Today we are sharing with you an interview with two incredibly successful e-commerce founders Ann McFerran and Kevin Gould, the owners of the Glamnetic e-commerce brand. Together, they have scaled their business from $1 000 000 to $50 000 000 revenue per year in just 12 months, which is crazy. It is one of the biggest and fastest scales in online marketing.
If you want to learn how to build an extremely successful e-commerce brand fast, you have to read this.
How did you guys get started with the work you're doing today?
Ann McFerran: I went to UCLA for college and after graduating, I became a full-time artist for about 4 years. I was also kind of a social media micro-influencer because I was running my art pages. Basically, Kevin had another brand and they were gifting me ponytails as an influencer. They asked me to be a model for one of their photoshoots and it wasn't paid. Initially, I didn't want to go but then I realized that I was at the state whereby I wanted to start my own brand because being an artist wasn't scalable and by having a brand I could replicate my product, mass-produce, and sell it.
So I was actually in product development mode. I had finished developing my products and everything was going to start then I met Kevin at the photoshoot. After talking for a while, he was like, “I really want to be part of this, let’s partner up on Glamnetic.” So that's sort of when we became partners and that's the founding story.
Kevin Gould: When I backtrack to my career, everything that I do now comes together and makes sense. I started in the mailroom at the WME talent agency. It's a huge talent agency in Los Angeles. So, I actually started on the entertainment side and I was working with talents for a long time. I then got really deep in the influencer space, I was managing really really large digital influencers for a while. Then I used that to join the e-commerce brand space as Ann mentioned. Prior to Glamnetic, I co-owned two other brands in the space and when we linked up, we partnered up and worked on the Glamnetic brand.
Your brand Glamnetic is blowing up, you guys have gone from $0 to $50 000 000 in annual revenue in one year is that correct?
Kevin Gould: $1 000 000 to $50 000 000. It was definitely hyper-growth because the brand launched in 2019 and we did you know a $1 000 000 in half of that year. Last year in 2020, it went to $50 000 000. There's a lot of things that had to come into place before doing this from layering infrastructure, hiring teams, and a lot of things but fortunately, it turned out to be a hyper-growth.
Ann McFerran: It's crazy because I never launched a brand before and I had never been an entrepreneur. So starting this brand was my first step into it and my goal initially was to do like $10 000 a month. That was my initial benchmark because $10 000 a month sounded like a lot. Then the first month we were doing around $20 000 a month and then it was just doubling every month because of all of the resources and efforts we put in.
I was the face of the brand, I did all the content creative marketing and all the retention stuff, and the brand sort of got its own legs and became viral.
I think the product too was a genius product. It lent itself well to really solving a main issue in the beauty industry which is applying lashes. Lashes are one of the hardest things to apply in makeup routines and we were fixing that problem. The majority of girls don't know how to put on lashes and we're solving that problem making it so much easier in a less than 5-minute application. So it just blew up because it worked really well. We also made sure that product quality is good.
And I think obviously with covid last year, it became very interesting with lashes. Women were wearing masks and the eye up became extremely important which was really an interesting shift in the market. I think the other thing that allowed us to scale was going really strong at content creatives, social influencer acquisition, and retention.
We know that magnetic eyelashes are now a trending product under a trending category. Did you just go onto Alibaba to find the best manufacturer or did you spend a fair amount of time on product development yourselves? And how long did it take?
Ann McFerran: It took a year because nothing like that was on Alibaba. There were no magnetic lashes that were glam and had more than 3 magnets. So I researched and a lot of them were all really thin and plastic-looking, I don't know why that was the case. So what I wanted wasn’t on the market and I was really surprised.
That's why when we came out with five styles initially that were glam, people were shocked because they actually worked.
Kevin Gould: I think another thing that lent itself well to the product development process was Anne's artistic background. Anne being an artist was a big benefit because she took the best of being an artist and threw that into creating a product. What came out was a high-quality, unique, and innovative product that had not been on the market before.
What did the pre-launch time look like?
Ann McFerran: I ordered like the minimum MOQ because I wasn't sure if anything was going to work. I didn't want to invest much money and I wanted to be smart about it. The cost of goods of lashes thankfully is really cheap, so I was able to fully invest my own money in that. It was probably $5 000 to $8 000 initially. Basically, the plan was to sell everything out and then reorder again but we sold out so fast. I learned that I should have reordered as it was about to sell out - it was a good problem to have.
Kevin Gould: For 9 months we were in the cycle of shipping everything over by air as quickly as possible. There wasn't even that idea of putting anything on the ships because we just couldn't get things made and we had scaled up quick enough. I think the big thing in pre-launch was getting all the content ready and in place and leaning heavily into social media.
Ann McFerran: There were few followers on the actual business page but I did put a lot of resources on my own personal Instagram page. I had like 30 000 followers and I was trying to push all of my followers into the Glammatic page. I was posting memes so I can get more organic virality and then deleting the memes afterward. I was just trying to do different strategies to try to grow the page organically. That's why I was so surprised that actually, 10 people bought the first day we launched.
I didn't really think much about it being a success, so I didn't put a lot of pressure on myself to make the launch perfect. I just wanted to get it launched so that I can start getting the sales on Shopify.
We kept posting on our stories and outreaching to people. Then later we turned on ads and started collecting email addresses. Once we started gifting influencers, that was when we got to see the snowball effect of the growth.
Kevin Gould: In the beginning, we were also religiously sending DMs to every single customer and we turned DM into a sales prospecting channel that didn't cost any acquisition costs. We then started to layer in all of the ads that Anne mentioned. We shot all the content ourselves as the founders which worked really well for us. Then we moved into gifting and now we have got much more built out teams across the board. That was how the early days were.
You guys entered a crowded market with a lot of competition. What advice would you give to someone that is looking to enter a market that is very crowded?
Ann McFerran: I think you have to figure out what is the actual selling point that is going to differentiate you from other competitors. For us, the main distinction between us and other lash brands was the innovation behind the lashes. Our liners were magnetic and the lashes magnetized to the liner and that was the part that was mind-blowing to people. Every time that I showed or talked about that, people were mind blown.
You need to have a product that blows people’s minds and gives that shock and wow factor. We have almost 100 kinds of lashes now which is basically the most amount of magnetic lashes on the market in comparison to other companies out there. And the quality of our lashes is really high.
Kevin Gould: You obviously have to leave with a unique value proposition but before that, you just need to know that it's really hard and it's going to be a grind. None of this is easy and if you're going to enter a category that's crowded, you should know it's going to be really hard. So be mentally prepared for that and then have the unique value proposition, and a community around the brand, which is what makes the brand bigger than the product.
Ann McFerran: Timing is super important and it’s another thing that is overlooked. I think the timing for me was perfect to get into the market because the sandwiching type of magnetic lashes was phasing out.
Kevin Gould: The gap in the market and the timing is really important as Ann says. Even in a saturated market, there's always a gap. It might be a small one but you have to find it. So it's not gonna become easy because you have to figure out how you can find that way into a top market.
What are common mistakes that you see new e-commerce founders make and what do you think separates them from success?
Kevin Gould: Thinking everything needs to be perfect. You just got to get the thing launched then iterate from there. If you're always trying to wait until it's perfect, it's never gonna launch and you're never gonna be able to get something on the market.
Ann McFerran: I think another point to add is I think a lot of new business owners don't know how to optimize or how to A/B test and how to make what you have better. That's the game in e-commerce because you have to continuously keep optimizing everything. Every single aspect of your business can be optimized.
Let's talk about the marketing channels that are working for you in 2021. What channels are working for you across organic, Youtube ads, Facebook ads, Instagram influencers, or anything else?
Kevin Gould: Everything. We have got all the all usual sources running and obviously Facebook and Instagram at scale. Every brand's working through the iOS updates so we are running Youtube and getting better at the Youtube content. We have got Google, Snapchat, and Tiktok. I think the issue with Snapchat and Tiktok is it's hard to scale, unlike other platforms.
So running at our scale, you sort of need to be everywhere. We do direct mail, outdoor campaigns, working heavily with influencers on a gifting perspective and a paid partnership perspective. We obviously use emails, SMS, messenger, and more. You literally have to have everything running. Then when you think you have enough, there are already 3 new things coming up in the space and you’ve got to catch up to stay ahead. Ann and I are always t looking for the next thing that we need to layer into the business. Once we get one thing set up, we bring in the next and plug it into the system, and just keep iterating and scaling it.
Ann McFerran: There's definitely not one secret winner channel out there. Now in 2021, the market has become saturated. You can see that in the increase in CPMs, the number of advertisers after quarantine has increased and new brands are coming up and starting to market. All channels have become saturated, so you have to layer in a little bit of everything to give yourself that incremental revenue because it literally takes all of it. There's no single channel that's giving us 50% of the revenue.
Do you guys have any experiences that you think are valuable to our audience around scale? Especially for people who are making some money but want to scale further?
Ann McFerran: I think, first of all, try using the platforms that we are running on. Instagram and Facebook will probably be the stars because they have the most sophisticated tools. If you're already running those and not seeing success, then look at your product and see what's wrong with it. I think a lot of people expect success overnight without actually making sure that the product they have is amazing. Try to understand your marketing messages to see if you are actually getting the idea of your product across through an ad or an influencer saying that this product has a special use case, unlike other products. Or what is that special offering that you have that other people don't? If you get that clearly across, theoretically you should be able to scale to some level like way above $100 000. I would say start there.
We thank Ann McFerray, Kevin Gould, and the team at Foundr magazine for this incredible interview which is extremely valuable. We hope it's going to help a lot of people to see success in their online journeys, especially those undertaking e-commerce.