In today’s episode you’ll learn:
- How Tasha went from selling handmade jewellery at local markets to an online international store
- Balancing the artist and creative life while managing new collections
- Building a cult-like following and communicating with your customers
- Her favourite marketing strategies and how she began the process of expanding into the US!
Dahna Borg: Hi and welcome to the Bright Minds of eCommerce Podcast. I’m Dahna, founder of Bright Red Marketing, your eCommerce advertising specialist.
Jubly-Umph makes little reminders that you can wear everyday; reminders that you are smart and brave and strong and reminders to celebrate the things that make us different because they are our strengths. Their work is exclusive and locally designed. It says something, means something, and shows the world that you’re exceptional. Based on the artwork of Melbourne illustrator, Tasha Miller, each shiny lapel pin has a motivational message or sassy saying that you can wear on your collar, jacket, bag or lapel. These little mementos are for book lovers, craft addicts and people who believe in embracing their weirdness. Tasha started Jubly-Umph in 2009 selling handmade jewellery at Melbourne craft markets and in the last 10 years has grown her brand to six figures and being stocked in hundreds of stores worldwide. So let’s get into it. Welcome to episode nine!
Dahna Borg: Hi and welcome to the Bright Minds of eCommerce Podcast. Today we are here with Tasha from Jubly-Umph. Hello.
Tasha Miller: Hi! Thanks so much for having me.
Dahna Borg: Thank you so much for being here. So for those people who don’t know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about Jubly-Umph and how it started?
Tasha Miller: So Jubly-Umph is an Australian brand and I basically create pins and tee shirts to help people express themselves and be proud of their passions. So whether if they’re book clubbers or craft addicts, or people who just feel a bit different from everyone else in society, you’re my people basically.
Dahna Borg: I love it! So how did the concept start? How did it turn from just a thought to a full blown business?
Tasha Miller: So originally I, sort of started the business, cause I really, really didn’t want to get a real job. I didn’t want to go and work in an office and I’d just come back from travelling overseas and I thought I want to start making my own jewellery, so handmade jewellery, and I started selling them at Melbourne markets.
Dahna Borg: Awesome. And how did that turn into what Jubly-Umph is now?
Tasha Miller: It’s been a very gradual process. So I’ve been running the business for about 11 years now and there was a real evolution from sort of maker to manufacturer and then really growing the brand and the brand identity and it’s been really gradual process. I didn’t start off doing any marketing courses or business courses. It was all just learning things all the time. And once I went more online and really concentrated online, growing and trying to find sort of my people out there, it was much easier actually when I went online.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, so, how did you kind of find that process of going online and you know, really, I mean you’re really starting to scale now, how has that developed?
Tasha Miller: I think really putting effort into, once I realised I needed to, firstly that I was running a business, there’s a big leap I think a lot of people make between being a maker to a business-person and once you realise that what you’re doing is actually running a business, I then started concentrating on understanding a little bit more about that; about customer acquisition and really speaking directly to the people who are part of my, I don’t like the word tribe, but the group of people out there.
Dahna Borg: Awesome. So obviously you create kind of collections of products. If you haven’t seen Tasha’s products, you have to go look at the website and it’s amazing. But tell us a little bit about that creative process of creating a new collection.
Tasha Miller: So I always do a collection around a theme and a lot of the time we sort of have hidden meanings in the design. So our biggest product is, now more lapel pins. They’re just small pins that you can wear on a jacket or shirt or you could have it on your bag. Some people wear it on the inside of their collar, so it’s like a secret message. And each pin will have its own little message to it. So one of my most popular ones is called, it’s a little sword and it says, “Fighting Invisible Battles” on it and a lot of people will wear that as a little, a little memento throughout the day. So if they’re going to have a hard day or they need to get out and about, that’s what they wear. So I usually start with the concept and I knew that I wanted one that would be about fighting battles every single day and then I would sketch out a design from that. The basis of the collection would come around a theme so we did that. That one was part of a mental health theme and each one of them was representing something that people faced every single day. So for example, there was the “Fighting Invisible Battles”. I had one called “Anxiety Expert” in which was to represent people with anxiety. I had a “Little Spoon” one, which was to represent people with chronic illnesses. And each collection sort of evolved like that.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, that’s amazing. I love your collections. Every time you release one, they’re always really interesting to kind of see all of the pieces come together. So it’s, it’s interesting to hear that process behind it all. Something that we know a lot about podcast listeners always want to know is when you went online the first time, so obviously you’ve been building up a bit of a, you have a brand and your first kind of customers at the markets and things, but when you first went online, how did you kind of get those first kind of online customers?
Tasha Miller: So initially just from the markets. As soon as I started doing market stalls I knew I had to have a website. So that was always a priority. And with every sale that I made at a market, I would hand a business card or a thank you card with a discount code and tell people that I had a website and then I’d gradually build up mailing list. And, this was the very early days of Facebook as well, a Facebook page so people could follow the Facebook page. It used to be the days when we could just post something and people would buy it!
Dahna Borg: Back when it was so easy to get engagement – I miss those days!
Tasha Miller: I know! The good old days. Yeah, I used to just post a picture of something and a link to my website and people would buy directly from that almost every time, so that was a really good initial way. And then I would post on Facebook as well what market I’m going to be at next and that was a really good way of initially getting people to the website and build up a marketing list.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, I love that your first customers really came from that kind of personal connection of meeting people at markets and then funnelling them into your website. I love that.
Tasha Miller: I still have people who met me for the first time at, we used to do the Rose Street Artist Market in Fitzroy, and I still have people that still buy and still follow and still come and say hi to me at other events that joined then.
Dahna Borg: That’s amazing. How much has your product changed since then? Like is it still very much along the same sort of lines or is the product range changed since then?
Tasha Miller: The product range changed. In terms of what I offer, I originally started out hand-making jewellery, so it was necklaces, earrings, some brooches as well, and it sort of evolved every couple of years. I’ve changed a little bit. I’ve changed the style, changed the artwork. It’s all loosely sort of tattoo based. So a lot of the designs look a little bit like tattoo designs and that’s a style that I really love in jewellery. And when I first started it was all based around the idea of that you could have a little thing like a tattoo that could wear every day, but you didn’t have to commit to a tattoo. It went from the evolution of jewellery, then I did some handbags. I did a range of, wallets and handbags and then t-shirts and then tote bags and now lapel pins.
Dahna Borg: Amazing. So when you started to move your business online, is there anything that you’d wished you’d kind of done in those days of your business that would have made scaling now easier? Like are there any lessons that you’ve learned that other people listening can now avoid from hearing your stories?
Tasha Miller: I wish I’d learnt about marketing earlier. I sort of had a vague sense of what it was to market to people, but the idea of really capturing their data, like their data as in an email address or something that you control and then using that market to. Even though I was doing that, I didn’t really understand what I was doing and if I’d had a better understanding of that earlier on, I think I’d have a very different business today.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, that’s a good lesson I think. Especially the way Facebook’s going too. You know, if you’d put all of your money and all of your time and investment into just building up that Facebook page organically and wasn’t, and you weren’t collecting email addresses when Facebook’s kind of algorithms changed, you don’t own that. So I suppose it’s a good and important thing for people to know is to make sure you’re collecting things that you are own.
Tasha Miller: Yes. And it’s the most personal way you can get in touch with people as well. I mean, everybody has an email account and if they trust you enough to give you their email address, it’s a really powerful way to communicate with them.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And I know a lot of people say, “Oh, email open rates on that great anymore”, but I was at a marketing conference the other day and they’re like, are email open rates not great anymore or are you just sending meaningless, rubbish content? And I think a lot of people are just sending meaningless rubbish content to people that probably shouldn’t be on the list in the first place and wondering why their email rates are so low. The clients that we have that send emails get really great email rates because they’re sending the right kind of content to the right kind of people, and I imagine that’s similar with your audience. I mean, I always open your emails!
Tasha Miller: Yeah. I get roughly 35 to 40% open rates.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, which is unheard of, industry speaking.
Tasha Miller: Yep. And I think you’re right, it’s all about providing value to people. Like it’s, it’s not about you, it’s about them and they’re the most important people out there. I think a lot of marketers forget that.
Dahna Borg: 100%. And you’ve got to remember you’re sending an email to someone who’s probably receiving 20 to 30 other emails that day, like, why would I want to read yours instead of someone else’s or just delete them all.
Tasha Miller: That’s why I’ll use a lot of emojis in mine too because emojis really stand out.
Dahna Borg: We love emojis. I love it. Alrighty, so I know that you have faced a lot of copycats over the years. Is there anything that you do to kind of help protect yourself? I mean, I know that a lot of your audience kind of have your back on that one and kind of inform you so you can do things about it, but is there anything that you do to kind of protect yourself from that?
Tasha Miller: I think copycats are sort of inevitable, especially if you’ve got something that’s really unique and I mean there are a couple of things you can do about it. You can definitely try and stop it where possible. It’s great when your audience are right on the ball and like you said, a lot of my customers will message me as soon as they see, like they recognise the designs and then we try to get on top of it as quickly as possible. But unfortunately with companies like Alli Express, things get ripped off and it can be really hard to fight that. In the long run I think you’ve just got to move on and you’ve got to be constantly bringing out new things. If you just concentrate on old stuff you’ve done and trying to protect that endlessly, it can be really draining. So I’m all about killing off old designs once I feel like they’ve run their course and just keep making new things for people all the time.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, I love that attitude around it. Cause obviously there’s not too much you can do if someone like Alli Express picks it up because by the time they’ve picked it up, 20 of them have picked it up and different countries are very hard. So I love the attitude around it. I think that’s really good. And you do have a great audience of people who have your back. So obviously it’s a huge part of your business, you’re obviously very talented with that side of things. Do you have any other creative projects outside of ” business”? Did this kind of take away the fun of art or have you still got other art projects that you love?
Tasha Miller: I’m not great with doing projects at the moment. Every time I sit down to do something, it ends up being for my business. I’m working on another book, but that will still sort of be part of my business. I’m very focused on, on growing my business because it is my career as well. So I don’t really have, I’m gardening, I suppose! That’s what I do when I’m, I’m trying to get out of it.
Dahna Borg: That’s awesome. So obviously you are still a very creative person. Has it taken some of the fun out of it or is it more fun for you now because you get paid to do the art side of things?
Tasha Miller: There are definitely times when it takes some of the fun out of it. When I’m under a deadline and I have to complete artwork and I don’t have my head around it yet, it can be really stressful. For the most part, I really enjoy it and I really enjoy the creative process and usually, well we were talking about the development of collections, often I have an idea in my head and I’m sketching things down months and months in advance of actually starting the work. So it is quite a long process getting the idea behind something right first. I do really enjoy that aspect of it. I can’t just sort of sit down and do something really quickly most of the time. But, I mean it’s exciting to be able to do art whenever I want and as a career.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, I think that’s every artist’s dream is to be able to have a career out of that. So that’s really cool. You have built pretty much a cult-like audience. Is there anything that you think you have done to build such an involved and invested audience that maybe others can learn from?
Tasha Miller: I think really listening to your audience is very important. They will tell you everything you need to know about marketing to them if you ask them, and we you do things like surveys of our customers to find out, not just would they buy this, would they buy that – in fact we almost never ask those questions. It’s all about what are you passionate about? What cause is close to your heart, you know, what movies do you like to watch? Things that people are really excited to talk about. And I think when you, when you get those answers out of people, it really connects you to them. So, I think really finding that sort of small group of people, the niche. Like pull them I suppose, and really understanding them and creating things for them specifically. That’s been a big part of it.
Dahna Borg: Is that where you get some of your inspiration for those collections?
Tasha Miller: Definitely. The mental health collection in particular, which was really big one for me last year and it was really hard to do because I’ve had a lot of problems with anxiety myself and I was nervous about launching that collection. It went really well because I had so much feedback from, we’ve got a Facebook group as well and I throw ideas at them and I show them my sketches and they helped the design process and they were really fundamental to making sure that those designs came out just right.
Dahna Borg: Yeah. That’s amazing. So you said you’ve got a big Facebook group and they’re helping you, that kind of collaborative process. Are there any kind of like pros and cons to having that level of involvement? Obviously there’s some really significant pros. Are there any downsides that will have you kind of manage that I suppose?
Tasha Miller: Yeah. It can take a bit to manage a group like that. And I do have help managing it, which is great. You’ve got to be right on the ball if any arguments break out. It’s very rare in my group because we’ve sort of cultivated the type of atmosphere we want. There’s no nastiness, there’s no negativity to it. Everybody who’s part of that group really enjoys being part of the group, as far as I know. So it’s more just the management, like you’ve got to engage with people a lot. We don’t like to make it sales-y too much. Like occasionally I’ll throw a few things in there; there’ll be a group special. But yeah, it’s more about really being in touch with my diehard biggest fans.
Dahna Borg: Amazing. So you were recently featured in a Facebook case study, which is very exciting for using your Facebook ads to expand into the US can you tell us a little bit more about that expansion process and then also what it’s like to be approached by Facebook?
Tasha Miller: Yeah, it was a great experience. We ran a case study where we were doing a split test between two different audiences. One, which was a lookalike audience and the other, which was a broader audience looking at specifically people who liked books and crafts, which are my customers, and we just ran it for 10 days and we came up with some really firm conclusions that the lookalikes is the best audience to use. And then Facebook put that all together into a beautiful document and published it. So yeah, it was a really good experience.
Dahna Borg: Amazing! Is there anything else that you think we haven’t covered that our listeners might like to hear about the journey of Jubly-Umph? How you kind of scale your business, any of the behind the scenes, those sorts of things.
Tasha Miller: I mean, I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I think anybody who’s run a business for 11 years and hasn’t made any mistakes is probably lying to you.
Dahna Borg: What are some of these mistakes that other people can learn? You don’t have to go through them all, Because I’ve been in business and I know there’s also lots of mistakes.
Tasha Miller: Yes, yes, I think mistakes is one of those things that people should actually talk a bit more about because especially when I was starting out in business, you look at the big players and you just think, “Oh, they’re amazing, they’ve never done anything wrong”. And it’s just not true. One of my biggest ones was we over-invested in stock a few years ago when we were doing handbags and firstly they take up so much room, so we had like a whole room in my studio taken up with a wall of handbags. There were 400 that we were left with that was sort of dead stock and I just couldn’t sell it, and we had taken out a loan for it as well. It was the thing I could not get rid of. And eventually, like we just had them hanging around for ages and ages and ages and they were beautiful handbags. It was just really hard to sell them. And that was probably our biggest mistake. You know, I didn’t ask for customer feedback when I was designing them so the designs I brought out weren’t the right ones. And then it turns out that handbags are actually quite hard to sell because most people only have one that they use at any given time. So things like that! It go to the point where we were in a lot of debt over it and it could have gone the wrong way and we could have maybe not got through it.
Dahna Borg: Yeah. I think that’s a good lesson though, in that ask your audience so that you know what they actually want before overstocking something. I think that’s a lesson a lot of small startup eCommerce businesses could learn from and even big scaling ones that they might have a great idea and they go and buy a huge amount of stock for something that’s not tested.
Tasha Miller: Yep, that’s exactly what I did!
Dahna Borg: But that’s a lesson that’s learned that you will never ever make again and it turned out okay in the end by the sound of it.
Tasha Miller: Yes, it did. We managed to move all the bags, pretty much at a cost price and I announced that I was never stocking bags again and that’s what did it!
Dahna Borg: Last chance, people. You’re never getting a handbag ever again!
Tasha Miller: Yup. That was it! I really appreciate everybody sort of stepped up and helped us out of that situation, put out a bit of a heartfelt post and explained that’s sort of how bad it was and people really came through and supported us, which was great.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, that’s amazing. You do have a wonderful community around you. So that’s, I mean it’s a testament to how you’ve built your business, really. So that’s, that’s really cool. Alrighty, I’m going to get into the last couple of questions that we ask everyone. Do you have any secret strategies, routines, or habits that you use every day to help you stay on track, in business or just in personal life?
Tasha Miller: I don’t know about secret strategies. I’m not great at, I’m like not a meticulous planner of a person. I sort of have a list that goes in my head all the time, but I’ve started using Trello on a day-to-day basis to keep track of the three most important things I should be doing for the day. That’s made a big difference to having a bit more focus. So I think there’s some great apps out there that can really help you along in business and if you can find the ones that work for you then go with them.
Dahna Borg: That’s it. I think that’s it. I think everyone kind of gets too stuck in trying to do everything and having 17,000 different apps cause it’s what everyone else does. Just finding the one that works for you can make such a big difference. And I also like asking that question because I feel like it’s just gives people a real answer. Like you don’t have this mythical diary that’s organised in 17 point form to like organise your business. Like you have a Trello board with three things and that’s what you do to keep on track. I think it kind of normalises the fact that we’re not all superheroes that have crazy advanced systems and things. We’re all just doing what we can.
Tasha Miller: Yes. I still make notes on little bits of paper and leave them all over the place, remembering occasionally to put it on the Trello board has just been what’s brought it all together.
Dahna Borg: I love it. I also love that you went from like paper notes to basically an online sticky board. That’s what Trello is. It’s just like notepads a screen.
Tasha Miller: That’s exactly right.
Dahna Borg: Do you have a favourite business book?
Tasha Miller: I think there was one that was really part of my turning my business around because when I went from the I-make-a-business to the I-run-a-business position, it is a real mind shift and a big help to that was the, now that you’ve put me on the spot! The EMyth? I can’t remember off the top of my head. It’s, it’s one of those ones that’s been around forever and they’ve actually done a lot of different versions for different industries. It’s really basically written out and explains to you exactly what sort of business that you’re running. It had the effect of really turning my brain around. I don’t just want to be a maker forever who just is constantly at their desk making jewellery. I actually want it to be bigger than this and I want to have it more meaning than that. Yeah, that was a big one for me.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, it’s a very, very good book. So that’s a good recommendation.
Dahna Borg: Favourite podcast?
Tasha Miller: I really like “How I Built This” because it’s all about interviews with people who built really big companies, usually in America, and sort of their entrepreneurial journey. And there’s not one of them that went through and said, “Oh, I didn’t make any mistakes”. They usually tell you about how they almost lost their company five times and they made 20 mistakes and they almost went bankrupt. I find that motivational.
Dahna Borg: I think it’s real, though. I really hate listening to stories where everyone’s like, “Oh, look at me, I’m so successful and look at all the amazing things I did” …that’s not real.
Tasha Miller: So that’s my favourite one. I’m constantly waiting for the next episodes to come out.
Dahna Borg: Yeah, it’s a good one. Awesome. And if people want to come find you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Tasha Miller: They can come visit my website. It’s www.jubly-umph.com. I usually have to spell it because people usually go Jubly-what?
Dahna Borg: We’ll also put the link!
Tasha Miller: If you can remember my business name, then you’re in the club.
Dahna Borg: I like it, I like it!
Dahna Borg: Well thank you so much for joining us. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show!
Tasha Miller: Thank you so much for having me.
Dahna Borg: Have a good night! Thank you for listening to the ninth episode of the Bright Minds of e-Commerce Podcast. Don’t forget we load all of the links, show notes, full transcripts onto our website. You can find everything at www.brightredmarketing.com.au/shownotes/episode9 the link will also be available in the episode description. Thanks so much for listening.