He built a $ 13 million business selling underwear by subscription

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Anthony Coombs knew he never wanted to work for someone else at the age of 16, when his mother, a single mom, was fired from her job in the state of Florida after the change of governor . Her family had to receive public assistance until her mother found another job in the retail trade. This experience made him realize early on that he wanted to be his own boss. “I remember thinking back then that I never wanted to hand my future over to someone else,” he recalls.

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Entrepreneurship turned out to be the right path for Coombs, who, now at 40, runs Splendies, a Los Angeles-based company that sells subscription boxes of underwear for curvy women. He started the business with $ 500 in 2013 after a cousin told him that plus-size women had limited buying options. Coombs says the company, which has generated $ 13 million in annual revenue for 2020 and is making a profit, is on track for $ 17-18 million for 2021. It is getting things done by using automation like this. that chatbots and email marketing and for tasks such as customer service, social media, influencer marketing and web development rely on an extensive team of entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the strategies that have helped Coombs grow his business with a seven-figure income.

Stay open to new ideas. Coombs, who received his BA Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania, is a serial entrepreneur who had previously started successful businesses that sold tiles and automobiles, as well as a mobile apps business that did not taken off, when a cousin mentioned the untapped opportunity to sell plus size underwear.

After researching the industry through “a lot of Google and a lot of YouTube,” Coombs came up with the idea of ​​a subscription service where he would send customers three pairs of underwear per month: one would be fun and limited. edition printing. The others would be a sexy pair and a practical set. To generate recurring income, he decided to sell his monthly subscriptions at an affordable price of $ 12, a price that would be affordable for women with average budgets (it is now $ 14.99). The timing was perfect as his application wasn’t taking off and he was ready for something new.

Find inexpensive ways to test your idea. Coombs started the business in 2013, working 70 hours per week during the launch period. Using $ 500 of start-up capital, he built a simple e-commerce website on Shopify and started buying inventory from the 99-cent bins at his local mall so he could fill in the subscription boxes – a inexpensive way to find out what women wanted. buy. To promote the subscription service, Coombs taught himself how to use paid advertising on Facebook, learning from a $ 9 video tutorial he found online. “We market it as a gift for yourself, something fun for yourself,” he says. “I was surprised to learn that they are eager to open it. That’s more than three pairs of underwear for our customers. It is something that people look forward to every month.

Cultivate patience. In its first year in business, Splendies earned $ 40 in its first month – May 2013 – and generated $ 29,000 in annual revenue. In 2014, revenues reached $ 275,000. “2013 was really for everything. In 2014, it was a real business, ”he explains. In 2015, sales reached $ 474,000. They reached nearly $ 1.5 million in 2016. It was in 2016 that he started advertising online. “It was a game changer,” Coombs said.

Get a “Ph.D.” in what your customers love. Coombs made an ongoing effort to learn all he could about his clients, so that he could continue to keep them coming back. To learn more about his customers, he conducted surveys using SurveyMonkey, a free software tool, in 2016 and 2018. “A lot of our customers are in places brands don’t think about,” Coombs says . “We have a lot of people in the Midwest, a lot of people in Alaska, Hawaii and the South. Our largest customer base is in Manhattan (Kansas!), Davenport, Iowa and Anchorage, Alaska. “These are people who really love Splendies,” he says. “It can take thirty to forty minutes by car to get to the store. Many have incomes below $ 70,000 and are ignored by lingerie brands that target the high-end market, he found.

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He also paid attention to local metrics indicating that customers liked the brand. In 2017, for example, a group of fans created a Splendies Facebook group, without any involvement from the company. This group has grown to around 7,000 women who share what they bought with each other there. Another Facebook group made up of women who buy, sell and trade unused purchases has also sprung up. “Sometimes they get a pair they don’t like and prefer to buy something else to share with other people,” he says.

Don’t go it alone. Over time, Coombs, a student of Tim Ferriss’ book The 4 hour work week– reduced working hours to the point where he could sometimes run the business in 10 hours a week, automating tasks like his digital marketing. However, with the brand’s rapid growth, Coombs began to lose control over the schedule he set for himself and decided to hire a contractor in 2016 to help with customer service. “My first hire was a friend of mine,” he says.

Seeing how much more he could accomplish with a single entrepreneur, Coombs realized that providing help was key to sustaining his lifestyle. After finding out that her next hire had experience running her own business and that this prepared her well for working at a small startup, Coombs sought out others who had had similar experiences. He saw that they understood the importance of dealing with a customer complaint quickly before the customer jumped on social media and told others not to buy. “To someone who has run their own business, you don’t have to teach that,” he says.

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When Coombs hired team members to help him with other tasks such as social media, influencer marketing, and web development, he sought out a similar entrepreneurial experience. Often times he would take stock of how they had set up their websites to get a feel for what they understood about companies like his. While Coombs is constantly communicating with them on a Slack channel, he needs them to work independently since they’re not all in the same room.

By staying focused on running his entire business and relying on his team to manage their specialized parts, Coombs has freed up time and space to work on the aspects of entrepreneurship that he enjoys. most, like strategy. “Growing the business and seeing the numbers increase is fun and interesting. I can do it all day, ”he says.

At one point, for example, the company had outgrown its shipping partner and had an order backlog of 10,000 orders. “It was going to take them at least a week to get it all done,” he said. “It wasn’t enough for me. I went to rent a storage room. I rented a truck and tables and chairs from a party store and found about five people off Craigslist. I taught them to pack everything. We were able to get 10,000 orders in 2 days. This is entrepreneurship.

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