Tracey Reed started her first lingerie business a few years ago, but admits she didn’t know enough then about how to choose a niche or find her ideal clientele.
When she launched Beguile Intimates in the fall of 2017, she knew exactly what she was going to do differently: pick a focused target market. The company sells boudoir-style lingerie to women who “want to feel empowered to be who they are.”
Tracey talked to us about how to start an online lingerie business, including how to find suppliers, choose an ecommerce platform, build a website, and grow a customer base.
What inspired you to start a lingerie business?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and have run other small businesses on the side. If something doesn’t work, I move on to something new. I figure at some point, one of my ideas will stick!
What did you learn from your past experiences that you’ve applied to this business?
I’ve learned so much! First and foremost, you cannot serve everyone. You cannot give every customer exactly what they want when they want it — it’s too large of an undertaking.
This time around, we’re focused on boudoir-style lingerie for photo shoots and items that make women feel strong and sexy.
I better understand that identifying your target market is critical to the success of the business. Understanding who you’re selling and marketing to makes it so much easier to understand where your business is going and exactly how to tweak and change things.
Identifying your target market also allows you to involve your customers in creating and growing your brand. If your target is too broad, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to change to be more useful and beneficial to your customer.
What ecommerce platform do you use? What tips would you have for other people using this platform?
We use BigCommerce for our ecommerce platform. They’ve been amazing in answering our questions and helping us build the site.
I’d say the most important part of any ecommerce platform is to make sure you know what you want to do with it before you start. For example, we wanted to be able to process returns and use abandoned cart information to try to get customers back who hadn’t finished their purchase.
We originally built a site with another platform that didn’t offer any of these things — but the site looked amazing! Unfortunately, the look wasn’t helping us with the marketing and customer service aspects that our company needed. Form and function will gain customers over a flashy site any day!
What was the most challenging part of getting your ecommerce website ready?
What wasn’t challenging is the question! I built the site myself as I was working a full-time job, so I’d say finding the time to do it was the most challenging.
Second to that was choosing the right products to attract customers and deciding on suppliers that would work with us as a startup — but serve us as though we’d been running for years. It’s all worked out so far, but there were bumps along the way.
How did you find your suppliers?
I was in the lingerie business many years ago, so I had some contacts already, but I mostly found them through research.
If you intend to start a retail business, you need to know how to research (or have someone help you) to find amazing suppliers that’ll provide you with products that complement your brand and work with you to help you grow.
We work with many different suppliers — closely with five or six, and then we have an additional 10-15 that we purchase from periodically or when we see something we love and HAVE to offer to our customers.
Our suppliers take the most beautiful pictures of all of the products we carry. They allow us to use their images to sell the products on our site.
How did you come up with your pricing model?
We have to look at our competition to make sure we’re competitive, but I also chose to go with suppliers with reasonable wholesale prices so I could pass those savings onto my customers.
My suppliers will also have discounts, at which time I pass those savings along to my customers by either discounting prices or offering sales along the way.
We also use holidays like Valentine’s Day as a way to offer our customers a little something extra. And we’re working on a VIP Beguile Babes “lounge” where we’ll offer incentives (which we can’t tell you about yet!). But it will be awesome!
What were your biggest startup costs and considerations?
The biggest cost is my time — getting the website, the logo, the marketing materials, the accounting, and more going in the background.
It’s not super expensive to have a website these days so that part hasn’t been difficult. Now that we’re up and running, I do hold some inventory, so that’s where more costs start to come into play. But as long as you keep yourself disciplined, you can make money while you’re spending money.
What have you found is the best way to promote your business?
We use social media religiously! It has certainly helped us gain recognition and customers.
We post to Facebook, Instagram, and Vero multiple times per day and we have an exclusive “ladies only” Facebook group — Beguile Babes — where we chat about all kinds of fun stuff, offer discounts, and just hang out!
I’ve also partnered with a boudoir photographer, which has helped get the word out about the business.
What tips or advice would you have for people wanting to start this type of business?
Do your homework! Be patient and understand that great businesses don’t happen overnight — even if they seemed to be non-existent one day and a huge success the next. That’s usually because those businesses did the work in the background before launching.
It’s so, so important to make sure to have all your ducks in a row so that things go as smoothly as they can at launch. Unfortunately, SOMETHING will go wrong, so the better prepared you are out of the gate, the easier it will be to deal with the little mishaps along the way.
Want to learn more about starting a business? Read more stories from those who have done it.