When you first launch, you're faced with one set of problems—polishing your site, making sales, and becoming profitable. As you scale, those problems change with every new level of growth you achieve.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from two entrepreneurs who recently grew their business from 7 figures to 8 figures about the new problems they encountered, from hiring the right people to setting new targets to fixing a potentially toxic company culture.
Julien Plouffe and Aurelie Dudziak are the entrepreneurs behind Moonglow: jewelry that features the picture of the moon from the date of your choice.
With people in the house, we used to hire pretty quickly. We had a lot of problems there, like we had to change the team and change the culture.
Tune in to learn
- The viral post that increased their baseline sales forever
- What you should be doing if a post goes viral
- The new problems you face when you go from a 7 figure business to 8 figure business
Felix: Today I’m joined by Julien and Aurelie from Moonglow. Moonglow sells jewelry that features the picture of the moon from the date of your choice and is tracking towards becoming a 10 million dollar business. It was started in 2011 and based out of Miami, Florida. Welcome, guys.
Julien: Hey, Felix.
Aurelie: Hi, Felix.
Felix: Hey, so Julien, you mentioned to me that you started the business off by seeling … Or I guess the both of you started the business off by selling the jewelry one-on-one. So tell us about this went early on.
Julien: So early on we were selling Moonglow jewelry in events like fairs and home shows and markets, and pretty much anywhere we could sell it in person. So that’s how we started before we did eCommerce.
Felix: Got it. So what was that step then, the next step? Like if you’re selling one-on-one, like how did you guys gradually make it towards building a more scalable business?
Julien: Yeah. Well the first thing was, at the events we would sell there, we would meet customers, we’d get them all excited, and then we didn’t have a website. So we knew we needed a website so that we could introduce the product to people, and then people could obviously buy later on. So we built the website shortly after launching the company, ’cause we knew that we wanted to get some of that recurring revenue going.
Felix: Got it. I think you also mentioned to me that you guys also have a wholesale arm that you started off somewhere in between selling one-on-one, to building something more scalable?
Julien: Yeah. So basically the way it went was, we did events, just me and Aurelie, for a couple of years. We traveled around, and we thought that was gonna be kind of the best way to do it. Then we built a website, started getting some traffic there. We were still pretty heavy on the events, we’re dong maybe like 36, 40 events. And we were also working with a couple of sales people that were also traveling, doing other events, Comi-cons, and just all different type of events where we thought we could sell and introduce the brand.
Julien: Then in 2013, 2014, we started thinking about wholesale, selling it to stores. ’Cause I think we had maybe one or two store owners that had approached us saying, “Hey this is a cool brand, cool product. We would like to sell it in our stores.” And they did, and it went really well. And then I started to see that that’s like recurring revenue because once the store opens and it’s successful, they’ll keep ordering and ordering, hopefully for years. So that was about in 2014.
Felix: Got it. So most people will start off ion eCommerce, definitely these days. And maybe even in 2011, when you guys started. What made you guys decide to go with in-person events to start?
Julien: That’s how we started. I worked in sales selling items in different fairs and things like that, so that’s just what I knew and I knew that I could sell it and make a living at it as well. So Aurelie came onboard, we joined forces, and we were doing events that way ’cause that just what we knew, and it was already kind of working.
Felix: Got it. Now when you are … Are you guys still selling at events today, or is everything transitioned to wholesale and online?
Julien: So we reduced it quite a bit, just ’cause we wanted to focus more on the wholesale and eCommerce. But we still do some events, and then we also do the trade shows for wholesale. So that’s really only open to the business and the buyers and things like that.
Felix: Got it. Now when you are at an event, or if someone were to follow in your footsteps and start going to events and sell their products one-on-one, what would you consider a successful showing? Like how do you determine if that’s the right approach, and [inaudible 00:03:41], how do you evaluate if it’s a right approach or not?
Julien: I would say if you’re making money or not. If it’s profitable, then you’re probably doing something right. If you’re losing money, and you’re working really hard, then you might want to reevaluate that.
Felix: So you think that it should, not necessarily be easy, but you shouldn’t have to fight and claw your way towards profitability if you’re going to these events?
Julien: Yeah, I think if you work hard, a good product, and obviously not every event is going to be a home run. You can’t win all the time. But as long as it’s profitable the majority of the time, you should be in good shape. And I think that it should be somewhat easy, and I think that you should have … If you’re not a salesperson, at least have a salesperson who’s outgoing and who’s gonna really captivates people and who your brand, show your product, and get people excited about it.
Felix: Got it. Are there certain products and categories that, based on your years of experience doing this, like are there certain products or types of products that are going to do better at selling at one-on-one at these events?
Julien: Yeah. Usually, it’s something that you can kind of demonstrate. So when you start talking to somebody, have some type of demonstration, something that captivates their attention. Like something that usually is a little intriguing to the eye, like you’re doing some type of demonstration usually works a little bit better.
Felix: Got it. Nowadays, how do you determine which events that you guys should be at? Like what are you looking at?
Julien: Well now we’ve got it narrowed down that we know which ones kind of work, ’cause we’ve done so many, I fell. But the first thing is attendance. The larger the attendance, usually the better, not always. But usually, if it’s your demographic and there’s good attendance, it’s a pretty good indicator that it’s going to be a good event.
Felix: Got it. Okay so you guys are selling at this one-on-one at these events, started kind of branching out into wholesale, and then you decided to gi the eCommerce route. So what was that first step towards building an eCommerce business, because now you have to start gearing things up. I guess also the wholesale side, you have to start changing your business a little bit so it’s now going to be scalable. What kind of things did you have to put into place to make sure you could scale the business?
Julien: SO we’ve had three different websites. The first one that we built was right in that time period when we started the company, 2012, 2013.
Julien: And that website was really bad, but it did work. People that would see in the events, we would sell to them. They would want to buy again. So they already kind of knew the brand, so they would purchase on there. Then we rebuilt another site on the [inaudible] platform. And that’s when it started … We started to use some heat maps and started to get a little more technical and try to improve the conversions rate. ’Cause these were all things that I didn’t know, or we didn’t know, prior and we learned about.
Julien: And then finally we made the switch to Shopify Plus, and really got pretty serious about it.
Felix: Got it. So what … Because now you’re going online and you’re … The marketplace is online. I’m assuming your marketing had to take, completely make a shift. So what did you guys end up doing there to start driving traffic? Because you show up at these events, there are already people there, there’s already traffic that is present. But now when you’re online you have to start pulling that traffic to your website. What were you guys doing early on to start driving your customers to the website?
Julien: So one of the first things that we did early, early on is in 2012, I met this marketing agency in California when we were doing the OC fair in Orange County, California. And the marketing [inaudible] she was like, “Hey, you guys should advertise.” And at that time there was no paid ads, I think it was just Facebook. So we basically started working with them, paid them to start doing some marketing, just posting photos and engaging the audience and things like that. So we started that pretty early on, which was tough because we didn’t really like, “Oh, am I gonna get an RO1 on this?” But I was like, “Aw, screw it.” We just did it and that kind of started that.
Julien: But we also started doing SEO early, early on, like in 2011, 2012, right when we launched the first site. And we started really analyzing those keywords and started earlier on. And now Organic has become a pretty good, steady stream of visitors to the site.
Felix: So with SEO, what kind of content where you building? How do you know what kind of content to produce and put on your site?
Julien: So it was a lot of content writing. Like it was pretty white hat stuff, it wasn’t black hat or like back in the day people would just link build or whatnot. Like our SEO has been pretty strong all the way throughout. We were just writing a lot of articles and trying to get some good back links and things like that. We were working with an agency, and we just kept working with an agency and kept it going. And I guess the content was good, the site was good, that Google started ranking us for many different keywords. So now we’re pretty strong in any moon jewelry related keywords.
Felix: Got it. So are people … You’re trying to attract people that are searching moon jewelry, or is it more like educational content? How would you say you invest in the concent, what kind of topics and what types of content are you producing?
Julien: Yeah. Well, branding was important obviously, people searching for our brand name which is Moonglow Jewelry. So make sure that that was ranking really well, and then we went after kind of the moon jewelry, moon bracelets. And at the end of the day, that is what we are selling, so it is relevant. And then also, phases of the moon and things people that are interested in that aspect of it as well, with writing good quality content about the moon and things of that nature.
Felix: Got it. So, people that are searching for moon jewelry, they’re ready to buy. Obviously, it makes sense to bring them in, to get them to convert probably on the first visit. But for people that are just coming to learn more about the moon and are trying to get educated, I guess about the moon and not maybe … It hasn’t crossed your mind yet to buy jewelry. Do you have a kind of different followup process for them? Like are you trying to get them on your e-mail list? Like how do you nurture customers, not even customers yet, visitors that aren’t ready to become customers yet?
Julien: Currently … So earlier on we didn’t really have a plan like we were just bringing traffic to the site. And then about three or four years ago, we started getting more analytical. And now obviously, yeah we try to get them on our newsletter, and then we target them all over the place, whether it be Google, Facebook, Instagram, you know, we hit them with the retargeting. And really trying to have engaging content if they are on our e-mail newsletter list. We really try to keep it … Like it’s not always sales like we try to keep it fresh. Also all cohesive, so if they follow us on Instagram, like the branding is all the same and everything. And really try to make it a fun experience, we don’t want to shove sales down their throat all the time. Really trying to make it a two-way conversation here.
Felix: Got it. So you mentioned to me that you guys had a few viral events online, and one of them was when you were in Thailand you looked at your phone and you had a post that made it all around the internet and had 100,000 visitors in one day. And from that day on, you’re base sales were never the same after that. SO what was it that went viral that day?
Julien: So it was one photo. This woman on Twitter she had purchase or her boyfriend purchased two necklaces and she kind of converted them to a bracelet. And it was the phase of the moon I think from the day they met and her birthday, something like that, and together made a full moon. So it was kind of a romantic thing, a cute thing. And she just posted this photo, it was kind of like a funny meme, and people were just saying like, “Man, I’m not that romantic.” And it just started to become like a funny meme.
Julien: But it really, people understood what we were selling. It’s jewelry that features the picture of the moon from the date of your choice, like the day you met someone, or your kids or whatever. So people got it, and this thing just made its way around the internet like so many times. And we just woke up in Thailand and I looked at the traffic, and I was like, “What is going on here?” So I called the marketing agency right away, and I was like, “Guys, we’ve gotta get on this.”
Julien: And then … What did we do? The first thing we did is the original person who tweeted it, I think we said like thank you and we gave her like another free piece right away. So she was like actively in the conversation defending us, ’cause some people were saying like, people always hate in the comments, or they love, or whatever. And she was just in there, throwing fuel on the fire and kept it going. And then it got retweeted and all these popular Instagram accounts were, like the meme accounts, we're posting it. And traffic kept on coming.
Felix: So this was a customer and not even somebody that you guys were working with to create content to go viral?
Julien: Exactly. We really just got very lucky. And then organic shot up through the roof because I guess Google saw like a ton of people coming. And then along with that, then we also saw the flaws too. We saw that our conversion rate tanked. And obviously, not everybody came to the site that was interested, they may have just come to see. But we still, at that point, realized that we should probably work on our website experience. And we were really afraid that the site was gonna crash, it didn’t, but it definitely slowed down. So we realized that we needed to make some adjustments.
Felix: Have you learned anything from this in terms of what is required, or what might give something, like a post for example, or an image, a better chance at going viral?
Julien: So we went viral twice. That was completely organic. The second time, it seems to be the same thing. Like it’s always a boyfriend buys the necklace for someone and it’s kind of romantic I guess. It’s the moon on the day they met and that’s what the necklace represents, and then people kind of put a caption like, so romantic. Like I’ll never be that romantic or something along those lines. So it’s kind of funny, but it’s true at the same time. And people see that it’s a real photo. So I think these type of things…It’s hard because when it’s sponsored people obviously know it’s sponsored. So when it’s real, and it really is real, people know that and then they engage with it. And sometimes you just get lucky.
Julien: But I think it’s important to have people posting these photos and encouraging people, obviously, to post the photos and to use the hashtags and things of that nature. ’Cause then you’ll have more opportunity to get it out there, and more chance that it’s gonna get picked up.
Felix: Right. You can only do so much. But if you can encourage activity, and getting real customers to put out content, something might catch on like it has a couple of times for you guys already.
Felix: So what can you do to ride this wave? If something does take off, maybe not to the same extent that it has for you guys, but I’m sure to some lesser degree someone posts something and you get a big tic, has a bigger splash than want you normally get, and you start getting traffic coming in. What can you do to ride the wave and extend this kind of exposure?
Julien: Well first it’s all hands on deck. We make sure that our customer service team, everybody is ready because there’s a big surge happening. So right away it's like, “Alright guys. Let’s get to it.” And then we monitor kind of the comments and we make sure that we engage in the comments, and we’re talking to people. And a lot of times when it does go viral, they see the product, they see the brand name, they don’t really know the website because it’s not something where you’re … It’s not a sponsored post, so there’s no click here, or people can click.
Julien: They usually just go finding I ton Google. So we do comment. People see us commenting from either our twitter account, our Instagram account, so they know where it’s coming from. So, people that do what to buy it, we make it as easy as possible for them.
Julien: The second time we went viral, we took that same meme, and we gave it to a meme account. I think paid them like a couple of hundred bucks, they had like a million followers or something, to repost it just to kind of keep it trending on Instagram. And that’s what we did the second time, and it worked.
Felix: I like that. That you guys took what was already working and then gave it to someone that had a big distribution. It’s already proven to work, it’s already kind of in the, I guess, internet [inaudible] for that day, and you pushed it along by giving it to someone that had a big distribution.
Felix: So you mentioned that the base sales went up. Do you remember how big of a difference either one of these made for your base sales?
Julien: Yeah. Well, what happened is, when we went to 100,000 followers, excuse me, visitors on that first explosion, then it kind of went to 75 and 50. And then our visitors just doubled over time. So our sales essentially doubled right after that. And it just kind of kept doubling.
Julien: Because we really feel that we had a good product, a good brand, a good story, we just needed to get it out there. I guess if you do have a good brand, a good product, and people like it, more eyes get on it. Naturally, you’ll make more sales and people will tell more people and whatever. So it really just kind of doubled from that point, to be honest.
Felix: Wow. That’s amazing.
Felix: So I’m gonna talk a little bit about hiring. So you hire a team member for branding and social media management. They were able to give you resources to start rebranding and making the brand look more professional, which you say speaks to the importance of investing your team. ’Cause it made a huge difference for you guys. At what point did you decide to do this, to focus on hiring someone for the branding and the social media management side?
Julien: So the first company that we worked with over in California, which I said we had started working within 2011 or 2012, they had grown our follower count to around I think 10,000 on Instagram. But the branding was like, the photos they were using weren’t very good. And then we met somebody who … We became friends and she was saying like, “The photography’s not very good. It’s not cohesive. The colors suck.” All this stuff, which was … We were very humble about it, like “Yeah, you’re right.”
Julien: And she was young, she didn’t really have a track record, and we hired her, we brought her on. And she really did her thing and grew that follower count in a year from like 10,000 to I think now it’s like 75. Got us verified, got the whole branding cohesive, redesigned our whole office. And it really started to look the same all across the board, which was something that we didn’t understand or have too much time to do, but just made such a big difference. Because when somebody hasn’t experienced the brand, they come to the site, like it’s gotta look legit. People will look at your Instagram, they will look at who’s wearing it, they’ll look at your tags. And it if all clocks out they’ll be like, “Alright. This is a legit company. I’ll buy from here.”
Felix: Right. So you said to us as well that you should work with experts, and don’t try to save money by doing everything yourself. And I see a lot of entrepreneurs, especially I guess if they’re bootstrapping, they’re struggling to get by, kind of get stuck here, where they’re trying to do everything themselves. They’re getting spread too tin so they can’t grow, they can’t reinvest in their business. So is there a certain stage where this starts to make sense? Like how do you know when you should kind of step away from certain things and start hiring people to fill in those aspects, or even those gaps in your skillset?
Julien: Yeah. For the first couple of years, it was really me and Aurelie grinding away. We would stay up till 4:00 AM doing orders and doing that whole thing. Outgrew the house, like many people. Then we got an office, a small office with one employee.
Julien: So it was really when it got to the point we couldn’t do it anymore, then we would upgrade. You know, when we realized like okay, our branding’s not gonna get any better. We’ve grown as much as we can. Let’s take it to the next level here, let’s invest in it. So I think it’s like not too early, I think to start doing it yourself up until it's like you can’t do it anymore, or you can’t make it any better. And be honest with yourself and say, “Hey look. I need to give it to somebody else here who’s gonna be able to do it better than I can."
Felix: So when you’re hiring an agency or individual, is your [inaudible] evaluation process the same? Like how do you approach the difference between hiring someone that’s a team member, verses like an agency?
Julien: So agencies, yeah. We’ve been through a couple of different agencies. They’re tough, they’re tough. Sometimes you just won’t know, you gotta give it two, three months to really see what they can do, unfortunately. And the same thing with employees and team members. Not everybody is good, ultimately we’re looking for the best 10% we can find. That’s … We don’t settle for less, you know. We really try to get the best that’s we can find.
Julien: So we had to let go of a lot of people because of that. In the end, it works, because now we got a good team in place, everything’s working, and it’s kind of been growing very, very well because of that.
Felix: So what do you do, how do you evaluate? ’Cause I think this is a skillset that takes time to develop. But are there any things that you learn along the way to more quickly identify if someone’s going to be a good fit, or is successful in the role that you hired them for?
Julien: Yeah. Well for example, for paid stuff, like paid agencies and things like that, paid marketing. I mean, that’s pretty simple, that’s a return on ad spend. So I mean it’s either you’re making money or you’re not, and how long will you go until you don’t see a return. Because there are certain agencies that we worked with that there was no profit, and they wouldn’t really respond very quickly. So you start to get that gut feeling like, "Alright. We’re probably not that important to them. We’re not making much money. We need to make a change here.” So that’s how it works with paid agencies.
Julien: With people in the house, we used to hire pretty quickly. We had a lot of problems like we had to do a whole kind of change the team and change the culture. And then we hired a fantastic manager to kind of take our place ’cause we were managing all of the employees and the team members, but that becomes a big job. And sometimes what was happening is that we were working so hard on growing the business and doing os many things, that we couldn’t set the right culture because, you know, let’s face it. If somebody calls in sick or whatever, for the owners, you just work. And sometimes it can be frustrating, but you have to manage those things well. And that’s when like an office manager for us who really was able to take what we wanted, like our culture, and ping-pong, and all that fun stuff, and happy hours, and implement all that stuff for us. And then you have less turnaround, you have a better team, you have a happier team, and everything just seems to work a lot better.
Felix: How do you decide if you should hire someone in the house, or an outside agency?
Julien: It depends on certain things. It’s tough. But the thing is for us, most of our team does the fulfillment. So because our product is kind of custom, so it’s very hard to use a 3PL, and we’ve actually tried that. We used a 3PL, flew to Kansas, it was just a lot of mistakes. So we knew right away, for that, we were not gonna outsource this. We were gonna do it in house, much more difficult, you're dealing with employees and everything that comes along with that, you need much more space. But we knew that was the right route for the customer to get the proper customer experience.
Julien: Same thing for customer service. We really like to have our team in house. And sometimes, you know, they can work from home and stuff if they want. But when you have those employees in house, they’re part of the culture. You know you guys all get along, and they understand the brand, they know the brand. And then I feel that the customer gets a much better customer experience.
Felix: Right. So these days do you have agencies for any of the…I guess what do you have agencies for?
Julien: So we use an agency for search engine optimization, ’cause I fell that’s something that’s changing a lot so it’s better to use experts that stay up with the trends. We use an agency for Google ads, any paid ads, Facebook, Instagram, things like that. And then we outsource also with some photographers and videographers, but we also do some of the videography and photography in the house as well, so it’s a mix of the two.
Felix: Got it. What’s your interaction and guidance that you would for an agency? You mentioned that they’re mostly marketing agencies, right, people that do SEO or Instagram and Facebook ads. Like how do you make sure that they’re, I guess, on track? Like what kind of guidance do you provide?
Julien: So I think with an agency, for example, any paid ad agency, for us it’s really simple. It’s that return on ad spend like how much do you expect and setting those guidelines from the beginning. Like if you spend 1,000 are you expecting 2,000 sales, 1,500 sales, 1,200, 3,000? So that you know, and they know, what they’re trying to hit. ’Cause at the beginning we didn’t really set those expectations, it was just kind of like yeah make sales. ’Cause we didn’t know how much. So being clear about that, your expectations with them, and then they know their KPIs or their goals. And then have weekly meetings to see if it’s working or not, and what you need to adjust.
Felix: So if it isn’t working, or if you could think of an example where it’s not tracking the right way, what can you do? Or is there anything that you can do, or is it literally kind of in their hands and maybe is not a good fit, you have to find a new agency?
Julien: Well earlier on, for example, we started working with one agency. And the website wasn’t that great, this was pre-Shopify. The branding wasn’t … We weren’t selling as a lifestyle brand, it was very different, it was very dark, the experience. And you know, we worked with the agency in our weekly meetings, it was working, but it was working on a small scale. And I was like, “Hey, I want to scale it.” And he was honest and he was like, “Look. You need to probably sell the lifestyle, like the whole customer experience.” Because it’s true, I mean they can send people to your site. But once they land there, it is your job to give them a great experience and make sure everything is on point and there’s no problem, everything flows well from the time they come into the time they check out, and afterward as well.
Julien: So that’s when we started looking at Shopify, and we rebranded and did all those things that earlier on the agency told us. So a good agency should also guide you on what you should do to make sure that you’re both successful, because the more sales obviously you make on your website, the more the agency will make as well, you know. So it’s a two-way street.
Felix: Right. So what’s your process for finding an agency to work with?
Julien: Before I used to just go online and then look around, and I still do that. But now, I think, being in groups and knowing people that have worked with agencies that are very good and have a proven track record is probably the best way to go.
Felix: So you’re looking for like referrals?
Julien: Yeah, referrals. Or like, for example, me in the Shopify Plus group, a lot of people talk in there. And I’m in a few other groups as well, and a lot of people have some pretty good brands that are doing some strong sales that also have recommendations. So that’s usually the best way to go in my opinion.
Felix: For you, is it a requirement that they have worked with a company this space, I guess, in your case with like jewelry or something?
Julien: No, not necessarily. Like we sell jewelry, but it’s more the experience that we’re selling, it’s a very unique type of jewelry. So, no. It wasn’t necessary.
Felix: Yeah. I mean because that’s the case where it’s like you can’t really pinpoint another company that is similar to you. In that initial conversation, like how do you see if they get it? I guess how do you determine if they get what you’re trying to create?
Julien: Yeah. And we had to do some back and forth like there was a little tension sometimes between the branding and making sure that … Because the first thing that one agency that did, is they wanted to discount everything, and we’re not a big discount company. And then we also had some pushback from our director of sales and wholesale. She was like, “Julien, what is going on here? You’re discounting everything, or at least the messaging said it was sitewide, but it wasn’t site wide.” And that’s obviously gonna work, like if you have a company that doesn’t make sales and then all of a sudden you blast it out that everything is 20% off sitewide, you’re gonna make a ton of sale, but then you’re known as a discount company and that was not something we wanted to go down.
Julien: So it was … We had to do some back and forth, make sure that the integrity stayed there, the brand integrity, the messaging. And we weren’t always trying to do sales and things like that. So we went back and forth, but we were able to find a good meeting point.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you mentioned that one of the times the agency said that, “Hey, we can only do so much.” You have to spend some time to improve the website experience and also branding comes along with it. Can you talk a little bit about that? Like what changes did you guys have to make to improve the website’s conversion rates?
Julien: Yeah. Well just for starters, the whole flow of the site and the way it looked and the number of clicks. So we had to improve the way it looked, rebrand all the colors, much better photography, like reduce … We had way too many clicks when we did a revision there of how many clicks it takes to get to the checkout. We would just identify that it’s way too many, so we reduced that. And really started to get that good photography and that good experience so that people can … It looked attractive, or much better than it did at least. And that made a big difference in our conversion rate.
Felix: Yeah, the too many clicks thing I think is important because each click is an opportunity for someone to drop off. Like what are some things that you guys had before that you cut out?
Julien: It was just like our checkout was too long, for example. Like there was just…I think there were an extra two clicks there. Like you know, sometimes your checkouts are just so long, and that’s something that I would say Shopify did really well.
Julien: So one time, I’ll just give you a story, I went to a meetup like early on. It was kind of an "I’ll look at your website and give you some advice" type meetup. And we started working with this guy locally, we don’t work with him anymore, but he told us a lot of really good things. Like he was kind of a conversion rate specialist, and he was local so we could meet with him and things. And that’s when he really started to…I learned a lot from him. Like he was like, “This is way too many clicks. Here are all your problems. Look at your heat maps. Like, look at all this.” And then we started making a lot of big changes.
Felix: Got it. So you also mentioned that you wanted to improve the way it looks. So did you guys hire like some kind of design agency to work on that?
Julien: Yeah, exactly. So actually one of the marketing agencies that we work with who told us that we needed a better customer experience plugged us with a design agency, a Shopify Plus approved partner I think they’re called or something like that, over in New York. And started working with them. So that’s it, a good agency as well they have contacts with photographers, videographers, designers, and different things that can really help you.
Felix: When it came to better photography, like what was the direction [inaudible 00:31:02]? How did you know what better meant?
Julien: I think Aurelie can talk to you about that, But I think that the photography was … It needed to all be the same as it was kind of different. Like the whites weren’t all the same, and what was it, as some items were larger.
Aurelie: Yeah. I think as far as product photography it needed to be more consistent. But I think the issue is that we didn’t have any branding to start with, so we needed to really determine what our branding … We didn’t look like.
Julien: Yeah. We didn’t even have-
Julien: -we didn’t even have like our colors down. And we weren’t sharing that with people It was kind of like, you know, just do whatever, just sell it. Like we didn’t have like a press kit, like a proper press kit. Like these are the colors, our logo, those are all things that kind of came afterward.
Aurelie: Yeah, guidelines.
Julien: Yeah, like branding guidelines.
Felix: Yeah. Are there questions you should ask yourself then to get this down, because you mentioned colors, like what does the logo look like, and things. What else should you be asking and know the answers to before you have a strong grasp of being able to point to something and say, “This is the brand."
Aurelie: I would say like what do you want people to fell when they look at your brand? Like I think this is really important. What do you want? What feel do you want them to have? I think before we were all over the place with the colors, it was red, brown, blue, and like … Now we have much more calming tones, like blues and whites, and everything’s very bright, everything’s very fresh. It gives you that feeling of like it’s very clean, you know. So I think it’s important to define what kind of experience, what kind of feel, you want all throughout your website, all throughout your photos.
Felix: Right. I think Julien., you mentioned that a lot of times entrepreneurs just kind of want to run as fast as possible, just sell this, like who cares about the way this looks. If it’s selling, it’s fine. But taking the time to improve the brand is kind of a step back. I mean, just step back to take two steps forward, but you still gotta kind of pause things and spend your energy, your focus, and your capital on improving this. What it an easy decision to make, to say let’s invest the time and slow things down a bit so we can improve the brand?
Julien: I think it was an easy decision because we knew that we had to do that in order to take it to the next level. Because when you’re not trying to grow a bunch or your pool of people is very small, it’s fine. But if you’re really trying to scale, and those little things make a difference. And the margins kind of get smaller and smaller as you get bigger and bigger, which is spending more money and getting people to the site and things, that all these little things are very, very important to do. So we did realize that we needed to make these changes, needed to be the same … Like our branding guidelines needed to be respected everywhere, online, offline, trade shows, stores, stop and shops, wherever it is now, it all looks the same.
Julien: And it gives you … You look more legit too as well. Like people would see us in trade shows and be like, “Wow. You guys have really come a long way from when you started.” And it’s true. It looks better, it feels better. And like it’s all the same experience. So I think it’s important.
Felix: Does it make sense to focus on these details and the brand when you’re just starting out?
Julien: I think so.
Aurelie: I would say like if we had to do it all over again, I think that’s where you would start. I think what led us to make this decision, you know, hiring someone to help us with the branding, is that we were trying so many things like flyers, graphics, and we were always not fully satisfied with the way it came out. And everything was so not consistent. So at the end of the day, you do waste a lot of time trying to find your way into the way your brand looks. So I think it is something you should actually focus on like in the first steps of your business.
Felix: Got it. So were there any apps that you guys use, or service that you guys recommend to improve the customer experience? ’Cause you mentioned that the branding thing, you guys had to figure out for sure to improve the website. What about just like apps or anything like that to improve the customer experience or the conversion rates?
Julien: Yeah. So one of the big metrics we’re tracking is obviously the conversion rate, but the return customer rate as well. The customer satisfaction rate. So we used Yotpo for reviews, and we monitor those reviews big time and really read them, every single one, every week and try to improve on those. SO I think that the reviews are obviously important.
Julien: Apps that really help us? We’ve been going more international, and we grew that channel quite a bit this year. So we use FlavorCloud for really good shipping prices, international. It’s pretty easy to use, it’s an app, doesn’t cost very much, and you can ship really, really cheap internationally.
Felix: Awesome. So you mentioned at the start of the show that you guys are on track to build your first ten million dollars, over ten million dollars a year in 2019. What kind of problems do you guys face nowadays that you didn’t face when you were just trying to get to the first seven-figure, that first million dollar business?
Julien: Yeah, It’s a whole different set of problems now. Like it really came down, like this last Christmas it was … We thought we had a big enough team, and it just wasn’t. Because again, we fulfill our own orders, we do our own customer service, all that stuff. So we just didn’t have enough people, and we all had to grind and moral started getting pretty low. People are just worked out, you know, we’re doing 70, 80 hours. So that was super tough. So it’s trying to predict, and then it drops off again. It’s not that it’s seasonal, but obviously Christmas time. And then you get into like January it’s much slower, and then you’ve got all these people and it’s trying to juggle all that type of stuff. It’s difficult.
Julien: And obviously, you’re spending much more money, so the finances become more important, where to put your money and things like that. And where you’re gonna grow, like for us we’re growing online, we’re also growing offline in the brick and mortar space and partnering with some great websites, other websites, to sell our brand and other great stores. We build these like really cool counters. So we’ve been working a long time on these counters, and invested quite a bit of time and money into these, but we know that we place these in different great retail locations, you’re gonna get a ton of traffic seeing your brand, and also a ton of sales selling your brand as well. SO sometimes you gotta invest in the right places.
Felix: So as you guys are putting all this out, what do the both of like to focus, or prefer to focus your time on a day to day basis?
Julien: Yeah. And I also want to say, another thing that we did too last year before we had kind of a, not an employee problem, but as a team culture problem because we were the managers of the office and manager of the employees. But we weren’t always there because we were…Aurelie was on photo shoots and I was at trade shows. And there was kind of a negative attitude had started to take place in the office, and it got really bad. And then some people were saying that some weird stuff was going on in the office, not supposed to happen. And I don’t know, I’m not even there. And I don’t know much about being HR compliant and all that type of stuff, you know. So I didn’t quite get it.
Julien: So that was really hard because we had to essentially, kind of let go of a lot of people that were just really killing our culture, and we had to get new fresh, a new fresh manager. Now the vibe is so much better. We have an amazing team of people, and they love coming to work. Our turnover’s been almost zero. We do crazy ping-pong championships and it’s awesome like the vibe is great. So that was a big challenge.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So I guess-
Felix: What do you prefer to spend your time doing? Have you guys handed off the kind of office management stuff, or like what is working at the most value these days?
Julien: Yeah. So we created an accountability chart so everybody has really defined roles in what they’re doing. So I’m more of like in the finance and working with the marketing teams to make sure that I’m growing that top line revenue. And Aurelie works more in marketing, photography.
Aurelie: Yeah. So I oversee anything that’s creative in the company. So anything that has to do with photography, graphics, you know, different projects for wholesale retail-
Julien: Brand integrity too. We did put Aurelie in charge of making sure that everything is … Like who’s got the final say on the brand integrity, and that’s Aurelie to make sure that it’s really something we want to push out there, or we want to be advertising.
Aurelie: Yeah. And I also do inventory management and anything that has to do with buying product but also developing new pieces for the line. And this is what I really would love to be focusing on more because I think we’ve done great things this past year with some new pieces that we designed, and I think people are really liking it. And I’d like to take this one step further.
Felix: Awesome. Thank you so much, guys. Moonglow dot com is the website. And for the both of you, what is the biggest challenge that you guys think you will overcome this year?
Julien: The biggest challenge I think is hitting those goals. We set some pretty high KPIs for ourselves, and it’s gonna be tough. We’re holding everybody accountable to hit those KPIs, so we’re just pushing through to make sure we can hit all our goals.
Felix: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Julien: Thanks Felix.
Aurelie: Thanks. Thanks.