Starting a product-based business with Natalie Rogers

Uncategorized Jul 22, 2020

This week we’re joined by my amazing friend, Natalie Rogers — a multi passionate entrepreneur and the founder of Klassy Network, the blue light blockers taking the world by storm. 

From accidental entrepreneurship at just 18 years of age, which eventually turned into a six figure sports company in Orlando, to a multi-million dollar company in the form of Klassy Network — Natalie knows a thing or two about building a company from the ground up. 

Where do you recommend people start when launching a product-based business? Should they start with a manufacturer or something else?

Start with research. Do a full competitive analysis and gather information on the other competitors. 

  • How would you stand out in the market? 
  • Who would you be speaking to? 
  • How can you position yourself as different from the competition? 
  • Who do you want to serve? 

Once you know how you can stand out and who you want to serve, start looking for manufacturers. 

Personally I started on Alibaba, but since then I've gone to trade shows to meet manufacturers in person at events. Be careful when using Alibaba, really do your research if you’re going to go down that path. 

You can find some domestic manufacturers as well through Google — look them up and give them a call. You'll be so surprised that people are willing to talk to you and tell you about their process of manufacturing. You can find some really great partners.

What was like the biggest thing that shocked you about eCommerce when you were starting out?

In the beginning I had mentors tell me that it's impossible to scale an eCommerce brand and be profitable at the same time. You put the money in, you make money, you put more money in — repeat. It takes so much capital to invest in your inventory and spend money on marketing to get in front of more people. 

It was a whole different process than to what I was used to in a service-based business. I was used to exchanging time for money, rather than a product that takes time to make and time for you to sell. So that is definitely one of the things that freaked me out. 

People who have experienced more than you are going to tell you that things aren't possible, but if you are the entrepreneur and you believe things can be possible, it's just a matter of figuring out the solution. We've worked really hard to scale Klassy to be a profitable company. 

How and why did you transition from the sports industry to the fashion industry?

I started my sports business at 18 and by the age of 22 it had really taken off. It was hard for me because I was so young, and I was naturally shy. It was really challenging to hire and lead a big team. 

After some time I felt like something was missing — I couldn’t see myself as the owner of a sports business the rest of my life. 

What I learned from that though, was that I was very passionate about entrepreneurship as a whole. Bringing that to more people and letting them know that it’s actually an option you can take in life. It's not as hard as people make it seem and you don’t necessarily have to go to business school to be successful. 

I started showing up on Instagram, telling my story to the small following of people I went to high school with and they began to message me saying how impressed they were with my story and how inspiring I was. I knew then I was making a difference. 

I started a Facebook group called Klassy Network, bringing ambitious women together, which is how the name came about before there was even a product. I knew exactly who I wanted to serve and I built a small little community of those people. 

The physical product was born out of not being able to sleep one night because of the blue light in the computer screen. Through research I found out about blue light glasses — but they were orange and ugly and I knew it could be done so much better. 

Intuition was burning inside me telling me I could do this. At the time there were no stylish blue light glasses and it actually came together within three months. We did a soft launch, which sold out in two weeks. And that's when my whole world change.

 

What's the biggest difference you've noticed between a product based business and a service/mentorship type business?

The biggest difference is coaching services are a high ticket item versus a product, which is a much lower ticket item. That means you have to sell a lot of products to make a decent income versus a high-ticket service that only requires a few sales. 

Selling a product requires you to get as many of your products in as many hands as possible — this has been the really cool part because I get to see our glasses all over the world. 

When you’re a service-based company, often your identity is tightly interwoven with who you are, whereas Klassy Network stands on its own and it’s easier to detach from the outcomes. 

A lot of product based eCommerce brands can grow to multi-millions which you can eventually sell. If another brand sees who you're speaking to and they want to acquire you, there’s the potential to sell for millions of dollars. It's a whole different ball game in terms of mindset, strategies and what your end goals look like. 

How do you decide whether you should focus on more frame styles versus launching a different product? Do you see your brand expanding into other products in the future?

For me, I just follow my intuition because that’s how I am as a business owner. Every time I follow that fire inside of me, great things happen. When I ignore it and try to do things logically, it either just doesn't happen or it doesn't feel right. 

I also think about my customers — what else would they want? That's really how I make my decisions. 

In the future we definitely see more products. We're getting into clothing because I feel like there's things that are missing in the fashion industry when it comes to comfort and mixing athletic wear with streetwear. I'm really passionate about testing and creating things that haven't been done. 

Have you ever found it hard to relate to people in your age group because you didn't have that stereotypical college experience and working for someone else in a nine to five?

Yes, definitely! My focus throughout my early 20s has been building my business, hiring people and figuring out how to grow my little empire — not going to college football games and getting drunk. So my experiences have been a little different in that regard, but I can still relate to people because I understand what it’s like to work and work hard. 

Before I was full time in my business, I had a couple of part time jobs, and it was not wanting to work for other people that really pushed me to go more full time in my business 

What is your advice to communicate your ideas with your significant other and bring them into the process?

Sometimes you have a significant other that doesn't necessarily understand or support your business or your business vision. I’m lucky to have Jacob as both my business partner and fiancé and we really balance each other out. 

We were so young when we started this business, so it became something that we believed in together.  

My advice is to follow what you're excited about — start taking action and then bring those wins to the table and encouragement and support will follow. 

How do you separate work from personal life so you're not constantly talking about work in the time that you spend with your partner?

It’s really hard and something we've struggled with a lot. You can never fully turn it off. For us, we take the one day on the weekend to relax — whether that's him play video games or me watching Netflix. Something that allows us to decompress so we're not always talking about business. 

Trying to end our work day at a certain time is also something I've been trying to do a lot in 2020. I used to stay up all night to finish emails, which isn’t healthy. Now we try to end work by six o'clock and we'll revisit the rest tomorrow. 

It's a process and I've learned that you have to enjoy the process. You have to be patient. You have to have those goals for yourself but don't rush them. Just enjoy your life as you're trying to grow this vision and this empire. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting an eCommerce business? 

  • Research and be resourceful. You can figure anything out nowadays.  Dive in and look at the resources available to you online — there's so many things that you can learn. 
  • Listen to podcasts where you hear other people's stories because it’s gonna light you up. It will also help you understand what they did to become successful. 
  • Hire mentors that have been where you are and have succeeded at what you want to succeed at. If you're not at that level yet then just start with free resources. There are so many people out there who are willing to help and give you free value so that you can just go for it. 

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts orSpotify

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