Budding entrepreneurs looking for inspiration need look no further than Megan Cummins, founder of You Smell tasked with creating a unique brand in her university packaging design class, Megan chose to make a new brand of soap. After the design project was complete, Megan created the soap to go along with it, and thanks to her keen sense for smell and texture, things quickly started to take off.
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The You Smell story
Within a couple of weeks of starting You Smell, their soap bars were popping up in major magazines and blogs, with companies calling to ask where they could purchase her products. Megan had always dreamed of starting her own company, and with the attention her soap was getting, she decided to start You Smell on the side while working full-time as a graphic designer. She did a trial run with a few hundred bars to see how they’d sell, and before she knew it, the president of Urban Outfitters had personally requested all remaining bars. Despite this big win, however, Megan wasn't sure she had the funds to launch a large enough company that could easily supply soap to other chains.
Shark Tank appearance
Seeing her business' potential, Megan decided to ask for funds from investors. And what better way to get investors’ attention than by pitching your business on a hit television show? Megan appeared on the ABC hit show Shark Tank in February 2012, got the attention of investors and walked out with the funding needed to officially launch You Smell. Megan and her fiancé, Aaron Heth (who calls himself "Chief Helper"), quit their day jobs to work on You Smell full-time, and the business has been growing ever since.
Sniffing out the right ecommerce solution
Megan and Aaron were in an interesting predicament going into the Shark Tank appearance. Their business was more of a hobby at the time, but they needed to prepare for the possibility of becoming nationally known overnight. In other words, they had to build a website that would work with their small budget, but offer the scalability and functionality of a major ecommerce site.
They looked at every ecommerce solution, from the smaller startups to the major players, and after multiple pros-and-cons lists, Volusion came out on top. It had the right rates, the lowest credit card fees, fully customizable templates, extensive data on sales and even third party services for fulfillment needs. On top of that, Megan and Aaron loved the visual appeal and user experience of using it. So with the 24x7, one-on-one support service at their side, they jumped right into building their business online.
An eye for design
Megan and Aaron are both visual designers, so having a website they could fully customize was essential. With Volusion's template offerings, Megan and Aaron were able to easily design their website and attach their design to a pre-existing template that had all of the functionality they wanted. Overall, they found the design to be an easy process, and whenever they got stuck, Volusion was there to help with one-on-one phone calls.
Scrubbing their way to the top with the right business tools
You Smell launched their site the day the Shark Tank episode aired. They received a huge bump in traffic, and the Volusion team was there to make sure everything ran smoothly. Since launching the site, You Smell has seen a continual uptick in sales and new accounts just by getting the word out. Many of Volusion’s built-in marketing tools help with that, including:
- The flexibility to easily manage customers via a comprehensive CRM
- Newsletter functionality and the ability to ask customers to sign up at checkout
- Easy-to-create coupon codes for giveaways or sales
They also love being able to easily manage their workflow with the built-in tools that Volusion offers such as:
- Inventory management
- Shipping calculations
- Wholesale and retail capabilities
You Smell is primarily a wholesale company, and having lots of traffic isn’t as important to them as the experience they deliver to the traffic they get. The ability to tell shop owners they can place wholesale orders online, track their status, look up receipts and place re-orders shows that they are organized and professional. Even having the website automatically send out a professional receipt tells wholesale customers what their experience is going to be like working with You Smell in the future.
Not only did Volusion help You Smell with the retail-facing side of the business, but its third party services helped You Smell get set up on the back-end with a warehouse and fulfillment center. Megan was hesitant to use third-party services at first, but after doing extensive research and making countless phone calls, Volusion’s partners were the best option in price and service. It was also a huge bonus that the third party providers were already integrated and ready to go, which meant less time and money spent for You Smell.
Megan loves to see Volusion continually build its network and offerings for free.
Making a splash
Megan and Aaron are pleased that You Smell gives off the "established business" vibe with its polished design and detailed checkout process, receipts and other communications. You Smell has also surpassed expectations for acquiring new customers, building retention rates and maintaining wholesale accounts. But for them, the most exciting thing is seeing customers come back and re-order—especially three or four times. It assures them that they’re on the right track, growing brand loyalty and continuously delivering a good experience that’s worth coming back for.
Megan and Aaron have been able to double You Smell’s product line in the past year, going from being non-existent to nationally known. The upcoming year is going to be the ultimate year in growth for You Smell, with several major initiatives lined up for distribution and press, including major press, working with major chains and supporting two full-time employees.
Advice for others with a dream
Here's what Megan has to say to others who hope to start their own businesses:
“Stay focused and grow meaningfully. Find out what the heart of your company is. Not a product, but an overall feeling or experience you’re delivering. It’s the emotional connection you offer that builds your brand loyalty and memorability. It’s also the key differentiator in a crowded marketplace. Think of all the bakery shops out there. You’ve probably been to dozens, but there are a couple that will stick out - that ultra-modern one with all of the bright colors and happy music, or the little old homey shop where it feels like your Grandma’s house. They deliver an experience. You can have parody products, but you can’t have parody brands. Once you know what your message is, keep it clear and continually ask yourself if what you’re doing builds upon that. Make sure everything you do- from music to displays, to copywriting and products, conveys that same message.”
You can find You Smell on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Thank you to Megan and Aaron for sharing their story with us, and good luck to them as they continue to grow and expand their business.