an interview with Vivian Kaye.
There are two ways you can launch a new business: build a brand and then create a product, or create a product, and then build a brand. While there’s no one right way to do this, building a brand before you launch a product does have its benefits.
This week on Commerce Tea we’re talking about how to increase brand awareness in preparation for a product launch.
Vivian Kaye is the Founder & CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki, a premium textured hair extension brand for Black women that she grew to over $1 million in annual revenue.
As a Business Encouragement Coach, Shopify Expert and proven trailblazer in her industry, Vivian’s community loves her humble approach and how she “keeps it real”.
Alongside her hosting duties on her IGTV Show, Mind Your Business, Vivian has been featured in The Toronto Star, Ted Talks “The Way We Work”, Shopify’s Expert Academy Series, Privy’s Ecommerce Marketing Handbook, is a founding Shopify Compass Instructor and has been featured in publications such as Black Entreprise, Refinery21 and podcasts such as Shopify’s Vanguard and The Dean Graziosi Show.
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- [05:06] How Kelly introduces her brand, KVLLY, independent of yourself when she herself is also a brand
- [07:01] Sometimes the brand just happens naturally
- [08:17] The story of KVLLY
- [11:41] Building hype
- [13:05] Finding product-market fit
- [13:49] Kickstarter campaigns as a method for growth
- [15:56] When the founder is the brand
- [18:34] About Vivian
- [19:20] Why Vivian started KinkyCurlyYaki
- [25:54] How Vivian figured out the supply chain
- [27:32] Driving traffic without paying for ads
- [29:05] Chads
- [33:44] Vivian's consulting business
- [35:00] What should merchants be focusing on
- [38:01] Vivian's thoughts on BFCM prep
- [41:41] Store shoutout: Play Pits
- [42:58] Store shoutout: KIDS SWAG
- [44:46] Store shoutout: Prepdeck
- [45:40] Store shoutout: Three Gems Tea
- [46:45] Where to find Vivian on the Internet
- Vivian on Instagram
- Vivian on Twitter
- Vivian Kaye
- Play Pits
- KIDS SWAG
- Three Gems Tea
There are two ways you can launch a new business, build a brand, and then create a product or create a product, and then build a brand. While there's no one right way to do this, building a brand before you launch a product does have its benefits. This week on the podcast, we're talking about how to increase brand awareness and preparation for a product launch. Let's dig in.
Welcome to Commerce Tea, a podcast to help you succeed on Shopify. I'm Rhian.
I'm Kelly. Grab a mug and join us as we talk about all things commerce. Good morning, Rhian.
Good morning, Kelly. How are you?
I am doing great. How are you?
I'm doing great as well. Today, I'm actually drinking Orchid Fragrance oolong tea.
Ooh, I love it. You're so on brand. I am drinking water.
I turned a corner and now I'm just drinking tea for the episodes.
I still need to buy tea.
I'm just going to send you some of this tea because it's really phenomenal. It's a sample pack. There's six different kinds.
That's my favorite kind of pack. Give me a little bit of everything.
Let me decide what I love. I was actually talking to a merchant earlier today and we were talking about the value of sample packs and how it's their number one seller. I believe this tea company is a number one seller and I get why? I'm like, “Let me just dabble.”
Everyone wants to dabble. Exactly, especially when you're dealing with something that you're consuming. Everyone has different tastes. Everyone has an idea of what they like.
Also, I just want to dabble forever and just continually get variety packs.
Exactly. I'm a lifelong dabbler.
Same, same, same.
What are we talking about today?
Today, we're talking about basically building a brand or building a brand community before launching a product or before launching a business, which is often a unique way to think about approaching it, but it's actually more common than one would like to expect.
Because there's two different kinds of schools of thought here. Well, there's at least two different schools of thought. There's brand first. There's product first. Then there's other stuff.
There's, “I'm just throwing everything at the table and hoping something stays on the table.”
Yes. Please don't fall off the table. That could also be the motto for 2020. Just stay on the table.
You're so right. If 2020 was a business, that is a strategy and there is no business plan. This is an example of creating a business plan and then lighting it on fire, and then taking the ashes of that and turning it back into a business plan and then lighting that on fire. It's a great year.
Now we're here. You've done this exceptionally well.
Oh, thank you.
You built a brand around yourself and yourself is Kelly.
I am Kelly.
You, Kelly, as a human.
Or you, Kvlly, on Twitter.
Yes. My Twitter handle is K-V-L-L-Y, which doesn't actually have any kind of formal pronunciation because this is the Internet. That was the handle that was available. That was short, my name and so it just became Kvlly.
Oh, I thought it was because of metal or something.
It literally has no meaning. Somebody actually asked us that because Daniel, my husband, his Twitter handle is dxnielvaughn, but the first A is an X.
They were like, “Did you guys plan this or something?” I'm like, “No. It's just what's available.” It's better than having numbers after your name.
It is. Anything is better, but you know what? For those listening, if you have numbers after your name, it's okay.
Sorry if I just insulted you,
There can only be so many Kellys. At some point, you were Kelly 5,000. There are just so many.
Kelly 149279231. Yup.
Kvlly. There's my pseudonym.
There's Kelly, this human being who I'm talking to and there's Kelly on Twitter and you're the same person, but then there's Kvlly the brand. I'm pronouncing it as Kavelli because I want to.
I do too because at some point you have to give us some kind of pronunciation. I can't just be like, “My brand K-V-L-L-Y, all capital letters.”
I'll trace it in there. How do you introduce your brand independent of yourself when yourself is also a brand?
There's definitely not a distinct separation between me and my identity online. I think the identity online is because everyone … Especially when you're creating some kind of identity or some kind of personality online, it's the same thing on TV shows and movies. There's some distinct quality that makes them, them. In my case, it's the fact that I am a developer and I tweet a lot of really dumb developer jokes.
I'm doing it less often now, but they're still up there. I just haven't actually pulled out my phone to tweet them. I just keep them to myself or show them to my team. Poor them. All this to say by building an audience, I was then able to open up an online store, which is shopkvlly.com. Basically, I'm just selling developer merch or tech merch because that is an extension of my brand, but I built that community before I launched the product.
Give me an example of a cheesy developer joke that 0.0000001% of all people are going to get.
Oh, one that has to be read. That's a tough thing. One of my favorite jokes to make every single time I come back from vacation is I've just come back from vacation and I'm getting back to my computer. I'm opening up my email. I'm pulling up my code editor. I guess you could say I'm back to my regularly scheduled programming.
Oh my gosh. I love that.
That is so stupid. I love it so much.
Somebody has to do it and I am proud to be that person
That happened naturally. You had a viral moment a few years ago. Did that moment …? Was that a launching point or was it already happening in terms of your growth?
I don't know exactly what it was that skyrocketed my growth because I had multiple viral moments over time. I think one of my big ones that bridged the gap … Also, speaking of building a personal brand identity online and being split between e-commerce Kelly and developer Kelly, and having those audiences merge is the most confusing thing because I have developers responding to my commerce stuff and commerce people responding to my developer stuff. It's just weird. Uncomfortable worlds collide, but I created that mess of myself.
It's like when you invite two different groups to a party.
Yes. Your work friends and your home friends.
Then you're like, “It was a horrible mistake. What did I do?”
Yup. I didn't think this through.
Before you launched your first product, I remember this happening. You mocked something up and you were like, “Do I do this?”
Yes. The whole reason why I launched my store in the first place was because I wanted to figure out what headless commerce is and how it works. We're going to do a whole episode on headless commerce because I could talk about it for approximately three hours. I promise not to record an episode that long though.
It'll be a bonus episode.
It'll actually be a bonus episode. Trust me. I'm just saving that for you. In order to test building a headless website, I had to open a store. I had products to source from. I'm like, “Where am I going to get my products?” I pulled up the website printful.com. It is a print-on-demand site. You just design the products. They print and ship for you so you don't have to handle any kind of printing or fulfillment. Pretty great. I took one of my developer jokes that did really well.
It was just a screenshot of my git-log, which in developer speak, that is, this is the progress I'm making towards a project, but it's not really progress because usually, you're saying, “Build a product page. Add a slide show.” Mine's like, “Please work.” I'm just button-mashing the keyboard and cursing a lot. This is more like a classic developer right here. I decided to … It creates mockups for you as well, that you can use. Again, we can do a whole episode on creating a print-on-demand store. That's a really great idea.
Sometimes, by the way, people say, “POD” instead of print on demand.
That's just a note.
Because we love acronyms.
We do love three-letter acronyms in particular. Anyway, it generates this picture of a mug with my git-log on there and it's just surrounded by donuts. I'm like, “This is the most hilarious thing ever.” I post a picture of it and I explain why I created this in the first place. It got thousands of likes and people were like, “No. Seriously, I want to buy this mug.”
I'm like, “Okay,” so I opened up my store sooner than I was expecting and people started buying my projects or products. Then it just became a little bit addicting. What else could I turn into …? Go from a developer joke to actual wearable merch or drinkable home goods as well. It's growing from there. Oh, I love that cha-ching. As a merchant, if you're not using the Shopify app and your phone is not on loud, please do both of those things. It's well worth it.
I will say the disappointing part when I got one of your products, Kelly, is that it didn't come with donuts.
It did not come with donuts.
That was a little false ad. I'm going to give you some grace there.
I appreciate that.
I mean I was just hungry for donuts that day and every day. You just launched, right? You were like, “Here it is. I've got an audience. Let's go.”
Yeah. I think in terms of talking about why you might want to launch a brand or launch the community before you launch the product, this is a really good example of, it just happens naturally. I never intended to open a store in the first place. It felt like a natural next step, just based on how things were progressing.
That's one example. What are some other reasons that you can think of?
I would also say you want to build hype. I think Fast is a really good example of this. They built up this Twitter and Instagram presence with videos and just being loud on social media before they had their product launch. They just hyped up their product launch. Another good example or another good reason is that you're just not ready to launch yet.
Yes. I will say that the one thing about hype though is when you hype something up, no matter what brand you are, you've got to execute.
Yes. There's always that risk. I mean-
I personally don't like hyping up anything, except for my book-
I would imagine not.
Because that was done. Exactly because something will go wrong. Something will inevitably go wrong, so I choose to not follow the hype trail.
I'm the same. I'm the same way. I'm product before hype, but I also see the value in hype because it works.
It works. It absolutely works.
If you can put together a viral marketing campaign, make yourself viral, whatever, everyone's talking about your product before you launch. That's the goal.
Which is a very powerful thing.
This summer actually, it was the summer of viral launch.
Oh, for sure. This is actually a really good transition into finding product-market fit. That's one of the really solid benefits of launching the community and then creating the product or launching the product because quite often, you think you might know who your customers are going to be, but it's not until you actually launch that product that that really comes to light. By building the community ahead of time, you're able to test the product with smaller audiences and see what they like, what they don't like, and make tweaks as you need so you can reach a broader audience when it's time to launch.
100%. I think when you don't take a minute and find product-market fit, it's when you can get yourself in some really dangerous waters.
Exactly. I completely agree. I think another final thing we can touch on is Kickstarter. I think Kickstarter is a really, really great example of building an audience and building hype, and just building the brand before actually launching the product because the whole idea behind Kickstarter is I have this prototype or this concept and I need your help to fund it, to make it a reality, even if it's not a physical thing, if it's software or whatever it might be. I know the fonts library, Font Awesome, started as a Kickstarter campaign.
Oh, that's rad. So did MVMT, right?
I think so.
It was either Kickstarter or Indiegogo. They started as a … It was crowdfunding and now look.
Exactly. I mean Kickstarter is a really strong avenue for launching a brand. I will say though, making the transition from Kickstarter to running your own online store is a tough transition to get right because you're building that audience via Kickstarter. You're building it from a separate platform. You're not necessarily creating that connection through your own website and your own brand, unless you've … I would recommend launching the website without the product and directing people back to Kickstarter to actually back the product or the service or whatever it is you're selling. When it comes time to actually fully launch, I've seen some merchants execute it very well by fulfilling those orders from their Shopify store. They just import the orders as already paid and then fulfill them via Shopify.
They just import it through CSV?
That's a great idea.
It's a great idea. The last thing I want to touch on before we get into our interview with Vivian, who is phenomenal, is what do you do, Kvlly, when you …? As the founder of the brand or also the brand, what's the balance there?
It's an interesting balance because I feel responsible for consistently putting out more products and consistently keeping that brand alive. While I'm also running The Taproom, I also have a book that I've published and an audiobook. It becomes a lot of work, all in one plate. For me, I wanted to separate my identity from the brand and that is something I'm actively still working on because it is a very difficult thing to do. I think for just some capacity, people are always going to associate that store with me and that's fine, but I think there's a delicate balance between people associating the store with you and you associating the store with yourself. People are buying your products. They're not buying you.
That makes a lot of sense.
What do you say? We talked to Vivian now.
Let's do it.
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Today we're talking with Vivian Kaye, founder, and CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki, a business empowerment coach and Shopify expert. Hi there, Vivian. How're you doing?
I'm wonderful. How are you?
I'm phenomenal. Thank you so much for asking. Thank you so much for coming on Commerce Tea. We appreciate your time. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I guess if I have to officially introduce myself, my name is Vivian Kaye. I am the founder and CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki. It is a premium textured hair extensions brand for black women. I'm also a business empowerment coach, so I basically kick your ass in order to get your ass in gear. I'm a Shopify expert. Oh, I didn't even ask. Can we curse? Is that a thing? Can we curse?
Oh, we're doing it now. I mean we talk about Duck Shit Oolong. If you don't understand the context of Duck Shit Oolong, I recommend going to our YouTube channel and watching our Teardown. Awesome. What led you to start KinkyCurlyYaki?
Well, I had a problem. I had a problem and I wanted to solve it. Oh, I'm trying to stop myself from doing the Vanilla Ice line from Ice Ice Baby.
Do it. I need it.
No. I don't even know the lyrics. Wait. I had a problem. I had to solve it. “Check out my crew as my DJ revolves it” or something. I can't remember.
I can't say you're wrong. There's another lyrics.
Exactly. I'm sure someone will let us know if I'm wrong. I started KinkyCurlyYaki because I had a problem I needed to solve. I had a business before and it was a wedding decor business and I wanted hair that looks ‘presentable.' As a black woman what that means is, I needed hair that basically would conform to what the European beauty standard was, which is typically straight hair. However, I was tired of putting chemicals in my hair to make it straight, as my hair grows naturally coily and curly. I wanted to wear hair extensions that looked like my hair. Typically, our hair is not suited to this North American environment of cold, dry air. We're from Africa, so we're used to the humid, warm sun and our hair is not built for this environment, so a lot of us black women tend to wear protective styles.
Protective styles are hair extensions. It could be a wig, a weave, braids, anything like that. All your favorite black women, Oprah, Serena Williams, Beyoncé, they're all wearing protective styles, but I wanted something that looks like my hair, but when I went looking for it, I found that it was buried underneath silkier textures which typically wouldn't blend with my hair type. At the time, I thought, well, that's weird. How come no one is just focusing on kinky hair? I just filed the idea in the back of my brain because I was really happy in my decor business. I was buying Coach bags. I was going on vacation. I was happy. Because I was trying to solve my own problem, I did a lot of my own QA. I would email factories overseas and I would get them to send me the products.
Eventually, I settled on a product that I really loved and I started to wear it. I went to a meetup event and a black woman pulled me aside and asked me who my hairdresser was or what my regimen was for getting my hair to look like that. I was like, “Girl, this is a weave” and she was like, “Wow. I would buy that.” For black women, another black woman to walk up to another black woman and ask her who her hairdresser was, is the highest compliment that can be paid because she can't tell that I'm wearing hair extensions. Then that means nobody else can tell I'm wearing hair extensions. When she said that she would buy that, I was like, “Well, I bought it and she would buy it. There's got to be at least a dozen other women who would buy it too.” In the down season of my wedding business, December of 2012, I woke up one morning and said, “I'm going to launch KinkyCurlyYaki” and I've been living happily ever after since.
I love that genesis story. You're like, “You know what? Here's a need and I'm going to solve it now.” I think we get caught up in that.
One of the best parts is that your need was immediately validated by somebody else. I love that.
When you started KinkyCurlyYaki, what was that process like?
Oh, well I had no idea what I was doing. I was naive. This was back in December of 2012. Let's call it 2013. Amazon was really starting to really ramp up and people were starting to get comfortable with putting their credit cards online. It was just interesting. A lot of my pain points there were even doing things like trying to convince people or trying to convince my audience to buy my product because the hair isn't seen as ‘beautiful' because it's our natural kinky hair, which for generations and generations, we've been told by society it's ugly. It's nappy. It's not professional. Then there's a certain demographic of people who thought, well, why would I buy kinky hair when it's ugly? There were a lot of naysayers that thought that I wouldn't. That this was a business that didn't make sense.
Or even people who saw that I had no idea what I was doing in terms of e-commerce. I'm one of those people where if you tell me I can't do something, guess what? I'm going to do it. I just saw that this was something. Because I was trying to solve my own problems, I was in Facebook groups and forums and I'd built an audience without realizing it. I was in Facebook black haircare groups being Vivian. Then I launched this business, but I didn't tell anyone it was my business until someone decided that they were going to out me and say, “Oh, you know who owns this business? It's Vivian.” They were like, “Oh, well, all the more reason to support it.” I was like, “Oh.”
Were they trying to be shady?
Yeah. They were trying to be shady because historically, especially in the black haircare and just even black beauty, period, now the tides are turning, but back then, there weren't a lot of black-owned brands and so then it was rare to see a black woman being the owner and founder, and the operator of a black haircare business because even, say traditionally with black beauty supply stores, they're owned by Koreans. The hair comes from India. The suppliers are in China. It's all owned by other people, but not by us and so then the fact that I actually got high on my own supply, as I like to say, that helped to stand out and knocked out any of those barriers in that direction. Did I even answer the question? I don't even remember it.
I think you did answer the question. I feel like you did. First, you got high off pour own supply.
I'm high right now. I am high right now.
Speaking of supply, how did you learn the supply chain side of it?
Well, this was before Alibaba was really popping, on and popping, so it was all through email. Then what I would do is I would … Luckily, within these forums, they were sharing all these different vendors and factories, and people and so then I would just email them all. I would order from all of them and I would say, “This is what I want and this is what it needs to look like.” Some of them would say, “No. I don't want to do it. It's too kinky.” Then some of them were like, “Yeah. Sure. We can do it.” Then I was like, “Okay. Make it kinkier” and they're like, “Oh, are you sure? Because no one's ever ordered it like this.” I'm like, “Yeah. I'm sure because I want it to look like my hair.” I did a lot of my own QA, a lot of trials. I spent, I don't want to say a lot of money, but I spent a lot of money, especially for someone that didn't have a lot of money, but I didn't spend tens of thousands of dollars.
I'd say I spent a couple of 1,000 dollars just trying products. Then once I found a factory that seemed to be cooperative, I would order the same products and the same textures under different names, just to see if I was getting the same quality because I couldn't physically go there and see what I was buying. Then plus, I was really adamant about making sure the product that I was selling was actually good enough for my audience. Because kinky hair has this reputation as being bad hair, the people who were making it didn't know how it was supposed to act. Because I was running my own QA, I knew how it was supposed to act, what it was supposed to do. That's basically how I did it.
Now, I read on the Internet that you didn't pay a dime for paid ads, not a dime.
I didn't pay for paid ads Until 2017, January 2017.
How did you drive traffic in that interim period?
Like I said, I built an audience. I organically built an audience within Facebook groups and on a forum and I was just being myself. I showed people how I wore the hair, what I do with the hair. I guess I was an influencer for my own business. Again, I got high on my own supply. A lot of it was organic. Plus, in my previous life with a 9:00 to 5:00, I knew all about SEO before SEO was a thing for e-commerce, for regular degular e-commerce people. I was always SEO-ing my website like, “I'm going to put some keywords behind my images. I know what to do with that.”
I was doing all that back in 2013. I got ahead. I had a lot of organic reach.
I love to hear about search because that's my favorite thing to talk about.
Is that what makes you happy?
That's what brings me joy, normal stuff. Reading nerdy papers about search and hearing stories about how it works. Thank you for sharing that. Moving a little bit off KinkyCurlyYaki, something that is branded pretty heavily across your Twitter and on your online presence are Chads. What Would Chad Do? Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Well, being in this e-commerce game, there's a lot of men, especially white men who think they know everything. Sometimes I would start to question myself or question my qualifications, especially because I'm a college dropout. I'm an immigrant. I'm a black woman. I'm a single mother. I have all these obstacles in front of me and somehow, I managed to overcome them, but a white guy, he would just say, “Oh, well, I could have done that.” I was like, “Okay, but didn't. I did.” Anyways, Chad is an energy. He's a mood. He's an attitude. He's a mindset. He's not a particular person, so he's not meant to … What's the word?
He's not meant to … I don't mean to make anyone feel like I diminish anyone's accomplishments. Wow. My brain is … I need some coffee. That's what it is. It's not meant to diminish anyone's accomplishments and it's not meant to bash men at all. What it is, is it's a mood. It's just meant to help you to immediately dismiss any self-limiting beliefs that come into your head, especially as women. Let's just say, for example, we look at a job posting. We can have four out of the five qualifications that we wouldn't apply, but Chad would apply. He wouldn't have a single one of those damn qualifications. He would apply it and he would get the job.
It's so true.
Really, what it's about is just having the audacity to do the big things because Chad is sitting down, celebrating his mediocrity like he won the Nobel Prize, but here we are. We're doing the same thing. We probably won the Nobel Prize, but we'd be like, “I won the Nobel Prize.”
I had a lot of help along the way.
I had a lot of help along the way. I'd like to thank these people in my life. You know those people didn't do shit. You did that shit yourself, so why are you giving them credit for the things that you're doing? Really, Chad is just that. What Would Chad Do is just meant to help you. It's just meant to encourage you to do the big things. Whenever you think, oh, I'm underqualified, that imposter syndrome starts to just … In your head, just stop and just think, What Would Chad Do? Would Chad sit down and worry? Oh, my kids. Oh, what will people think? Oh my goodness, I don't want to sound braggy. I don't want to … Chad doesn't care. Chad does all that stuff and he gets away with it, so why can't you do it too?
I needed this so much.
I've been working on embracing my inner chad. Rhian knows that imposter syndrome is a very real thing for me, especially being young in the industry as well. I'm 29 and I feel very … I tend to compare myself to others who have been in the space longer, even though they haven't been in the space longer, but they're louder than I am. It's a very real thing.
Very real. Really, sometimes you just need to … I'm all about celebrating every single damn win. Celebrate it all because Chad would. Chad, he gets some mediocre mention in some local newspaper and this man is acting like he won a Grammy. He's acting like he won an EGOT. Bro, calm down, but you know what? There's nothing wrong. No one tells him to calm down. Whereas we do like, “Oh, you're being aggressive.” Or, “You're being this.” Or, “You're being a bitch.” Or, “You're being that.” Would you say that to Chad? No, you wouldn't, so why are you saying it to me?
I need to keep you right here next to me.
You know what? That's what the Chad is supposed to do. You keep him in your back pocket, in your purse.
In my bra.
In your bra, wherever you need to keep him.
Keep Chad there.
Keep it right there. Just whip it out and just be like, “What would Chad do? Thanks, Vivian.” Then put it back.
Are those posters for sale?
They are. If you go to either my Instagram or my Twitter, it literally says, "This is the link in my bio, you'll see links there." Actually, because, like I said, I do business coaching, these are actually being produced by my coaching clients. I've allowed them to use the trademark to sell whatever products they sell. They get 100% of the money. I just allow them to use the trademark because I'm just all about empowering as many people as I can to do big things.
Let's actually talk about that a little bit more. You've been working on growing your consulting business. Can you tell us more about that?
Yeah. Well after, I would say about 2018, I popped my head up out of the sand because I was so busy. I gave birth to my son in 2014. I hit my first million in 2016. I was really busy minding my business, literally minding my baby and my business. When I pulled my head out of the sand to see what everyone was doing, I saw all these coaches and all these podcasts, and all these people were like, “E-commerce, e-commerce, e-commerce,” but what I realized was that everyone was trying to sell blueprints and I was like, “There is no blueprint to this.”
Even if someone gave you a blueprint, you could follow it word for word and line for line and you wouldn't get the same result, but that's what these people were selling. Then I was like, “That's just so icky. It's so icky. I don't like it,” but I realized that I had to overcome my energy and get my Chad on and realize, you know what, Vivian? You actually know what you're talking about. You built a business from zero to a million dollars and you had no idea how you did it, but you did, so you must know something. I wanted to be able to share that information, but what I realized was that a lot of people knew what they were doing, but they didn't have the confidence to do it.
Two questions to follow on. One, how are you helping people gain that confidence, without giving away your secret sauce? Two, what are the main things in your business empowerment coaching are you seeing that people need to be working on?
Well, first, I'm not afraid of giving away my secret sauce because I am the secret sauce. Just being Vivian is the secret sauce. Really, I'm just trying to bring out the secret sauce in you.
I love that.
Because you can learn all this stuff on a podcast, on YouTube or whatever the case may be, but what you bring to the business is something very special and I want you to focus on that. What I bring … I see a lot of mistakes being made, is that people keep trying to follow blueprints. They keep trying to follow what so, so and so is doing. Girl, you can follow what they're doing, but it's not going to be the same. What you need is confidence in what you're doing, confidence to know, okay, if I'm making this decision for my business, I'm confident in that decision. Even if, let's just say, you've made the decision and then it all fails, you don't fall apart.
You just know, you know what? I did the best that I could with the information that I had. Now, I know better. Here's how you can do better. I see that a lot and that's why I call myself a business empowerment coach because I can teach you how I did it step by step. Again, you're not going to do it the way I do it, but if you have the confidence to do it and make your own decisions, then you will be successful, but you just need to be confident in your own skillset. I'm more of a fairy godmother or a guider, I guess you could say.
I feel like everybody needs a little bit of Vivian in their lives, to be honest.
I keep on saying that I need a business therapist, just to deal with that and that's what it is.
You know what? Sometimes I'll get off a call like, “I really am a therapist” because you have the answers. You just need a sounding board to be like, “Vivian, am I crazy?” “No girl. You're not crazy.”
You know what you should do? Instead of doing A, B, C, you should do A, B, and G. Then you're like, “You know what? You're right.” “I mean I knew it, but I wasn't sure.” Girl, do it. Then if it turns out wrong, be like, “Oh, hey. Girl. You know what? Forget about G. Let's do A,” but at least you have the confidence to move forward and make those mistakes, and do what needs to be done for your business, without worrying about what other people are thinking and living up to this, and comparing yourself to that.
Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about, what's on the minds of every single merchant everywhere, which is Black Friday, Cyber Monday? I know we all have feelings about it, but I would love your thoughts on the landscape or how you're preparing or how you're not preparing, whatever you want.
For me, Black Friday traditionally has been a great period. We're already doing well. You could bring up your sales, but this time it's a little bit different. This is a little bit different. This thing called coronavirus came and said, “No. You need to sit your ass down and focus on something else.” For me, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, will I do it? I'm not entirely sure, only because I'm not sure if my supply chain right now can support it. I'm sure that's the case with a lot of businesses, where the supply chain has just gone to shit.
It's there, but can I support a Black Friday type of deal? I don't know. I'm going to try, but it's going to come with a bunch of asterixis like, "Okay. Hey, girl." If you are looking to order this and get it tomorrow, first of all, USPS has gone to shit. Second of all … You know what I mean? This is just so all around. I mean for those people who were lucky enough to have six months' worth of inventory upfront, six months ago, then that's great, but not everyone has Chad's, what is it called, trust fund money to stock up on stuff.
Oh, it's so true though. It's so true.
I think Black Friday, Cyber Monday this year is going to be-
Quiet. I think we're going to have to stop way ahead of time, to be honest, to hit metrics, shipping timelines, but I don't know the answer any better than you do. I wanted your take because you're in the trenches, selling the stuff. I'm over here building software. Kelly Is over there building amazing stores. Oh, I guess Kelly, you are shipping things because on your-
I also have a store. Yes.
On your Kvlly store, but the difference is Kvlly.
It's prints on demand.
It's prints on demand. You have to hold, Vivian, physical inventory and that's a whole.
Listen. Even Shopify, usually on the dashboard, it's like, “Hey. Get ready for Black Friday.” There was a countdown. Now it's just like, “Hey, girl. You need some money. You need some Shopify money. You look like you could use some money.” They're not counting down to anything this year.
They're not. It's so interesting as well because I know Amazon is starting their Black Friday sales October 26th, a whole month.
Well, Amazon is the only brand probably that's coming out of this unscathed.
Peloton and Netflix. I mean if you've got that kind of money and you've got that kind of lead time, basically, it's not like they're producing their own inventory. We're supplying them with the inventory and all they're doing is capitalizing on it. I mean good for them, but not so much.
Every episode we round it out with store shout-outs, so tell us about a store that is making you happy this week, that you think is crushing it or just one you want to turn the light on.
There's one, and I discovered this over the six-months corona break.
The break. That's what I'm just going to call it. It's just the break. There is a company called … There's a bunch of companies, but this one comes top of my mind, only because I just thought it was smart. They're called Play Pits. It's a deodorant for kids.
It's a deodorant for kids because you don't want to … I mean I don't know what happened. My son turned six and all of a sudden, he's stinking. Oh gosh. I hope he doesn't listen to this. It's not just him, but I've noticed even with my sister's kids, same thing. You're wary of using aluminum and the adult deodorants on them. Then we used the ones that are natural and all that jazz. It doesn't even work, but with her, her story resonated with me because she's also a single mom of a son. She's just got this scrappy little business where she created this deodorant for her son because he turned seven and started thinking … I blame chicken nuggets. That's what I blame. I loved the product. I loved her branding. I loved her story because it resonated with me. That's one of my shout-outs. Then another shout-out I'd like, it's all kid-related, is KIDS SWAG Co.
Full transparency, she's one of my coaching clients, but I started with her in January and she's just taken off. She's really taken the confidence that I've helped to give her and just ran with it. What she does is she provides accessories, I guess you could say, for black children. She's got backpacks and t-shirts that have black superheroes on them and backpacks with books about black historians and all that. Basically, confidence building for black children. For me, as a black mother and especially during this other pandemic we're going through, that's especially important for me. Those are my two shout-outs, Play Pits and KIDS SWAG Co.
I just got to say, especially for Play Pits, their branding, their label is so cute.
It is super cute. It's super cute and adults can use it too. That's the beautiful thing about it too. I don't know her personally. I just really enjoyed her story and her products. It's smart. I love when people find … I'm finding that it's becoming very rare, where people are solving an actual problem because they had it and then they went to market with it, not, “Oh, well, I saw it trending on Google Trends and now I'm going to turn around and drop, ship it, and bootstrap it,” not even bootstrap it, but VC fund it. Take on $30 million and then disappear.
What? That's never happened before.
Oh my gosh.
I just had a sip of water and I almost choked.
This is something I talk about very frequently. I think we need to have cocktails and Zoom sometime soon.
Oh yes. Oh, I'm totally down for that.
Kelly, what's your store of the week?
Full disclosure, my store is also one of my clients, but the product is called Prepdeck and it's basically this system that has multiple … It has a cutting board built-in. It has a bunch of different kinds of containers for storing the things that you're chopping up, including a space for a knife board and/or a knife block and a pad stand for your recipes or whatever. It's beautiful. While I'm building the site, I'm like, “I just need one of these.” This is my problem with working with clients whose products are really cool, is that they give me the money and then I give it right back.
You're building their site and you're like, “Shut up and take my money.”
My best part of my favorite part is at the end, I'd be like, “Wow. This was a really great shopping experience. Good job.”
You're getting high on your own supply.
That's right. Rhian, what's your store this week?
My store of the week is Three Gems Tea, that's threegemstea.com. Kelly and I recently did a Teardown of their store on our newly launched YouTube channel. I ordered their 6 Oolong Tea sampler pack. A, the branding is amazing on the store and off the store. Second, they sent me a handwritten note and we all know how much I love that. They signed it and they said, “Thank you for the Teardown.” Then they also sent me … Because Kelly and I were giggling because they have a product called Duck Shit Oolong and some of them were just rated as five-star Duck Shit Oolong. We thought someone's saying … No. Then we're like, “Oh, just kidding. That's the name of the tea.” I got some extras and they said in the note that if I ever need a giggle … They sent me some extras.
Oh, that's dope.
I just thought that was so cool.
You can tell that that's the kind of experience they give to everybody. That's my shout-out for the week.
I love it. We end with one question, which is where can we find you on the Internet?
Oh, I'm a pleasure to follow on Instagram. I'm an absolute joy. I've got a number of things on there. I've got my Mind Your Business. I do a weekly, on Instagram, an IGTV show called Mind Your Business, where I talk about all things entrepreneurary. I do a thing where I sing good morning to my plants because I've got 57 of them. I got 57 plants. The quarantine was something. Instagram, especially my Instagram Stories, that's where you can see me being Vivian. Then on Twitter is where I'm more petty. You can find me on both channels, @itsviviankaye, I-T-S V-I-V-I-A-N K-A-Y-E. Don't be shy. Say hi. If you want me to bite, I will.
I love the petty brand you have on Twitter. I live there. I absolutely love it.
Thank you. Sometimes you just got to be petty.
Also, given the audience, I mean-
They dish it so I'm sure they can handle it.
Well, this has been an absolute pleasure. I look forward to chatting with you more in the future. Thank you so much for your time. You're awesome.
Oh, well, thank you for having me. It was an absolute pleasure. It's great to talk to two women about bro stuff or what's typically known as bro stuff. It was great sipping tea with you.
It was great sipping tea with you as well. Cheers.
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