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Testimonials BizHack Alumni – Michelle Reitkopf – Digital Marketing Training Academy

Thank you. You are the bag, lady. Yes, what is the bag? Lady? The bag? Lady? Is a family owned and run curated kind of art collection that people can actually wear and it’s all new products and it ranges from bags to accessories and then all the way now we started with clothing and leggings and blankets and home goods. What is the most expensive bag you’ve ever sold? Oh, I think it was a $ 5,000 bag and one went to Peru, we’re so lucky.

We have a lot of international customers that seek us out and find us from the power of the Internet, and so that’s been one of our top-selling bags and you brought a couple bags with us to show us what you have sure Mary Francis is a line That we’ve been working with for 20-plus years, hand beaded made in the Philippines and every season and collection, it’s a new collection and it’s limited so she’s, wonderful, she’s based in California – and this is, we learned both of our sign.

Yes, it’s the horoscope collection and we did very well with us actually and that’s a new body shape and style, and people love the horoscope stuff, great yeah. That’S also a Mary Francis and it’s all hand beaded in the work is fantastic, she’s, very artsy she’s. Very, the names of the items are super cool and we love working with them have limited pieces of Gucci and we love the Gucci stuff, especially the florals.

We love what’s happening with the brand now that it’s just doing so well and he’s taking it to this eco. He took far out of the line. Alessandra Michel he’s the new director and he’s just with the rockstars and he’s doing great and transforming the company, and I really honor that there’s a lot of beautiful stuff here, coach and michael kors, our you know our everyday line and we do excellent with coach and Michael kors, those are our mainstay plain leather goods and beautiful stuff, and then johnny was they just came out with this new perfume and this oil, and we are doing well with that whole line great, I feel like we’re on the Home Shopping Network.

This is awesome. You know this is definitely not my world. This is your world. In fact, I learned that since 1976, your parents started a business with high-end shoes. Tell us a little bit about how about your parents business and how you kind of inherited the kind of luxury woman’s market. Well, they came to the states and they from Russia, and then they met in Israel. They both did the army and then they were in Israel and married and then they moved to the States.

My parents wanted the American Dream and they took over this man’s shop and started with shoes and all sorts of designer women’s comfort shoes from Italy from the United States, and then I was born a year or so later, and you know it’s just it’s interesting. My my parents, Mike on my mother’s side, are immigrants from Europe as well and to Philadelphia, and they actually ran a shoe store as well, but it was a low hand, okay store in kind of a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia, so kind of same business.

Other end of the spectrum, amazing: what was the name of the store when it started in 76? It started with shoe club and it was in Aventura Florida, yes, which is kind of just outside of Miami, and then it moved on and they named it Michels. After me yeah, so they called my dad Michele for a while, and so he would respond to it because he was the face of the business and everything and he’s so helpful and love talking to people and the stories.

We’D have like multi-generations come in to chop and it was fantastic, so many years and we’ve developed several stores and relationships with the local community and everyone knew if they needed something special for an event or for every day where to come to the store. And you worked at the stores. Yes talk a little bit about some of the things you did around the store. I did everything from merchandising to purchasing doing the buying behind the counter.

We did it old-school, so we were right down on the invoice from closing the shop and to opening it so the whole all of the logistics and then in the mid nineties. You left you have to South Florida. You left the shop, yes and, and you probably thought for good – you left the business I thought so I thought I was going to move on to something else and bigger and different, and and where do you go and how did you find your way back? Well, I went to school in University of Virginia and I love Charlotte’s though I love the mountains and the whole culture was a completely different one that I really ingratiate it into, and then I decided to come back after doing a little bit of time in Florence.

So I was in the mecca of art and fashion for a bit as well: we’ve always had Paris and Israel and Italy in our blood and this European boutique II feel so I bring it back to Florida. I went and moved to the Grove and started working on odd jobs here – Art Director, Marketing Manager and those sort of things, and then I kept the thread of the store. I will always woodwork like one or two days a week, and I saw this opportunity online.

That was a new versioning place for online goods and I started on eBay where I started telling $ 650 item products. At the time when people were selling vintage flea market finds so I started this whole new new items being sold online and I would go to the store to work and then I just ship out what I sold and things were moving online, that wouldn’t move in The store that people would just look at so it was a really different dynamic and I saw this opportunity so you specifically were selling handbags online on eBay.

Yes in the early 2000. Yes can you can you go back to like? How did you learn about eBay and how did you have the the insight / inspiration to sell? You know: multi-hundred dollar thousand dollar, handbags that were new yeah and what was essentially an auction site for flea market and used goods. I just start tried it out, and I do you remember that moment when you’re like okay, tell me about that, is the brand called Isabella Fiore and they did like really beautiful, hand-painted stuff somewhere from Italy somewhere from elsewhere, and they were just sitting and nothing was Moving in the store – and I thought let me check online – see see if so, anyone else in the world has been s or selling it, and I would seize things on eBay and at that time eBay was pretty big for the flea market world and I thought Why not? There is a new with tag option.

Why not try it so I put put a few on and I take like homemade pictures and they started to sell and just like that. It just was a quick happening and did you with eBay, were they auctioned or with a minimum bid yeah we did that and did you were you able to sell them at a higher price than the retail price in your store? No, to be honest, no nowadays I can do that, but those days now I would get MSRP, though, which was great, so it was a way to kind of move merchandise that you just can’t move any other.

Yes, how did it evolve from there from there? I wanted out of the shoes I wanted nothing to do with shoes, because she’s are very difficult. Shoes are tough. How did mom and dad feel about you getting out of their business? Oh, they liked the fact that and they liked it, because my mom wasn’t loving the going to the store every day and dealing with the public, so we iced all bags as an easy thing to ship.

There’S no real size to it. You can gift it easily. So I like the idea of it that it was simple yeah there’s, also not the challenge of whether they fit correct the fit is off and Zappos kind of took over at that time, and I couldn’t compete with as oppas scenario did okay. So then what happened at some point? The retail store, your parents closed the store. We closed the store, yes, the store closed because the rent went up triple yeah and they retired no they’re, still they’re still working a little bit with ya lady, the things flipped yeah.

Now, they’re working for you and well with with me, writing receipts and collecting. You know something like that and soon talk about what happened from that those first early days mm. You know 19 like what what happened over that you know 15 year period, how did the business grow, sir evolve and mature okay um? Over the years, we’ve tried out different products, different price points, different marketplaces and kind of had to go along with the times and where the technologies have been moving from desktop to mobile, to free returns, return shippings, all things have the picture.

Quality has to be really amazing, especially if you’re selling a $ 5,000 item. So we started hiring photographers going to different, shows and vegas atlanta different places to to get new brands. That would be ready for online and at this time a lot of the malls and brands were opening their own storefronts kind of competing with us. That makes sense, and that made a lot of stores close so mom and pops.

It became rare to have like a native family-run business and let alone being online. The dynamic is a little different because you’re not touching the product you’re shipping instead, so it becomes like almost like a catalog business, but a lot of the brand’s want you to maintain store Franz. They want you to go to trade, shows and still be in person. So over the years we found this different, different marketplaces, repeat: customers, brands that resonated and we’ve evolved to today, where we’re we have our own website and we’re on many marketplaces which marketplaces we’re on Amazon, which is one of our better ones that we do most of Our business and it’s really strict stringent policies to maintain turnaround with email messaging to products being, as is, and exactly what you’re selling and we’re happy to do.

So because, where you are very honorable in what we do and sell – and we want all the customers to know and have that exact thing that they’re ordering, so we’re really proud of that, when did you first get onto Amazon Amazon? We started about five six years ago and it transformed our business yeah yeah we’re doing many more sales, our Christmas December time as fantastic, and it beats going to a store yeah, I’m sitting all day waiting for someone to walk in because we reach the whole world.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ci72MW5U0gg

What differentiates you as a vendor online? What what makes you special? Yes couple things the way we curate our stuff, it’s like a gallery of items and we have a lot of limited edition pieces and we have new stuff. So we not only have this amazing piece still that might be from the special season from last season and no one has it anymore and that someone’s looking for it. But it’s new and it’s in the original packaging and it comes with all its wealth bill bells and whistles anything that it should come with.

So it’s a way that people can trust our goods with tags and dust bags and and we ship it beautifully as well, and and how does that translate online? You know like, like you know, when you’re dealing with such demanding customers, people who are used to going to the Four Seasons who are used to kind of having their every whim met. Yes, how does it like translate to e-commerce kind of impersonal? You know it could be, it could be.

I like that. I have contact and communication with these buyers and discussed they killed, call me or whoever and have someone actually pick up the phone they’re so shocked. It’S amazing when they call – and I actually pick up and explain, answer all their questions. They love it. So, there’s that level of intimacy and all and communication, which is key and it’s different than calling a department store and getting the runaround or being put on hold for 20 minutes or whatever yeah.

I that’s my favorite. The discerning client is a favorite of mine and developing that relationship and continuing it so that I know next season or the next collection that comes in that I can reach out to that person and they’ll be excited to hear from me. Is there a bit of that, like you might call or text or whatsapp sure, absolutely personalized, yeah cuz? That makes that differentiates me from I’m shopping somewhere else, yeah yeah.

That brings us to me. Yes, what in the world sounds like you’re, a very successful businesswoman? Well, thank you. You’Ve been able to kind of take a family business and bring it into the 21st century. What can i, what can busy do for you? Well, I had so many good recommendations and referrals to come to you and since the class I’ve met even more people that have taken your class and known you, and I find your class to be the next step for us in expanding the social media presence.

Utilizing Facebook, as the main cog in the wheel and seeing how that will translate onto because online sales is what we do I’d like that and I think you’re what you do is perfect for our business in translating a high-end fashion, easy capturable social presence into sales Were you feeling a little captive to Amazon? Perhaps yes, talk about that like what they’re sort of what give, I guess, maybe what giveth can be taken away? Is that sort of how it felt it just feels like? I don’t want to be tied down and I would like the potential to grow a similar business on my own.

That has that I’m in control of right and explain what that means. For someone who isn’t in the e-commerce business. What does it mean to be in control of Amazon? Requires you to use UPC codes to use certain product details, to update your the catalog to use certain images and it’s a very stringent business seller performance that they expect from you, which is fine and it keeps everyone up to par.

But certain things that I’d like to sell may not have a UPC code, but I love the designer from Columbia and I would love to use her products, but she doesn’t have that code so that limits what I can sell to the world. So I see working with you as a potential of expanding the online business, the bag, lady shop site and being able to sell other products that I adore and that I have limits with on Amazon yeah.

That’S definitely one really interesting limitation. I mean another one with Amazon is when folks go to an amazon landing page with your product. Yeah amazon owns that traffic cause the data about that traffic. They don’t share that data. They don’t let you track that customer. You can’t retarget that customer you’re really limited and absolutely with that yeah. So if someone visits that landing page with your product and doesn’t buy, you have no way of advertising to them again.

Yes, that’s a big one if they were to go and visit that same product on your homepage on your website. You could absolutely and so driving traffic from ads on facebook to your home page versus an Amazon landing page allows you for share our sales, 100 % and so part of what I think. The opportunity that you see is to kind of own your destiny. A little bit more yes and I adore that relationship. I want to be in touch with these customers, they’re, essentially mine, and I would like to have that discussion with them and send them newsletters and all the latest yeah.

It would be great – and I mean you know somebody who’s looking at a one or two or three thousand dollar bag isn’t necessarily going to buy on the first visit right. You know so so you can expect them to kind of shop around a little bit, and so it’s particularly important with that kind of purchase which isn’t going to be an impulse, buy that you’re able to have build up a relationship, and it’s very very hard to Do that on Amazon, absolutely Lilley captive to their world the other thing about Amazon that we talked a little bit about when we were first kind of getting to know each other is what I sort of mentioned to you.

Is that what Amazon giveth Amazon can taketh away? Yes, which is to say that Amazon will drive traffic to your product pages through their search? Yes, but they control everything. How much traffic you get, of course, and if they decide another vendor is who they want to get traffic to or that they’re going to start selling, which they do they compete with your own statistics. You know those bags themselves or a knockoff version, mm-hm or they’re going to make you start to pay for what you’re getting now for free.

All of those become inhibitors to your growth start and risks for your business yeah. So there’s just a lot of risk. That’S kind of built in to relying on any one digital blog for your company’s future, absolutely put all your eggs in one basket and it’s not to say that there aren’t risks associated with Facebook. It’S just that you’re diversifying the risk by. If you have a good blog going with Facebook and it’s generating you traffic there and you have Amazon and then you have eBay, and maybe you have some other blogs going as well and then you have direct traffic and you have the direct relationship yeah.

Then you have a diversified business that could survive if Amazon changes its policies or start sending you less traffic and so forth, and then you also as you explore these new blogs can grow. Yes, what have you learned so far that you think is going to make a difference for your business, because this is so retail focused? I adore the look-alike audience aspect of the Facebook campaign. What’S it look like audience good question, you utilize an existing targeted audience that you have data from and you filter it through and it they create a symbiotic audience.

That means I’m a similar to audience. Okay and I’m really a like the idea that I’m going to learn who my audience is, his Facebook is so massive and it goes from grandmother’s to tweens and all in between, and I’m really curious to see that, because that’s really that will tell me the next Phase of this adventure in business is who, targeting for I’ll, go and buy leggings for that tween. If that’s my new customer that I know is going to be purchasing for me.

So it’s a great tool. I’M really excited to learn that and get the data from the Facebook. You know that Facebook, you know, does someone who likes coach also, like Gucci, does it work that way or is someone who likes Gucci, also like whatever this is Mary friends Mary Francis? Are there like partisans, like somebody who likes this designer, doesn’t like that kind of group? Yes, it groups for sure, but it’s fashion.

So it’s multi-level and there’s something that you’ll do during the day that maybe on a weekend or an event that you’ll need something else or – and you have ideas about those groupings right just from years of experience, absolutely it’s a different population. Have you gone into audience, insights and tested those assumptions? I started a little bit, but I’m really excited to delve in there and it would be really fun yeah to do that yeah.

We could even do it together, but what we could do is Facebook. Has this amazing tool, it’s called audience insights and basically leverages the data from two billion people and you can put in their interests like Gucci. Yes and then you can see according to Facebook’s data people who, like Gucci, also tend to like X yeah, and we can actually test some of your knowledge. So you know what we might have to do when I have to do a little quiz, okay and see if we could like test you and see.

If, ladies I’m excited, I can pass the Facebook test uh-huh all right. So, let’s project forward. Okay, it’s graduation! Yes, you’re at the end of this first stage of your journey is hack. The end min is 12 12 week journey with us together. What do you imagine you’ll say to your fellow graduates as you’re, giving your graduation speech? Well, that’s a good projection. I hope everyone’s happy and healthy and growing in their business at that time and that we’ve made good relationships.

That will because to me that’s one of the most important things as the relationships with people. I love creating new ones and helping people need others and to bring traffic to the website. That’S the main goal and to translate that into sales. That would be the greatest right talk a little bit about some of the people. You’Ve met some of the peers, the the other business owners that you’ve met. Yes, I’ve met and know Julia who’s, a realtor.

I love the class also because it’s so varied with so many different types of people and types of industries and levels. So that’s been great. Anthony is selling products on Amazon as well, and he’s he’s was interesting to get to know. Carmen Tati is a great role model, there’s a lot of great people in the class, so how you know it’s possible that Amazon could go away tomorrow? You know how is busy at preparing you for that with digital marketing and media, there’s that blog through Facebook to get quality audience the same.

That Amazon captures the two billion that are on Facebook or would be captured with digital marketing, and I want to learn how to do that with your class properly and funnel that information and make it into great sales yeah. And I guess another way to talk about. It’S like right now. What percentage of your sales are coming through Amazon versus, say your website or eBay, a majority I’d say: 60 percent is an Amazon sale and if you could, if, in a in an ideal world, what percentage would be, what would your ideal percentage be website versus Amazon? 90 % website would be ideal, so right now, you’re at is it 40 % on your website or less less? What is it on your website minimal? Got it so right now: you’re like below 5 % on your website and 60 % on Amazon yeah, and your goal is to get to 90 % on your web absolutely and 10 % everywhere else.

Yes, so what is your plan to get from under 5 % to 90 %, starting with your cloths, and to see what that will bring and tapping into the market that Facebook has to offer and how will Facebook help you get there? How will Facebook help you get more sales directly on your website? I really think it’s a powerful tool because you can see the behaviors the interest capture their eyes in a way that in article and really targeted ways right and then drive them to your drive to the website and collect their contact information.

So you can stay in touch absolutely so I guess the the way that the path there is to use or leverage the audience on Facebook, sir, to make them aware of you, mm-hmm collect their contact, information yeah and then begin a direct selling relationship kind of the The idea – and I guess that’s what and that’s what biz hack is teaching you how to do absolutely great yeah I’ll get you there. I hope. So, although ninety percent – I don’t know well, let’s increase it yeah well, you know, what’s going to happen, is we’ll keep your ebay portion the same okay and we’ll make the other portions so large yeah.

Then it will just dwarf the existing. So your business will become massive. That would be fantastic. Then it will become like a hundred million dollar business. Can you imagine by the way, do you know of anyone else who’s doing what you’re doing? That’S the thing I am not in the you’re one of the first people in my new networking journey trying to meet like-minded entrepreneurs that are doing what I’m doing.

I know a few, but they also sell this bad back, and so I need to know, of course, many in the business, but not quite that are on Amazon, some sell, diaper mats that are organic things like that very specified. Not I don’t know anyone that has like a collection, so you don’t know another bag. Lady person, I know mmm, no, I don’t it’s pretty wild. Actually it is so what you’re doing seems like. Why aren’t there like a million bag? Ladies, I think there are, and they might not have the same collection or breath of online presence, or there may be relationships that you’ve developed that are hard to manage relationships, because these designers won’t necessarily make their collections available to those other folks.

It’S just varied. Some. Don’T have the storefront, some don’t have the connection, there’s different levels. Yeah, you know you’ve heard of drop shipping right. I love drop shipping and and you’re a but you’re, but you also have a large inventory, correct, yeah. How large is like in terms of dollars? How I couldn’t even but a lot Millions there’s dollars in there.


 

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