Jordan West launched Little & Lively, a direct-to-consumer children’s apparel company, together with his wife, Carmen, six decades back in Canada. The organization has grown to mid-seven-figures in revenue selling through its site, mostly. He is a master at creating […]
Jordan West launched Little & Lively, a direct-to-consumer children’s apparel company, together with his wife, Carmen, six decades back in Canada. The organization has grown to mid-seven-figures in revenue selling through its site, mostly. He is a master at creating demand for his products before they’re available for purchase.
“We had a recent launching where, within a day, we did about $250,000 in sales without reductions or advertisements,” he told me. “We did what is called a gated launching. We password protected the website for 24 hours. This drove the expectancy. Then we gave our VIP group and our SMS listing two hours early access ahead of the general public.”
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I spoke with West lately about his company (which includes a women’s apparel manufacturer and a marketing agency), the advantages of local production, and the emotional effects of reaching a life-long revenue goal at a comparatively young age.
The whole audio version of our dialog is embedded below, followed by a transcript, that has been edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about yourself.
Jordan West: I am Canadian. My first business was a Taco Del Mar restaurant, which is a series that has gone from approximately 200 shops to about 50 because I had been involved in the franchise. I lost plenty of money. However, I learned marketing, which was an interest of mine.
My wife and I then began a baby clothes company named Little & Lively. That was about six decades back. Fast forward to 2020, and we have grown to mid-seven-figures in earnings. I also run Mindful Marketing, a service that helps people in the apparel vertical, mostly with performance advertising.
Bandholz: A mid-seven-figure company is impressive. Is it bootstrapped?
West: Yes. We are completely bootstrapped. My spouse and I’m 50-50 owners. Bootstrapping becomes hard as the business grows. But I have a wonderful CFO with a great five-year plan that is modest and expects cash crunches, to strategy.
Bandholz: I have always wanted to market apparel. However, the margins are tight, are not they?
West: I have heard that from lots of people. It’s an external view of apparel. We create everything in Canada. The only thing which we import, from China, is cloth because we do not have mills in our area. All our products are produced in our hometown here in British Columbia.
We are about as close to vertically integrated as you can get with our maker. I would love to buy the company, but that is not in the cards today. Our retail prices are approximately double our cost. Those are fine margins for us to get customers, particularly as a bootstrap business.
Along with our site, we are in about 150 shops across Canada and approximately 30 to 40 in the USA, though that is not an area of attention today. We are looking for the premier children’s clothing manufacturer in Canada.
Bandholz: Are the online shopping habits of Canadians exactly the same as in the U.S.?
West: Our bureau has many customers in Canada and the States. The buyers are alike, except people in Canada do not like to be pushed. An example is placing time limits on coupon codes or discount offers. Canadians don’t respond well to that.
Bandholz: Your product offerings are extensive. Having a local maker helps with lower order amounts, I’d imagine.
West: Yes. Again, we are vertically integrated with our maker. We’re that provider’s biggest customer. At the start of a season, we will make our best guess about which sizes and styles will move the fastest. We’ve got about a seven-year turnaround for quite large inventory orders. Our manufacturer knows that that’s how we operate.
We are going to buy enough fabric, but we do not just know how to use that cloth until we do a product launch. We had a recent launching where, in one day, we did about $250,000 in sales without ads or discounts. That gave us a great idea of what people wanted.
So the more SKUs that we have, to more complex it becomes. However, it’s much easier with a local manufacturer.
Bandholz: I have never had a quarter-million-dollar moment.
West: It was wild. We do our own fulfillment. It was not just one occurrence. The following day was $50,000, and the day after that was $40,000. We felt like we graduated to another size business with that launching.
Generally, we’re in a position to perform next day fulfillment. But took approximately a month to catch up in this circumstance.
Bandholz: How can you create that much hype?
West: plenty of psychology went into this launch. So we did what is called a gated launching. We’ve got our Little & Lively VIP customer group, and we also have an SMS group. Those two groups receive advance notifications for earnings. We password protected the website for 24 hours to prepare for the launch because it involved numerous goods, and we wanted it to be perfect.
This drove the expectancy. Then we gave our VIP group and our SMS listing two hours early access prior to the general public. During those two hours, we did about $120,000 in sales without reductions.
We use Facebook Ads to gain readers, but not for the launch itself. I’m a big believer in the customer travel . You’re not likely to get long-term customers if you only sell them right off the bat. I enjoy moving people down this funnel where they become advocates for us. That is what we saw with this particular launch. We also experienced the concept of scarcity because we sold out of a great deal of items.
Bandholz: You have mentioned your VIP group. This is a Facebook group you have created. How do your lure folks to participate?
West: We have got a very manual follow-up procedure. We’ll send the timeless Klaviyo email sequence. But we also send a personalized video to each new customer that requests, letting them know about our VIP group. I have created an entire system using a virtual assistant who sends these personalized movies, stating the individual’s name, stating what they ordered, and then asking them if they want to join the VIP group.
We use a wonderful app named Bonjoro for this. It is an iPhone app with email integration. Our digital assistant sends hundreds of them at a time. She’ll set it up. She can see all the information regarding the individual right there. And then when she presses send, it is going to send the movie right to them. They must click, and then it moves on a page. It’s comparable to Loom, the movie message app, but using a B2C focus.
Bandholz: How can you discover the ideal digital assistant for this? Does it impact customer support?
West: Bonjoro has its own chat feature. So if a shopper reacts in that fashion, we forward it to our customer support team. We have also trained our digital assistant to manage quick responses. We attempted using our in-house staff to perform the videos. Nevertheless, they were not motivated. It would take them about 10 minutes per video. Our virtual assistant can perform about 40 per hour. She has a excellent procedure.
I auditioned many digital assistants for this undertaking. We gave them a script, and they sent in movies. I was super happy with the results. And the one that’s doing it today is Andie. She’s outstanding. She is in the Philippines.
Bandholz: And what’s the normal compensation for a virtual assistant?
West: We pay about $10 (USD) an hour. We are not trying to find affordable labor. We are after good people who can do jobs that we can not source in Canada.
Bandholz: What is your goal for the enterprise? Five years, 10 years?
West: We can catapult our two core brands — Little & Lively for children and Kindred Clothing for girls. I am really working through this today. What is my purpose? My entire goal since my early 20s was to earn a good deal of money. That 1 day, where we reserved $250,000 in revenue, was really one of these bad psychological days. I thought, “Oh man, this is repeatable. I can do this.” So I am realizing my goal, and I am asking,”What is my life ” That’s the crisis I am in now, yet I wish to grow these companies.
We have got big revenue objectives. But I’d love to see more of our employees assume extra responsibility, to have the prospect of the type of life my wife and I have. That would make me happy. We’re taking a look at a few acquisitions today, also. But I wish to create the acquisition if I could put people in place to enable them and improve their life.
Bandholz: You have touched on an important and critical topic for me. I have thought a lot about it. Here is a question for you. If I could give you $50 million and the only stipulation is that you may no longer function — no getting or creating stuff done. You could only live a lifestyle of pure consumption. Can you do it?
West: No. I would not. I’d be so bored. Having a purpose is what gives life some meaning.
Bandholz: How do people get that cool welcome movie? How do they follow you and reach out?