How to start an online fashion store, from a Kentucky couple whose side hustle became a $65 million brand with 1 million Instagram followers

Pink Lily founders Chris Gerbig and Tori Gerbig.

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Tori Gerbig started selling clothes on eBay in 2011 as a side hustle to pay off student loans while she and her husband, Chris, worked their corporate jobs.

When their son arrived in the fall of 2013, Tori went on maternity leave and started a Facebook group to ramp up her selling. “We had people coming over shopping from the trunk of my car, in our house and our dining room,” she told Insider.

On January 1, 2014, the couple rang in the new year with the launch of their e-commerce site, Pink Lily, and set a goal to reach $50,000 in sales that year. They continued working their full-time jobs, and on nights and weekends they packed and shipped orders, bought inventory, handled customer service, and marketed their brand.

Four months in, the couple surpassed their $50,000 goal. The company was already more successful than they had expected. Tori quit her job, and Chris followed a couple of months later. They moved their operations from their dining table to their first “warehouse,” an old 1,200-square-foot hair salon. They outgrew the space within three months, recruited their sisters and Tori’s mom, and hired their first non-family employee in August. By the year’s end, they’d hit $4 million in sales.

“The sheer amount of work that goes into it was not expected,” said Chris, who was also studying for his MBA when they launched the site. “It was just crazy. We were up at 2, 3 o’clock in the morning packing orders and doing homework.”

As the Gerbigs grew their company for the first year and a half, they worked 40- to 60-hour weeks and holidays, reinvesting profits in the business. “We used all of it just to grow the business,” Chris said. “And we were able to really grow that inventory collection in a very short period of time, which in turn increased sales, revenue, and customer retention.”

Today their company, based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, employs 300 people, operates a retail store, and has 200,000 square feet of warehouse space, and the founders say they expect to exceed $100 million in sales this year. Last year, the brand made $65 million in revenue, nearly double the previous year’s revenue, according to documentation viewed by Insider.

Wider variety, broader demographic

Often the most effective way to nail down the right products for your customers is to sell what you would wear yourself. “The easiest way that we’ve built up the brand is because I am a customer of the brand,” Tori said.

When she started Pink Lily at age 27, she wanted stylish clothes that were also affordable. “I didn’t really love the stores in our local mall,” she said. “I liked some local boutiques, but their prices were just a little bit too high.”

As the brand grew, so did the age range of its demographic, which Tori said is 50% 25- to 34-year-olds and 40% 18- to 25-year-olds. Adding a variety of styles, from leggings and cocktail dresses to swimwear and mommy-and-me sets, provides more …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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