What’s your name, your background and what business do you run?
My name is Kristen Anderson and I am the proud owner of Amalie Beauty. Prior to purchasing Amalie, most of my career was in the corporate Consumer Packaged goods arena.
I began in Sales and then moved to Marketing and am one of those odd ducks that has achieved success with both. I have been an executive in companies like M&M/Mars, Hershey Foods, Pillsbury/Diageo & Coats & Clark. I also have about 7 years’ experience in a startup company running sales and marketing.
Amalie was originally founded in 2013 by a college chemistry student at MIT seeking a natural remedy for her damaged eyelashes. She created WINK Lash & Brow Enhancing Oil as the first product. She leveraged the school’s resources to create the brands and most importantly the formulas.
I purchased the Amalie business, because I was attracted to the products myself, but also to the vision & mission of the company.
Amalie’s mission is to solve the world’s toughest beauty problems through real science and natural ingredients – our products enable your inner beauty to shine outwardly.
We have grown our remedy-based skincare line from the ground up, intentionally choosing plants that heal, restore and rejuvenate.
Our products are made with care in small batches. We only use the highest quality ingredients in our completely organic line, which is free of carcinogens and other harmful ingredients.
With us, you don’t have to think too hard about it: you know our products are both good and good for you.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was frustrated with the corporate world as I felt they were not moving fast enough, resistant to change and failed to embrace the online world. I literally had a boss tell me he wanted to “shut down Amazon” because they were difficult.
Even though I had worked in the corporate world I have always been entrepreneurial and unique – never happy with status quo, I love to learn and embrace change.
I grew up working in my mother’s flower shop chain and had always wanted my own business, so after some personal reflection I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. That’s when I developed my criteria for an ideal business and began searching.
“I was frustrated with the corporate world. I literally had a boss tell me he wanted to ‘shut down Amazon’ because they were difficult”
What criteria did you use when considering purchasing a business?
I wanted a business that was already established and successful that needed to focus on marketing and sales (my areas of expertise) to scale. My criteria consisted of:
- Currently profitable and growing
- Unique product(s) that I believe in
- Products that are efficient to ship & store
- A category I can relate to with potential to grow
- High margin products so that I can re-invest in the business for growth
- Business fundamentals established. The site, blog, sourcing, branding, core customers, etc…
Ironically, I originally encountered Amalie as a consumer rather than as a business buyer. I had purchased the WINK product prior to my search for a business so when I saw it posted for sale I was thrilled. I already used and believed in one of the products. I now use all of the products and believe in them too. They really work – and they are organic!
What was the process of designing, manufacturing and bringing your first product or service to market?
Prior to developing new products, I wanted to optimize the current portfolio. The formulations for the Amalie products were amazing but the packaging needed to be retail-ready.
The products needed aligning at optimal price points. I decided to create a line of beauty oils at one price point vs having various sizes all with different price points.
I also wanted the design of the products to be more oriented towards Amalie as a brand rather than focused on the individual items, so all packaging was updated. The most dramatic change was with the REWIND and CALM products.
REWIND – Organic Toning Oil and CALM – Organic Soothing Oil were in larger bottles and at a much higher price point. I decided to align these with SHINE – Organic Brightening Oil and it has made all the difference. The smaller sized bottle is not only lower in cost but is safe for travel. I had to set up UPC Codes, design and purchase the packaging, align production, get new photography for the site and partners and about 9 months after the purchase of the business I had the revised items ready for sale. Sales on CALM and REWIND are really taking off and like many of the other items – repurchases are high.
I knew how to set up UPC codes from my many years in marketing. I was also fortunate that Amalie was set up with GS-1 barcodes so I simply needed to add the revised items.
We have a healthy number of customers who participate in our subscription program which enables an additional discount. We also run special offers on occasion to encourage customers who are loyal to one item to also try another. We have found this to help broaden use across the portfolio.
New Product Launch
I also created the Amalie Limited Editions Line of Potions. The idea with the Limited Editions range is to make smaller batches of items and offer them as a limited offer.
This way we create excitement with something new while learning what consumers like. When an item takes off, we will roll it into our everyday portfolio. This also allowed us a way to use the excess packaging we have from the old packages.
We are planning Amalie Limited Editions twice a year and also have two additional new items in development to help round out the assortment.
The process we go through to determine the next new items involves studying the market needs and trends as well as listening to our customers. Since we don’t do animal testing, we also test new items with our Amalie team members, friends and family and customers who want to participate.
Describe the process of launching the business and any issues you had at the beginning
Even though this was an existing business, every day of the first 3 months brought challenges I was not prepared for. It could be as simple as a question from a customer on changing their subscription timing to the blog going down – the curveballs kept coming.
I saw a comic that charted the emotional changes of a business owner each hour in a day and I can relate to it. It showed – when things were going great – the owner thinking “ I am a genius, I knew that would work”, when things were good – the owner thinking “Okay,I think I can make that a little better” and when things were bad – the owner thinking “ Why did I do this, am I going to make it?” all of this in one day – typically ending somewhere in the middle.
During those first 3 months when things came up that I wasn’t trained to handle, I just figured things out and if I couldn’t I got help. I was a regular caller on the Shopify helpline.
After a few months I realized I had the basics down – now I was into the growing and improving territory. I still ride the roller coaster of emotion and every day is still filled with unknowns, but now they are unknowns that I create myself. Trying something new, making changes to the old way of doing things, taking some daring chances, all lead to paths unknown. In the beginning I didn’t know what I didn’t know – now I do.
What strategies or marketing channels do you most rely on?
The Amalie website is important to the business, but so are all of the other partners. International Distributors, Retail stores & Online partners round out the other sales channels. I like that we are not dependent upon any one channel or customer. We are still primarily independent, and we’re not in large chains yet.
As for marketing, the Amalie site, Facebook, Instagram and our blog are most critical for driving traffic. We also work closely with our partners on their special programs or offers.
What platform, tools or software do you use for your business?
We try to minimize the number of apps we use, to try and keep things simple but still use a good number:
- Privy – for pop-ups and other on-site conversion tools
- Recharge – for subscriptions
- Shipstation – for shipping software for ecommerce fulfillment
- ShopSync – for Mailchimp integration to Shopify
- Judge.Me – for product reviews
- Mailchimp – for email
- Canva – for design
- Upwork – for finding freelancers
- SurveyMonkey – for surveying my audience
- SumoMe – for various marketing tools
(Editor – if you’re looking for more great Ecommerce resources, then check this out)
What does the next 12 months look like for your business, and for yourself, professionally?
2019 has been a year of change. I think the economy overall is tumultuous. Many accounts are being sold or consolidated, and volume is shifting from one account or channel to another, and there’s increasing competition in the organic beauty space.
With that being said, we’re seeing new accounts continuing to come on board and we expect a year of growth even greater than we had in the first year.
What have you learned through this process that you didn’t know or think was important beforehand?
I wish I had planned for more transition time with the previous business owner. Even though the business was established there were numerous unique quirky things that have come up that have taken way too much time.
The customer (retailer, distributor, e-com partners) base is constantly changing. I expected on-going change when I bought the business, but the pace of buy-outs, mergers and opening/closing is constant. It’s really tough to keep up with, so it’s important to be seeking new points of distribution.
I’ve also learnt that Social Media takes a ton of time and is tricky to get right. Most of our social media is organic at the moment, but we do participate in purchasing ads as well. The blog is also a key driver of volume. We manage some of these platforms ourselves and outsource others. At this stage we have built a network of experts who we see as an extension of the company.
“I wish I had planned for more transition time with the previous business owner. Even though the business was established there were numerous unique quirky things that have come up that have taken way too much time. “
What did you wish you knew before starting?
Just how much work goes into building an app! It’s hundreds of hours of developing, and then countless hours testing, and then re-iterating, and then adding new features. I never sleep.
What resources would you recommend for others looking to start a business?
Most of my education took place in the corporate world with structured training as well as live learning with e-com accounts. I love to learn and am constantly talking to others in like businesses, staying abreast of the economic changes and legislation and reading what I can on business overall.
When we outsource and hire experts I learn from them and ask questions. Most of these relationships have turned into mutual sharing business partnerships where we have been able to help one another. I also currently take advantage of free information sessions and/or demonstrations of new tools offered by current partners or potential future partners. There are so many things offered I try to be selective and honest with vendors as I do not want to waste their time.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs looking to start their own ecommerce business?
Seriously consider purchasing an existing business – it will get you up and running faster.
Be sure you are clear on expectations – is it to make a living, side hustle, a passion project? All of these choices take time and money. I think most people think it’s easier than it is.
When you’re considering an idea, build a 2 -5 year strategic strawman. This process will force you to get into details and determine what is really possible. Ask yourself the hard – what if – questions before you get too far along. Once you start or buy a business, build a developed 2 year strategic plan and review it every 2 months or so. It’s ok to adjust but it’s also important to keep the end game in view. This makes the daily decisions much easier and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Embrace & Drive change. Once you get used to the fact that you will never have all the answers, and by the way anyone who thinks they do is really foolish, it’s kind of freeing. Be open to learning, making mistakes and thinking BIG.
“Be sure you are clear on expectations – is it to make a living, side hustle, a passion project? All of these choices take time and money. I think most people think it’s easier than it is.”
Where can we go to learn more about you and your business?
You can learn more and purchase our products by visiting us at www.Amaliebeauty.com