- How seeing a competitor offering an inferior product with a worse customer experience finally gave Sarah the inspiration to launch her business – and how she got over her anxiety and worry about the involved risk.
- Why we’re afraid of losing more in trying and failing than never trying at all – and how to reframe what’s truly possible.
- The key piece of advice that helped Sarah double her membership when her subscriptions started to level off.
- Sarah’s advice for anyone thinking about launching their first membership site – and why she could never achieve her ultimate goals if she didn’t take the plunge from the very beginning.
FREE Guide – Launch & Grow a Profitable Membership SiteReady to reclaim your time and attract more monthly paying customers? Our step-by-step guide will show you how to build a membership site that turns your passion into recurring profit. Click here to download!
Memorable Quote“If I had waited until I had it all figured out and it was all perfect, I still wouldn’t have launched.” – Sarah Williams
Episode ResourcesFramed by Sarah Framed by Sarah on Facebook Framed by Sarah on Instagram
TranscriptRead The Transcript
Shelli: Sarah Williams, welcome to the It’s a TRIBE Thing Podcast. How are you? Sarah: I’m great. How about you, Shelli? Shelli: I’m super excited and our pre-chat before this interview was epic and I want to jump right into it because you have so much to teach and I want to, first of all, welcome you and I would love it if you can start your story. This is such a great story of innovation and implementation and jumping when you don’t have everything figured out. You’re an absolute inspiration, my friend, so thank you so much for being here. Sarah: Thank you. Do you want me just to start like where I started quickly or how I started… Shelli: I would love it if you would start from the beginning where before you had a membership site and how your membership site came to be, who you serve, how you serve them, and what the impact you’re having on that is. Sarah: So, I basically serve people that love monograms and monogrammed items, have gifts store, and I personalize a lot of things in my store. And the box idea had really been on my mind for about a year. I had just regular customers that’s always personalizing things and over the years I had become better at buying the things that they wanted to have monograms that became a one-stop shop like I had the things they wanted to personalize and they got them personalized in my store. And so, quickly kind of grew that little niche of people that were looking for personalized gifts. And then it became to where they were just bringing me everything that they wanted personalized and I sat on the idea of a subscription box for a year. And what really kicked me into gear was I saw another kind of monogrammed place that I followed do a subscription box and I just kept looking at it and reading the comments that people were unhappy with their customer service and unhappy with the quality of the items in their boxes. And I just kept telling myself, “I can do this and I can do this better,” and then I sat on this for a few more months and just thought I don’t know how the logistics are going to work. I’m not a tech person, I don’t know how to make all of this like work. I’m not sure about this. Sat down and had a meeting with my web guy and it was January of that year and we were just talking about all the things that I wanted to work on with the website and things and I shared with him this idea and this is the first time I had shared my idea with anyone and he was my number one cheerleader. He’s like, “I can make this work for you. You just tell me what you want and we will put this together,” and I felt like this was it. This was the time. He says he can make this work for me on the back end. I know what I want to do on the front end and we’re going to put this together. And it was really scary because this has product involved. It’s not just a service and maybe one person shows up or maybe no. I have to buy physical products for this. And so, it was how do you find the numbers for that first box? How do you determine what your interest level is going to be? And for me, this was a mystery box. I couldn’t even show people what was going to be in the box to really sell them. I had to say, “Hey, you like me, you like all the things that I’m doing. Come sign up for this monthly subscription box and you’re going to love it.” And that was really all I had to sell myself on was the fact that I had a good following and that pretty much that had a lot of people that liked what I did. So, if I could convince them to like me that they would like my box and we launched the box and I planned for 50 subscribers the first month and I didn’t know if I was really overshooting myself. It might be a huge lofty goal thought I would be amazing if had 100 subscribers like that would just be so awesome. And the first month, we sold 44 boxes. Site unseen. Then we have… Shelli: Wow. Sarah: Open your box. They were like, “Okay. Whatever she’s doing, I want in.” And that’s how it started and it was scary and I was unsure of myself but we were going for it. We were going for it. Shelli: That’s incredible especially it speaks to people’s faith in you because essentially that first month you’re selling a mystery box. Sarah: Yeah. They have no idea and that was the scariest part for me because I didn’t know how to market it and literally, I was posting a picture of an empty box and saying, “Subscribe here,” basically. Shelli: That’s amazing. So, did you at that time have any like you must’ve had some sort of limiting belief or fear or wonder like what if this doesn’t work, or what does that mean to you? How did you overcome that? Because I hear so many people having the same concerns about like we have these great ideas and some people are just having a hard time jumping or taking the leap. What was it about this that you just said, “No, I’m going to throw caution to the wind, I’m going to trust what I know, and I’m just going to press the gas and go for it?” Sarah: I think my fear comes in not doing it so I think I always have fears of if I don’t do this, am I always going to wonder what if? And I think that that’s ultimately what my fear is in anything that I do. It wasn’t that I was going to fear that I was going to have 50 pieces of four items hanging out at my store because that’s a different issue. My issue was if I don’t do this like then what? Then I’m disappointing myself or I’m always going to say I should’ve done that or what if I would’ve done that and never did, that’s the biggest fear I think for myself. I think for people they just sit and overthink things and I’m not an overthinker. I’m just a doer and then I figured out as I go. Shelli: That’s brilliant. You make a great point because when you can tip your fear in favor of it costing more if you don’t do it meaning if you try and fail, it cost more than if you never tried at all. It really does reframe what then becomes possible. Sarah: Yeah. I think that’s the hardest part is that people just they hold themselves back and I am fortunate that I have people surround me that constantly believe in me and what I do and that overcomes my own self-doubt that I think most people have because ultimately, I was selling myself like you. If that fails, does that mean no one likes me? Am I not worthy? Am I not good enough? And I don’t think you have to look at it that way. Shelli: Absolutely, for sure. When we were chatting, you told me an interesting story about so this was an open membership site meaning anybody could join any time, and that was working well for you. By your own admission, you had this incredible beta launch and you basically had people signing up, site unseen, because they knew you, like you, trusted you. But then you got a key piece of advice that sort of changed the way that you now do business. Can you speak to that? Sarah: Yes. So, basically, my first I would say eight or nine months the membership was selling out every single month. I kept slowly increasing it and you know I have to plan out pretty far for this product, especially as I was getting into the hundreds. If I need 100 pieces of this and 150 pieces of this and as it was growing, I had to plan further and further out so I kept planning for this growth because every month it was selling out. Once I posted that first picture of what was inside the box, my next box sold out in like 12 hours so then the next month I sold out. So, I was slowly increasing them by 25 subscribers each month so that I wasn’t overshooting all this product. So, this continued for about eight or nine months, sell out, sell out, sell out. I was on cloud 9. I was selling out. I had grown my subscription from 50 subscribers to 200 within these months. And then I got into the beginning of the next year and I was planning for this growth. I had bought all these products, I was sitting on it, and it started to just stall and I was kind of – I kind of leveled out and this happened in April and then May I was still level. And then June I started to decline and I thought, “Okay, what’s happening? What am I doing wrong?” And I really took it personally because I had all the success the previous year and I thought, “Man, I’m not sure. I’m not sure what’s going on. The last couple boxes have been really great. I don’t know if they’re looking for something different in what I need to do.” I got some advice and the advice was you need to create this urgency for them to buy. You need to close your cart. It was always open unless I was sold out. Well, it had been open for six months at this point because I had it sold out in six months. And so, I kept saying, “That’s fine for people that have cooking memberships and exercise memberships but I have product attached to mine. That’s not going to work for me. I’ve got all this product. What if close the cart and I still have all these products left over? What if I close the cart, I don’t have enough product? This isn’t going to work.” And I really resisted it for probably 90 days and then it just hit me. You’ve got to close the cart. You’ve got to close the cart. So, I came home, I formulated a plan. Two weeks later, I launched the close of the cart, and it went bananas. I doubled my membership. Shelli: Wow. Sarah: Yes. And I was scrambling to get more product because I didn’t plan for this. I was hoping I would close the cart and gain about 60 more subscribers because that was how much excess I had from the previous months because I had planned for this growth. So, I was just hoping to recoup what I had. Luckily, my supplier was ready to get me fixed up and we just kept selling and selling and I finally had to close the cart a day early before I planned to because we didn’t have any more product left. So, we closed that cart and it was amazing. It was amazing. And then we’ve done one launch since and we had again another 100 subscribers, unlimited. The last launch to 100 subscribers, we closed that in four days with 100 new subscribers. So, now we’re over 500 subscribers and it’s really changed everything. It’s changed everything professionally in my business and my personal life and my family life. And so, you just have to take a chance on yourself sometimes. Shelli: Would you be able to speak to that, how it’s changed your life both your family life, your personal life, and your business life? Sarah: Well, for my business, people that sell products, you make a product or you purchase the product and then you sell it and so you’re always trying to what’s the next best thing. Well, how am I going to make my money this month? What am I going to sell? What am I going to purchase? What am I going to make? And so, with the recurring revenue, I have this super solid foundation for my business income. I can count on that money coming in each month and I know what I need to buy and closing the cart also helped me manage the monograms better because I knew exactly how many pieces I needed. But as far as the recurring revenue, it’s changed my business to where I’m not constantly trying to sell something. It’s already sold and then all the extra stuff that I have to sell is just add-ons because these are already my customers. This is already my niche. They already want what I have. So, they’re already my customers and so it just created this security. I’ve been able to add more employees. Now, it’s created a lot of stability for my business. I don’t have to wonder if I got enough money to pay the rent next month at the store and it’s just created this constant flow of customers because I also have a brick-and-mortar store and so 300 of these subscribers come into my store every month and pick up their box. And they’re shopping and they’re buying more things while they’re in my store. So, it’s just really created a great foundation for the rest of my business. Personally – go ahead. Shelli: No. Please, go. Yes. Sarah: Personally, we live in a home for 16 years that we’ve had a fire and burnt to the ground. We rebuilt and then we went through a series of almost three years and our house flooded eight times and it’s something we never thought we could get out of like who’s going to buy this house? Like, we’re kind of stuck here. It’s the money pit. This revenue allowed us to buy our dream home, move, and whether or not we sold the other house wasn’t going to be a big deal and we ended up selling it in 14 days but had I not had the revenue from the boxes, I will never, ever had the courage to step out and look for a new house, wondering if I was ever going to be able to sell my other one. So, that has changed our family life. You just have no idea. We live in a great neighborhood with lots of kids. Our kids play outside and it’s just a whole different world than we used to live in and it’s caused us to just be home more. We loved to be home in our house and it gives us more freedom to travel. We’ve traveled this last year more than any year we ever have before together because we have that constant stream of income. We can plan for vacations. We know the money is going to be there and it’s allowed a lot of freedoms in our family. Shelli: I love everything you just said and I want to touch on something specifically that you said that I think is so, so powerful. You talked about courage. You talked about the courage to close the cart and to move forward but I know in the conversation we were having previous, you also talked about the courage that you instilled in yourself when you started it because one of the things you said to me that I just found so powerful personally was you didn’t have it all figured out. You didn’t know all of the whats and the hows and in spite of all that, you just decided, “You know what, I’m just going to like throw my cards on the table and I’m going to jump in and I’m going to give this a shot.” Can you speak to that? Sarah: Yeah. I think that I had never done a subscription before. I had never done any kind of recurring revenue before. I never even bought a subscription box before. I really had no knowledge behind what this was going to be. I just knew that I wanted to do it and I would figure it out. And there are so many things that you don’t know that you don’t know and they just come. I had the subscription box and then I was applying for it to go on to a subscription site where they kind of promote lots of subscription boxes and they came back and told me that my box wasn’t professional enough and I never looked at it though. It was a cardboard box. I had stamped it. I put some cute tape on it. It was my box. And I started to reevaluate my box. Now, I thought, “Okay. I’m going to have better boxes,” and then I started to have the logo box, and now they’re printed and you just learn these things as you go. And it’s shipping issues. I had major shipping issues when I first started and as the box levels increased, I had never shipped out this amount of stuff ever. And so, that was very challenging for me and I figured it out and I contacted some places that do shipping and I got hooked up with a new shipping system and it’s like you just snap your fingers and all the labels are printed now which it used to take me half a day to print shipping labels. It’s just things you figure out. You’re not going to have the perfect answer for things right away, Shelli: But the truth is had you not just jumped and then figured it out or knit your parachute in freefall as I like to say, you wouldn’t be in the situation where you have this house and you can plan for your holidays and you have a recurring income. So, what advice would you give somebody who’s in the position you were before you started and has not yet pressed the gas and said yes to their membership site? Sarah: If I was waiting until I had it all figured out and it was all perfect, I would still not have launched it today. I wouldn’t be ready because I still would be trying to figure out what I didn’t know and what I needed to know. So, I think that if you’re waiting for something to be perfect before you launch it, then you’re always going to be second-guessing your decisions and whether it’s ready and you’re never going to be ready. So, I think you just go with what you’ve got and start getting some of that recurring revenue in. I couldn’t afford to buy the fancy boxes with 40 subscribers. I had to wait until I hit 100 but you know what, it didn’t take long for me to hit 100 and then I could afford to buy the fancy boxes. So, I think you have to go with what you have and make it work. As you grow, you get better, you get more refined, you get more professional, and then it’s really going take off for you. You can’t wait until it’s perfect. Shelli: I love it. I love this for myself personally both with respect to this business and membership sites and all the things we’re talking about but I think this advice, sage advice across the board and that is like if you’re considering starting something and you have the fear of jumping before you’re ready, consider the cost of perfection. Because for yourself and your story, had you not done that, your entire life, your entire business, and your family’s life and quality of life would be completely different. So, for everybody listening out there, what is the cost of perfection? Sarah: I can imagine myself right now being where I was two years ago. That doesn’t even – I don’t even want to think about that because I’m in such a good place with my business, with my family with everything that I would never go back to where I was two years ago. Even though two years ago I would’ve told you I was great. So, it’s just amazing to see what else is out there when you jump in with both feet. Don’t be afraid of it. Shelli: What’s your ultimate goal for your family and for your business as you go forward? Sarah: Ultimately, I would love for my box levels to get to where I’m not the laborer. I’m not packing them each month. I’m just the creative and so that’s kind of my ultimate dream is that I can sit down and create the boxes and let someone else do all the work so that I do have more family time and just downtime for myself. My business has grown so fast in only five years in so I can imagine five years from now that that’s what my life looks like, and that’s a pretty awesome feeling. I just got to keep going. Shelli: I love it. I so appreciate your time, really appreciate your story, and so appreciate your advice and I appreciate you stopping by and hanging out with us on the It’s a TRIBE Thing Podcast. Sarah: Thanks, Shelli. It was good to talk to you today. Shelli: You as well. And if anybody’s looking for you online, where is the best place they can connect with you? Sarah: They can find me at FramedBySarah.com or they can find me on Facebook and Instagram under Framed By Sarah as well, and that’s Sarah with an H. Shelli: Brilliant. We will talk again real soon, my friend, and thank you so much for stopping by. Sarah: Thanks, Shelli. Bye. [END]