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229: How This Stereotype-Busting Business Raised $215K on Kickstarter

Posted by Austin Brawner on December 10, 2019


Who says girls can’t wear dinosaur dresses?

Rebecca Melsky was frustrated when the only patterns she could find for her daughter were pink and flowery. Where were the rocket ships and trucks for girls?

In 2013 she teamed up with her friend Eva to start Princess Awesome, a stereotype-busting business that creates clothes of all colors, and with all kinds of patterns, for both girls and boys.

Today we sit down with Rebecca to talk about their massive crowdfunding success, how they’ve managed the growth of their business while prioritizing their families, and the key Klaviyo strategies helping them drive major revenue from email.


Episode Highlights

  • 5:58 The story of how Princess Awesome was born.
  • 7:46 Princess Awesome’s explosive experience with crowdfunding.
  • 12:32 The major impact Kickstarter had for Rebecca’s business, from more than just a financial perspective.
  • 14:05 Taking the next step in business growth after Kickstarter success.
  • 17:47 Product innovation and the creation of Princess Awesome’s women’s line and brother company.
  • 20:46 The benefits of using Klaviyo for email marketing.
  • 22:41 How to plan your email campaigns, and how segmentation can help drive more sales.
  • 29:27 Things Rebecca’s done over the last year that have had a big impact on her business.
  • 32:12 Why Princess Awesome outsources their fulfillment.
  • 35:48 The company makeup of Princess Awesome and the critical support roles they’ve outsourced.
  • 37:40 Growing a business that serves your lifestyle and how this has been a core part of Rebecca’s business from day one.

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I am Foxwell, Andrew. Hey, man. How are you doing?

Austin Brawner: AKA The Fox.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, actually, that was my college nickname, was Fox. Whenever all my college friends started calling me Fox... Well, first of all, I'm not very foxy. I'm not an overly attractive person, so it was always a funny nickname, but it did make me feel cooler, that people called me Fox.

Austin Brawner: It's like the Fonz, the Fox, kind of the same.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I never put the "the" in front of it. I'm not The Rock. You know?

Austin Brawner: But you could be. You could be.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah.

Austin Brawner: You could get the leather jacket and everything.

Andrew Foxwell: Totally, totally.

Austin Brawner: Now you got the mountain bike, too. You're cruising around. I know you've been cranking up the miles on the mountain bike.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, definitely, super fun, great hobby, feel like a little kid. If you've never tried it, it's crazy. I mean, first of all, mountain biking is generous. It's more like hill biking in Wisconsin, but it's really fun because you fly down these hills, and then you go off jumps and stuff. I feel like I'm 10. It's like a great investment that was made.

Austin Brawner: You feel like you're 10 until you crash.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah.

Austin Brawner: And then you feel like you're...

Andrew Foxwell: An idiot.

Austin Brawner: ... in your mid-30s. Yeah.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I've crashed a couple times. I'm not a crazy risk-taker. Some of the buddies I go out with, they'll just do crazy stuff. I'm like, "Whoa, I would not do that." I have to be pretty sure of certain things, but I have crashed, definitely, a few times, a couple scrapes and bumps, but nothing serious.

Austin Brawner: No. It's awesome, man. I'm getting back, myself, for the first long bike ride since tearing my Achilles tendon, the last week, and it was awesome. It's good rehab, but yeah. It's good.

I am pumped about today's episode. If you guys have been listening for a while, and you kind of tend to enjoy more of the business owner oriented podcast interviews, today, we've got a really, really good episode for you.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I think this is an awesome guest that we have and a good episode that is full of everything from strategy to tactical, talking about Klaviyo, talking about Facebook advertising, talking about growth, talking about fulfillment, shipping, etc. This is an episode that I think will resonate with you, no matter where you are within the eCommerce ecosystem.

Austin Brawner: Yeah. Rebecca Melsky, she is the founder of Princess Awesome, and they have been growing quite quickly. In 2015, they did a massive crowdfunding raise where they set their goal at $35,000 and hit $215,000 in less than 48 hours, something crazy like that, and have been on a tear. You guys are going to really enjoy it. Without further talk, let's welcome Rebecca to the show.

Rebecca Melsky: Thanks so much for having me.

Andrew Foxwell: Oh, man. We're so glad to chat with you and get the story of Princess Awesome, and now, Boy Wonder, and learn a little bit more about you. I think we've given our guests a little bit of background, but if you could take maybe 30 seconds and tell us about you and kind of the story of the company, that would be great.

Rebecca Melsky: Sure. I was a teacher for 10 years, and I had my daughter, my first child. When she turned two, she began insisting on wearing dresses every day. That's all she ever wanted to wear. For her pajamas, I'd get her some from the girls' section and some from the boys' section.

One day, I was out buying her a whole new set, and I looked back at the girls' dress section as I was walking out of the store and thought, I wish I could get her one of those cute dresses that she loves to wear that also has some of these themes I was buying from boys' pajama section, like trucks, and dinosaurs, and rocket ships, and I just couldn't get that idea out of my head. Why don't those kinds of dresses exist? Because at the time, which was about six years ago, they really didn't.

I asked my friend, Eva, if she wanted to start a company with me to make girls' dresses that have themes on them usually in the boys' section and she said, "Yes, let's do it." And so, we launched in 2013. And by launched, I mean, I had a tiny baby strapped to my chest, and she had two kids at home, and we were like, "Let's have a business meeting."

But from there, we kind of started out making stuff by hand and got the business going, and we've had an online store for four years, selling girls' clothes, not just dresses anymore, but leggings, and shirts, and things, too, that have themes usually only found in the boys' section.

We recently launched a brother company, little brother brand, Boy Wonder. It similarly flips the script on boys' clothes, boys' clothes that have pink, and sparkles, and bright colors, and unicorns, and things like that.

Austin Brawner: In 2013, you kind of got things kicked off.

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah.

Austin Brawner: And then I know in, I think it was, February 2015, you went down a path of kind of starting with some crowdfunding. Can you talk a little bit about Kickstarter and what happened with your venture into crowdfunding?

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah. We made stuff by hand just to test the market to see, do people really want this? Is there a reason it's not in the stores? Will we be able to sell it? We made things by hand. I should be clear. Eva did the sewing, and I just did the cutting because I do not have those skills. We saw, okay, yes, people want this. People will buy it.

We knew we weren't going to be sewing things in the basement forever. That was not our goal. It took us a long time to figure out how to manufacture on a small scale, doing it in a way that with the kinds of products we wanted to make.

Once we got those pieces in place, we realized it was going to take more money than we had to put in. We thought to really launch a line, we needed about $35,000, which was more money than what we had to spend.

Looking around at the kind of landscape of girls' empowerment products that were out at the time, Goldie Locks had launched a couple years before. There was a great company, called Girls Will Be, that did a crowdfunding campaign. Jessie and Jack Kids had done something. We thought, okay, I think there is a cultural conversation happening around the products offered for girls right now. I think we can capitalize on that, and so we launched.

We took about five months to create our video, and create the campaign and everything, and we launched in February of 2015 with a goal of $35,000, and we kind of got a good start, and then a Facebook group page, called A Mighty Girl, which specializes in girls' empowerment products and kind of collections, and had a following of about a million people at the time, posted about us a few days after we had launched. Within five hours, we had fully funded and then just kept going. It was like the craziest night of my life.

Andrew Foxwell: Gosh.

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah. From there, then the story became, look how much people love these products. Look at what's happening here that is really speaking to so many parents.

And so, then we got a ton of press, and the campaign just kind of exploded from there. We ended up bringing in about $215,000, which just all of a sudden was like, okay, we're living a different kind of life than what we had anticipated.

It was February, obviously. I was teaching, so I finished up my school year, and then after that, left to do this full-time.

Andrew Foxwell: I mean, what a cool story. Obviously, you hit a need. You struck a chord with a lot of people. Right?

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah, yeah. We were not the only ones.

Andrew Foxwell: Right, right. I think what's interesting about your story right out of the gates is, and the way that you both launched the company is, I feel like in companies that I work with... and Austin, I'm sure you feel like this. There's a lot of time that's invested in making sure that the story is said the right way and is polished. What's clear about the way you guys did this right out of the gates is, you were 100% who you were from the beginning. Right?

Rebecca Melsky: Yes.

Andrew Foxwell: It wasn't a lot of shining of things or making it look different than it was. It was who you were.

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah.

Andrew Foxwell: It was very fact-based.

Rebecca Melsky: Yes, yes.

Andrew Foxwell: And you're a teacher, so that makes sense, idea as an educator, but I think that's a really important thing that you did. I mean, how did you, when you were just getting going, how did you think about that launch? I mean, was the ethos like, we're going to tell the real story, and that's what we're going to do? Or was it just like, we're going to try this? Because I feel like there was a lack of seriousness to it initially that also made it more genuine and true.

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah. I mean, I feel like if you met Eva and I in-person, that question might be answered in that we're not the kind of people that polish things. That's just who we are. The business is totally a reflection of us in that way.

It was like, we're doing this. Let's just do it the way that we know how, which is just putting ourselves out there and putting the products out there, and really having the story be like, there should be dresses with dinosaurs. Let's make an awesome dress with dinosaurs for all the girls who love dinosaurs and dresses, because we know there are a lot of them.

It almost wasn't a conscious decision, because it was just who we were and how we knew how to do it. Does that make sense?

Andrew Foxwell: Totally, yeah, yeah. I think that's important to point out. I mean, a follow-up question, which is, how did this Kickstarter experience, going through this kind of slingshot you in ways you didn't foresee?

I mean, obviously, there's financial side of that, but how did it push you into different areas or different opportunities that you didn't kind of see right out of the gates?

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah. It ended up being so crucial for us getting the business started because we just started with all the press that we had. We just had a brand awareness from that campaign that was, I mean, basically priceless.

If we had just started with an online store, nobody would've known who we were, but we had... I think by the time the Kickstarter ended, we had like 30,000 or 40,000 followers on Facebook, and we had 3,200 backers, plus a whole bunch more people who were interested in us and knew about us.

We had press that took a picture of great social proof to put up immediately. Background and Facebook ads were slightly different. We did a lot of running the press pieces as ads, and that worked really well at the beginning.

It gave us a brand awareness and a trustworthiness that we didn't sort of think that would be part of the reason to do a crowdfunding campaign, but it was so hugely helpful for us.

Austin Brawner: Once you got through the crowdfunding campaign and things kind of started to, I don't know, go back to normal maybe in some sense. Whatever your new normal was. What did you find as the next step to continue to kind of grow the business without a one-off event, like Kickstarter?

Did sales continue to roll in consistently? Was it a challenge? Did you have to find a new channel? How did you go from basically a Kickstarter success to the next step in the business of continued growth?

Rebecca Melsky: Yeah. That was a huge challenge. We launched the store at the beginning of August. We had our manufactured products that we had made, using the Kickstarter money. We were in the process of sending out all of the Kickstarter rewards and basically people's orders. And then, it was sort of like, okay, who's going to come buy stuff now?

We realized that it was a very different thing to run a store and want regular daily sales and not just this big one-time event, like you said.

We spent a few months trying to figure stuff out and not really knowing what we were doing and sort of our MO throughout the entire life of the business, and it's still true today, is that if we find something that we don't know how to do, we go and ask people for help. We say, "We need some help in doing this." Other people know how. Let's talk to them.

We had some connections of other people running eCommerce businesses, and we had little connections here and there, and we sort of talked to people to find, who can we hire to help us learn how to run an eCommerce company? Because this is a different beast than a Kickstarter campaign.

We were amazingly lucky to find two people who don't normally do eCommerce consulting, but have their own eCommerce businesses and were interested in kind of helping us.

And so, we hired them, and they sort of took the reigns in some cases and just sort of told us what to do and helped us get going. We worked with them for about six months, and they immediately switched us over to Shopify and had us sign up with Klaviyo, which were both key moves, and then taught us the basics, like get a welcome series going, have a pop-up so that you can collect email addresses, get going on Facebook ads. Here's kind of the basics on how to do it, and got us set up with really just the basics of how to run an eCommerce store that we didn't know before. From there, we were able to kind of run with it.

Andrew Foxwell: So basically, they came in and helped you figure some of that part out. It was Facebook ads. It was looking at Klaviyo welcome series, a lot of marketing focus.

Did they also help you think about product innovation and kind of that kind of thing moving forward, or was it mostly a, hey, we have a white-hot opportunity here. Let's focus on that first.

Rebecca Melsky: It was the ladder. They actually didn't help us so much with the product at the beginning. Their first thing was like, you've got a product that sells. Let's just find more people to sell it to and do that effectively.

Then from there, we actually kind of took it to the next level with new product releases and realizing that our customer base, which at that point, it wasn't a huge number, but we had 3,200 people we had already sold stuff to through Kickstarter. The other sales that had come in, that those people are going to come back when we have new products, and they love our stuff. They'll keep coming back. So, we need to keep innovating and having new things to sell them, as well as having our best sellers to sell people who are just finding us.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. The reason I ask that is because I feel like product innovation is something that you guys have done, and I want to get into talking about that a little bit, thinking about, how do you think forward about your products? Because I know we touched on it at the beginning. You started. You have now women's clothing. You also have a boys' clothing company, as you're calling the brother company, which I think is awesome.

What prompted the moves in that direction? I mean, obviously, you're wanting to diversify your product lines to sell to more people, which makes sense, but were you hearing almost at a deafening level that there was an opportunity there from other people or customers wanting it?

Rebecca Melsky: Yes, especially with the women's clothes. Basically, any time we would release a new product and show pictures of it, we have a kind of standard product release format that we follow. Every single time, we would get, "I want this in my size. Can you make this in my size?" We finally thought, okay, yeah, we'll make it in your size.

Because there are really a range of different people out there who want to wear different products. While there are some women who kind of can't imagine wanting to wear a dinosaur dress, there are lots of them who want to. The women's line really came from listening to customers, and taking their feedback, and trying to give them what they wanted.

Then for the boys' line, that was even from the Kickstarter time, we had people saying, "Okay, but can you do that for boys, too? Because have you looked in the boys' section? This is equally a problem for boys."

Because our mission from the beginning has been about expanding the options for girls, we really wanted to stay focused on our mission, expand that as much as we could, and we're a small company. There's just two of us full-time. We only have a certain amount of bandwidth. We just can't do everything at once, and so it took us like three years to feel like we had the bandwidth, and the production capability, and the new product development capability to roll out a boys' line and not just a one-off product, but actually take the time to make that its own thing.

Austin Brawner: I think it's really interesting to hear that because it's one thing that's not talked about enough. Right? Especially with people who come in looking from the outside of a business. Their way is like, "Oh, this seems like an opportunity for you guys," but bandwidth constraints are a real big issue, especially, it can take a long time to build a business and get to the point where your role evolves to the point where you can take on new responsibilities.

I know one of the things that you have focused on, it seems like pretty consistently, has been email marketing, and it matches really well with the fact that you're rolling out new products, and you've got these people who are interested in buying more products. Can you talk a little bit about what type of an impact switching over to Klaviyo has had on your business and what some of the things that you maybe specifically kind of unique to your business that you use Klaviyo for to be able to drive more sales in the business?

Rebecca Melsky: Absolutely. Because we signed up with Klaviyo so early in the business, it's almost hard to say how did it change because we had been using MailChimp for maybe five months, and then we just switched to Klaviyo.

It has been huge in allowing us to segment our customers and to segment in a variety of ways, so to segment out our most loyal customers that we call our royal guard, to segment out people who bought different kinds of products and to be able to give them targeted either content or sales. If you bought from our dinosaur collection, we'll send sales occasionally for dinosaur products. Or if you bought shorts, but you haven't bought leggings, we might send you a discount for leggings when it turns to fall or things like that that have really worked for us, and Klaviyo just makes that so easy to do.

Austin Brawner: Let's dive into that a little bit more because I feel like that's an overlooked aspect of email marketing. When I'm working with clients, it's a place that we usually start.

We'll talk about the differences between triggered automated emails and campaign, like newsletter-type emails, and usually I'll ask people, "How are you sending out campaigns? What does it look like?" Often, it's just, we send one email to everyone at the exact same time once a week. That's a very common type of campaign, but you're talking about segmenting down and choosing little slivers of your email list and sending to those people.

Could you describe kind of your process when you're thinking about coming up with new campaigns or new newsletters, thinking of those exactly the same things, and how you look at segmentation as a way to drive more sales in the business and how that's worked for you guys?

Rebecca Melsky: Absolutely. When we're thinking about our regular goals and our cashflow goals, because we're sort of higher price point case-building product, and parents are always looking for deals and sales, we don't anticipate that we are going to have the exact same level of daily sales every day. We know that we're going to have spikes based on when we have a new product release, when we have a sale, and so I do a lot of planning around what our monthly revenue goals are and our cashflow, based on when those spikes are going to come, and then what will be the baseline. And using past historical data for how a segmented sale has worked, I can kind of predict where we'll be every day based on our Facebook ad spend, our conversion rate, and how sales have performed in the past.

And so, to try to get people to come back in to buy again, especially because we have a very high repeat customer rate, so we know that once people have our products, they usually like them a lot and will come back, especially if there's a discount. We'll plan out, when do we need different kinds of sales? When do we need to do a site-wide 20% off that will just kind of blow the roof off and give everybody the opportunity, but when can we get people to come back with just a 15% off, something that they... or they bought a similar product six months before.

We just really kind of brainstorm and think creatively about different ways we can do that, what has worked before, so that we can do something similar again. What didn't work?

And then really just planning that out, and being creative, and trying stuff, seeing, does it work to give people who got sleeveless, but didn't buy long sleeve, a discount code? We won't know if it works until we try it. We do a lot of just experimenting, and then we do send regular weekly emails either that are about a product, or that have a sale, or that are just content.

Our community responds really well to funny emails about parenting, emails that highlight different women in the world. We do a girls' empowerment roundup usually once a month. That kind of stuff does very well.

And then the other thing that we've done that's been a huge change in the past year is that we segmented out from our newsletter the people who are engaged, so the people who have opened an email. I forget exactly how we defined it, but I think it's like once in the past 60 days. We get more people opening those emails, not just a better conversion rate, but an actual number of people opening it if we send to just our engaged list than if we send to the entire newsletter list.

And so, our regular emails, we tend to just send to those people, and we have sequences to try to reengage people who sort of haven't engaged in a while or who are less engaged, but we tend to not send to the entire list almost ever, because it just doesn't work as well.

Andrew Foxwell: That's something that clearly was a topic in Klaviyo Boston that they talked a lot about. Obviously, it was segmentation. Clearly, you were on a panel at Klaviyo Boston for a reason. #Rockstar.

Rebecca Melsky: Definitely not.

Andrew Foxwell: Well, the thing that's cool about it is, I think... I probably heard this, man, five years ago from Austin, maybe when I was first getting to know Austin, him talking about like, don't send it to everyone. And so, that is something that I still feel like so many people don't think about. I mean, including brands that I work with stuff, too. I bring that up. They're like, "Oh, yeah, that's a good point." So, I think that's huge, separating out the engagers.

And then the thing of the cross collection selling and things. That's one that I just feel like it's incredibly rare. A lot of people do not do upselling, cross-selling, and also testing opportunities within the cross-selling, upselling, right? And just trying to cross between those things.

The thing that's really fascinating to me is, you're actually using Klaviyo to build that forecast. I mean, one part is clearly the planning. You're planning it out, and you're saying, "This is this, this is this, and we're going to put this here. This is when this is going to go, and here's going to be kind of our revenue." Is that kind of what you're doing, is you're basically looking at it?

Do you do it for the whole year, or is it in a six month, or a quarterly basis where you're planning out the emails and the ideas you're going to try and kind of look at the baseline revenue that you think that'll bring in?

Rebecca Melsky: I start with a very wide lens on the whole year and sort of broad strokes monthly, and what our ads then will be and conversion rate, and sort of all those pieces, and then I'll drill down to every month or two at a time, because forecasts change based on what's happened in the past and where we want to be going forward. This year, we realized, oh, we need to restock some of these best-sellers that we didn't realize we needed to restock, which means we have to spend more money, but then we don't know if we'll get more money. So, things change.

I mean, some of the segmenting and targeting, we come up with the week before. Sometimes in my calendar, I'll put in targeted send 'something.' Then we work with someone who helps us with the... who does a lot of the planning out of the actual emails and writing. She's awesome. She comes up with lots of great ideas for those.

Some of those, we'll just come up with the week before, even a day or two before, because it takes literally 90 seconds to make it in Klaviyo, and then another 3 seconds to make the code in Shopify, and then you got your test. Send it out. See what happens.

Andrew Foxwell: Right. It's low friction.

Austin Brawner: If you look back at... One of the things that's always interesting is, I find that we've been interviewing people for, oh man, quite a few years now. Every business is built in its own way. I feel like every single business has something that they're really, really good at, and that is the thing that drives them forward initially, and then other parts of the business kind of catch up.

I would love to hear over the last year, obviously, the business has matured, and you've grown. What are a couple of things you've done in the last year you can look back on and say, "I've been particularly impactful at this stage of growth in the business?"

Rebecca Melsky: One thing that I think I've gotten pretty good at is product design, and knowing what our customers are going to want, and being able to create products that really will resonate with them. I mean, it's not 100% hit rate, but my business partner, Eva, does most of the creative thinking about this stuff. We work together on a lot of things, but she's really the spearhead, and she came up with this brilliant idea for a solar system dress that... The fabric is black with sparkles, and it's got all the planets, and Pluto is in the pocket, and there's a... I mean, it's clever, and it's beautiful, and products like that that are really unique and different are something that I think people expect from us now and really sell well for us, which has been huge just to...that's been super helpful for us.

And then really kind of narrowing in on the planning and the cycles and how to plan out for different kinds of sales and targeted spends and being able to forecast it and then kind of make it happen, and not just sit back and hope that it does. Like, okay, we'll put in this much money on Facebook and then just hope that it works, but to actually really be proactive about, both, our ad spend and what we're doing with our email and how we're planning out sales with new products, really trying to be the driving force there and not just doing something, and crossing your fingers, and hoping it works. I think the combination of those two has been really huge in the growth that we've seen in the past year.

Andrew Foxwell: That makes a ton of sense. I mean, obviously, being more methodical never hurts, but I mean, the innovation as we kind of started this episode talking about is a huge part of what you do. I want to go into some more nitty-gritty business side stuff, too, in terms of how you're doing things, just because I think it's interesting.

I have listened to a lot of eCommerce podcasts recently, kind of checking out what everybody else is doing, and yeah. It's like, I listen to them often, but not every one often. I had recently listened to one. It's like, nobody was talking about fulfillment, basically, which I think everybody has to deal with it if you're an eCommerce business, right?

Rebecca Melsky: Right.

Andrew Foxwell: You're like, I have to decide, are you going to do it? Are you going to outsource it or whatever? One thing that struck me in some research around your company is, you outsourced the fulfillment from the beginning.

Why did you do this? And what are the pros and the cons of doing that, in your opinion? I mean, did you outsource? If you did, why? And what are the pros and cons of kind of the method you chose?

Rebecca Melsky: We hadn't been planning on it. When we launched the Kickstarter with our $35,000 goal, we thought we would sell like 500 dresses. We thought we were just going to fulfill from Eva's basement. That was our plan.

Then when the Kickstarter went huge, we're like, "We can't do this. How are we going to do this?" Literally, Eva called me one day. I was teaching. I had a break. She called me and she was like, "Did you know that there is something called a fulfillment center, and they will ship it for you?" It was like mind-blowing. That's how little I knew about everything.

I mean, we just, from the beginning, knew there was no way we were going to do that. At the time, Eva had three children and four children, and I had two. We were not ever... It was just impossible for us to do it ourselves.

And so, we found a fulfillment center that was near the factory where we produced in Chicago so that it would be an easy trip to get it there. It's also centrally located in the country. While I know that it has cost us probably more money than if we had somehow managed to do it from our basement, one, it's just the peace of mind of knowing that someone else is handling it, and then from the beginning, we could have a new product release. We could do a sale and get 10 times the number of orders in two days and not have to worry about that, not have to stress about how it was going to happen, not have to figure out, how are we going to get a giant palette into our residential neighborhood to offload all the products?

It just allowed us to scale pretty quickly, and I mean, within... We're not huge, but scale from where we were to where we are now quickly without worrying about the different spikes, knowing that they'll be able to handle it.

Also, the company that we work with employs people with disabilities to do some of the packaging of products, and we're really happy to be able to support an organization that's doing that kind of work. There's a peace of mind and insanity that we pay for with having someone else handle it all.

Austin Brawner: And it also allows you to focus on more marketing, which is nice.

Rebecca Melsky: Right, absolutely. We would've, I'm sure, had to hire someone to do it. When people ask how big our company is, I say like, "Well, there's two full-time employees, but we have all these other people who help us." If we were fulfilling ourselves, we would probably have maybe two or three employees who were doing that for us, but instead, we just have a fulfillment center that we pay, but they're great.

I know there's a lot of options out there, and it's been really nice for us to work with a relatively small company, because one, their mission, and two, just like if we need something changed or if customers frequently will buy the wrong size or get the wrong address, they're able to work with us in such a way that I don't know if a giant fulfillment center that has 1,500 customers would be able to do.

Austin Brawner: Sure, no. There's definitely benefits to that. I would love to dive in a little bit on something you talked about, which is, you just briefly touched on, is what the company looks like now. You mentioned you got a couple full-time employees.

Rebecca Melsky: Just me and Eva. We're the full-time employees. Erica does our customer service for us. I was doing all the customer service, and then I got pregnant and was about to have my third baby, and I realized of all the things that I won't be able to do when I'm home with a newborn, customer service is the number one thing, because if somebody needs their address changed and they need it changed within the two hour window before the package gets out the door, and I'm taking a nap with my tiny, little baby, I'm not going to get to it.

The first thing we did at that point was outsource customer service, which is huge. I can't even imagine if I was still doing it, and Erica also does other kind of virtual assistant tasks for us, and she's fantastic, and Kirsten puts together emails, a lot of the email planning and also press outreach for us and runs Instagram, because I'm too old for Instagram. Yeah. She does other kind of marketing projects for us, and then we have our warehouse and fulfillment team, and we have bookkeepers, an accountant, and a lawyer, and obviously we're not sewing the product.

It's funny. Sometimes parents, when they know that their kids have our products, have our dresses or whatever, if they need us, they'll say, "Oh, this is the woman who made your clothes." The kids always look at me like, "Really?" I'm like, "Well, I didn't really make it. Don't worry about it."

Austin Brawner: It's really interesting. I would love to hear your take on this. Andrew and I talk about this a lot. A lot of times, when Andrew and I meet up, a lot of our time is spent talking about how we can build our business more to support our lifestyle and think about growth within the framework of supporting a lifestyle that we want to live.

How do you and your business partner, Eva, think about growing the business and balancing the amount of kind of fuel you want to pour on the fire with growing it in a way that supports your life in the way that you want to, I don't know, have a life outside of the business?

Rebecca Melsky: From the very beginning, our kids and our families have been just part of the world in which we're building a business. Right? Literally, my two-month-old baby was on my chest in an ergo when I sent to Eva, "Hey, I have this idea. Do you want to do this with me?" Our first, like, I'm putting quotes around this "business meeting" was with my little, tiny baby there and her two kids who she was homeschooling at the time were home. It was pouring rain. It was like we sort of joked, "If this ever turns into something, this is going to be a funny story that this was our first 'business meeting.'"

Just from the beginning, our families and our kids and our business have just sort of been enmeshed. We have been intentional about not taking on more than what we can handle while also picking up our kids at 3:15 or knowing that summers are going to be times where we don't get a whole lot done, because kids are home and schedules are crazy, but it's also just sort of the nature of how we've done it, is that in some ways, it almost hasn't been a choice because we've just done it from the beginning, that this is how we do it. Of course, sometimes kids are homesick, and it's crazy.

Eva has a funny story of... She was interviewed for the Guardian during the Kickstarter. At the time, they called while she was potty-training her one child, and she had a baby on one hip, potty-training her kid on the toilet on the other, and the phone in her shoulder talking to the Guardian.

That's how we've just done it from the beginning. We plan our product releases and our photoshoots around summer break. We planned our product release around when I had my third kid two years ago. We have intentionally not gone out to do a round of fundraising, or taken on investors, or anything that would, right now, limit our ability to really balance work and kids in a way that feels right for us.

My kids know that I'm on my phone more than I used to be, and sometimes I might be responding to an email at the playground with them after school, but that's kind of how it's all been enmeshed that it's just how our lives are, and we're pretty clear about trying to grow within those bounds for the moment.

In a few years, when everybody is a little older, it might feel easier, and we might feel ready to take on more. But right now, it feels very manageable and good to have this kind of balance.

Andrew Foxwell: That's really cool. I think it's real. It's transparent, and I think it's realistic, as well. Clearly, hear you using the word, intention, very often, which is super cool and something that I think many of us can hear more of.

Well, we really appreciate you sharing your story with us today. It's been an incredible episode, and yeah. I think before we let you go, if people have questions or want to follow-up, is there a good way to get ahold of you?

Rebecca Melsky: Sure. I'm, but if you use any of the email addresses on the website, it will go to Erica who can send them to me. is where you'll find us. Go to boy-wonder. It will just redirect you over to Princess Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. I love your podcast. I listen to it basically every episode as soon as it comes out, so it's a real honor to be on.

Andrew Foxwell: Oh, we're so glad. Well, thanks for listening.

Rebecca Melsky: Thanks so much, guys.

Austin Brawner: Hey there, it's Austin again, and I have a quick message for you. If you enjoyed this podcast, I have something really exciting for you. For the last year and a half, I've been coaching eCommerce business owners and marketers inside a group called The Coalition. You might have even heard me talking about it on this podcast. We have a lot of members who come on and actually share their story.

Now, what launched as an experiment has become a game-changer for our over 150 members. If you like me and my team of expert marketers and eCommerce operators to coach you on your journey to scale up your eCommerce business, this is your opportunity. You can head over to to learn more. Again, head over to to learn more.

Everything we talk about on this podcast, we go into way more depth with actionable training. You can get actually one-on-one help from me to help you grow your business. Hope to see you guys inside.

Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I am Foxwell, Andrew. Hey, man. How are you doing?

Austin Brawner: AKA The Fox.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, actua...

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