What MLM taught me about starting my own business
In August 2016 I traded in my corporate badge for a Super Mom cape. I’m not going to lie, the thought of not receiving a paycheck week to week and not contributing to a 401K was scary as hell. At the end of the day I needed desperately to spend time with my new baby after traveling frequently from the time she was 9 weeks old. I felt as though I had lost valuable time, missed out on milestones and key moments that I’d never get back. I felt tremendous guilt each time I pulled out of the driveway to head to the airport handing her off to our nanny. Sitting in bathroom stalls pumping breast milk while planning out all my “pump” breaks and stops along the way of my weekly sales calls while listening to flight updates over an intercom got old and depressing real fast.
I knew that I wouldn’t survive motherhood without some type of “busy” work to keep me going through the day. I had decided to join LuLaRoe, a multi-level marketing clothing company prior to leaving my job as a way to supplement some income and to provide me with a social outlet. I had relocated to Charleston, SC from Massachusetts the year before and since I was working from home selling software, I didn’t have much opportunity to get out and meet many new friends. I thought this would be the perfect business to keep a stream of income coming in while also enjoying the benefits of being home with my baby.
I learned a lot very quickly in starting my LuLaRoe business. I took advantage of nap times and my daughters bedtime to do the core of my work. From photographing inventory, answering questions, setting up parties to sending follow-up correspondence to customers, each day was filled with activities to keep myself and my business busy. Since so much of my business was executed online, I learned that I needed to connect with my customer base so that they got to know who I was and what I was all about on a deeper and more personal level. Relationship building was probably one of the most important parts of owning a mostly online based business as you’re not always face to face with your consumer. I made it a habit to post in my online group at least once per day even if it meant just to say hi and let them know what I was up to that day (business related or not).
In a sea of consultants, I found that you had to do things to try and set yourself apart from the competition. I always included extra treats of tea or candy in all of my packages. Around the holidays, I always included something seasonal. Customers loved this special added touch to my packages. Another thing I always did was ship orders same or following business day. I felt if you were giving me your money for an item it was extremely important to provide prompt service.
After almost a year in the business, I started to feel like it was time for me to move on and do something more unique. I loved selling clothing to ladies because having someone feel beautiful from a piece of clothing you sold to them, is a wonderful feeling. I’ve always been a “bargain shopper” so I thought it would be great to start my own boutique selling clothing and accessories at affordable prices. I already had all of the tools to get my business going, and with there being so many LuLaRoe retailers, I thought this was a way to keep my passion going while setting myself apart from other small local boutiques.
In June I started the process of selling off my LuLaRoe business and setting up an LLC for my new venture, Haute off the Rack Boutique. In early July I launched my online business by marketing my new venture to friends and family. I set up an online VIP group that has first access to all new inventory before it hits my website. This business has been 100% organic growth so I don’t allow any “add’s” to my group. Each person has to add themselves because I want people to be a part of my group because they want to be there, not because a friend has added them to another online group (I hate being blindly added to groups without my permission).
I have started Haute off the Rack Boutique as a very small online store with plans to expand to offer “pop-up” parties, a mobile boutique and possibly a children’s line in the near future. All items in the boutique are currently listed under $40 and include free shipping. My goal is to keep all inventory at $50 and under including shipping.
I love how transitioning from the corporate world to a small business owner has added so much joy and freedom to my life. If someone told me two years ago that I would leave my job to be a stay-at-home Mom and small business owner, I would have told them they were crazy. I’m happy I took the opportunity to sell LuLaRoe as I learned so much about customer service, managing an inventory based business, and time management. I feel it was a great stepping stone and gave me the courage and confidence to start my own business.
Katie is originally from Townsend, Massachusetts and relocated to the Charleston, SC area after her husband took a job with a local defense subcontractor in 2015. Katie had worked in various roles of sales and marketing for 10 years specializing in avionics technology and software before deciding to stay home with her daughter Harper. Katie holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Management and Corporate Leadership from Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts.
www.fashionablyhaute.com or join the Facebook VIP group at www.facebook.com/groups/hauteofftherackboutiquellc/.