April 3, 2020
Starting Your Own eCommerce Business with Tracey Wallace

Starting Your Own eCommerce Business with Tracey Wallace

Tracy was here when she
was with big Commerce and was their editor-in-chief. Now she’s the founder and
owner of Doris sleep pillows or is it just Doris Sleep? It’s Doris Sleep – Doris is
really what it’s called. Doris Sleep kind of came about because I was looking for a URL and
Doris.com was already taken so… yeah. So Doris Sleep it is! I’ve been wanting to
start my own online store for a long time at Big Commerce as the
editor-in-chief I taught other people, helped them start and run very successful
businesses up to 50 mill in annual revenue but I always had to kind of
caveat every every time I was teaching people that like hey I actually am NOT a
practitioner and I’ll actually do this myself. Instead, I interview people who do
this and I kind of grouped together all of the insights and get those back to
people. People were generally totally fine with that and thought that that was,
you know, helpful. I really wanted to become a practitioner and I already knew
I had a manufacturer I knew where to get the goods and the supplies. I will say
theory and practice are two very very different things.
I’ve been educating people on how to run successful online businesses for
four-and-a-half years and actually doing it is much harder than telling people
how to do it or teaching people how to do it, which like duh, I think that
everyone’s probably like yeah of course. But I mean I wrote books on how to do
this stuff, I was interviewing hundreds of entrepreneurs and C-suite executives
at like GE and major corporations right? I was like I know how to do this.
It turns out I like kind of only know maybe a little bit how to do it. I
clearly know how to get it up and running and started. I know enough to
know when a certain paid acquisition channel isn’t hitting the revenue goals
that I want to and like when to pull out. But overall I mean I think all
of us and I think this might be true for really all small business owners, even
like executives at major corporations. All of us are really just trying to like
figure out what is the thing that’s gonna stick right? And the best way to
make those decision is just trying, testing things out and then pulling back
when something isn’t working, or doubling down on something when it is. Right and
curious from your experience have you noticed that you have to
test more often because there are way more things to be testing or or do you
just pick a few and kind of run with those until their dry. Yeah so I pick a
few and the first one that I picked in the e-commerce space, which I think is
very very natural for a bunch of folks to do is Facebook right? Like Facebook
has great targeting the cost isn’t “too high” we’ll get back to this guy in a
second – the cost isn’t too high. There’s just so many success stories
online about people using Facebook to grow to multi-millions in revenue
right? I’d venture to guess that most of those people doing that we’re doing that
in 2015 or 2016 or 2017. I don’t think they were in 2018 or 2019 for a variety
of reasons mostly because that’s when everybody started going to Facebook and
doubling down, it became oversaturated as a result, it became a lot more expensive.
That said I had written multiple blog posts, interviewed a bunch of people, even
written a book on how to do Facebook advertising. Granted the book was about a
year old at the time and I started doing it in January and ended up forgetting to
turn it off and overspent by $500 that just went out the dang window.
Got nothing for it and then about two months later I was like you know what
that is totally fine, I understand Facebook better now, it’s gonna be
different. I have new creative. Ended up doing the exact same thing so I have
essentially overspent $1,000 on Facebook in a self-funded company where
I’ve already put money towards getting the site designed and built out right.
I don’t have a thousand dollars to just be throwing at Facebook. As a result I
pulled out entirely from Facebook and I’m looking at very different models of
acquisition. For instance, content marketing and SEO, community
building, as well as really just focusing on community building, but the community
in general, right. So I sell bed pillows, which is a pretty saturated market. A
bunch of people sell bed pillows. One of the questions I get a lot is you know
how do you stand out in a saturated market and one of the ways that I’m
doing that as one, partnering with local people who have that same kind of
sustainability mentality as I do and complementary products. So one of the
companies I partnered with sells robes. Robes and pillows go together very well.
They also have sustainable practices and in making those robes. Then I’m also
doing you know flyers and print outs and working with, you know, apartment
complexes and moving companies in terms of like okay let’s get these fliers in
there. I’m also like super interested – I’ve haven’t done it yet but I want to…
so maybe everybody would like to see it soon. I found out that I can buy a billboard
on i-10, one of the like most trafficked highways in the United States. On i-10
when you’re leaving Louisiana coming into Texas there’s like nothing there.
You can buy it on the side of the road there for a thousand dollars a month,
which is what I overspent on Facebook and got nothing for. For a thousand
dollars a month and I can have it say something like “welcome to the softer
side of Texas” with some like cool kind of picture and image and my logo and
then I can use that for social media, for blog posts, for more visibility on
top of just like getting people as they’re driving to see it. So I’m really
looking into more stuff like that. It’s maybe a little bit more outside at the
box maybe a little bit more traditional, but I truly cannot afford to play the
game on Facebook right now – it’s not working for me. I don’t I don’t have
the money to spend or waste there and brands like you know Allbirds or
Outdoor voices or even you know, P&G who’s really getting into the game, those
brands have a lot of money to spend there. I can’t compete with them
so I’m looking other places. I mean to be honest I don’t know if a billboard would
be the right alternative right? I do know that my
pillows are made in the United States, that they are upcycled from the United
States waste and that they are blown and sewn in Texas and that I am a fifth
generation Texan and I live in Austin. And so it might make sense for me to
target the Texas audience and as a result of that, maybe an easy way to do
that or may be an interesting way to do that is to capture people on a highway
coming in from another state to Texas where Texas is typically known for like
cactuses and cowboy boots (maybe not in East Texas where it’s like all trees) but for
for being maybe less of a soft state. Right so can I capture attention
with something a little bit different knowing that my story when they get to
the site site is still a Texas story right? And the key is to measure it afterwards.
Yeah the key is to measure it afterwards. Same thing with apartment
complexes or people who are moving. Like I want to do a test for direct mail
to folks who have just moved. Here’s the real meat and potatoes of it
though. None of us, no small business owner is going to go out there and win
against P&G or even some of the small businesses who have grown really big.
You think Allbirds, Outdoor Voices, all of those folks.
Those people have money. They have community. They they can buy presence
right? Small businesses cannot do that. One of the only things that small
businesses can do one of the big advantages that small businesses
actually have, is partnering with each other. It’s a tide that rises
right? It’s working within a community or on a specific topic and
really really helping to grow that visibility both for your own brand but
also for the things that you’re passionate about.
That’s how brands like Allbirds and Outdoor Voices became the brands that
they were. They weren’t working by themselves. Most small businesses, as they are growing are not working by themselves. You just
don’t get to a lot of places like that. My partnership with Highway Robery, I mean, really all we did was a photo shoot together that we split the cost on and
now we both use those photos on our Instagrams and on our sites. And we just
tag one another when we post and that’s it. So like would you really know that
that’s a partnership but it is a partnership. We split costs – photoshoots
are expensive – it’s a lot better if I can go into that with somebody and get some
really cool pictures that also features some like cool lookin robes. What’s your
primary focus when you are when you have a budget. So like you know you have a lot
of SEO, you have content marketing, you’re blogging – where do you put most of
your energy unless unless you are doing it literally evenly throughout? Right so because
my expertise is in content marketing and SEO I’m putting more weight there but
that’s because I don’t have to pay anybody – it’s me doing it, so that’s
helpful. So I put a lot of weight there. I also just put a lot of weight into… yes partnerships but networking right? So making sure that I’m
constantly talking to people telling them the background of what Doris is, why
I started it – at least when they ask, I don’t l want to… impose on
anybody like excuse me – but yeah just making sure that I’m meeting people.
Making sure that I’m telling people my story, why I started it, why I believe in
it, why I believe these pillows at this time ,educating people about foam and how terrible foam is, which I’d encourage everybody to look up because I will not
preach it here but it’s super important to know about especially because you put
your face on that every single night… not great. I’m freaking out, I’m thinking about my pillows all day now… … yeah so I’m really trying to invest in things that I know I’m good at and know that I can control and that I’m not having to spend a whole bunch of money
on and that’s because I’m self-funded. I’ve had venture folks reach out asking
for pitch decks and investor decks and I’m not interested, at least not right
now. The reason is I don’t want to give away any of the company right now, I just
I just started it. I just started it. It is a fun project that I am working on.
It’s growing, I’m getting sales, I’m doing better and better.
I don’t need venture investment and on top of that I don’t want venture
investment to come in and one, muddy the waters in terms of decision-making. When
you accept capital, when you accept a venture, you give part of the company away
and as a result those people get to help make business decisions. Two – I like being a
little bit cash-strapped. I think that’s important. I think it helps me make
better decisions. I think it forces me to focus on community, it forces me to focus
on the things that I am good at, that I can control. I’m networking…I think that
stuff over time actually builds a better long-term business rather than
necessarily seeing that huge hockey stick growth at the beginning. Huge
hockey stick growth at the beginning is great but there are a lot of brands out
there who have had that who are no longer in existence right? Because they
didn’t build that community, they didn’t build those those systems and those
networks. I’d rather not do it that way. And most venture money that startup
retailers or startup ecommerce brands get end up going into Facebook marketing
or Facebook advertising and that’s great. There’s certainly room for
that and I guess when you have that money you can actually pay to afford the
cost of customer acquisition over there. But it’s expensive. It’s really expensive
and acquiring customers through Facebook does not a loyal customer make. So
instead even if you were putting a bunch of money into Facebook advertising, you
need content, you still need community, you still need really great email
marketing .You still need people to care about you for a reason other than the
Facebook ad you put out there and venture money certainly can help you get
more eyeballs and more visibility but if you aren’t thinking about it in terms of
building a community and building out content and having a purpose and a
why, then those folks aren’t gonna come back and buy from you. So like, really helping and
encouraging people there. I’m gonna be looking to kind of starting a sleep
series in the future. So helping people better understand sleep habits and
helping them sleep better. I, myself, I’m lucky in that I don’t have any sleep
issues or problems I can pretty much fall asleep anytime, anywhere. Talking to people and explaining how other people can, you know, have better
work/life balance, how you can get to sleep faster, how you can have less
anxiety… that kind of stuff. Yeah I think that’s huge. So what you’re doing is providing education beyond just your pillow you’re providing
education on the whole experience. Right right right the the goal is to
provide education, to provide an experience – the pillow is just a
product right. You can buy it or you cannot buy it. Ultimately though I want
Doris to be seen as a brand in the world that is helping, you know, to be a little
bit more eco-friendly. Helping to get foam out of our bedrooms and you know
helping to sleep better at night. Live better lives! Awesome! So to end this where can we find Doris Sleep? Where can we find you on social media or on the onlines? On the onlines so Doris Sleep is DorisSleep.com and then it’s also Doris Sleep on Twitter and Instagram and if you just
want to follow and hang out with me I’m ‘tracewall’ on Twitter and Instagram so
pretty easy. Great well thank you so much Tracy – thank you!
We’re gonna be back again right? I’ll be back again! Awesome because there’s so
much third time will be the charm. you can talk about I only went through
half of this… like that half! So thanks again Tracy appreciate it and
hopefully I’ll see you soon. Go visit Doris sleep and if you haven’t washed
your pillow in two years or not washed or replaced… just
take it off look at it, brown’s bad. Brown’s bad. You know that though.
And if you have any more questions as an entrepreneur you can always join our Workonomy group on Facebook, our Workonomy group on
LinkedIn and then go ahead and give Office Depot a follow on Instagram and
Twitter and all that fun stuff you might see this this mug up there once in a
while and yeah, thanks everyone and we’ll see you in the Workonomy groups!

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