Female Startup Club

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How Lil Ahenkan (aka Flex Mami) built her empire, Flex Factory, through deep conversations talking about sex, life and everything in between

by Female Startup Club
September 14th 2021

It has been a hot minute! But I am back in action after 2 weeks of not recording any eps for the first time in 18 months and holy frikken moly. But I’m so proud to be bringing you this episode. It’... More

if like me, you're fascinated by how really successful people think then there's a podcast you should check out called Secret Leaders, you can learn how top entrepreneurs have built businesses like Manz, oh, natural cycles last minute dot com and jo Malone Secret Leaders takes you deep inside the world of these founders and half of them are women. What were their childhoods, like? What was the spark for that great idea? What was the worst moment like having to fire your mom? Yeah, that really happened to one of their guests. The podcast is called Secret Leaders and I think you're going to love it. This is lil Henkin for female startup club. Hey everyone, it's me, dune, your host and hype girl. It has been a hot minute, but I am back in action after two weeks of not recording any episodes for the first time in 18 months and holy freaking moley, but I am so proud to be bringing you this episode. It is with a friend of mine who you have probably seen on the likes of instagram doing her super cool things.

Lil is Australia's favorite woman, truly, it's a big call. I know, but she's definitely one of mine and I know a lot of folks who agree with me, my bet issues about to become one of yours. She's a DJ, she's a podcaster, she's a best selling author, she's a D I Y guru and she said hilarious instagrammers as well as entrepreneur and a damn good one at that. So in this episode let us take you behind the scenes into her story. But first, and if you haven't been blessed with her content on instagram so far, just pop on over, have a quick peek, have a lull, do some critical thinking and then come back here to listen to how she has built her colorful world and business flex factory. Now, while I've got you here, let me tell you about this other really cool thing because it's pretty special and I'm like really, really excited about it and every single person listening here will either be interested in entering or I'm sure we'll know someone who will benefit from it.

So as you know, in every episode, at the very end, I ask our guests what they would do with a cheeky $1,000 to spend in the bears, no strings attached and we get some great answers. But the thing is I've had a secret agenda all along, my mission with female startup club has always been to positively impact women in biz and that could mean many different things, right? Like putting a smile on someone's face one day, giving ahead of inspo when you're having a shitty afternoon and you need to know you're not alone in this. It could be creating founder stories like this with insights and tactical learnings you can implement into your own business. And so I got to thinking about ways to generate some excitement around fSc and what would be useful truly to a small business owner like me and you And it kind of hit me money? Money helps imagine receiving $1000 in cash with no strings attached to spend in your biz So you probably know what I'm gonna say next and you are right, but let me spell it out for you.

We are kicking off a monthly cash giveaway of $1000 to small business owners. This month we've partnered with our powers that flowy um they're the best email marketing agency for e commerce owners and I also recommend checking them out, but with a huge thanks to them, we are able to kick this thing off and give away cash. I just can't tell you how excited I am. By the time you hear this, it'll already be alive. So to get amongst it, go to female startup club dot com forward slash one, triple zero hyphen cash, hyphen giveaway or find the link in my bio, Find it in FCS bio, or find it in the show notes, whatever you need to do, but go to that you are l and follow the prompts and I want to give you a super hot tip. The more people you refer to female start up clubs email list, the more you exponentially increase your chances at winning. So get yourself a tea, coffee, wine, something and your contact book of entrepreneurs and get referring You deserve $1,000 of no strings attached money to spend in your business?

Let's get into this episode. This is lil for female startup club, 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 startup car presence lil, oh my God, hi, welcome to the female startup club podcast. I feel so at home. So if you're welcome me welcoming me to my own room, I am so excited for us. I feel like this body has been a while in the making I. E me being like, when are you coming on the show and me being like, I don't think I'm ready yet. Yeah, I know what is that all about? I'm always like you're ready, you're ready, you're ready, you're coming. Do you know what it is? I can tell you what that's about in very concise way. I am somebody who's really, really hyper aware of giving as much value as I'm extracting. So I don't like to a greater things unless I can guarantee that I'm adding as much value as I think the experience is giving me.

And so I just felt as though I wasn't as far as my business journey was enough, you know, actionable and replicable winds that I was like, I don't know if I'm ready to give anybody any insight that wasn't completely a fluke. But now I am, you know what you sound like though, that sounds like the woman who's like, I'm not 100% prepared to apply for this role versus the guy who's like 60% there, you can apply for the role. You just did that literally. You were like, I need To be 100% there to get on the show even so because I just respect people's time too much and I also know what I expect from others and I'm like don't waste my time come come here with something that I can use don't use this as an opportunity to circle jerk or for a little ego boost but my ego is huge. So I think I just learned how to, what I just said was like learned bad behavior because old little bit like get me on there, I've got something to say, oh my gosh! Well I am so stoked that you're here.

I'm so stoked to get into your story and how you've been building flex factory, which is obviously just so cool and you know how much I love it. You are a woman of many talents. So I want to talk about a few things before we get started for those who don't know you you are a podcaster, an author, a model, reality tv star, A. D. O. I homemaker, you are an entrepreneur, how would you actually describe yourself and what's your own personal elevator pitch when someone asks you what you do? It's funny because I switch out what I say I do depending on the context of the conversation or the situation I'm in. So if I'm in kind of like a creative space, I'll just stick with D. J. And M. T. V. Presenter because it's enough context that that makes sense. But then if I'm in a more entrepreneurial space, I'll talk about the company's, if I'm meeting someone in, you know, a far older demographic, I'll just go with, you know, I run a business, it's obnoxious to go through the whole the whole list of slashes and it doesn't, I just never goes well, It sounds like I'm gloating.

It sounds like I'm I don't know, it's not received as intended as well. It's I think when I go through everything I do it sounds as though I do a lot of things poorly when reality I am very good at all the things I do. I just think it comes across well when I elevate a picture. So I try not to, I'm like what is the context? What's the elevator pitch for today then? It's all of those things I'm going to go through every single list. Hi, my name is lil also known as flex, I do all of these great things like I'm a DJ and a T V. Presenter, Aaron to cos I'm a podcast, I'm a best selling author, I'm a very good marketer. Oh my God, you oh that's exactly what you are. You're a great market up. Holy gosh. You know when I was reading about you I was thinking to myself and I've been thinking about this a lot recently because I've been working on the intro for my book that's coming out. Yes, I know. Yeah. But I was thinking about like why people are the way that they are and like what it is about you in terms of childhood or the way that your parents have raised you or moment in your life that have shaped you to be the way that you are?

And I was thinking why are you the way that you are, Why are you so ambitious and sparkly and driven and all these amazing things. What do you think it is about you multi pronged? The most obvious one that comes to mind is growing up in a single parent household and be made aware quite early on the value of money, how I wasn't going to do certain things because I didn't have any kind of opportunities. I wasn't going to be able to take full advantage of because of my environment or how I was raised or the resources we had or that we didn't benefit from nepotism. I just think it was a bit too real for me early on and I think that in contrast to the fact that my family really instilled a lot of ego in me, they would call me princess and boss and really um I just felt a lot of respect in my household. I felt really special. I felt like I was one of a kind my family always went out of their way to make me feel validated and appreciated.

And I mean in some extreme ways, in some simple ways, like I remember when my mom, I was complaining about my teeth for those who can't see me, I have a huge gap in my front tooth which I love now, but obviously hated when I was a child and a teenager and I would complain all the time to my mom and she'd be like, no, it's so pretty. Don't you know that in africa is a sign of wealth and in Ghana people die for that and I'm like, okay, whatever. Until one day she came home from the dentist and she got a gap shaved in front of her teeth and I'd be like, why would you do that? And she was like, it wasn't even about you, like, I just think it's pretty and you didn't believe me, it's not where I was expecting years ago, wow, imagine being raised in that environment where it's one thing, so you might feel like you know, you are special, you are great, I really like and respect you and then to show you that way in a very tangible way that cannot be argued with. It's just like of course I feel this way my mom used to say things like if you go to school and people bully you number one, they're jealous. Number two, you tell them that you're my daughter as if that means anything to a bully, but I believed her because she believed her, Oh my God, that's amazing.

So the combination of those things kind of gave me this this approach to life that makes me feel quite invincible, but also quite entitled to living the life I want to and as someone who grew up quite imaginative, I think the depth of where I thought I could go as always quite far, I just don't ever think I had the skills or the resources to back up what I knew so well, so all those things made me, who I am, gave me the gumption, the gumption great word. My mom was a single mom and I was raised by her and I just think there's so much like, like it's just so special to have like this parent that really is like your, I don't know, I guess you do feel you get it channeled from one source and it's really bloody good. Yeah, exactly, Okay, so this is a show about business, let's start moving towards the story, how does this get started? When did flex factory become an idea in your head at what can you paint the picture of, like, what was happening in your life, what your kind of presence looked like online at that point and how it started.

Yes, so this was three years ago, 2018 2017 ish. And at this time in my career I was definitely still a full time DJ, I was touring, I was playing festivals and parties and at that point I was still in an MTV presenter and I guess I was in this weird limbo where I just assumed that My audience would be bigger. I probably only had about 40,000 followers or something. I assume my audience would be bigger because of the kind of opportunities that I was getting and the way that I was able to make a lot of money and and be in Esteem places, and so I was thinking about how this a career, whatever it is, just couldn't last forever and I really wanted to transition into something a little bit more sustainable in the sense of can this withstand hype and trend? And so at the time I remember I was having this thought that because influencing had become a bit of a sing, everybody on the internet with a bit of a profile who created content, was being regarded as an influencer and I really wanted to create some differentiation between me and traditional influences because I was not one at the time, you have to remember that it was big on bikinis, flat lays what I ate in the days, inspirational quotes and for me, I don't like to compete where I don't compare and there was a very specific look for an influencer that I didn't have and so I was like, I need to make my own land, I need to do something completely different.

So I'm not being measured against people that I cannot compete with. So at the time, and I've always been the type of person who likes to have big conversations, I like to ask people hypothetical questions, I'm really interested in the way that people think how they rationalize how they justify and what's informing them to do. So, and at that point in time, instagram has just released a question function And in my head, I thought this is a really easy way to get some quick engagement on my story and I didn't have to worry about doing tutorials and outfit of the days and things like that. And so I would ask the question every day and I would share the responses I got and it would start this huge dialogue and it was so cool to me because I noticed what I had that my other peers didn't have was an audience that humanized them. I wasn't just a body and entertainment. I was a person with thoughts and I was a facilitator of something far bigger than this discussion. I was like helping people build their understanding of the world. And it was also very exciting to me, I became my signature.

And so basically because I was a DJ, there was an expectation that I do much and in my head I was like, I don't want to sell a T shirt and a hoodie, it's just not that exciting to me. And so I remember talking to my soul mate, best friend who is now my business partner and she had given me this idea of like, you know, why don't you do something with the, with the questions. And I was like, like what? And she was like, I don't know, like a pds, like a pdf merchandise, like, no, if I'm going to do much, I wanted to be exciting, like I'd rather be? I don't know, like a card game and I'm just like how you gonna make a card game? I was like, I don't know like but I would rather do that than than sell a T shirt. And so I messaged a good friend of mine Bianca and I asked her if she would illustrate a random card game for me and I took the questions that I had asked previously and I made a few more and she's like, yeah, absolutely, this is like a fun activity. And so we printed 100 of this card game at a local printer and it was the most tedious process ever because we would get the card sent to us in A stack of the same question.

And so we would have to collect all 50 of the questions ourselves and then package them. It was just not fun. But once I got the cards I was like, wait, how do I sell them? So we made this random big cartel and I hadn't even considered, you know, even shipping them out. But Grace was like, I will help you like this is fun, I will help you do this. We spend every day together anyway, why not? And so we had put the cards in a big cartel and they had sold out in like 10 minutes, like real. Like it was instant and I was like I love these questions. I love these cartoons. What's big cartel, you know? Big car tellers, What's that? What do you mean? Big cartels, like Shopify, but not as good. Yeah, okay, got it, got it. It's another place to sell stuff. It's like squarespace, like weeks. But it's, I think it was free. That's why I used it. And so we had just put the game's up. I think we were selling them for $10 or something at that time. It wasn't even to make a profit. It was like an exercise to see if I could because what I was doing was asking for a bit much.

I wasn't just the transaction of selling a T shirt. It's like, well that has function, it has a purpose, it exists. Um as more than an aesthetic item. But with the cards, I was thinking, who am I to ask somebody to spend their money on questions on cardboard. Me apparently because it's sold out instantly. And so Grace and I would sit on my couch and we would put the cards in a little foil. Um this cute foil sealed packet. Um and then we would buy envelopes and put stamps on the envelope. It was just the worst. And I and Grace had asked me, are you going to sell them again? And I was like, no, no, I'm a DJ. I meant to be touring the world. I'm not gonna sit here on my couch and put cards into an envelope and then put a stamp on it and then go to the post office and deal with posted issues. I don't want to do that. And she was kind of like, I think you should try. Like I think you should just do it one more time and see if people like it. And I was like no, I'm not doing it Can people of it. But then what ended up happening is that a bunch of my audience who had missed out was like, well when's the next drop?

And I was like there is no drop. And it went from really excited like where's the next drop to vicious. This is so selfish, Why wouldn't you release more? So many of your fans want these cards? I was like, okay, Ruud. So then again we go and print some more cars and if you can imagine listen to the people, listen to the people, if you can imagine with an order quantity so low, it was so expensive to produce these cards. We weren't making a profit. We were spending more money. It was like free shipping as well. So we were spending money and producing them, shipping them, not making a profit. It was so tedious because I wasn't using my business acumen for this. This felt like almost like a exercising validation do I really have as strong of a connection with my audience as I think I do and I did and that was enough for me. I didn't need anything else from that interaction. So we ordered some more cars we, I think this time was about 200. They sold out in a day. Great ordered about 500 more. Again they sold out in about maybe three or four days and then it became clear that this was a thing that was happening and with every drop I had convinced myself that I wasn't gonna do this thing because it just didn't feel right.

I was on a path and like I am an entertainer, I am a D. J. M A T. V. Presenter, I don't sell cards, what is that? I'm gonna card saleswoman and I just didn't feel like I guess for so much of what I've done previously it felt like it had so much intention or that I had almost like laser focus, I had willed it to be true because I wanted it so badly. This was such a random thing that it had felt like such a throwaway exercise that I wasn't ready to put any effort into it. And so Grace was really the one who was like I will, I will handle it like pay me an hourly wage and I will pack it, I will deal with customs service, I will do all the things you don't want to do because I really think this could be something and so we did that for about she was your heart girl. Honestly she really was and to me, I think my perspective with that was I don't struggle with not feeling capable, I feel so capable. My only issue is that I want to do everything. And I know I can So with this, I was like, I've already got the validation from it.

I know what it can be done. Let me pause, think about something I actually want to do and then I'll do it. And she was like, I think this is what you actually want to do just and she said, I don't think you like the fact that you didn't work very hard for it. I think you're fighting against this fact that it was simple and easy and it's true because my therapist would say the same thing you like the struggle you like to break your back a little bit. So everyone can see how hard you worked and that you, you that you suffered for and this just felt too easy. So that's how it began. It began as much and then and then it transitioned from well, how do we turn this from much to a real business? And the challenges I didn't consider is that when making it as much there was no consideration behind Well, what are these, what what is a conversation card game to somebody who has no idea what that is. I don't know my face was on the packet because it was much for me now that it was reaching different audiences. What is the relevance of my face on this packet? Get my face off this packet and then also the name?

Think I have one, right? Oh my God, actually of your original ones. See like it makes sense as much, but it's like this is a game that asks you to, you know, dig deep and unpack what you think, like move this face. And then we were thinking, ok, well is this just the one card game? People were requesting more questions and I was like, I don't have anymore, that was not the plan. You've worked through all the questions already? Damn, I don't have any more questions. And to all this consideration, what do we make more games? Are we just selling card games? What else will we do? Do we need a better website? It's kind of like you have to think about the business plan of like, okay, what does this actually look like if we're going to take this seriously now and actually do this in a real way. Exactly. And the shortcut with having an established audience is that you don't have to think about your USP or even the digital marketing funnel because it was all there on instagram, I had my audience, we had awareness of exposure, consideration conversion all in one place and they were gagging for it.

So suddenly when it was reaching a new audience, I had to consider, well, is there even an interest outside of people who like me and like what I speak about and what I do and how can I convince or convey what this actually is to someone who doesn't even know that they need it. Like it's not comparable, it's not, it's a very low awareness product. And so the transition into merch to business was so confusing because everything I guess I went from using this product as a way to validate this relationship with my audience versus using my skills to validate this product. And that was that's two different things. One was like, does my audience like me or is this product good? Right. So how did you take that transition? The first thing I had to do was objective thinking, which is really hard to do when you can modify yourself because up until that point in business, the only thinking that I had to do in regards to my business was whether I liked it, whether it reflected me whether I felt comfortable with it, suddenly having to step away from me as the business and say, what is the relevance?

How do I sell this to a person? And it wasn't that difficult? I think what I just struggle with now is the fact that very few people think intentionally period so asking someone to think intentionally about the conversations they're having, why they're having them, what they think feels like work. It feels hard. It doesn't feel simple or carefree and that's not the energy I wanted. Also I think the fact that I called it a game, people are under the impression that there should be a winner and a loser and I was like oh no, it's just you you play an interesting insight all of these small things that I'm still dealing with now because I'm like wait that is that's a good thing to think about. So the main thing I did was, well the first thing I had to do was create an actual business structure around the product. The product didn't just exist on its own. So we moved the reflex game, that's what it was called reflex because you answer on reflex. Um and then we moved it to a website called flex factory in which we could talk about our values which is creating connection through conversation and then suddenly became like a bigger picture thing.

Um and that was really cool until people were like we have more cards and more questions and suddenly we have to think about the money aspect like what does this actually cost us to produce this game in a way that's not just like just ignoring at our bottom line and that was really hard to do because we wanted to produce the game locally, we didn't want to produce it overseas only because it's just another thing to explain to a customer. Not only are we explaining what the game is, why you need it, where to play and we're gonna play, why we didn't make it locally. No, we'll make it locally which made it very expensive. It still is expensive, but that's fine. The second thing we have to figure out was how do we separate this from me as a brand personally, which you can never really do. I think any brand I've even wear on a daily basis is now unduly tied to me. So the goal that was just introducing more faces, more voices, more conversation topics. And the third thing is how do we even know if this product is viable? You know, like it's one thing to keep selling to my audience, but like is it of interest outside of the audience.

And so we spent a lot of the first year and when you have to pay to acquire doesn't make sense. Exactly. So the first thing we didn't do any paid digital marketing, we really relied on organic marketing and I feel as though because at that time in particular my career was, you know, still on the up and up. It was very easy to use my pre existing media opportunities as a new way to talk about the product. So if I'd be talking to vote, they'd be like, what are you working on? Well, funny you asked about this whole conversation card games blah, then I would use that information and clip it, put it on instagram and that would become also, you know, a tool to like it's all for credibility and that was an awesome thing to do. So the first year was just like trying to find a way to leverage all the current pr and marketing I had coming in or the current pr and marketing I had access to and just shifting the conversation to reflex. And what I found easy was that like I had already spent the last year playing the game to my audience just without the physical cards. So I just needed to keep on doing that and keep encouraging them to share their audiences and they did because I think what I recognized with the conversations I was starting, people love this idea of being able to observe and not participate and so they would share the question card to their friends, get answers, where did you get this from?

How can I play, Who is this girl? Why is she making the game? And so it just became the circular marketing exercise. The more I just maintained my profile, the more I talked about the game, the greater audience share we'd have just by existing. And so in the first year, I know we should be talking numbers. So in the first year we made about 800,000, we didn't make, we did $800,000 worth of sales. And to us that was like, wow, that's so crazy because this was meant to be just a throwaway activity and it was then we were kind of like, so what is crazy by the way? Yeah. So what is, what are we doing? What is this like how are we scaling it? Are we not scaling it? Are we selling card games now? You two We fucked it. That's what we really fucked it. So we were still at this point where we were kind of like, we want to live less Grace tonight. We're like, we're still living life. We've still got other priorities where like, you know, Grace was working at a startup and then she quit and that was meant to be her eat pray love year just doing things she liked.

And then now we're doing another job and I guess we were kind of, it felt good like we've done it. We were selling the game like, so once we sell it, let's just take a bit of a break. And so we did. And we didn't do anything for the business for like, I don't know, four months, good time just went. And then we had this proactive meeting and we said, how are we going to run this business in a way that actually works for us because clearly we're both having hesitations with doing what's required. And so we said, let's work with a three pl let's work with an external warehouse and company let's get them to dispatch all our products and then we can just do what we do best, which is market the product And so long story short, somewhere between producing the game and working with this Threepio, I started making these like I call them wrap t shirts and essentially their, these vintage t shirts with these obnoxious like prince of like celebrities and rappers and they were super cool and so people can we buy these t shirts And before I considered the legal implications of selling those t shirts and I didn't have copyrighted access to, I didn't have the I.

P. O. S. We were selling so many of these bloody T shirts and it was just like we were making bank. And then, so the person who sold us the t shirt had been on our website and said, hey, we notice that you sell other products, do you want us to manage the shipping of these other products for you? Because they were looking for extra business and we were looking for ease. So he said, hey, that's a great idea. You can also ship out our cards for us, kill two birds with one stone. It'll be fantastic. Now, I will say, I didn't like the vibe of this three pl but that didn't seem like a good enough reason to not to not accept the help when the help was given, I guess. And so we moved all of our products, tens of thousands of dollars worth of stock to this random warehouse in Melbourne that we had never seen before. We didn't forget it, we didn't check that we didn't do anything which is like how bad could it be, you know it'll be fine. So the first couple of months it was fine. Of course there were growing pains with communication, growing pains were just like having to manage the business with external people.

Great and I best friend's soul mates were also next door neighbors. So a lot of the business was running like an ad hoc way, but like working with these people were like oh fuck we need to communicate with our standards are for shipping and you know what our customer service stands are and how long until order processing to dispatch and all of these things. And suddenly we were having to manage people which we just didn't consider. We thought it would be like oh good. And so issue number one, is that the cost what they were charging to ship out? Our order was just like, it just kept getting higher and higher. First it was something like $6 to ship out in order. Then 50 cents if you want to add a sticker, another 50 cents you wanna add a comp card if you want to send it on weekends would be this prize if you want to dispatch within 24 hours can be this price. And before you know it, the cost of shipping out. The product was equal to the cost of making the products were like wait a second and then the actual cost of like we were offering free shipping as well, Just all these things we couldn't afford to do because we weren't running the business in a smart way.

We were just playing around, we had money to burn also. We thought, so that would strike number one. You know, it just like they couldn't give us a reasonable and consistent Rate for what it would actually cost us. And then it turned to, if you do between 0-200 orders and it'll cost you this much if you do between 200 orders to this and short fine. But the reason why we started working with him was because it was gonna be relaxed and ad hoc and it just didn't turn out the way second strike was that they just had no care with like storing out things and packing our things. So they wouldn't do a stock take, they wouldn't show us the condition in which our product was being stored, it would arrive to customers crushed. They weren't using the pretty packaging we had spent, you know, $6 per box making, they just were really slip in. And that was really frustrating because, as you can imagine, a lot of our audience were fans of mine who were buying from me because they wanted the flair and the attention to detail and the creativity and they wanted that experience extended to the customer journey.

And they weren't getting that and we didn't know until months later when we're kind of like, what's going on here? Like why am I seeing somebody opened up a package in a random plain white satchel, This is not the vibe. We have red and white checkered pizza boxes that the cards go in, where are they? Oh, we don't know what those are, Maybe we've sold out of them, order some more stock, but what do you mean? Anyway, so that was terrible. And then the third strike with them is that they kept over promising and under delivering. So like we'll ship your orders in this time, didn't do it, if we make any mistakes, will handle that cost didn't do it. Anyway, that was terrible. But then Grace and I was still in that weird period of being like, well if they have all our stock, so probably like, I don't know, maybe like 10-15,000 units of the game. They had everything we sold, and at this point we also had homewares and we had all this other stuff that was just with them, even the cost to get this stuff back to Sydney to stock it, where our homes maybe.

So suddenly we had to make a decision are we running this business or do we just happen to have a business? And so we decide to find we will run the business properly. So we ended up getting a space for it. We decided to actually have defined roles in the business budgeting, accounting, cost cutting expenses, proper operations role um which we assume to be far harder than, you know, the half asking we were doing It wasn't it really wasn't. So yeah, it just was a lot. It, I felt like it just everything snowballed. I went from wanting to make much and now I was running a business and I don't think I realized how poorly we were running the business because of the sales that we were making. So I was like, what do you mean there's $1 million dollar business? It's reality. It's like, well Your customers aren't getting $1 million dollar experience babe. It's not feeling, it's not feeling premium. It's not feeling fun. So it's nice to be working on the business everyday chipping away at doing it intentionally because it makes the biggest difference. Like I'm just like, wow, I really do have the source, like I have the capacity to run a really great business.

That's like intentional and and sits a purpose. I just need to put my head down. Yeah, yeah. 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 dy 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. I have a few questions. The first and foremost important is did you get sued from creating those t shirts? No, thank God, we definitely stopped before that would happen. Yeah, we were kind of like because we were thinking about it and the reason why we were like this will be fine is because we have, we're looking at this brand called Culture Kings and they're like an Australian retailer and we're like there is no way they have creative licenses to be selling all of these t shirts with celebrities emblazoned all over them.

Like there's no way they have like there must be some kind of loophole anyway, it would literally keep keep me up at night making these t shirts and like I think because also it's like I am a public figure so it's like they know they know who made these T shirts, this wasn't incognito, this wasn't behind the scenes and it all just went back to doing things intentionally and like the moment we got a lawyer I was like we can afford to run this business properly and this is not this is not proper. And I think for us like it all came back down to the fact that what was the objective with this, this is not where the connections that were facilitating, where the conversations are facilitating, this is just a money maker and its soulless and it's illegal. And even now like every other week, Culture Kings is getting sued by someone, they just got sued by mike Tyson because they keep making the celebrity t shirts and not getting permission and look I don't have Culture King's money to be sued and come out. I'm scared. So it was a very rookie idea? But I was also young.

Yeah. And I mean you figured it out so good one back to the cards though. So in the second year you figured things out, you went through this huge roller coaster journey of a figuring out whether you wanted to do that, What kind of business you wanted to run and You know, the whole three pl thing. What happens is this year three. Now, are we talking about year three or is this year four that were up to today? Last year three year old thing was started last year that we were like not doing this anymore. So this here is like your 34, three slash full. And what's the vibe Now? The vibe now is well oiled machine. Everything single thing is attentional. We don't make a decision unless it's backed up by the financials, backed up by a clear marketing strategy. It's informed by what our customers actually want an asked for. Not. What I think is cute. We still run the business in quite an intuitive way. Like we're definitely out here doing tarot checking survives being like, do we trust this person's vibes?

That still is still a big part of the way the business functions. But these days were always like, are the numbers reflecting our efforts? Are the numbers reflecting our decisions. If not we're not doing it properly. And initially I thought that was a really stringent and restrictive way to run the business. I was like how can I just be my full creative cells if I have to think about numbers. But now I see what I like is like a really clear boundary or really clear, almost like restrictions. So if I know I'm limited by the amount of money we have limited by the amount of drops we do a year, then within that perimeter I can make the best creative decisions knowing exactly what we have, we don't have what we need, what we don't need etcetera. Mhm And for you, with all of that in mind and like, you know, we talked earlier about you needing to grow outside of your audience and essentially scale the business. Where is the growth coming from now? And what's critical for you guys to allocate budget towards when it's if things like paid social influences, content creation, google arts, et cetera, what's kind of like driving that growth outside of your audience?

Organic social media marketing, Just the content that we keep making that goes viral on ticked up viral on instagram reels. That stuff is really driving it. And it pains me to say because we were spending so much, not so much, but relatively a lot of money using a facebook ads specialist and again, people we trusted who we assume had more Insight than we did when in reality it's like I was preparing for, I was 14 before they were so I'm like, I don't know who, that's a lot of money to go to you. So yeah, I swear like the majority of I would say 80% of our sales comes from organic marketing, Tiktok Instagram gifting influences. We only recently started paid influencer marketing and even then it's like this isn't it, this is not working, this is it's not working for us. Let's just go back to what we know, We love email marketing, we love SmS marketing.

But that's I would say that's been one of our biggest strategies like how do we build out internal lists and speak to our customers directly as many times as we need to for the message to get across. I think for a little while they're so preoccupied with like how do we make the best content? So a random person like so I was like, no, I need my lead generation tools so I can speak to you in this organized environment so you can get the message as intended when I want to tell it to you as opposed to when the algorithm blesses me with your view totally, totally. 100%. And I also think it's like for you with your clear audience that is highly engaged. People want to hear directly from you a lot. I imagine like people I imagine I'm like, hey, how can I subscribe to more content? Absolutely. I hear from her on another channel, what's she doing over there or something that she's part of on another channel totally being where you are now, having gone through the ups and downs of this thing.

That was just a merch thing that turned into a business that turned into a bloody empire. What is your advice to other entrepreneurs who might not have it all figured out just yet? It's tricky because I feel as though I was given a huge shortcut, which wasn't necessarily a shortcut. I really worked for my audience and I built the audience as intended, but I think, you know, with the way that we're socialized to express our business wins and losses, people are expecting a business experience, it probably isn't going to happen for them. Like the stats don't lie, your business probably won't do very well. So the least you could do is start out being as intentional as possible. I think when people first start their businesses, they want to do it in a vacuum, they want to pretend that they won't be affected by the external factors outside also dictate whether or not this business will be a success. So they want to keep it hidden until launch. They don't want to tell anyone they don't want to let us know, you need to be getting feedback and validating your ideas were smart. Like it's just so crazy to me how people can assume, especially when they're making products and they aren't their own target demographic, what do you know about the product you're selling?

Like, yeah, you've got some ideas but you need to understand if there's even a need for this. I just feel like now more than ever it's so expensive to reach your audience. Like I don't think people understand how much it can cost you to reach someone to just even look at your product, let alone buy it that most, I don't want to say most. But a lot of the ideas that people have just aren't viable for more reasons than they can even consider like the fact that you can't afford to actually profit of what you're doing or there's no market for it. All the markets too saturated. Like if we see one more Australia and making a common bikini brand from bali not using, not, not even creating for plus sizes, not even creating for smaller busts bigger bust, like we don't need more stuff. So if you're gonna do something at least be solving a problem at the very least solve a problem. Make sure there's a need and if you can't really prove to someone why there's a need for your product and there probably isn't one and you should bow out gracefully until a better idea comes to you.

I think that though you should be mindful of how many, how many of your ideas you share before you've even created the idea. I think that it is worthwhile going to those who have done it before and studying them. I just feel like it's an expertise for a reason. It's a skill for a reason. Not everybody is fit to run a business because your creative doesn't mean you can run a business because you're good at financials doesn't mean you can run a business. And do you have the skills and capacity to hold your business down until you can afford to get assistance more often than not, you don't also figure out the actual skills you need to run your business properly. Not the things you're just excited to do. I see that everybody is really focused on the aesthetic of their businesses. I want to really cute logo. I want my brand colors to be on point. But like you've really rushed on the sampling, You've spent no time marketing, you're not building databases, you're not doing any strategic thinking.

Everything just like vibes and aesthetic vibes and aesthetic vibes and aesthetic, we'll send you broke. And the best thing you can do for yourself is back up those vibes and aesthetic with stats, facts. And if you don't have them go get them. I hear people saying, well, I don't I don't have access to my target demographic to go survey them. We'll figure it out. You need to know how you're going to reach these people. If you're going if you're clicking launch and don't even have an email database. You're not ready. You're not ready yet. 100 percent. I love it. The hard truth, I think like as well and I want us all to win so just be prepared I think yeah, 100%. We all need to win. I think the thing is is that a lot of people forget that entrepreneurship is a being good at sales and be being a good problem solver off because all the other stuff is like so easy to replicate, right? Everyone can have good vibes, everyone can have good aesthetic, everyone can have something that looks pretty, but if you can't figure out how you're going to sell something and find customers and solve the problems that come up and be able to keep going the next day, then you've lost 100% and I talked to a lot of business owners and I'm thinking would you even by your own product?

Like do you even like it that much or are you just happy to have said that you made something and somebody else bought it? I just objective thinking is really, really difficult, but I'm always asking myself and my stuff like please audit what you're doing? Please look at what you're doing with an objective lens and be a bit critical like do you even like what you're putting out, are you happy with this product? What would you change if you could and let's do that. I feel as though what I also found really helpful is like instead of knowing what needs to be done, understand how it needs to be done. So everybody knows that like, you know, you need to have enough money to run a business, How does that work? Like, understand each and every part. Too many business owners aren't doing their taxes, figure it out. You know, knowing how your product gets manufactured. Can you tell an audience without disclosing things that would make your product seem like it's not viable? How is your product gonna benefit someone? Why does it exist? All these questions are so fundamental, and people are like, yeah, but it's in pink, don't you like it?

That's it. That's it. You know, the thing that also gets me is that even if you're a small business, consumers will still compare you to corporations. That's a fact. And so, knowing that you need to, the standard needs to be so high and you will always be justifying like you won't as a small business owner will be able to compete with kmart prices, big w prices, walmart prices, but your customers will expect you to, so finding a way to constantly justify why you can exist and why someone will shut through, you pay the price that you're asking for is the hardest part of the job because you'll get that every day. Well amazon has it for well walmart has it for, okay, and I can get it tomorrow for free, totally. And I think consumers now are really like consumers want and expect such a high level of everything that it's just not good enough to have an average product. So one thing I'm really conscious of time, I have one more question for you, but I also have the six quick questions for you.

Are you on a hard stop? Absolutely not. I'm around. Yes. Great. Okay. Always love to figure out at the end what the future is looking like for you, where the business is today, What fun things you want to shout about to everyone. Yes, I mean the business now, I always say, we just happen to sell conversation, card games, but really it always goes back to creating connections through conversation and I think that when it comes to the conversation landscape, we have the same problems and we've not had solutions why people struggling to communicate how they feel today intentionally to make friends. I want to be owning the spectrum of relationships. I think the dating after exist are slipping. There are no real ethical spaces to make friends and have those conversations. Why are we still struggling to have deep chat to people we care about. I think having the product gives me permission to start those conversations in a way that's accessible to as many people as possible. But it's going to get to the point where flex factory needs to go back to being lifestyle, how can we empower, educate and excite people about having the big chat without the crutch of the product itself.

We shall see, wow, yeah, we shall see. Gosh, I love it all, I love it, love it, love it so much. I love what you're doing, it's such an impactful brand, but with this fun vibe that is vibe, you know, that's your audience tells you so we are up to the six quick questions. I we might have covered some of it, but I always ask the questions nonetheless. So question number one is, what's your why? Why are you doing what you're doing in the most candid way possible? I'm sick of having conversations I don't care about and I think that issue was only exacerbated by the fact that, you know, I do what I do and I interact with strangers on a daily basis and the quality of those conversations which just we're not improving. So this was my solution which I recognized as a greater issue on a far larger scale, and I just want us to remember like the only thing stopping you from getting what you want, improving your life, whatever is a conversation, like the conversation is what needs to happen for anything to improve anything to change.

And so if people don't affirm that skill, we're not gonna be making any progress and I think like something about communication, it gets touted as the most important thing yet people aren't proactively doing a lot about it to ensure that they are good communicators that they are, you know, having the conversation, they want to express themselves in the way they want to, having their thoughts line up with their beliefs line up with the words they speak. So that is the why I'm like, let's pay attention, everyone, let's do better. If we all pull our weight, if we all pick up the slack then things improve totally. Language is so important. Words are actually very important and yeah, it's a good one to be exploring. We all do need to pick up the slack and and talk more and communicate more. I agree. Question number two, what has been the number one marketing moment that's made the business pop? Do you know what it is and it sounds really self obsessed absorbed, but honestly me playing the game.

I feel as though somehow, Like you said earlier before we started recording something about me playing the game, is selling the product is selling the business, but I didn't necessarily realize how much until I was doing it intentionally. You know, there are days where I can just pick up a game, start playing the game on my Instagram story, we could make $20,000. You know, and I don't often think about myself as a marketing channel because I'm like, well surely everybody knows like they know me, they know if you're following me, you know me, you know the game, but I do often forget how people need proof of the experience. They want access to what the game can give them without taking a chance on their own dollar and I'll quite happily do that. I mean I don't need anything to prompt me to have a big chat and so happening to use our products with such an easy way to generate income. But also, you know, my big priorities is making sure there's a clear separation between the business and me. So the business can thrive without me being the face, the names or whatever.

And so I only use that every now and then. You know what I'm feeling frisky. But it works. It definitely works. Yeah. Gosh, that is a constant battle to to figure out like how you can step away from it and still get it to thrive. I've heard this a lot on the show for people who have, you know, an audience and our deep in it Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading or listening to or subscribing to that? We should know about this one is an obvious one. But that's to the first is there's this newsletter called the growth newsletter by Julian Shapiro. I don't think he's related to bench beer. Oh, I hope not. But anyway, basically they say that we pack every issue of this newsletter with the most actionable, highest leverage growth tactics that we come across each week. Um and so like in an average email though, it's like, I can't explain how good it is? They basically give you all these really like as I said, actionable, easy, insightful tips on how to grow and market, but they put case studies and results and links to other resources and they're fresh tips.

It's not like build an email newsletter. Um okay, it's like, here's a new way had a segment newsletters or like a Clavier update or something. It's just like and it's fun to get all their like a bite sized chunk. I love it so much. So please go subscribe. It's free and I love the Shopify blog. I think it's very underrated. I get so much information from there. I used to listen to podcasts a lot, but because we've been in lockdown podcasting is my driving thing and can't drive anywhere. So I've just been reading the blog and I'm like, hold on, there's some really great case studies. Here is businesses and brands who are using the platform and all the unique ways they are using it to get the best results. So if you don't read the Shopify blog, you should. Yeah, I've never read it. I am subscribed to the growth newsletter and I haven't read it in a long time. So I'm going to open that bad boy up and get into it after this call. Thank you Question number four is. How do you win the day? What are your am MPM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated and productive?

This question always gets me because I just feel like three days to me is one day, like everything just blurs together. I go to sleep at seven am I wake up at midday, I'm just doing stuff and vibing. But the only way I can properly win the day is if I action off one priority from every business I have, right? So it means that everything kind of gets care and I don't feel like I'm neglecting everything, but I don't put pressure on myself to have, you know, a game changing moment every day. And I also know there's not enough hours in the day for me to resource everything equally. So allowing myself to create these just small priorities. Like, you know, have you done that report yet? Have you pitched something? You flex summit, yep good, great. Whatever else you do is enough. Yeah, that's like one action that moves it forward. Absolutely, Question number five is if you were given $1000 of no strings attached money, where would you spend it in the biz? Remember you had this question for years when you first asked me this question a couple of years ago, I was sitting at Hacienda in circular key.

I don't even know what I said now, but I think that I mean $1000 is a lot of money, but I just think that I would add it to my balance for sms marketing, it's just going so well for us that I'm like, I can keep using free organic marketing to drive traffic to the website, use lead generation tools, like free wallpapers, free calendars, free e books and then just keep abandoned cart re marketing to them. Like we have a 16 times are oh and SmS marketing, facebook ads could never, it could never literally, I was like, hold on, I'm telling everyone, I know I'm like get an sms bumped put on your abandoned cart flow and let's get paid holy moly is that the tool sms bump or is that like a term? It's a tool and we link out with Clavier and it's super cheap. It's between 30 cents and 70 cents to send a text. And it's good for us because we have a very like low ticket items.

So facebook ads for us, we're always so touchy because some months we're getting look at two times are, I was like this is just not worth it. I'm like take it down, delete it, I don't need it. So with this, you know, 17 times I said, hold on, hold on, there's a strategy here so that everyone needs to get on it. A sap. That's crazy. Yeah. So imagine imagine what 1000 bucks can do for us, where that can take us? I can take you far girlfriend shit number six. Last question, how do you deal with failure? What is your mind set and approach when things don't go to plan. I get very excited by failure and I think it's, it's definitely like my exposure therapy tool when it comes to running the business, there is so much, I don't know and I can attribute so much about growth to doing something poorly and having to put systems and structures in place to not have that ever happen again. Um, and that's any anywhere from like the deal with the three pl or you know, not being mindful of our taxes and you know, even small things like when it came to end of financial year, we had all this stock sitting there that we have to pay taxes on, we didn't know, we were like, what is this?

We haven't sold it. So why are we paying taxes on it? Well that's the thing to know, but I get hot because I'm kind of like, this is something that goes wrong. Just another thing that I can remind myself to be more mindful of. So yeah, I feel good about it. But I think also because it goes in the learning bank 100%. I just don't think that I've had much experience with failure when it comes to business that I feel like, oh this is like a rite of passage, like let's suddenly used to go wrong. I'm happy for it to happen. I feel like a real business owner a that's the challenge. There is. Oh my gosh, I have loved this. Obviously you are the best. I love you. Thank you for coming on the show. Thank you for sharing. We are the best. I'm so excited for you and all the things and can't wait to see what you're doing next. Thanks babe. I love us. This was so much fun. I wish we could speak to everybody in real time.

But you know, one day, hey, it's Doom 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. Yeah,

How Lil Ahenkan (aka Flex Mami) built her empire, Flex Factory, through deep conversations talking about sex, life and everything in between
How Lil Ahenkan (aka Flex Mami) built her empire, Flex Factory, through deep conversations talking about sex, life and everything in between
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