Dreaming up what goodies to include in a subscription box is the best! Sourcing those products each month, however, can be a daunting task. Working with brands and building relationships with other companies is an essential piece of the puzzle to successfully source products regularly and eliminate some of the stress involved. This can be a hard obstacle to navigate at first, and I want to share my personal journey in recognizing my buying power and how I used it as a tool to help me work with brands.
Finding the right fit with anyone you work with is important. You want to make sure the company holds the same values you do and will work as hard as you do for your business.
Relationships build over time. Relationships are an important part of your business, and you need to spend time nurturing those relationships.
It starts with an ask. One you might be scared to do.
When I started my T-shirt club subscription, I knew I needed to have a screen printer onboard to be able to pull it off month after month. I had worked with a local company for items in my box about every 4-5 months. It wasn't consistent, but it was the start of that relationship.
I approached them with my new subscription idea. They knew my business and were very excited for me. We talked prices and away we went.
What started as a few sales here and there has now ended up in monthly recurring revenue for them. I was an account they could depend on month after month. They put me on the schedule first now, have worked with me through needing shirts at the last minute, and they've helped with my designs. They know having me as a customer creates stability in their own business.
Fast forward nine months, my business was growing and growing. I was finding it extremely hard to source and manufacturer all the pieces I needed month after month by myself. I reached out to a company that does this for you.
I paid a retainer and committed to a 3-month contract. It was awful. We didn't have the same vision. Pricing was off, the quality was not what I was used to, communicating with them was hard. It wasn't the right fit.
Then something happened that changed everything. An item of mine was held-up in customs. The Chinese New Year hit and my items would sit there for over a month. I reached out to one of my US-based suppliers to see if they could help me get something quickly. They did.
This was a company I used several times to supply product to my retail store and make a few custom items for me in the boxes. They had hundreds of pieces of just the right thing that would go in my box and gave me an incredible price, one I wasn't expecting. But they understood my buying power. Something I hadn't quite learned yet.
You see, they had a feeling if they could get me all these items cheap and quick, I would want to work with them more. And that is exactly what happened.
The owner of the company called me. She was curious about my business and why I would order hundreds of the same item each time. We talked for over an hour. I felt like she was sent to me on purpose.
She LOVED my business and wanted to be apart of it. She knew that I wasn't a one time sale for her.
If we could get this right, I would buy over and over from her, which is exactly what happened. A few weeks later, we met in person and planned out my subscription boxes for the next ten months.
THAT is my buying power!
Now that I feel confident about this newly found business relationship, let me tell you how I used that to partner with a major brand, Kate Spade New York.
I love Kate Spade products. I love the black and white stripes, the pops of metallic, the glitter, let's face it, all the accessories speak to me. I've looked and looked for months at all the pretty items in the showroom at Market, but never felt worthy.
Let me explain. In January 2018, I was at the AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia. I stumbled across a showroom with items for brands like Lily Pulitzer, Vera Bradley, and of course, Kate Spade. I walked in to just admire the pieces, get inspiration, and inquire about them.
I felt out of place. I had on a t-shirt and jeans while everyone else in the showroom was dressed very nicely. No one spoke to me. I wandered the showroom for about 20 minutes, passing a table of sales reps just chit-chatting... who never even spoke to me. I slid out the door just as invisible as I came in.
Let's fast forward to a year later. I was in that exact showroom admiring all the pretty things again. At least this time someone said hi to me... I was taking mental notes of "if I had a Kate Spade box, this is what I would put in it." You know, just dreaming the dream.
I left the showroom and went off to a very important appointment I had scheduled. The one I just told you about above, that appointment where I planned out the rest of my year in subscription boxes.
After that meeting, I felt so confident that I walked right back into that showroom and asked to speak to someone about a LARGE Kate Spade order. They might laugh in my face, they might look at me like I'm nobody... but I knew my buying power at that moment, and I was going for it!
The sales rep brought me the Director of Sales. It was like she was my long lost girlfriend. She LOVED my business and couldn't wait to talk to her team to see how they could work with me.
We built a relationship and are currently working on our second Kate Spade box!
A few weeks ago, I talked about shopping and building relationships with wholesale Etsy sellers to help source products for your subscription boxes or e-commerce stores. You can read more about that in my blog, all about How To Find Niche-Specific Products.
Don't underestimate what you bring to the table. You can be the source of recurring revenue in someone else's business. As you grow, so does your buying power!