THE BLOG

Going Green... Money, that is...

08/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Karen Robinovitz Karen is a Power Woman! Check out Karen's story on PowerwomenTV.com and Stylelist.com!

At this stage of the game, I was a one-woman company, figuring out how to manufacture, manage the finances of it all, deal with the legal aspects and now I was beginning to think about sales and PR.

On the component front, I placed an order for 30,000 - 5,000 of each color. I knew I would have to cut a big check, but there is major difference between knowing you have to write a check and then actually writing one! And it was - ch-ching - time to pay the fiddler. At least half - you pay half up front, half upon delivery when you're a new client with no credit.

There went the first chunk of the savings account. (And I didn't have many more chunks to speak of.)

I had to wait about 12 weeks for the components to come. This was fall of last year and the launch was slated for spring. Patience... not my strong suit.

In the meantime, I worked on the press kit, which is what is sent out to all editors, writers, and media in order to introduce them to the product. To get into "long leads" (PR lingo for long lead press, meaning the monthly magazines who work three, four, sometimes even longer in advance of the publishing date), I had to start seeding the beauty editors by February.

And before I could write a press kit, I had to hire a PR firm. (By the way, did I mention that during all of this, I had a full-time job? Need I remind you: no trust fund!)

If there is one thing I believe in, it is the power of PR. I would much rather spend on PR than traditional advertising. PR is drives brand awareness and the more you see a brand show up in publications, on television, all over the dotcom destinations, on the radio, etc., the more it registers in your head as something to think about buying. Friends pass it on to friends - and so on and so on. I have seen PR lead to sales, albeit over time. (Don't tell me you've never bought a T-shirt because you saw it on Sienna Miller in US!)

I spent the last three years heavily entrenched in online marketing, working with a company called Brickfish, a sophisticated social media solution that enables brands to penetrate all of the social media - blogs, communities like Facebook and MySpace, Twitter, bookmarking sites, email, etc. There, I was Fashion & Beauty Director and I got to work with Lauder, Coach, Saks, TRESemme, NeXXus, YSL, Smashbox, Victoria's Secret, some of the most inspiring brands out there.

We put together amazing programs online - from designing a handbag for Coach (the winning bag was made and sold!) to sharing a breast cancer survival story (such a powerful campaign that was) to becoming the "beauty guru" for Smashbox where a girl won the opportunity of a lifetime: to develop a palette for Smashbox Mercedes Benz Fashion Week!

I saw how these campaigns influenced consumers online - and the brands. They spread like wild over the internet - complete with maps to track it all. Amazing, what you can do now!

In my personal life, I embrace the internet like a 12 year-old girl. I am a Twitterholic (you may say I could use Twehab um, follow me at twitter.com/karenrobinovitz!), a Facebooking fool (just look at my wall - full of nonstop updates), a bookmarking buff, a Flickr-ista, and an all around ap-enthusiast. I watch more YouTube than television (favorite video: www.girleffect.org - click "Agree" when it says "the world is a mess"!). Plus, I spend so much time on the blogs that Todd (my husband) has been known to send me texts that say "I'm a blogger. Leave your husband and come with us!"

We are living in a world where consumers have become the media - they're just as important as the well coiffed ones in the corner offices as the glimmering publishing houses. For me, the perfect PR firm would have an understanding of both sides - traditional and new media. It's an exciting time - even in this scary doom and gloom - to come out in the market with something new - and do things a little bit differently than the big wigs. At least that is what I told myself to squash all of my secret anxiety over launching a brand.

Anyway, I have known the girls at Whisper PR for so long, I can't even remember not knowing them. I called Karly, a principal and beauty specialist. I always said I would hire her if I had a reason to. I suddenly had a reason to.

We went to work, penning collateral.

For the record, a press kit should entail:
1. Press release on the product
2. About the brand
3. Bio on founder(s)
4. Product sheet, detailing ingredient benefits, claims, price, where to buy
5. Other details (in the case of Huge Lips Skinny Hips, there is a page for each color along with the story of its inspiration)
6. Celebrity list (if applicable - obviously, I didn't quite have one of those yet, though when I had one of my first samples, a friend gave one to a style icon of mine who lives in my neighborhood and has the most envious of closets - and she looooved it and kept asking for more, but I am not allowed to say who or I will get in trouble!)
7. Contact sheet

Okay, the process of doing the press kit called two things to mind...

A. I needed to find a retail partner. No magazine will write about you if you don't have a place to buy the product for their readers.

B. How much would this thing cost at retail?

Everything I'm blogging right now... this happened a while ago (at this time, the product is actually in stores but I want to give you all the background to catch you up on how I got to today).

I was looking at brands like Lip Fusion (that plumper is $36 to $50!) and wanted to come in lower but still be positioned as luxury. In the world of brand strategy, you have to start from the top and trickle down. There is no trickle-up theory.

Traditionally, beauty products have a cost of goods at about 20% of retail (you heard me right). If we wanted to sell for $20, which we did (on par with Nars, MAC, etc.) and also in-line with the economy (it hadn't fallen apart yet, but still), we were not near the ideal COG range of $2-$3.

To be honest, I had created a very fragmented supply chain - getting bits and pieces of our product made from different places, thus ringing up more mark-ups than we really should have. I wasn't an operations/supply chain guru so in hindsight, there would have been a better, more cost efficient path and luckily, I have learned from missteps.

I will come back to that later. I promise because it is key to the success of any brand and has been a stumbling block for Purple Lab, one that Todd and I are in the throws of surmounting.

That said, it was more important for me (and by me, I mean Purple Lab) to get the brand out there, create an image and a desirable product, get buzz and demand, than to make money immediately. No companies make money their first year. And I knew the money would come at some point and that this could be a major business over time.

While I wasn't thinking of the bottom line at that moment, I did want to make a profit, of course!

Please! I have grandiose visions of life with Todd in a Richard Meier glass penthouse downtown, a fantasy world of playing with our eventual children, Rossi Wolf Jacob and Sivan Alaia (those are the names we picked out years ago!), in their Murakami-wallpapered nursery and teaching them yoga in a teepee in our meditation room. Then there are weekends in the country, banging on African drums by our pool. Our family would start a non-profit, an arts foundation to inspire underprivileged kids. We would bring in famous artists and teach them to paint and sculpt. Our kids would become artists, too! What? A girl can dream!

Now back to reality.

We had a price point. We had the products (not all of them manufactured, but what the industry calls comps - complete samples we can show to retailers and media) as well as mocked up boxes. We almost had a press kit written. And JD and I worked on the press kit design.

One problem: With no retailer in place, we couldn't finish a press kit or get any press. No media outlet in their right mind would right about something that no one could actually find. So our next step: find a retailer.

That's where I'll pick up next time.

Mwah!
Karen
Purple Lab Creatrix