By Teigan Margetts
If own a product based business, or really, if you’re at all familiar with marketing, you’ll know that influencer marketing is what it’s all about right now. And you’ll also know that for a lot of products, the holy grail of influencers is none other than the Kardashians.
But how could a humble business mum manage to get their products into the uber-famous, ultra-hard-to-access Kardashians? Incredibly, we found one mum who managed to do just that....but that’s not all! She also managed to grow her business an incredible 632% in a year, employ 8 staff in under 2 years, and also get Giselle Bündchen to promote her on Insta.
It all started as a food truck
Many mums describe their business as their ‘lifelong’ calling; something they’d dreamt about for years. But for Olivia, her business was something different entirely. In fact, when she went to start it, it wasn’t anything vaguely to do with her eventual silk pillowcase business whatsoever. In the beginning, she wanted to start a foodtruck. She says:
‘It was 2015 and I was working at Pacific Brands in marketing. I wanted to start a food truck at the time, so I quit my job and went to New York to research it.’
‘I really wanted to start this food truck but the more research I did, the more I realised that maybe it wasn’t for me. I started to learn things like the fact that you needed to get up at 3am to put on a generator, and that theft was going to be a problem. It started to feel not quite right.’
When Olivia was in New York, something unfortunate happened to her...that got her thinking:
‘I don’t travel anywhere without a silk pillowcase and when I was in a New York hotel, the service staff accidentally took my pillowcase and changed the sheets. As there were thousands of sheets that were being laundered, they told me that I probably wouldn’t see it again.’
‘I then tried to order one online, and frustratingly, I couldn’t find one that wasn’t super boring.’
‘That really got me thinking. Omg, this could be it. I totally believe in this.’
Product sourcing, quick smart
Not one to waste time, shortly after visiting New York she flew to China to start investigating the prospect of her pillowcase business. Her experience there was eye-opening to say the least:
‘So I initially found a supplier on Alibaba, which is how I got my invitation (you need a formal invitation to get a visa in China). But when I visited them, the place was a total sweatshop. It was no bigger than a bedroom, with 6 sewing machines, and with the humidity it felt like 100 degrees.’
Needless to say, Olivia didn’t want to use that supplier. But her decision came with certain risks:
‘So suddenly I had this supplier, who knew where I was staying as this was part of my invitation, haggling me over Whatsapp for my business. It was very uncomfortable.’
Olivia did find another supplier after some searching, but building trust was a problem:
‘We found someone...but they knew we’d been elsewhere [due to the invitation rule] so there was no trust. And in fact, 2 years and 4 visits later, I only now feel like I’ve established trust. You need to really invest in relationships in China to make sure they happen.’
Building a brand
Even before she’d officially made her first order, Olivia wanted to invest heavily in her brand, as she knew that would be the secret to her success. She started prior to even launching her website:
‘3 months before I was planning to launch, I started the Shhh Silk Instagram account. I wanted to have an audience; a community to talk to.’
From the very beginning, Olivia was dedicated to growing her Instagram following. Very dedicated, in fact:
‘I spent 10 hours a day, 7 days a week on Instagram. I was on my phone constantly, curating Pinterest mood images, thinking of hashtags; liking people; commenting, engaging; bringing them to the page.’
‘From the very beginning, I wanted it to all be about online. You put an ad in a magazine, it doesn’t generate click-throughs. Our aim, from the very beginning, wasn’t to get likes or comments, we wanted conversions from the day we opened.’
A second trip to the USA
From the moment that Shhh Silk opened its doors, Olivia dreamt big. She invested heavily in her website and her product, as well as in marketing and PR. She also knew that influencer marketing was on the rise, and if she could get her products into the hands of someone as famous as the Kardashians, well, she would have made it.
So when the business was just 3 months old, she made a very bold move:
‘I went back to the US, as we were working with a US-based PR firm at the time. So I decided I’d try something big, and I looked up Kris Jenner’s house online. I went there, got through the gated communities and everything, and ended up hand-delivering the product.’
Despite her bold move, Olivia’s interactions with the Kardashians didn’t pay off. She tried sending product a few more times (personalising it every time), but nothing happened. It wasn’t until months later that a chance encounter would enable her to get her product right where she needed it.
Months went by, and Olivia continued to build her brand, while simultaneously investing heavily into a US-based PR firm, whom she had deliberately chosen for their links to the Kardashians. Then, a chance encounter led to an amazing discovery:
‘Someone from our PR company was at an event, and one of Kim’s stylists was there. Her PR company contacted mine, and said that all this time, they had actually needed king-size pillowcases - but I had been sending them queen-sized!’
‘We sent king-sized pillowcases, and shortly after that - Kim mentioned us on Insta and in a tweet!’
Hard work and sacrifices
Despite the fact that Olivia, for all intents and purposes, has clearly made it with her business (and made it big!) she says that she has had some low moments:
‘Managing and dealing with the stress of China has been so hard...I had a breakdown trying to figuring out how it all worked.’
‘I’ve also lost friends in this process. They see the success in the brand, they see it from the outside and they think it’s all highlights, but what they don’t see is the hustle, the hard work, they just assume that it’s easy.’
Olivia also stresses that despite her business giving her flexibility, it is definitely hard work:
‘I’m a mum so work is flexible...I drop my son off and pick him up every day from school, that’s a non-negotiable. But typically, I’m working from after school drop off, to as late as 1am at night. I do workout with my team though. That’s in their contracts, we all workout together!’
Olivia says, though, that when she struggles she doesn’t just look at her business success (Shhh Silk has long since been a million-dollar business), she remembers her why:
‘At the end of the day, I’m not doing this for the money. I want to show my kids that they can do anything. That they can be anything. Money comes, money goes. But being a role-model for them is something truly special.’
And we couldn’t think of a better role model than you, Olivia!!