Today's episode is super exciting. It's our 20th episode and our very first guest joins us. Jessica Principe is a client-turned-friend and all-around badass human. Armed with a passion for business, a creative idea, and Google, she self-funded and launched All Girl Shave Club, a women's shaving subscription service and online boutique.
She’s a self-taught eCommerce entrepreneur, she believes in having big bold dreams and chasing them fiercely. Her greatest passion is teaching others who want to start and grow their subscription box businesses too.
Hear the BIGGEST MISTAKE she’s made in her business (you know I like to keep it real), how you can stand out in a saturated market, and her #1 tip for every eCommerce business owner.
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How did the idea for All Girl Shave Club come about?
The idea came to me in the shower of all places! It’s where I get my best ideas because I'm away from the chaos of two little boys, a puppy, and a husband. It's my private quiet thinking time.
I had always wanted to start a business but I just didn't know what exactly I wanted to do. I was open to different ideas and possibilities but nothing really felt right until that moment in the shower.
Just as I was getting ready to shave, I went to steal my husband's razor — his was better than mine because it was sharper and always had fresh blades. I thought to myself, there really should be something like this for women. We deserve high-quality products that are fun, feminine, unique and to make this process a little bit more enjoyable.
The idea started to take shape in my brain right then and there. Immediately I started doing research to see how I could make it a reality.
Can you walk us through your pre-launch process and why you credit that as the catalyst for your business success?
My pre-launch is the number one thing that set me up for success early on. Usually, when launching a business you think about the fun things packaging, product design, and marketing but in reality, your pre-launch is the foundation. It's the most important thing that you can do to set yourself up for success.
Pre-launching isn’t the sexiest thing in the world but it’s where you do market research and makes sure there are people out there who will buy your product. When you're ready to launch, you have people that are lined up and ready to buy that product from you.
No matter what kind of product-based business you're looking to launch, it's really important to test the market with a pre-launch. Before you invest a ton of money and resources into making your idea come to life, you want to make sure that people will give you an email address and then, eventually, their money.
My pre-launch consisted of a simple landing page that had a little bit of information about the product and the experience that I was hoping to provide my members. There was also a mock-up photo of the products (which were terrible photos taken in my bathroom, by the way) and we gave people an option to leave their email address to be notified when we were ready to launch. Essentially, we were focused on building our email list from day one, so when the subscription went live we already had people willing to buy.
How did you get potential buyers to the landing page?
I was a regular mom and wife who was doing regular people things and I certainly didn’t have a blog or an audience to drive traffic to a landing page. I built up some social media pages on Facebook and Instagram which both contained the link to the landing page.
My target market was busy moms and women who wanted to have a level of self-care with their grooming routine, so I also promoted it through a moms' group on Facebook where I was already visible. They became my big cheerleaders and were invested in my idea. When I released the landing page, they were all really excited and eager to share it.
The landing page was also incentivized with a social share feature. People signed up and then they were taken to a rewards page where they could earn rewards for sharing it with other people. It didn’t necessarily go viral, but it had a built-in virality effect which allowed it to be shared organically over and over again in all parts of the country.
Even though we're all in this online space, people are still talking to each other about the products, businesses, and brands that they love. It goes to show that word-of-mouth advertising is not dead.
You recently held a big sale, which had a massive build-up, would you say that you took that same pre-launch approach with the sale as when you started your business?
Definitely. I offered an opportunity for my email list and my social media followers to opt into “the insiders' list”, which had early access to the sale. They also received an exclusive discount before the sale went live to the general public. It created its own excitement and it gave them the opportunity to self-identify as someone who wanted to be part of the sale —they were basically saying, I want to be notified and I'm all in.
When I sent the launch email to that list, they were ready and waiting. These are the biggest sales results I've ever had, so it’s a strategy that I would encourage people to try. It’s a concept that you can just rinse and repeat in your business, whether it's a sale, a new product, a new collection, or even just a specific holiday.
What were some of your first thoughts when you started seeing a lot of similar companies to All Girl Shave Club start popping up?
I was one of the first on the market, so the first year or so it was pretty easy coasting because we didn’t have a lot of competition.
All of a sudden, something changed in my business — I didn’t really understand what was going on. Business growth wasn't trending as high as it had been. It was around November, so as a holiday-ish season, it should have been continuing to climb.
A new competitor, who had raised millions of dollars, was trying to take over the market. I remember thinking I'm done — I literally just curled up in a ball and cried on the couch for three days thinking that this was the end.
After speaking to a trusted mentor and friend, I was able to really pull myself together. He told me I have two options, try to go toe to toe with them, or carve out my own niche and continue to serve my customers the way that I want to.
That was a really pivotal moment for me because I realized I’m not going to just roll over and give up — there is plenty of room for all of us. At that point, I got really clear on what my definition of success was in my business. We also defined our unique selling proposition, which helped us stand out against the competition.
My version of success was to earn income in fulfilling ways for my family and to be able to provide an alternative product to women who were looking for something a little bit more luxurious. Whereas the competition’s success looked more like taking over the razor market completely.
Understanding who my customer was and how we could serve her to the max was also crucial. Why would she want to come to our company versus one of the alternatives?
Growth is still possible even if you're in a crowded market or a category with a lot of big players. It's really easy to see what everyone else is doing and compare. Of course, the strategies and tactics matter but knowing where you're going in your business matters even more.
Are there any strategies and tactics you've implemented in the last few months that you think really contributed to that success?
It really starts with a strong foundation, such as getting very, very clear on what it is that you offer that your competition doesn't offer. People love supporting small businesses and women-owned businesses so that's definitely something that we are able to promote and to be able to focus on in our marketing messages — we’re a small women-owned business and you're more than a number to us.
Tactically, from a marketing standpoint, Facebook ads have been really effective in reaching cold audiences and new audiences that may have not heard of us before. We’ve had many experiences with Facebook ads that have not gone as well as this year, which is attributed to not understanding what the numbers mean.
It's super easy to be afraid because you’ve failed before and completely write it off as an option. But this time around, I took time to learn from the very best. It’s so important to ask for help and surround yourself with the people who get it and are on the same path as you. Invest in people who have been there before and can give you the shortcuts.
What has been your biggest failure with All Girls Shave Club so far?
There have been many failures, let's not pretend there haven’t. One of the biggest things that come to mind is not paying attention to my margins early on.
In the beginning, I was so caught up in the excitement of launching the business that I would add an extra item one month because I just wanted to make the experience so great for my buyers. I kept saying, does another dollar here or there really matter? The answer is, yes, those extra dollars do matter because my margins ended up being so thin. At the end of the day, there wasn't much left over to grow my business or to invest in growth-producing things like more inventory or Facebook ads.
Be very careful managing your margins early on and understanding those numbers. Even if you're not a financial person, you have to get really comfortable with those numbers because it's a slippery slope if you let it go without staying on top of it.
So many of us forget what actually goes into running a product-based business. It's not just the product, it's the packaging, the labels, the shipping cost to the purchaser, the shipping cost from the manufacturer as well as all the time, energy and effort you have to put into actually creating a product.
Business isn’t linear, it’s cyclical because we have to constantly think about how we can improve our margins, do things more efficiently and consider what our team looks like.
What has been your biggest success in your business so far?
The first big win was leaving my nine-to-five job and replacing my income about a year into the business. It allowed me the freedom to work from home and prioritize my family around my business and around my working hours.
The second big win was retiring my husband from his landscaping company. We ran the numbers and confirmed that next year, he's going to be able to retire from that company and come work for me managing our logistics and warehouse — I'm beyond excited about that.
If you could give my audience one thing to take away from today's episode, something that they 100% need to implement in their business, what would that be?
Identify where you can add a subscription component to your business. Every eCommerce business should have a form of recurring revenue, whether that's a product or a VIP membership. Think about what people are buying over and over again and put together a curated subscription box.
Is there a product that would complement your current line that's maybe consumable that would need replenishing on a regular basis? You already have an audience so work backward into a pre-launch and implement some of those strategies we talked about earlier.
If you are looking to add a subscription box component to your business, check out Jessica’s Dream to Launch Checklist which goes through all of the steps that you need to take to launch your own subscription box.
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