Hang out with us on May 1st at 10 AM EST where Tahlia, a serial entrepreneur + digital nomad who has started a gel nail polish business will answer all your beauty biz launch questions. Register here.
What is your path that led you to where you are now?
I started out on the normal kind of path. I went to university and studied Business Marketing. While I was at uni I got my first ‘real’ job and found myself dabbling in entry level marketing stuff and by the time I graduated I had landed my first official marketing job. For the next five or so years I went from job to job quite quickly, always looking for the thing that would suit me more. I loved marketing but quickly became unsatisfied with each job I had. My last full time was in a digital marketing agency and I really loved it but it was emotionally taxing. I dabbled in freelance marketing work through out all of my full time employment and knew that eventually I’d be working for myself. It seemed like the only thing wrong with any of the jobs I had was the flexibility to be my own boss.
My partner was in a similar position, so we knew we were destined to work for ourselves in some sort of capacity. We just had no idea how. My partner’s background is in finance and as you can imagine he was a heck of a good saver.
So he had saved a bit of a backstop for himself and decided he wanted to invest it in something. A business seemed like a good idea. We dabbled with a few ideas and ultimately decided to go with our now sold business ‘toffee’.
It was a gel polish brand. We had 32 colours, led lamps, and nail accessories. We went with this idea because at the time gel polish (also known as Shellac) was a relatively new product on the market, I used to get my nails done every fortnight so I thought a DIY kit would be good motivation for women like me who want to look good but need to reign in expenses, and we thought our target market (young women 18-35) would be a good demographic to target business wise as they are typically in the spending phase of their lives.
Fast forward a little bit, we saw relative success in terms of revenue. However, we just felt stuck. We couldn’t go on holiday (not even road trips without having to pack enough supplies so we could fulfill orders if they came in). We knew we wanted to travel and started looking at our timelines (marriage, kids, etc) and we knew we had to travel before we got to that phase, but we couldn’t do that with toffee. We looked into putting the stock into a fulfillment centre (a shipping and packing warehouse) but with the nature of our products, we had too many order variations that it financially wasn’t worth it. We decided we should sell while we still had a bit of momentum and stock.
From listed to sold it took 9 months. A lot longer than we thought and for a lot less than we thought (by the end we just wanted it gone). While we were in the process of selling toffey we had started our current copywriting agency (which now totally supports us), so we had lost a lot of passion for toffee while we were nurturing this and getting it off the ground. We knew with our desire to travel we needed a business that required no physical stock (I mean it’s doable but we have learned we wanted to avoid actual inventory), we wanted it to be scalable and totally independent from our location. We figured we should use my marketing background and offer a service. Something that just required a laptop and an internet connection. We thought copywriting had the biggest potential for scalability, revenue and it had a less crowded market than other types of marketing. It is also much more tangible than social media marketing or SEO/SEM.
So that’s where we are now. Running The Copywriters with a team of copywriters back home, growing every single day, with clients in multiple countries, doing Skype calls at all hours, working in between flights, train rides and enjoying ourselves. We have toyed with a few other ideas but for now we are happy just focussing on the one business and doing my blog for fun.
What was some initial research you did to launch it?
I wrote a blog post that may be helpful here.
My partner and I aren’t big on research. A strength and a weakness. We are fast movers. We initially tested a our competitors products, worked out what we liked what we didn’t (about their products, their website, branding, pricing etc). From this we had a bit of an idea about what we wanted to do. We knew we’d have to import the products form China, and seeing as we couldn’t speak Chinese or know anything about importing we hired an intermediary to act and negotiate on our behalf with factories and Chinese customs and shipping authorities. This did cost more, but this meant they did a lot of research for us. They sent us a few samples, I tested them, picked my favourite polish manufacturer, we designed the labels, picked the colours and it was pretty straight forward from there. There was a lot more legal process than we realised (importing chemicals etc).
But we learnt along the way.
What we’re some obstacles you had to overcome while running it?
Managing our expectations. When you start marketing before launch you get lots of positive reinforcement, but when it comes to people actually buying your product it’s another story. Learning that not everyone will react to your sales, or like your post, or share your photos doesn’t mean you’re failing. Don’t expect because your business is your world that everyone else feels that way.
One major obstacle (and our biggest) we realized towards selling our business that all of our labels were incorrect (all 3000 bottles). We had paid for 10ml gel polishes however we discovered our bottles were only 7.5ml. We couldn’t remove the labels so we had to digitally amend the images on our website and hope for the best. It was a stressful time, our minds immediately went to ‘what if we get sued’…and ‘how will we sell this business now with so much incorrect stock’.
When did you realize that running that business was not right for the lifestyle you wanted to live?
In terms of business life span, we knew pretty quickly. We started the business in April 2014, we officially launched in October 2014 (it took a while to source product and brand everything, etc), and we got to about April 2015 where we started doubting things (after the slump of excitement and post Christmas spike), and we started chatting about travel and had decided by May 2015 we were going to leave in December 2015. We initially wanted to hire someone but it all depended on sales figures. By June 2015 sales weren’t where they needed to be to justify hiring someone so we listed it for sale. Like I mentioned this was a long process, and we didn’t actually sell it until after we’d left Australia (Sold only 3 weeks ago). My mum was processing sales for us while we were in Europe.