andrew: I see. This is a new thing. This is a new website, a new product. Have you started selling it yet? Have you started running it?
Andreea: Yeah. This is for my Launch Grow Joy, which is my main business right now. So, yeah, I do that with the spa directors. I also did it with the yoga studio owners on Help a Reporter Out.
Andrew: Help a Reporter Out is completely free. You just go on there and you say, “I’m looking to do an article on this topic with these people and they’ll send it out to an audience of people who, I think at this point now they’re much better contacted then they were when you first emailed out. They just contact you and you get to write a post. It’s great. You don’t even have to get on the phone with them. You just send them a list of questions.
Then you post it on and then you get to follow up with them and ask them to tweet it out and promote it because they’re in it and so they’re much more likely to do it. That’s fantastic. At the same time you get to know them and maybe some of them end up buying your program. This is your personal site, LaunchGrowJoy.com, where you were teaching what? Free training or training for small online retailers–is that right?
Andreea: People who have a product and have an ecommerce website.
Andrew: All right. I think this is a good place to leave it. This interview was really solid. I like that you were willing to talk about all this stuff. How much money are you making with Launch Grow Joy?
Andreea: Last year I made $240,000.
Andreea: It was a good amount.
Andrew: So, you’re selling an online course there. Where is the bulk of the traffic coming from?
Andreea: So, I do social media. I’ve gotten a lot of stuff when I taught on Creative Live. I also do tons of webinars. I have so many articles that are SEO optimized that like now when someone is looking for Etsy marketing is or how to sell on Etsy, I think my site is one of the first ones that come up. So, I do a lot of SEO with every one of my articles. So, I definitely get a lot of traffic that way.
Andrew: One of the things I like about you–first of all, you’re a human. Your context is really normal. Second, you’re just such a hustler. You’re constantly out there building stuff. You’re constantly out there promoting what you do. Do you still do your own direct marketing? Did my email come from you or from an assistant?
Andreea: It came form me, actually.
Andrew: And all the email still comes form you?
Andreea: I did end up hiring someone to book me on more podcasts. I worked with her for two months. But most of my stuff has come just from me pitching and getting really specific and trying to provide value. I don’t look at it as hustling because I feel like I do provide a lot of value. I feel like if it’s a win/win for everyone, then everyone benefits. So, but I still do a lot of my own stuff.
Andrew: All right. Congratulations on the success and the sale. We didn’t even get into how you systemized all this to the point where you could actually pass it on to someone else if you were still shipping all this out from your house. That would be a pain. You couldn’t pass the business on to anyone else.
But because you systemized it, you were able to. But there’s so much else we could have talked about. I wanted to focus specifically on what you did to market the business and how you got it going. My mind and my eyes are going all over the screen going, “Did I miss anything else? This is my last few seconds here and I think I caught everything up?”
Let me ask you this–as someone who’s really good promotion, my goal now is to get anyone who’s listening to this interview to go and subscribe to the podcast or if you’re already subscribed, to leave a comment and say to everyone else why they should subscribe to. As someone who’s good at sales, how would you pitch that?
Andreea: I would be honest and say, “You know, I am trying to get as many reviews or comments and subscribers because the more subscribers and comments that I have, the more people are going to find it in iTunes. If you want found this interview spoke to you, I’d love to know about it. Would you head on over to iTunes and let me know what you loved about this interview or about Mixergy in general or the podcast. So, I would flat-out say that it would help you lot.
Andrew: I started taking notes. I could say exactly what you said but I think you said it perfectly so I’m going to leave it there. If you do like this and you want to help me out, go to iTunes and leave me a review. It helps other people find it and really helps me frankly appreciated. I appreciate you guys listening to this interview. Andreea, I’m really glad you were here to do this interview with me.
Andreea: Me too. Thanks so much for having me on, Andrew . It was so fun.
Andrew: You bet. Congratulations. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.