One subject I find really interesting is learning some behind-the-scenes of business and marketing. I've written before about how online brands use email subscriptions, discounts, and scarcity tactics to sell and grow. Some elements can be manipulative, but overall, I am just fascinated by how all of these hidden intricacies work.
In e-commerce businesses (retail stores that are all online) like mine, it is common to grow for the sake of growing. More sales, more staff, more products… isn’t that the definition of success?
But, as I’ve peeked a bit behind the scenes, I have wondered, “Are you, with your dozen employees and millions of dollars in sales, making any more profit than the two of us in our home office?” And in many cases, the answer is, I think: no!
Take, for example, custom socks made with your dog's face on them. It sounds random, but this is a popular kind of store to start, because the unique/quirky factor allows for a big mark-up!
I watched a behind-the-scenes video from a brand like this where an 18-year old entrepreneur has a massive warehouse, many employees, and sells a huge amount of custom socks — like, $2million in revenue. But, it turns out that most of their year is spent in virtual (if not actual) debt, waiting for the Christmas sales to pay off all of the salaries & expenses of the year. They also spend ~$30 in advertising costs to acquire every customer.
For us, personally, this business model does not appeal to us for many reasons. More runaround and more pressure. More money that goes to advertisers (acquiring each customer is pricey) and shippers (🤑USPS, FedEx etc.), not the business owner. And, it simply seems like a machine that is running just to run. To get more dog socks into the world. This is not the model for me (or others: the book Company of One outlines the appeal of an alternate route for business).
With dignify, I actually do want to grow the machine and have more work for the sake of more work. Because we don't employ women to make blankets, we make blankets to employ women: in jobs with dignity, respect, care, and appreciation.
Having now seen the environment firsthand, I know how crucial it is that Basha continues to thrive (and grow!) & to offer this extraordinary workplace to vulnerable women in Bangladesh.
So, how do I grow my own business, dignify, without feeling like I'm simply adding cogs to a big machine... and at the same time scale it up to provide consistent, reliable work for Basha's production?
These are the questions simmering in my mind since leaving Bangladesh. How do I make this work and grow? How can I satisfy my own dreams for self-employment, while inviting others into the fray? What are creative solutions to challenging problems?
The great news is that I do have a few ideas that could be amazing opportunities for growth in a win-win-win kind of way, and you should see them coming out over the next year! But, I am open to your thoughts & creativity, too!
I would love to hear your ideas — please comment below or get in touch via email@example.com. Thank you for being on this journey with me!
Looking back at some photos from last Christmas, I came across this screenshot from my phone that really made me laugh:
My husband was dropping off our parcels recently, and a woman working in our shipper's office said, "I was looking at your site, and I think I might buy some of these blankets this year as gifts; I'm mostly shopping online." Another employee chimed in, "I'm going to do all of my shopping online, too."
That evening, he went with our kids to the mall to pick something up (masked, natch), and as he surveyed the hallways — with some permanently closed stores, some shuttered from lack of employees, etc. — Wayne's thought was, "I think I need to do all my shopping at the mall!"
Recently, dignify received a review on our blankets that addressed the variety of our styles (color/pattern), and the contrast/matching choices that go into our kantha. Let's take a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the number of factors that contribute to these decisions.
How do we choose the fabric? How do we match saris to create the kantha blankets? Why are some combinations bad? Why aren’t there more grey/buttery yellow/navy blue color combos?
I know that many of you have wondered about these questions from time to time, too!