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Don’t be boring, be interesting: How to pitch (and land) Sephora with Tower 28’s Amy Liu

by Female Startup Club
July 31st 2021
01:02:26
Description

Today we’re learning from Amy Liu of Tower 28. We’re covering how to make your pitch count when it comes to getting stocked into retailers like Sephora + how to be a best seller at Sephora, and how... More

This is Amy Liu for female startup club. Hey everyone it's Doone Here, your host and the hype girl today, we're learning from Amy Liu of Tower 28. We're covering how to make your pitch count when it comes to getting stocked in retailers like Sephora plus how to become a bestseller at Sephora and how she stands out in a saturated market. Tower 28 is an insta favorite clean beauty brand designed for sensitive skin and made for all created with a hint of nostalgia. Hello, juicy tubes. Tower 28 Products are bold, playful and accessible with all price points under $28 With the message that it's okay to be sensitive. Tower 28 is the first and only beauty brand to follow the National Eczema associations ingredient guidelines That means 0% irritating ingredients and 100% safe for sensitive skin. It's also clean vegan, rigorously dermatologist tested and made in the USA and I also just want to flag while I'm here that we had our first hype club workshop yesterday and it was bloody mind blowing when I started my e commerce business.

I had no idea how to properly plan or set budgets or any of that kind of thing. And now that I'm building my non alcoholic brand with a whole lot more of a clue, I've been spending time hunting down the ultimate assets that business owners are using to create structure, streamline their business and create efficient processes. So this is essentially the holy grail of documents that tracks your sales and marketing efforts against your targets and budgets so that you know what's going well and you also know what's not going well. So even though the live session is done and dusted, you can still join the hype club to get access to it along with the recording and touch base with our systems and processes. Queen in the group, you'll also be able to access women like Amy in our upcoming modern mental sessions. So keep an eye out for her in there. Let's jump into this episode. This is Amy for female startup club. Mhm. Two. Yeah. Are you working around the clock to build the business you always imagined?

Do you want to communicate with your fast growing list of customers in a personalized way? But in a way that gives you time to work on the rest of your business. Do you ever wonder how the companies you admire the ones that redefine their categories? Do it? Companies like living proof and chubbies. They do it by building relationships with their customers from the very beginning while also evolving in real time as their customers needs change. These companies connect quickly with their customers, collect their information and start creating personalized experiences and offers that inspire rapid purchase, often within minutes of uploading their customer data. Clavijo empowers you to own the most important thing to any business, the relationship between you and your customers and the experiences you deliver from the first email to the last promotion to learn more about how Clavijo helps you own your growth, visit Clavijo dot com slash F S C. That's K L A V I Y O dot com slash F S C.

Female star presence. Amy Hi, hello, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. You're looking very chirpy today. What have you been up to before this? Well, I have three kids, so um, you might have even seen them in the background but have a sort of morning, get everybody up and, and adam and, and here I am and here you are. I always have to start by getting you to give us the elevator pitch slash intro for yourself and your brand. Sure. So my name is Amy Lou, I'm the founder and Ceo of Tower 28 Beauty, but I have worked in the beauty industry for a really long time, so, um it's been, gosh, I want to say 18 years at this point. So I've worked at Loreal smash box kate somerville, josie maran And consulted at a bunch of small, kind of digitally native brands here in Los Angeles, all before starting tower 28.

And really the impetus to that is even longer than I worked in the beauty industry. I've basically had eczema my entire adult life. So around the time I was in college I started getting eczema and have really never quite kicked it. And I think the hard part of the combination of those two experiences is really when you work in the beauty industry and I think you're I mean, I think for people in general, but when you are in the industry and I think you're so aware of the way that you look and that you present, especially as somebody who is selling. You know, I was always the in marketing and so I was the person who was selling in the new line of products into Sephora and into Nordstrom and Bendel's and all these retailers and saying, look at this amazing new foundation or skincare products. But yet my own skin was so troubled. And so I really wanted to wear makeup, right? I think there's an expectation that you do wear makeup when you work in the beauty industry, But that I was concerned, I was worried that I was making my own skin worse by doing so. So, what I was really looking for were products that were not only safer, my sensitive skin, but also nontoxic and clean, right?

So not necessarily 100% natural, but just products that weren't going to make my skin worse. And also I could feel good about putting on. So that was part of my journey. And when I was at specifically when I was working at josie maran was around the time where so Josie was really early in the clean beauty space and that in combination with the fact that I was pregnant and I was starting to have kids, was really when I started thinking a lot about eating healthier switching, you know, just trying to live a more clean lifestyle, I would say. And truthfully, the last thing I did was switch over my makeup and my beauty routine. And a lot of that is probably a result of the fact that like, you know, I could get my, because I had been in the industry a long time, I had a lot of makeup, I had a lot of these things, so it was easy for me just to default to the thing that was like free or whatever. But then I started worrying that it was potentially, I don't think it's the cause of many of my eczema, but I do think it can exacerbate things if you're using the wrong thing on your skin.

And so for me, that became really important and I was already following the National Eczema Association to help understand what kind of soap I should use, like detergent, what kind of um daily care I should be using. And since I have been so deep into like the forums and all of that, to try to understand what I could do about my eczema, I really came to appreciate the National Eczema Association for how specific they were about what they weren't including and how dedicated I felt like they were because there are some seals out there, which you may or may not know, but you can just pay a fee to and they um, you know, they're not as strict about the usage of their seal. And I really felt like that as I started researching at the National Eczema Association is not only strict in terms of like don't use these ingredients, but they actually require you to third party test to make on humans to make sure that there is no irritation. Have a dermatologist, third party review it like then they have their own team of doctors, review your testing.

I liked the fact that I thought it was really thorough. And so then when I went to go start my own brand because it was something I've always wanted to do. The main things I was really trying to solve for as I wanted the products to be safe for sensitive skin, nontoxic, but also a brand where the price point was a little more accessible. Like if you look at the average price point right now of a clean beauty lip gloss or in general, any lip gloss actually at Sephora. It's I think in the neighborhood of like 22-26 us dollars, something like that. Um ours is 14. And so one of the things I was really trying to do is make it more accessible to all kinds of people. So that was really the hope is I was trying to solve it not only for me but also um frankly I have kids and so my my two young girls as they've gotten older and probably because of the type of work I've always done, they really love lip gloss, I really love makeup and I thought like what happens for these kids as they grow up?

What is their option? Um not that I'm only making products for young people that I just wanted there to be more access around it and have it not be for just a certain demographic, right? So whether that meant socioeconomic or ethnic diversity by showing people in the different images that we're putting out there, all of those things was important to me. So that's kind of the Genesis of Tower 28. I'm also just on a personal level, a mom of three kids. My parents immigrated from Taiwan for grad school, so I was born actually in Minnesota, um so not on the west coast but we we came to California really early in my childhood and I've been here since I was six. Um and I've lived on the west side of L. A. Which is why um and near the beach, which is why um all of our imagery. Um if you ever look at our imagery or kind of the brand vibe is very L. A. And very beachy. Um because it's very much a representation of, it's kind of my my love letter to L. A. X. I just I'm a big, I'm a big fan in long long la.

I love that. And yeah, I definitely get that feeling. It's it's a really, I also love the the, I don't know what we say, the W or the wave or the flow. I I feel that in that as well. I'm so glad that you saw w this is just, I actually don't think, I think I've ever said this publicly in the beginning, we were working with the amazing art director who put together the branding for us that I worked with and like, I was like, all I see are boobs, like, that's good. I mean it's all good too, but like, I'm like, is it a waiver boobs? Doesn't matter. I guess, definitely screamed W to me first and then I liked the flow, which I was like, this is this feels coastal for me. Well, I'm so glad. Okay, so you were working at these brands, you said you already had the entrepreneurial spirit, You already knew that one day you wanted to start your own thing, But what was the actual catalyst to get you to be like, well today's the day, I'm gonna start my own business now.

And did you quit your job and go all in or did you do the whole side hustle thing first? Um that's such a good question, so I have always wanted to do this. My, my dad, I think I just mentioned my parents immigrated from Taiwan. My dad was an entrepreneur and I think he would tell you that he was an entrepreneur because he wanted to be, but because um by default, right? So I think when he immigrated to America, I don't think he had, it wasn't that easy for him to go and get a job. So I think he felt like it was easier for him to kind of go out on his own, but watching him, I really felt like he loved what he did, he had, he felt all of it, the highs and the lows of it where my mom on the other hand, had a salaried everyday job and she never talked about it. She left at the same time every day. She came home at the same time every day and it was clearly something she did, but not something she, I don't know, she didn't, I could tell, she just didn't feel it as much right. And I think that's what I wanted, I wanted to really be in it, I wanted to really love what I was doing.

And so I think my dad said that early role model that said, I've always been a pretty risk averse person. So I'm not really someone who um like you hear these stories about people who are like I risked it all. I, you know, hawked my engagement ring and I lived out of the garage and I, you know what I mean? Or like I put it all my credit card, I'm I'm kind of not that person by nature and I think it would make me really nervous to do that. And so I think I took a different path. I really um I went to business school, I went to go work on a lot of other companies and I think my intention was always that I was going to learn on someone else's dying, which I think is true. I'm actually really glad that I did because I think it really prepared me for where I am today, but in terms of how did I get the gumption, did I take the leap? Um I wish I could tell you it was because I was so brave and I finally knew it was time, but the truth is, but actually took some time off. I took time off after I was working at josie, and then I had my third kid.

It's hard frankly to have three kids and work a really big job. I was the head of marketing at josie at a time when it was like, it was such a big right hand at the time, and it was a lot. And so I decided I wanted to take a little bit of time and start and I consulted, so I took time off, but I worked part time. And then when she got into preschool, I was like, wait a minute. So I took about four years and I really wanted to go back to work. And I actually met with a friend of mine from business school and I was like, look, this is what I want, I want something early stage, I want blah blah. And I was telling him, and he said, uh I thought you always wanted to do something on your own. He's like you've been saying this for as long as I've known you and I was like, I do, but I don't have like the money to do it and I don't have a partner and those are two things I really feel like I need. And he basically gave me like a swift kick in the butt and he was like, you're not getting any younger, if you take a job right now, you will probably never do this. And I thought tough love and it was tough love and it was really just like, yeah you're and I am 43 this year, I started this when I was 40 and I think there's a lot of like that folklore, of You know, I think we kind of have this romantic idea of what it looks like to be a founder and entrepreneur and sometimes you think it needs to be like a 20 year old.

you know, 25 year old in a hoodie, like raising tons of money or whatever it is um and that's really not the version of it that I was, you know, I'm, I'm 40 years old, I have three kids um I just bought my first house, I'm risk averse, it's not my situation. So I did, I didn't raising money, I raised money from friends and family, which was also really scary for me and not something I was uh I knew very much about to be honest with you and gratefully that friend that I mentioned that gave me some tough love, he was the first check in because I was like uh nice of you to say, but uh put your money where your mouth is um and so gratefully he did invest and then um you know I think it always kind of, it just takes one almost, right? Because I think that was like the first domino and then because I had spent so much time throughout my career throughout my life telling people this is something I really wanted to do. I was so lucky because so many people I had told when they heard I was doing this, they were like you've been talking about for so long I want to invest.

And by the way, not all, it wasn't like it's not like I'm just friends with all these crazy wealthy people, it was a lot of small checks to be honest with you. What's a small check? Like $10,000? Right? Right. So it's not like I had, You know everyone was like $100,000 or whatever it was um and people would be like Okay, well can I come in with another friend? And the two of us looks like I had gotten the advice that you should Take a minimum check of 25 just so you don't end up with like a massive cap table or you don't end up having like a jillion conversations. So I tried to do that initially, but I think in the end, what's made the most sense for me was not so much the size of the check, but like the, the people involved, not for any other reason than because I've found it really motivating to be honest with you too. Take money from people that I actually do. Like, I know when I care about and I want to do right by not that I would, I think I would be different necessarily if I had taken institutional money, but I think because it's so personal.

Yeah, of course you have such personal relationships with these people. I mean, the lead investor of my second, I've raised twice and lead investor in my second round was my best friend. Now. Love that for you. Yeah, that's so cool. What is it like in terms of these relationships? Because I have conversations with people who have, um, VC backed brands and that kind of thing. And it can be very stressful. These conversations are, you know, not the nicest all the time, dada dada, but obviously when you're going into a friends and family around and it's people that you already know and it's a totally different bowl game. What are the relationships like? Do you still have to give them updates all the time or is it quite casual? Is what did you set any boundaries like when you got into it? What does it, how does it look? I mean, I think the toughest one, so there's, there's two parts of that one in terms of pitching, don't get me wrong, I did pitch institutional investors. So it's not like I ended up with his friends and family around only because that's what I wanted.

I went out to, I got introduced to and I kind of followed the cookie trail and I did all the things that they say you're supposed to, um, to get connected and, and, and meet people, but nobody bit people didn't, um, did not say yes. And so it ended up being that it became a friends and family thing. And I think the, to your point about boundaries, which is a really important question. I think the toughest one honestly was my, my best friend. I didn't even know they had the money. No, I didn't know that they could or would invest. Um and when I told her that I got this other lead investor, she was like, I think we would love to be part of it. So she spoke to her husband they offered a certain amount to invest and I actually cut them in half because I was like, I don't want the responsibility. This is too much to me, it's too much of a burden. I cannot except that on our relationship and our friendship. And then when basically I raised the second time because we were going into Sephora and we had secured a deal to go into all U.

S. And Canada. So flores and it was clear that we had a path forward from a distribution standpoint, so the business was more secure and that's and then when they invested again, I was more willing to take more of their money. They felt more like I knew it was going to go well, but I think a lot of those conversations are are hard, right? I mean, I'll be honest with you, I offer. I mean I went to my dad and my dad passed, right? So you know, and there's a part of that that's really difficult because you feel like you're this person who in theory really believes in me. I He has I mean, some money, I'm not saying whatever he could have put in like 10,000 or whatever, but he didn't want to and that's hard on that's hard on your ego, right? So but then you have to kind of calibrate these things because maybe he said no, but then like your best friend says yes and you're you know, and I think a lot of that is in the beginning, you just need to have these proof points, these moments that give you a feeling of momentum so that you can keep moving forward and it's so easy to focus on the negatives because there's so many, there's so many no's but to try to switch your headset to focus on the positive things and how almost like lucky and grateful you should be.

I think that's part of it. Mm and that's surely a journey, but not too muddy it because I definitely got a lot of nose. Oh yeah, I I hear it's quite the it's quite the exercise to learn how to deal with rejection, all this kind of thing. For sure. How did the launch go? And how did you start getting that early traction? Pre getting the Sephora distribution plan where you felt like the momentum really kicked in? So I think, like I mentioned, I've worked in the industry for a long time and I think that has been really lucky for me because over that period of time, yes, I gained experience and I think I have a sense of maybe what to do and what not to do, but the world has changed so much, to be honest with you, that I think a lot of it, the experience is helpful, but what's the most important has been the relationships. And so, because I've worked with Sephora, because I've worked with um, even my old buyer from Nordstrom just called me the other day, right? Like, I think its beauty is a very small industry and I'm lucky to have at this point friends really in all the different categories.

So whether you're talking about retailers, suppliers, um, on the brand side, like product developer, like all the different, my friend, you know, I've worked on at brands, so in terms of how the launch went, um I was very lucky that I was able to access a lot of those people so that I could find, I mean right now to find like a a chemist or if it's so competitive now because there's so many brands that it's actually a lot of the chemists, a lot of the labs that make the products, you have to send them a business plan just to get them to work with you sometimes. But I was lucky enough that I didn't have to do that. I could go to the chemist that I wanted to go to and I could work with him. So it took me about a year to line up all of the products, the branding, everything around packaging, all of that stuff. Um And then, to be honest with you, when we launched, it was quite frankly, not much more than a, like an instagram mood board, and I didn't even send an email out to my friends because I was like, I don't know, I hope this is, you know, you kind of work on something, um it's a little bit in isolation, right?

Like you show people, but I got pretty early on, I became very wary of showing people too, because you don't want to get so many opinions and then get off track right? Like, I remember showing my brother is an architect and in theory is a great great I for aesthetic and design, and I showed him my my logo today, and he was like, I think it's terrible, you need to start over, and I was like, you know, and then you get that voice in your head and and it's hard for you to figure out what your own perspective is, what you should let in and what you should filter Out. right, like you have to start filtering. So I became really careful about that too, about whose voice I let in and who I was showing, it to so then it is kind of scary to like it's almost like you know, raising you know like you let it out into the world and it's this thing you care so much about, you spent so much effort on and so initially when we launched, I would say it was with very little fanfare, This is April of 2019 and it was an Instagram Mood Board.

We literally had an intern at the time, go through and put together a list for me of like influencers and just randomly, we didn't know anyone, I don't have, I don't come from a background of influence in that way. And so we just literally wrote to people and we were like with our little instagram mood board up, no verified, check, nothing, you know, little sign and just wrote to people and said like, hey, we're a new brand, would love to send you some products, here's a little bit about us and people said yes and these are not like, we didn't necessarily go to huge influencers, right? And then we just started sending out pretty, I mean honestly wasn't that impressive as a box with like some shred and three pieces of product inside and so it wasn't that momentous or anything. But I think again, you just look for those little moments of positivity and a feeling of momentum that it's working and people loved the product. We had reached out to Nicole Guerrero who is, I don't know if you follow beauty that much, but she's like an old school really one of a huge Youtuber and we send products to her and I remember this is one of the huge moments in the beginning where she, um, and we didn't know if she would actually even open the box, right, because she probably gets so much product, but she not only opened the box, tried it, but then she hosted herself using it and then bought more products and screenshot the transaction Of her buying more herself because she said she loved it so much.

And it was like, I think it was like three or 6 stories and me and the team, we were all dying because we were, and I was like at the time was two young girls and me because we were like, wait a minute, we're like a real company, somebody is talking about us who has. And it was like watching a game because she, after she posted, we saw our followers like literally just start going up. Oh my gosh, that's so cool. And then we saw people start purchasing, right? So I think we sold like, Like 1000 pieces within the first after she posted over the next few days. And that was huge for us, right? Because again, like, I don't have, I'm not Rihanna, like I have no platform, but those were the moments. And then after that, it was um you know, we went to Credo and they said yes almost immediately. And I'm lucky again because I did know the founder, but I think that just gets you in the door. I don't think that means you for sure get a yes based on that.

And then we went to, so that was april we launched july, we were in Credo. Um and by september we were in Sephora. And so my gosh that's a really quick turnaround to get from there to Sephora. And so for a when they took us to their credit, they were like great we'll take you and we'll put you in all so far as U. S. And Canada. And I was like no you're not, that's not really happening is it? That's amazing. And I kept thinking they were going to change their mind. I was like we're going to launch because we launched on.com first in September. And then we didn't launch in the stores until January of 2020. So the end of January 2020, which if you remember is right before pandemic it. So when we launched in Sephora, like on dot com, I kept thinking if we don't succeed they're gonna change their mind, they won't put us in stores. And however long story short they worked out okay. It worked out pretty well. I I read that you guys are like ranked number seven in Sephora's Were actually six right now.

six, that's amazing. And that's something like 1% of all Sephora customers in the world are buying your product, which is just so cool. And I want to talk more about this because I want to understand firstly what actually goes into that, like how do you actually become a best seller? I'm sure it's you know, a lot of hard work in the back end that people don't see, but how does someone become a bestseller at Sephora? Um I think one misnomer that people have when they work with retailers is um that once you get into Sephora, once you get into old to whoever your dream retailer is, is that that door opens and then all of a sudden the product starts flying off the shelves. I think that's um maybe that's true for some people, if you have like a built in brand of influence, like, I'm not sure, I'm sure Fenty and rare, and these brands did a lot of work in addition to that, to be honest with you. But even if Rihanna did nothing but put product on the shelves, could she have sold some products probably right for a brand like ours?

And I think for honestly, all brands, now that the competition has really never been again. I've worked in the industry a long time, the competition has never been more fierce than it is today. There's just so the barriers to entry are so low to get into the business, the margins are very attractive. So in terms of an industry beauty is really hot. So I think the biggest misnomer is like once that product gets in you have you have to sell it whatever that means. Like what whether you're and to be honest nowadays it's not just one tactic. It can't just be okay then. I think I'm going to be big on instagram. It's like you have to have multiple, like everything is on me. Like people talk about distribution and they say, you know, you have to now it's not just about being like big on D. D. C. It's like you have to be on your website, you have to be in retail, you have to be everywhere at the same time. It's the same. I think when it comes to marketing tactics you can't just focus on one.

You have to kind of try everything a little bit, but you at the same time have to focus, right? So it sounds crazy, right? But you you almost have to do both. Like, and I guess the example of it is like social media, I would say for us we started instagram is kind of the main place that we've tried to build our community but we can't ignore Tiktok, right? That's a huge part of it for us. But like we had a conversation the other day as a team and we were like, do we do Pinterest? Do we do twitter? Well, those are less of a priority. And I mostly have a really small team. Right? So if you can only do so many things and do them well, pick a few. But you can't do those. You can't do social only. We still have to pay attention to what is our visual merchandising look like, what a sampling look like. We have to think about everything. You have to prioritize almost the top ones in every bucket. Mm hmm.

Yeah, that's definitely care. It can get overwhelming when you have to think about all the platforms. And then you look at brands who have huge budgets and you're trying to compete with them and you're like, but I can't do everything good. I need to you do need to focus and and keep it to the channels that you think you can do well at and where you'll get the most impact. I think before you start thinking about others. For sure. And I think what you said about comparison is such a good point dune because it's so and I've done it before too. It's so easy to be like, well, if I only had a little more money, you know? But I think for anyone who's listening, I hope that we can be a good um inspiration for the fact that I think you still can do it on a with a little hustle. Or actually I would say a lot of hustles. I think it's all about having a great team, having a lot of authenticity and hard around it do, but we don't have big budgets. I mean all that is on a relative basis. I think somebody who raised, You know, 5000 to start might think that, you know, we had a lot of money, but we certainly didn't have millions, right?

So it's like, it's all relative totally. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Mhm. Hey, it's doing here, I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show. You'll hear women who were just like, you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business and I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now? You also know that so many of the entrepreneurs I speak to have mentioned facebook and instagram ads as a crucial part of their marketing mix from today onwards. I'm really excited to be able to offer our FsC small business owners and entrepreneurs and no strings attached. Our long chat with leading performance marketing agency amplifier, who you might also remember from our course, Full disclosure amplifier is my husband's business. And what's really important to know is that I've been able to witness first hand the transformation of so many businesses going from as low as $10,000 a month, all the way to $300,000 a month.

And in some cases upwards to seven figures. So if you're listening in and you feel like you're ready to take your business to the next level, jump on a no strings attached call with amplifier where you can ask all the questions you have about performance marketing and whether it's the right time for you and your business to get started, go to female startup club dot com forward slash ads. That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S. And booking a call today. Yeah, I want to ask you about your memorable pitch to Sephora. It's something that I read about. I think it's really cool. I love things that are memorable and worth talking about and interesting. So can you tell us how you actually got into Sephora? Yeah, so I think again, I was friends with the girl who was like the coordinator at the time. She was very junior when I first met her in the industry, she, by the time I was doing this, she was the head of clean makeup and she was her and I become friends from my previous job and I knew she was following my own personal instagram page that was very small.

Um and I could see her liking the post from Tower 28 when we first launched. So I knew that she was kind of paying attention, but I didn't want to call her until I felt like I was ready, which again goes back to the initial question of like, how did I know I was ready? I didn't know I was ready to start our 28 nor did I know that I was ready to call Sephora. I had a friend who again kind of pushed me and was like you need to just who cares, just ask them. Um So I made the call to this woman and um went in, she scheduled an appointment to come in and I have a mentor and I was planning on actually going in with literally just like a deck and I was telling my mentor about this and she said that's crazy, you need to like make them feel the brand. And I was like what do you mean? And she's like, I don't know, but I would be bringing literally the sand and the ocean and the beach to them and carrying a surfboard and I was like what is she talking about? How do I do that? Um But her point was to basically like really animated, really stand out in a way, right?

Because I think it's like any relationship, the first thing you want is for them to say yes, but you don't just want them to say yes. You want them to be so excited to be doing this, right? Because the whole thing is, especially with the retail partnership is you want them to be your advocates internally. So that way, when it does come to launching, they're like, no, this is gonna be so good, we're going to put and it's not just the merchant, right? It is the person in operations who's placing the order that wants to feel really invested and excited. It's the person in customer service, It's a person dot com who sends out the emails, Right? And so what we did was when we came in and it was me and the two girls who still work for me, um, we went in and we, so our lip jelly is basically this lip jelly, that it was Originally the idea is that it was inspired by juicy tubes from the, from the 90s. So they're really bright pops of color, but when you put them on there really wearable and it gives you that like, I just ate a popsicle kind of look on your lips.

So we basically filled up these little coolers with popsicles. We bought them from literally the grocery store right next to Saboura, like a convenience store almost. Um and then we put in a bunch of lip glosses in the coolers too, and like the three of us had little coolers that said Tower 28 on them and then we had little a little boom box, like a little so knows, you know, and like, we played like this loud, beachy music, fun summer music and we, you know, walked into this support corporate before like we got there 30 minutes before our meeting and we walked in and we walked around the cubicles and we handed out product. And the funny thing about it is I think when I say, I actually think the first time I told the story was in an Allure article and I when I read it it does sound fun and it was. But the truth of it is it was actually pretty awkward, right? Because nobody was really looking at us.

People were it was or they were like, what's happening? But they weren't, they definitely weren't like this is cool. They were kind of like, what are you doing? Like if someone making some noise of Yeah, it was a little happening. It was a little bit awkward, right? And luckily anna keel shoutout to anna who was my so Pops this girl, we're kind of like uncomfortably standing there and being like, hi, does anybody want anything popsicles and product? And then this girl stands up and she happened to be my intern like three jobs ago and like smash box cosmetics a million years ago and she was like, amy and I was, I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have that all of, you know, branch extended because then she was so nice and she, I didn't know she was working at, so for it and she literally, she started gathering people and she started saying, guys, this is Amy, I know her, like let's try this. And um, and then we had our meeting and afterwards, what was so cool was my merchant was like, yes, we're definitely taking you, we want to do this.

And by the way, everyone on the team, like across the board that you gave product to is like, when are you launching them? Because I love the product and ultimately, I think that's those are the ultimate influencers, right? Influencers come at different levels, but it's, it's, I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking of like, influencers is just like, I just want to get, if only I could get like Olivia Rodrigo to try my product or a celebrity or something. I think a lot of times, if you can just bring it down an option, think about like, who are the most. I mean there's nothing like word of mouth, right? So if you can get, like, for me, I'm so happy like that. The girl who, I don't know hand handles customer service at Sephora loves our product, right? Because she's the one who answers those phone calls about, like, you know, she's on the phone with people are chatting with people and they're saying like, hey what should I try? Should it be this or this? Um So I think it's it's not forgetting that there are lots of ways to build influence.

Gosh, what a cool story. I love how it's like you went for something memorable, it was actually awkward and you hadn't kind of considered or factor that that could happen, but then you still pulled it around and it ends up being this funny, interesting story that really worked in your favor. And I love that. I think it's so cool. It's those kind of things I speak on the show about from time to time because I think putting yourself just doing things differently and not being the person who does what everyone else would do is so important these days, especially because everything is so saturated and everything is you know so competitive. Yeah. And it is, and to your point about being memorable, it is one of those things that they still talk to us about their like we remember when you came in, you know, so that's so cute. What do you want to shout about? What's happening in the business today or soon or in the future that you can yell really loudly about to us? Oh thanks. So a few things, One, we just launched a cult beauty which was really exciting because I think it's Um pretty cool to go into an international market like that and we sold out within the 1st 30 minutes almost.

So um wait a few of the, just the tail in shades meaning like the shades that are just jen always a little bit are on our lower on our best seller list that took a little bit longer to sell. Um but ultimately we sold out About 30 minutes. Which is wild. What did you do in the lead up to that? To like have that success in a totally new international market? Yeah. I honestly don't know that. It is um anything that we did right before the lunch I think it is uh we live in a really global world now and so I think when we didn't just choose cults completely randomly it was because I think every time like every time we looked at our stats on instagram we could tell that a lot of the audience that was paying attention was coming from specifically the U. K. And so we already knew that we kind of owned that market or not owned you know that we had a foothold there. Um So a bit of it was because the successes because it was premeditated right?

Like we understood that this was a market that we already had some some awareness. And um and then I think the other part of it is really again just working with the retailer, right? It's partnership. It's really saying um I knew quote Wanted us and I think that's a big part of it to like it's when people ask me, you know, how did you pick your distribution part of it is like I want to be somewhere where someone just like a by the way a romantic relationship like I want to be in a romantic relationship where both parties really want to be in it. So that's I think that's important, right? So I think part of it is also like okay yes you you want us but how can we make this work together because it is a partnership. So part of that is you know they do things like put a launch, you know email for us. They they have a massive like advent, you know advent calendar program that they do a box with. And they do all these really interesting kind of G. W. P. Boxes so we show up for those things but they also put us in there and they have like a really curated approach to it.

So I think it's it's really just making sure that we're showing up in all the ways and that were whatever it is we're doing, we're really participating in it to make it work. Yeah. That sounds so fun, very cool. We're also launching and again I think I mentioned in the beginning like being accessible is really important to me. So um we are launching and support at Kohl's. I don't know if you've heard of that but Maura is so Sephora is opening um up, it'll be 850 stores by 2023. So this year it's this year 2020, they're launching 200 stores. It's a shop and shop inside of coal. So it will look like a Sephora, it will have its own entrance from the outside, it will be a Sephora and all the ways that you know it, but it will be inside of coals. So that to me is really exciting because and so we'll be in there too with the same assortment that we're in in Sephora. Um and that's really exciting to me because I think it's it's literal access in a geographical way to which um provides access to a different.

just overall group, which I think is pretty cool. Very cool. So exciting. Yeah, super exciting. So that's 200 stores and then up to 8, 850 by 2023. And then um outside of that, we're just launching some new products um which I'm really thrilled about, who can't wait to follow along and see what you come out with. So exciting, Congratulations. By the way, things sounds all like such a journey that's been uh just so fun. Sounds really cool. Yeah, it has been, what is your key piece of advice for women who have a big idea? But our earlier on in that kind of like entrepreneurial journey than you are, I think no matter when you decide to do it, because I think initially I gave myself a lot of like, oh, I should have done this earlier type thing, I think it all makes sense in the end, like when you look back on your journey, it all like everything that you're doing now will ladder up into what you're supposed to do.

So take the experience and learn from it. I learned something from every job that I've had and I think one of the greatest benefits that I have is yes, it's the relationship side of it, I really appreciate that, but it's also the fact that so much of my job now, I think today is being a manager and I'm really grateful that I have been an employee for so long, because I think I'd like to think it makes me a better manager. I've spent a lot more of my time as an employee than I have, I'm the first time founder, right? And I think because I've worked with other founders, I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I think I have a little bit more empathy around what that's like to work with the founder. And so I try to be more thoughtful about that because I think, I mean I'm sure everybody will say it, but like team is team is the most important thing that you can invest in. And I've been very lucky to find people who are smart and passionate, but really that care right?

And that I can count on, I think those are incredibly important attributes to Yeah, absolutely, reliability, reliability, reliable, trustworthy and enthusiastic about what they're doing sure. And how they're showing up in the world and at work and things like that and have good energy, right? Because I think that that affects you so much and again back to like the whole idea of voices in the room. I don't pretend to know everything. I don't pretend to have like in the type of organization that I'm trying to create is not a, a dictatorship, right? It's very much I have young girls on my team because I want their feedback, not just because they're young, but because I think they're cooler than me, frankly. So I do look to them to say, you know, that's actually really working me. Don't let let's not do that. Let's not do that. That's so little. At the end of every episode, I asked a series of six quick questions, some of which we might have already covered, some of which we may not have. But I asked them all the same.

So, question number one is, what's your why? Why are you doing what you're doing? I mean, honestly, the as somebody who's had some really difficult skin, I think the one thing that we talked about on our team all the time and it kind of is a double n chandra is we we say like our tagline is it's okay to be sensitive and it is a obviously it talks about sensitive skin, but, and I want the products to be something that I feel like people can use feeling safe, like feeling like it's not going to make their skin worse that it is going to perform, um, that it checks all the boxes, basically like vegan cruelty free, made in America, all these things that you kind of want. Like we're just thinking about them for you. So that's definitely part of it. But the other part of it really, for me, frankly, a lot of it is, um, the team and wanting to do this in a way that is different from the experiences I've had. So beauty. Um, even though it has historically, almost all women, right?

A lot of, I've worked with a lot of women, I think. Um, I haven't seen a lot of until now. There hasn't been a lot of female representation of the very, very top and certainly not a woman of color. And so I think it's pretty cool to be able to be part of that representation. And and in addition to that, I think create an environment and a culture that um I would have wanted myself as I was kind of coming up in in the world. So I really do believe in investing in the people who are on my team. Um and and also just being able to choose people I want to have fun with, right? Because I think it is fun. Yeah. You've absolutely got to enjoy the journey, enjoy happening in your day to day, not not taking everything so seriously and working just towards the goals, which is important obviously, but enjoying the journey is so key. For sure. Question. Number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that's made the business pop? That's a tough one.

I mean, the Sephora thing is obviously huge for us because it was so massive, right? So we went into all Sephora's U. S. And Canada at the end of january and I'll tell you, I thought what was going to be this huge moment was we were meant to be in through Sephora in a Times Square ad, right? Which is like this iconic, not not only us, but like a multi branded campaign, but certainly we were part of it and it was meant to be this huge moment and like, I think as a and I don't know how many people would have seen it, but it's iconic, right? Like you think Times Square all these things and then Covid happened and so it didn't happen. Instead they ended up running something about like, you know, so far is there with you? I don't remember what it was, right? Um so I guess there are these moments that you think you're gonna be these iconic moments and who knows what that would have done anyways, but I've come to realize that the big moments are not just the vanity big moments, but it's honestly all of the small moments.

So the ones I actually really it sounds corny, but the ones I really value our I love reading the testimonials. We don't we have not done any, you have some great reviews, thanks. We I mean, but they're all 100% organic and that's something I'm really proud of. We have not bought one follower, we've not done any kind of gaming of the system, because I think sometimes you, especially early on there are people who come to you and they'll be like, okay, if you participate in this giveaway, Like a really big giveaway or whatever, we're giving out like Louis Vuitton bags or whatever, and you're one of 50 brands, you'll be able to get 100,000 followers conditions do with the big giveaways. Yeah, there's all these things that you can do, those things are quite expensive, um but I think in the big getting you just want so badly to be like legitimized, and part of that is followers and those types of things, um and we I'm so glad we didn't do anything like that, because at least irrespective of what the size of our followers are there real.

And so then when I see comments and I see people and follow or follow, like at least if I see people and following, like, what did we do wrong? Did we do something that upset people and we can kind of go back and look and then if we have a lot of followers, I can have the reverse right. Um, and then reading all of the testimonial. So I would say like there's not necessarily one moment, but I think I'm really proud that we've built the business in a in a healthy organic way, because now I can really I can read the reviews and I can get feedback from them because I didn't we haven't done any of those not to say that we never would. But you know, you can do influenced or an optically and all these programs where you can essentially um, pay to seed people and then they write reviews, which there's nothing wrong with doing it, frankly. But it Is it 110% completely truthful when you're getting the product for free?

I don't know, I think it does, it might change your the whole point of it is still that you're supposed to be giving a true review. But you know right now, I think the biggest thing for me at start was just like wanting to get real feedback and I think that's been pretty incredible. Yeah, absolutely. You've got some great ones. Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading or listening to or subscribing to that is beneficial for other founders to know about? So in beauty, I listen, I listen a lot of podcasts. I really love the glossy podcast with Priya Row, which is very specific to beauty in terms of, I mean maybe it sounds a little generic, but I do love how I built this with them. Guy raz I also really love um I listen to jay Shetty on purpose a lot too because I think what one thing I've realized is how important mindset is as an entrepreneur and as a founder, how important it is to just stay healthy from a mental health perspective.

I really do feel like when I, my energy isn't great that the team feels it right, so and I notice it so I think it's important and I talked to a lot of other founders, so like just yesterday, um I spoke to another founder who recommended, I read a book called the e myth entrepreneur smith, I think it's called, so I ordered that. Um, but I would say I read and I listen to a lot of podcasts. I just, I listened to years today um which was great. So yeah, I think it's what you're doing is amazing. I think the more we can share each other's stories and learn from each other, it's fantastic. Thank you so much. I agree. I definitely agree. I'm going to link those resources that you said in the show notes for anyone who wants to check them out. Question number four is, how do you win the day? What are your AM or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling good and healthy and successful? I mean it's such a good question. Um, I think for me winning the day is we actually have a, we have a ritual within my team where we have a meeting every day at 9 15, which is why I mentioned.

I have a hard stop in 18 minutes. So we have a meeting every day and we, Every person myself included writes down what we call our three big rocks. So maybe you've heard of this concept, but it's the idea that if you were to take a jar and you were to fill it with sand first and then you put the three big rocks in, they don't necessarily fit. But if you put your three bar big rocks in first and then all the sand can fit. So the metaphor being your three big rocks are like not the three necessarily. Um three most important in the sense that they actually will move the business. And it could be anything from like, I don't know, sending in an order or whatever because whatever it is for that person, but just like focus on the three things that really need to get done today and each person shares them. So that way you start the day with some clarity. So if you get nothing else done, you get those three things done and we each share them.

So that way we know what the other person is working on. Yeah, I love that. That's a really cool concept. I need to do more of that. Figure out what my three big rocks are every totally, I mean it's and it's honestly, it's, it's very easy for that to devolve into it to do list. And so a lot of it is like, okay, are these are the three most important ones? And then sometimes because we do it as a team, you're like actually you need to do this for me, I need this to be with your rock, please make this your rock And everybody is saying that to each other. Yeah, I love that question. Number five is if you were given $1000 of no strings attached grant money, where would you spend that in the business right now? I would make some more contents content is really, um, a tough one. I think it's like, you need it for advertising, you need it for, we haven't paid influencers yet. I do value influencers and the content they create. So I'm trying to figure out how to go about it.

Um, we've just been gifting, um, it's something I'm fairly new to, so I don't know, I'd probably be content. I love that In question # six. Last question is, how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach when things do not go to plan? Things? Don't go to plan all the time. Um, and I think part of that is, again, I think it's perspective for me, so I think it's not letting the small things become big things and take up too much mind space. And what I mean by that is we have failures all the time, right? We take risks, we figure out bigger things out. But I try to sometimes I think fear can be a really huge impediment and you can feel like, oh, if I just fail, then that's indicative of the whole thing falling apart, right? And I think instead for me, I just try to be grateful honestly and think about how, um, I mean, somebody said this to me and I thought it sounded so privileged, but it's true.

I think if something can be solved with money, it's not that big of a problem. Um, that's easy to say if you have money, but I do think there is something about that is, that's true, right? Like it's debilitating to deal with something that is like, I don't know, health relationships, those types of things, but like honestly, like we've had issues recently where there's a global supply chain issues and like we've had to move launches because we can't secure raw materials that are really basic honestly and you know, and then it's like we're all like running around with our heads and it feels like failure because it's like ok holes are getting drilled but we're not putting products in, we're shipping things late, we're doing these things, it feels like failure, but what is it lost revenue? You know what I mean? Like it's like you're waiting a little bit longer, the customer doesn't even know. Um Yeah, it's okay. I think my husband says this um thing all the time and I think it's a good one that people should keep in mind.

It's like, is this going to matter in a week? Is this going to matter in a month? You even going to remember this next year? Maybe if you're going to remember it next year then it might matter. But yeah, you can eliminate a lot of like your problems by being like, this isn't going to matter in the future. Let's just keep moving on and try and deal with it the best we can and overall like I think that I try to just have perspective right? Like I still get to no matter how shitty my day is, I still have like, I love my husband, I have three beautiful Children that are healthy and happy. Like I have a lot to be grateful for Absolutely amy, this was so cool. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show and share your amazing story with Tower 28 all the fun things you've got going on, loved it. Oh thanks so much for having me and I really, I think what you're doing is great. So I'm so happy to be a part of it. Thank you. Hey, it's doing here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Female startup Club podcast.

If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D. I. Y. Course the ads, M. B. A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way. It might seem like such a small thing, but reviews help others find us. So please do jump on and subscribe, rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network. See you soon. Mhm. Mhm.

Don’t be boring, be interesting: How to pitch (and land) Sephora with Tower 28’s Amy Liu
Don’t be boring, be interesting: How to pitch (and land) Sephora with Tower 28’s Amy Liu
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