There are many benefits to running a business out of your mom’s basement. Rent is cheap. Overhead is low. Snacks are provided. And best of all, when you work late, you can crash in your own bed.
Mia Bulifa and her sister, Nadia, ran their company, Angelique Lingerie, out of their mother’s basement in Denver, Colorado, since they started the company in 2005. They were only 22 and 15 years old, but as they matured and word-of-mouth about the plus-size lingerie company spread, sales took off.
“We knew it was time to move our business. Our mother wanted her basement back,” Mia says. The sisters used the transition to retool their mission and refocus their efforts on stellar customer service. It was a smart move that landed Angelique Lingerie on Internet Retailer’s top 1,000 largest e-commerce businesses list in 2011.
Here are five lessons you can take from these inspired young women’s success.
1. Speed wins loyal customers. The faster you can get your products into the hands of your customers, the more satisfied they’ll be. The Bulifas set up operations in a warehouse that gave them the space to hire staff and stock up to 98 percent of their inventory onsite so they could get orders out within 24 hours.
2. Shipping can be a customer service weapon. Provide convenient, fast shipping options for a major competitive advantage. The Bulifas offer FedEx shipping so customers can get their packages as early as the next day. “Customers had repeatedly requested FedEx shipping from us. Now they have the option to order what they want and get overnight shipping. People love it,” says Mia.
3. Don’t be afraid of selling internationally. Instead of searching through government websites for information on international duties and taxes, let your shipping carrier handle the details for you. When the Bulifas first decided to sell their products in Europe, they turned to FedEx to help them navigate international shipping. “We get one bill from FedEx that spells out all the charges so we can base our markups on real costs. It saves us a lot of time.”
4. Find out what your customers want. You can learn a lot about your customers by giving them choices. The Bulifas learned something important about their consumers when they offered FedEx Express® overnight, 2-day and 3-day shipping. “We discovered how impulse-driven our sales are. Many of our customers want their orders to arrive the next day in discreet packaging,” says Mia.
5. Stellar customer service drives repeat sales. With so many companies vying for attention, if you offer the best service in your industry, you’ll stand out. With FedEx, customers can easily track the status of their package at any given time, which dramatically improves customer experience. “People like to know where their packages are and exactly when they’re going to receive them,” Nadia says. Reliability and visibility are shipping factors that provide a great customer experience.
From the time they started selling products on eBay in their childhood home to the moment they first surveyed their own warehouse space, the Bulifa sisters have remained committed to serving their customers. “We started Angelique Lingerie because I was shopping in Denver for lingerie with my mom and couldn’t find anything bigger than a large. I went home empty-handed,” says Mia Bulifa. “I don’t want that to happen to other women.”
Now the Bulifa sisters plan to offer a mail-order catalog and hope to open a retail storefront as they work to give curvy women shoppers a home as supportive as theirs was.
Read more about Angelique Lingerie and find other successful e-commerce business success stories at the FedEx Online Retail Solutions website.
Jacquelyn B. Fletcher is a Minneapolis-based writer.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.
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