When it comes to building a successful business, we all know that profit is the bottom line – or is it? In the effort to drive sales, many entrepreneurs often overlook the importance of building a solid foundation. CEO and Founder of Glam Seamless, Alexandra Cristin, knows better than most that real profit is impossible without purpose, planning, and presentation. I sat down with Cristin and learned how she built her hair extensions business by focusing on absolutely everything – except sales.
In 2012, Cristin was a 22-year-old millennial who spent her time watching makeup and hair tutorials on YouTube. When she discovered the magic of tape-in extensions, she found not only that they came at a ridiculous price point, but that they were much less readily available online than traditional clip-ins and wefts. Inspired by a YouTuber who sold hair clip-ins online, Cristin decided that she could do the same with her own spin. “I saw an opportunity and ran with it, despite my lack of experience and lack of funds – I started it anyway” said Cristin.
So how was she able to achieve the millennial dream of turning a few hundred bucks and a passion into a multimillion-dollar business? The answer is straightforward: focus on the fundamentals first, and the sales will come. Here are Cristin’s underlying principles for sustainable success.
Start With What You Know And Then Expand
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Building a viable business is possible as long as you have a real interest and passion in whatever you are selling. In Cristin’s case, there were other girls already selling clip-ins online, but it was her unique passion that made a huge difference. “I didn’t copy the YouTuber who was selling hair extensions that inspired me – I decided to sell a completely different type of [hair] extension, one that wasn’t being sold. If I would have copied her, I wouldn’t have been as successful because she already had a lot of market share.” Cristin realized that there was a hole in the market. Not only were there everyday women like her seeking quality hair online, but there were also hairstylists and salon professionals who needed to buy hair for their clients at an affordable price point. Armed with this knowledge, Cristin started Glam Seamless with the goal of selling affordable, high-quality extensions online that would serve not only women like herself, but salons across the world. It’s all about starting with your interests, studying your market, identifying a need, and standing out from the crowd. Recommended For You
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Dominate Social Media Through Value
“I did not have any money to run advertising [within] the first two years as I started the company with only $1,500,” said Cristin. “I had to use free tools and resources to build brand awareness. To do that, I used a free and powerful tool – social media.” Every budding business should be maximizing their marketing through social media. Not only is it free, it’s one of the best ways to offer value to prospective customers. What does it mean to offer value? Think about what questions you are answering and what problems you are solving for your customer outside of merely pitching your product. Instead of leading with “buy this,” lead with engagement every time.
Cristin reveals that YouTube and Instagram were two of the biggest platforms contributing to her success with a focus on video content. “We increased Glam Seamless sales through product knowledge and education producing useful content for our blogs, videos [and] social media channels. This made our customers see we were adding value first by answering their questions or giving advice on the product, not just pushing product to sell,” shared Cristin. If someone was looking to learn anything from how to pick the right hair extension to how to put it on, Glam Seamless was there to provide the answer in branded, easy-to-follow videos, repurposed across social media platforms. Explain ways your product can be used or worn, show how it works for you and for others, offer video demos, tutorials and testimonials, and always answer every question you receive. When you push value through education and community, your product will sell itself.
Stick To Proven Strategies
While the bells and whistles are alluring, never underestimate the power of the basics when it comes to marketing. While influencer marketing can be impactful, it is not the bread and butter for Glam Seamless. In fact, influencer partnerships account for only 5% of the brand’s sales. Instead, Cristin credits her massive success to some pretty old school principles: “Consistent improvement of SEO, content, and a beautiful website experience took Glam Seamless from a seven-figure to an eight-figure brand within two years,” revealed Cristin. “We see paid ads by social influencers all the time. I think the consumer is smarter than that. Social media influencers only add value when they truly believe in and use the product they are promoting – and make good content around that product. If they are doing it for the money, it’s obvious, and the brand wastes their dollars.”
Search engine optimization, on the other hand, is tried and true. If you have a great SEO game, your website, blogs, and content will rank highly on search engine results, and you will get tons of free traffic from users who are specifically looking for the product or solution you are offering. In order to use SEO effectively, make sure you have a website that is optimized for SEO and killer both in aesthetic and functionality.
Your greatest free resource as an entrepreneur is yourself and the amount of sweat equity you are willing to put in. Simply put, you have to be willing to work hard. “I worked seven days a week, and I didn’t even track hours. I did whatever it took,” remembered Cristin. “Seven years later, I did reach a point of burnout, but luckily the universe always knows what you need, and at the time near burnout, I was approached by a larger company that wanted to acquire Glam Seamless.” Truth be told, it doesn’t get easier, you just get better. “I love hair extensions and I wanted to build something that didn’t exist. I didn’t care how long it took. And even with a larger team, you still put in so much work. You don’t stop, the goals and dreams get bigger, and as a founder you have to lead your now large team to success,” shared Cristin. Being an entrepreneur means living outside of your comfort zone and learning to thrive in the realm of uncertainty. “When you are in an inventory-based business, there is a risk of losing it all every day. That’s the thing they don’t tell you – growth eats up your cash, especially in product-based businesses. I would think, ‘what if I lose this all? What if the 100k in hair I just bought comes in late, delaying sales?’” remembered Cristin.
Ultimately, these kinds of risks come with the territory, and no one knows better than Cristin how much that kind of grit and determination can pay off. “That is the life of an entrepreneur: big risks, big rewards. As an entrepreneur, every day is a risk, and if you aren’t willing to take them, someone else will, and they will see success that you didn’t by not risking it.”
Cristin’s advice to every entrepreneur: “Master the brand and product first. The sales will come if you do what you need to do. Build a strong brand and the best product.”Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.
Written by Pauleanna Reid orginially published on Forbes.com
I am the founder of New Girl on the Block, a mentorship platform for millennial women who are dealing with major life and career transitions. I use creative education to turn distant dreams into noteworthy achievements. Additionally, my passions include advocacy for youth and mental health in which I contribute my free time spreading awareness, providing expertise on media platforms and delivering keynote talks in schools nationwide. When I’m not reporting or working with young adults, I am ghostwriting projects for celebrities, athletes, politicians and high-performing executives. I own an agency which helps the leaders and doers who are shaping the future turn their personal stories into brand assets.