It’s a story that will sound familiar to many of the self-employed. Having started Frank Body with zero dollars, Jess Hatzis and her fellow founders were doing it all. They made the signature coffee body scrub by hand in a warehouse after they knocked off from their 9-to-5s, built an ‘average website’ and shipped their products via Australia Post.
But Jess told the RedZed’s recent Brand of Sisters event on branding and marketing that Frank Body’s success was due to taking risks and deciding to do something different.
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Don’t ask how. Ask why not?
Jess is pragmatic on her advice to other self-starters warning them to be ready to not always love what you do.
“We love what we do a lot of the time,” she told the function. “But building a business is incredibly hard. Becoming your own boss doesn’t make that go away, it makes it harder, because you are ultimately the person responsible.”
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In the meantime, here are the highlights from the Q&A with Jess on the night:
Q: Social media is changing. Where are you looking to as a brand to get new customers?
A: Social is still really important to us. It’s still a really huge channel to us as far as acquiring new customers. As much as we might be at the end of the “golden age” of free social, we’re at a time where can do really great stuff from a paid social perspective. It’s a combination of wanting to diversify, and because I’m really sick of our brand just existing on the internet after five years, I feel the need to do something quite different. So we’re going in the opposite direction to a lot of brands. Big, traditional brands are trying to find their place in digital, and we’re trying to do stuff out in the real world.
Q: As far as the financial side of things, did you learn on the job?
We had no formal financial training between any of us. We enlisted the services of an accountant. But we were not thorough enough with how we checked that, and over the course of the business we found ourselves in more issues than we could imagine in terms of tax regulations in different countries, and not preparing for VAT properly in the UK when we were transferring products over there. Paying for good financial advice will save you so much money down the track. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s. It’s expensive, but it’s more expensive not to do it.
Q: How do you use social media to ensure engagement and growth across your entire customer base?
A: You’re not going to like the answer, because we reached real growth very quickly. It was more that we plateaued after two years, and that’s a position that a lot of brands from that period are finding. The strategies that we employ now for growth are really looking at how our consumers are engaging with each of our posts, and stripping out the content that just don’t work with them. If people don’t care, there’s no point in talking about it.
There’s a lot of data you can get online in terms of when your customers are engaging. I know people want me to stand here and say “if you do this, this and this, you’ll have 400,000 followers next week and a million dollars,” but I can’t. Using the data you have is the best way of doing it, because you can throw a lot of money away in that space as well.
Q: Is Frank a product or a brand, and can one exist without the other?
A: I don’t think one can exist without the other. They’re so intertwined. Half of the experience you have with the product is what you read, what you saw, how it arrived, the copy you read on the packaging before you unwrap it. We use every single touchpoint as a way to really interact with our consumers.
Q: What’s the most surprising skill you’ve had to learn as a founder? And which additional people did you take on first to make a difference day to day?
A: We wore every hat you can think of. It was just us when we started so we did customer service, finance, logistics, social, branding, manufacturing, mixing by hand – we did everything.
The most surprising skill I learned was becoming our accidental HR manager, which is really hard when you have a team of 30 millennials. It’s made me grow a lot as a leader. It’s not something I had experience in, and I made a lot of mistakes, but that’s fine. I learnt from them, and I think taking responsibility for those things is one of the best things I ever did – being accountable, and becoming more self aware.
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