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The Story of She’s Independent and some Shopify Marketing Strategy insights

The Story of She’s Independent and some Shopify Marketing Strategy insights

💵 Built with Shopify

Natalie Levy

Natalie Levy

Founder

She’s Independent

A women’s empowerment business and community offering professional development and life inspiration through rock climbing, webinars and interactive offline workshops, mentorship, and authentic conversation through our blog.

🇺🇸 Denver, CO

📅  July 2019

🏆 1 Founder

💵 $1k MRR

How Natalie Levy founded She’s Independent, a women’s empowerment business and community, built a Shopify store and some Shopify Marketing Strategy tips.

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Intro

Who are you and tell us about She’s Independent.

Do you have any partners or employees?

Product

What products do your currently sell at She’s Independent? 

What makes these products unique?

Tell us about the process of creating your products.

Shopify Marketing Strategy

How do you acquire customers for your Shopify store?

Which Shopify Marketing Apps are most important to your business?

Do you do any advertising for She’s Independent?

Walk us through your Shopify Instagram strategy.

What are you marketing plans for 2020?

Final Thoughts

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?

What are your sources of inspiration?

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

Where can we learn more about She’s Independent?

Intro

Who are you and tell us about She's Independent.

My name is Natalie Levy. I have always been passionate about being a confident woman through professional successes and my personal mindset. My passion for mentorship grew as my career progressed across male dominated workplaces and environments from engineering school to finance and technology roles in New York and San Francisco. 

I launched She’s Independent earlier this year a few months after losing my mother to suicide. I realized that women’s empowerment needed addressing across younger women as well as women going through life transitions such as divorce.  Community is increasingly important in this technology driven world and connecting women across generations in a community structured around personal and professional growth would be a great project to invest in.

Natalie Rock climbing outside of Denver at Clear Creek Canyon with a community member and friend Marcey Hess. We are having Marcey host rock climbing adventures in various destinations for our community members in the future.

Do you have any partners or employees?

I don’t have any paid employees today. However, I have a core group of individuals that span childhood friends and people I’ve met through networking who assist in everything from editing our blog to offering marketing strategy and guidance.

I additionally have a large community of practitioners and professionals I am working with to build content, workshops and webinars. I am happy to give away revenue today for community and content build while establishing the framework for a mutually beneficial engagement going forward. (Including discounts to each other’s services for community members and possible referral fees.)

I am testing affiliate marketing relationships given we live in the age of social currency. This has proven interesting for audience development and to get deeper reach into individuals in our local community.

I am not currently leveraging a software for affiliate marketing. I have several local influencers who post on social media with a CTA to sign up with their discount codes. This has proven successful in terms of getting new people to sign up for events and we will continue to test this and try ramping it up further.
 
I’ve really stepped up the networking game more recently. I’m currently taking 2-3 meetings a day where the majority of these are networking discussions with new potential partners. I met with some amazing women at The Riveter earlier today and we chatted about really interesting partnership and workshop opportunities for 2020.

Product

What products do your currently sell at She's Independent?

She’s Independent offers professional and personal development through webinars, 1:1 consulting, local community events, and interactive workshops. We have a multi-tiered membership model, sell one off tickets for webinars and events, and offer branded retail products.

Examples of recent and upcoming webinar content include covering the growth mindset strategies and growth hacking for entrepreneurs, an introduction to tech investing (realizing many women don’t get exposure to this asset class), a healthy mindset going into the holidays and the importance of authenticity in terms of how we show up.

We offer webinars for free for paid community members and at a nominal charge for individuals not signed up for community membership. Offline events and workshops are priced lower for community members. Our premium ‘Executive’ level membership offers business guidance and mentorship through responsive email.

Our retail offering is more a branding play than a large revenue stream. 

This is a screenshot of our community model.

What makes these products unique?

Our content is unique through its authenticity of delivery and deep knowledge base shared.

Our blog offers inspiration through storytelling sharing engaging personal stories that run 500-1k+ words. They aren’t there strictly for SEO purposes as you see on many other websites today. They are there to establish our authentic voice and to demonstrate the value we put on building real content and community. 

You can access a teaser webinar here on salary negotiation. The webinar covers actionable strategy including case studies. We regularly offer free webinar content to demonstrate value and to establish credibility in the spaces we play in.

With past experience as an investor, I realize I am not maximizing my near-term earning’s potential with this business. However, I am investing energy and time into the business with the intention of making a positive impact. I realize that being services and not just SaaS isn’t great for a valuation play or exit, but again, I’m not here looking to maximize a sale value tomorrow, or ever maybe. I do love the idea of scaling with tech and community partnerships, because services alone limits the scope and scale I can reach with my sole capacity and expertise. Community partnerships and business ecosystems will become increasingly important in B2C and coaching in addition to other business segments.

We have already received tremendous feedback from women and readers who have opened up on topics like past traumas. A young woman I’m working with today in a 1:1 capacity has already demonstrated a massive increase in her professional confidence and she is days away from receiving a promotion at work.

You see a lot of businesses touching women’s empowerment through professional development, coaching, or community building. However, they address a singular focus like young women entrepreneurs or executive women who would like to break through the glass ceiling. We aim to inspire, mentor, and empower through more than one stage stage of life, and are able to do this through our partnership approach and growth mindset.

Our approach in terms of content and community building is truly unique. To name a few of these experiences we have an upcoming panel discussions on women’s health with multiple MDs who will speak to the importance of holistic and integrative health and wellness practices in our lives, yin yoga with an accompanying discussion on feminine energy, a discussion led by local fitness influencers followed by a workout by a female trainer aligned with our mission, and finally an ice driving adventure in the mountains.

Tell us about the process of creating your products.

I had not built a website prior to this. A close friend of mine who is a serial entrepreneur herself pushed me to start building my vision and offered early guidance on the platform as well as tech tools to look into.

I started building it out in Shopify and had a live site with light product offerings within days.

I looked into several logo offering via offerings like 99 designs but was not able to secure an artist I liked for less than $300. For a v1 logo I decided to move forward with creating it myself. I sketched our v1 tiger with a wonder woman crown logo at the airport. I didn’t have a pencil so sketched in pen. It worked out.

V1 Logo
Current Logo

The tiger logo was fun and powerful but resonated with a younger audience and more masculine energy. We just rebranded and released an updated logo that better resonates with women of all ages. The graphic designer is a contact I met locally at a friend’s dinner party. He knows we are early and not yet making money but was onboard with the mission and hasn’t yet accepted my offerings of paying him out-of-pocket. Thank you Beau Hanley!

Our retail offerings are made by several manufacturers. We leverage several drop-ship suppliers who integrate with Shopify. The process of searching and integrating this into the website was pretty simple. I made some test orders and found that some suppliers delivered pretty crappy goods from overseas whereas others made high quality gear in super comfortable materials. The v1 logo tiger crop sweatshirt is a crowd favorite. Most items only see 20-30% margin but it’s great for brand. Maybe we’ll add more designs and get more from retail in the future.

Our paid membership revenue stream is ever-evolving as we test price points and payment for one-off courses and workshops vs SaaS membership with e-learning modules that will allow for more scale.

Shopify Marketing Strategy

How do you acquire customers for your Shopify store?

We are constantly improving our approach to marketing. We do this in-house today but regularly evaluate working with others to offload various tasks.

We have tested a variety of tactics across social media, email marketing, affiliate marketing partners, and more recently organic search. We do some paid marketing but have not yet seen large conversion out of this funnel.

We are getting more strategic in our approach. As an example, we initially sent a monthly newsletter as our sole email marketing touch. We now leverage welcome journeys (we are still in the process of building this based on the profile of the individual) to better nurture and add value to our audience. The welcome journey is currently a 3-step touch over a week period. Shoutout to another awesome resource who hops on weekly marketing strategy calls with me. Thank you Patty Breech!

We use MailMunch to create landing pages in Shopify and MailChimp to execute email marketing campaigns. We are still working to optimize audience segmentation.

We are investing in social channels and just started leveraging a scheduler for posts. We were on Hootsuite but switched to Later given the freemium plan accomplishes what we need. Planning strategic posts in advance through a bucketing strategy (5 or 6 buckets that are key messages we want to get across) has been helpful and using a scheduler to get the heavy lifting out of the way such that I don’t have to pull time away from my day to post is really helpful. INVEST IN THIS! Does Instagram convert? Maybe. But let’s build it and test it. We post to Facebook and LinkedIn and need to step up Twitter.

In terms of optimizing organic, we reverse engineered an initial SEO and hashtag strategy based on other sites and brands whose audiences we like. We have more work to do here but are overhauling blog posts and metadata tagging to work to win on keywords that aren’t too “expensive” that see decent traffic. She’s Independent mentor and advisor Tiff Willson has been tremendously helpful in this area.

SEO takes time but is a great investment.

We tested small budgets of a few hundred dollars for various Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns as well as Google Ads and will dive back into this in the future. If you make more than you spend then try spending more. We aren’t there yet. We will ramp this up once we have a better SEO strategy implemented and further optimize our website for conversion.

Traffic today is mainly direct or from social channels but organic has recently started ranking and we expect it to grow.

Sales have recently started coming from people I don’t know which is exciting progress. This is mainly on the back of word-of-mouth and affiliate marketing partners posting on social but I expect that we will start converting paid/ social leads in pipeline.

Today we are positioned for learning and optimizing and don’t expect to be making much money (if any) but don’t want to overspend on marketing strategies that aren’t proving successful.

Shopify Marketing Apps

Which Shopify Marketing Apps are most important to your business?

We currently leverage MailMunch to create landing pages in Shopify. This integrates into our email marketing tool Mailchimp. We recently launched Talkable for Referrals given we wanted to roll out something simple but haven’t yet seen traction with the tool. We use PayWhirl for our SaaS membership pricing model and recurring payment mechanism.

Shopify Store Advertising

Do you do any advertising for She's Independent?

In terms of paid we lightly tested various Facebook campaign methods to collect leads and drive interaction and signups to webinars. 

Overall Facebook spend hasn’t proven successful from an ROI standpoint although we were collecting emails somewhat cheaply at $4-5/per where if we converted even a low percent to our paid community at an average of $30/month we would see a return.

In digging into the individual profiles of who interacted with ads it looks like we’re missing the ball here. We plan to get more targeted with our audience and test lookalike audiences to see if this produces a better return.

We are leaning towards owning the local market and building partnership and branding in Denver and then growing from there so we have pulled back on paid ads.

shopify marketing on instagram

Walk us through your Shopify Instagram strategy.

We want our brand to showcase authenticity while covering our core business areas. 

Our three defined personas include individuals interested in empowerment through rock climbing, professionals in their 20s and 30s seeking mentorship and professional development, and women 30 and 40+ seeking inspiration, community, and/or personal growth through life transitions.

Our three buckets or personas defined on our homepage pictured above.

Your story matters when selling B2C and probably even moreso when selling a community membership. 

We have an evolving content strategy which includes these personas along with profiling myself to make the business relatable and personal. Additional buckets include posting on people who inspire us and the final bucket is to repost third-party content that resonates with us. 

We need to post more video. We have great content, energy, and interactive dialogue at live events so need to do a better job of showcasing this.

Screenshot of our Instagram account along with recent posts. Pictured here you’ll find content on myself to make us relatable, showcase women who inspire, speak to the importance of community, empowerment through rock climbing, and personal and professional development content.

Shopify 2020 Marketing Plan

What are you marketing plans for 2020?

We plan to step up paid and Google Ads once we make more progress around the site structure and SEO implementation. One of our goals is to reach 5k visitors a month. At 10k visitors monthly we believe there will be a decent monetization opportunity from a website traffic standpoint.

We are open to reinventing social and marketing efforts based on what’s paying off. One of my marketing contacts who offers strategy and guidance on a weekly call just pointed out that we should have a strategy for Pinterest in place given that it’s great for showcasing content that doesn’t expire. Instagram posts get buried whereas Pinterest content remains searchable and highly visible. 

We’d like to do more with Facebook groups but have had limited capacity so have only lightly explored this avenue.

We’d like to do more testing across channels and then step up investment in areas we see success and pull back on areas we don’t see payoff.

We will keep investing in SEO realizing that solid organic traffic should be valuable. Our keyword strategy will evolve, and with that, content.

Final Thoughts

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?

Just start. Being a women’s empowerment business I have had to dig deep into concepts around gender. First, it’s not gender, it’s energy that we should be talking about. In terms of skills learned from a young age, many women need to build their personal confidence, whether that be in the art of speaking up or taking risks. 

Being data-driven I really enjoy trying something and then looking at the data. If you wait around planning and building for 3 years before launching, how will you know if it will have a market?

Start building it, listen, test, and be open to change. We just hosted a webinar on the art of having a growth mindset this morning. You can email me for the recording.

I can’t think of much I would have changed at present, as I feel we are on a good path of learning and growth.

One more piece of advice is around intention. If you want to start a business you need to will it to work. You can’t just do it part-time and hope for the best. Intention matters. Ask yourself if you’re ready to dedicate yourself to the project for the long haul. Most businesses fail. I’m sure most business owners don’t engage in a thoughtful dialogue with themselves while being reasonable around expectations for the runway to success and digging into whether or not they can stomach it.

From unsplash but speaks to getting after it vs sitting around…

What are your sources of inspiration?

This business concept and mission have been in the conceptual phase for years as I have struggled personally finding organic mentorship and inspiration as a young woman in male-dominated environments.

The launch inspiration was a beautiful gift my mother left me with. It took me a few months to process this but once I had there was no turning back.

My close friend and serial entrepreneur Tiff Willson was a friend locally providing encouragement and strategic business advice that helped me move forward with the launch. She is now one of our business advisors and mentors which is awesome.

I love to read and would highly recommend Michael Lewis’ Undoing Project (and follow up Thinking Fast and Slow) to understand more on biases and decision making heuristics. I have a background in engineering so probably enjoy learning about data and analysis more than most. Freakonomics made this area more mainstream in ways but I lean more data and experiments and less storytelling in terms of finding significant value. I remember enjoying Everybody Lies a while back but read it some time ago and don’t take notes as Tim Ferris recommends. 😉

I really enjoy learning on the job and through interacting with others. My last role was with Turn/River Capital, a lower middle market private equity firm based out of San Francisco. They were data-driven in their investment approach of optimizing revenues and go-to-market. It was an interesting role in that I was able to apply past learnings while learning new concepts and funnels through portfolio review meetings. 

I’m currently enjoying the learning curve around building a business and also around the content and experiences provided by the practitioners and professionals we partner with.

I enjoy the occasional webinar but lean human interaction. I love energy exchange and networking versus just static words on a page.

How are things today and what are your plans for the future?

I’d love us to be in a position to donate a good percentage of profits (10% or more) to women’s health initiatives, however, we aren’t currently seeing a profit.

We are a for-profit business but very focused on our mission of educating and instilling confidence in women. We may end up partnering with a bigger player if the right opportunity presents itself.

We will continue testing and launching new products and programs to see what resonates with our audience.

Just yesterday, I met some inspiring women at a craft fair here in Denver. We may sell feminine-themed jewelry or wares from them in the future, or come out with other forms of partnership.

Where can we learn more about She's Independent?

Check us out at shesindependent.com and on IG @ShesIndependent_. 

You can email me at Natalie@shesindependent.com if you’d like to connect. We are always open to partnerships. We are also on the lookout for skilled interns! 

You can read more on my story of post traumatic growth here.

You can access our upcoming webinar calendar here.

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