2014 Wrap-Up

It's been one crazy year, and as Finding Ferdinand wraps up this year, I wanted to share what we've been up to and our progress. These past few months have been primarily focusing on putting down processes that will help accelerate growth in the next year. 

Secured Supply Chain

Supply chain was hands down one of the MOST difficult thing I had to deal with. From scoping out potential vendors, working thru the product specs, and getting things shipped on time, I nearly got any sleep and couldn't help but have nightmares about this portion of the business. 

The scope in which I had to work with was very limited, and I had to balance out a lot of things. This included how much money we could spend on packaging and design along with where we could source materials. Luckily for Finding Ferdinand, I had met the COO of a cosmetic manufacturing company at a conference, and thru that relationship, I've been able to secure our chemical manufacturing in the US. There was NO WAY that I would allow the chemicals to be outsourced. To this day, I am so thankful to her and her awesome team who keep a tight ship around our product development. 

After months of this, we're now at a really good place and have this process down! This is the unglamorous side of the business, but probably one of the most important. If you're not detailed oriented, I would recommend finding someone who is to help you because any small mistake will cost you $$$ along with delaying your product shipments. Huge lessons learned here, and I'm just glad we survived this and can now focus on other things. 

Built Strong Partnerships

You meet a lot of people when you run your own business because YOU HAVE TO. There's definitely a blurred line between business and friendships now because a lot of the people I've met and worked with this past year have become friends. For sole founders, there's a lot of isolation, which can be maddening at times, so there are days that I co-work with other female entrepreneurs around the city. We share ideas, brainstorm, and also collaborate whenever we can. I think down the line, there may be an opportunity for some of us to start another business together. That support network has really helped me in this past year. Your group has the best referrals for things that you may need like a printing shop or a freelancer. They can also warn you of certain companies.

Pushed To The Edge

You also meet horrible people who test your limits. We had a small project that we outsourced some printing on the lipsticks tubes for a wholesale order, and this company MELTED the entire inventory! Talk about a nightmare coming true. On top of everything, the women in charge of this project was a complete B!$@# You will meet a lot of people who will tell you that it is "not their problem" when they are the ones who mess up. In my head, I'm just sorry of them because they lack accountability and integrity. I was extremely livid at the time, but I had to make sure we fixed this problem and get the shipment out. It wasn't worth it to bicker back and forth on who's fault this was because we were under a time constraint. 

We did have some delays in our wholesale shipments because the inventory was melted by that company. Obviously I had to take the blame for it because my buyers and partners have no insight into this situation. At the end of the day, you're going to have to take the blame for everything and try to make the situation better. I'm telling you this now because I just survived a huge crisis. There is light at the end of the tunnel.... if you handle it correctly. There's a fine balance of how much gets communicated out, and you're going to have to decide based on your relationship and personal judgement with that person. 

Getting Out The First Batch Out

We sold out of our initial batch and now working on our back orders! We're working hard to make sure all of our customers are happy. There's no doubt that the customer is at the center of Finding Ferdinand. Those first initial orders are always exciting because you know how much work went into getting that initial product out the door. I try not to take those moments for granted. In the midst of it all, I was actually pretty stressed out because I was dealing with our supply chain. I was pushing them to move faster so that we could get more shipments out. Now that we've gotten the process down, I feel like I can finally celebrate! 

Next Year

As this year wraps up, I'm already planning for next year. I kind of have to :) Now that we have one of the most crucial parts of the business in place, we are now ready to shift focus to other areas. This includes marketing and technology. I'm putting some of my data analytics tools into use along with revisiting different things we we had built out last year but decided to put it aside to focus on our core product. You'll be seeing a lot of fun things from us, so you should get a Starter Kit if you haven't already! 






Entrepreneurship: Models to help get you started

Here are some models to help you get started. These two models are great frameworks to think about your business ideas. You're going to constantly change these models, because nothing really stays constant and if there is one constant, it's change. 

Models are great because they're shortcuts. Helps you think and process information faster.

Lean Canvas: The easiest business model you have ever used! 

You can find more information here: http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas

 

Porter's Five Forces: Old school model that most business school people will point you to. 

May the force be with you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porter_five_forces_analysis

Entrepreneurship: Quarterly Sales Taxes, Y Combinator's Startup School, and TechWeek Chicago

Its been a while since I've written a blog post, but here's a summary of some things I wanted to share. 

2 Things About Taxes

Today is June 20th. I just got done e-filing for New York State quarterly sales taxes. As in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "In this world, nothing can be certain, except for death and taxes." 

Did you know that if you sell products online, you have to file to be an "agent of the state" to collect sales tax? When you become an "agent of the state," you have to report to the state every 3 months on your gross sales and pay sales taxes. Tax reporting changes after the first year and depends on your gross revenue. 

1. The Amazon Rule

In reference to Amazon.com-duh! Businesses used to pay taxes if they had a physical presence/retail location in that state. Now that you can sell anywhere online, if you have "nexus" in that location, you must charge sales taxes.

2. Nexus 

I had to look up this term. There was Biology definition, which actually made a lot of sense and tied in with the tax definition. A "nexus" essentially means that if you have some sort of representation/affiliation in that state, then you have to pay taxes. 

They count "click thrus," so I'm going to go ahead and tell you that if you sell to someone in so said state that charges taxes, then you need to charge/pay sales taxes.

Here's a link to the government site about it if you want to learn more: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-cents/sales-tax-101-small-business-owners-and-online-

Sales-Tax-Fairness-Map-May2014.001-001-3.jpg

Y Combinator had its first Startup School in NYC this week. 

I showed up at the Best Buy Theatre wondering why they picked Time Square because it was super packed with tourist, then saw a huge line of boys. 

1. Where are all the girls? This was the complete opposite of YC Female Founders. 

Maybe only the guys were targeted for the event or is NYC just a place for guys to start companies? 

2. Please tip the bartender if the drinks are free!

This is a common courtesy, but if haven't been doing this, you need to start. 

3. I liked Shana from High Line Venture Partners

Read the BI article on it: http://www.businessinsider.com/shana-fishers-advice-for-entrepreneurs-2014-6

  • Single Founders: Sometimes having one Founder works. This applied to me, so I like it! 
  • If you can afford the time, then use it to make a perfect product. The world is super competitive now. Make sure you do good work. 
  • The SCARF Method

4. Inspirational stories. 

Everyone likes stories of the underdog that overcomes huge challenges to make it home. I'm referencing Homeward Bound. I love dogs. 

  • Instacart: Bought every item from each store and photographed it because they couldn't get access to the grocery store's product catalog digitally. Sometimes doing things that don't scale initially is a huge advantage. You learn a lot and then try to scale. 
  • Watsi: Had people working in secret at their day jobs. Ignore the legal implications, and focus on the inspiring story of 7 people having a day job and working on building Watsi on the side. Watsi is the first non-profit that YC has sponsored. 
  • The Muse: This is YC's poster child for female founders. They always include The Muse in all their talks. I think it's great marketing :) Even when publishing was a boring avenue, they were still able to raise money for it after a lot of people told them NO. 

TechWeek Chicago

Is my "Small Business" techy enough? 

I told a friend I was going to compete in TechWeek Chicago, and he wasn't sure if Finding Ferdinand was "Tech" enough. 

1. Everything is Tech today. 

It's hard to be a new company nowadays if you don't have some element of tech. 

2. I'm having fun brainstorming for this. 

Come and hang out with me next week in Chicago! I have few expo passes to handout. If you're in the area and would like to check out the scene, let me know! 

Check out the details here: http://techweek.com/chicago/

Customer Peace of Mind: The HeartBleed Bug

When I started Finding Ferdinand, I wanted to create a company that extremely focused on the customer. This means when there is a security breach across the web, that may or may not effect them, we still let them know about it so that they don't have to worry about their credit card information being compromised. After all, it's just lipstick, and no one should be losing sleep over this. 

A snippet of the email we sent out to our customers. 

A snippet of the email we sent out to our customers. 

Entrepreneurship: Providing Tools For Customers To Document & Share

Recently we launched our Customer Modeling Board, where we invited our customers to register their accounts and share their custom lipstick color. I had this hypothesis about the importance of documenting and sharing the custom colors they created. From my observations at events, customers had a lot of fun creating colors and getting approval from friends and strangers. When a woman finds a color she loves, she doesn't part ways with it easily, which usually leads to a sale. The cool thing that we promise as a company, is to maintain these colors FOREVER, so you don't have to worry about running out of it. 

So from this, I decided to build out this customer modeling tool that caters specifically to each person. It's designed so that each person can access their color and also share it and tell the their friends about Finding Ferdinand's custom lipstick products. 

I don't know if people would really shop based on normal people's photos, but the option is there if they want to. We'll just monitor the results from this and see if that's what happens. This is all a fun experiment!

Here's my summary on the first week

Hypothesis:

If customers like making their own colors, then they will like sharing what they made. If they share what they made, then it will increase Finding Ferdinand's brand awareness.

Experiment:

We built out a Customer Modeling Tool where our customers can upload photos of themselves wearing the color(s) they made and share it with their social network. 

Initial Results:

This is the first week's data. We'll monitor the numbers week over week. 

  • Email Open Rate: 30%
  • Registrations to the platform for the first week = 4% Conversion 
  • Referrals = 56% of those who converted shared it out with their networks (FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter) 
  • Leads = +39% lift in signups for the Mix It Yourself Palettes 

Summary: 

The initial results are promising :-)  

We don't have a real baseline to go off of, but we'll take a look at industry reports to see how we're performing in the next few weeks. I can tell from the open rates, there is interest in the tool. A 4% conversion in my eyes is good because I understand there is time and work required to register an account with us. A customer has to take a picture and upload it to their profile. Referrals and leads are phenomenal because we have people who brave enough to blast out a selfie of themselves and brag about this creation that it has lead to a good handful of people signing up on the website to receive the palettes. 

This isn't a true science experiment. I'll be doing things in the next few weeks to encourage things to continue to look promising, so ideally we should be seeing the numbers get better. Our weekly goal is to continue to beat last week's numbers.