“I’ve always had lots of ideas, but two weeks, a month into it, I always talked myself out of it. This one I couldn’t come up with a reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” said Susan Feldman. Does this sound familiar? Luckily for Feldman, she didn’t give up on her hunch to start One Kings Lane, an online destination for some of the most luxurious finds for the home. Feldman, who worked in retail for many years before launching One Kings Lane, took less than $100k and built an empire. “This one [idea] I couldn’t come up with a reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” she continued.
Starting a new company isn’t easy, especially when you are bringing a new model into an industry. How do you raise the money to back your awesome idea? How do you find your audience to guarantee a return on the investment? How do you build brand awareness for something people didn’t know they needed? Well, MillionaireMatch got the scoop on how Feldman and her co-founder, Ali Pincus, created success with a new way of upgrading your living space.
Feldman was introduced to Pincus over email. After a few email exchanges, they both agreed to be partners in creating One Kings Lane. Pincus, who brought a background in public relations and marketing, was a perfect match for Feldman, who had experience managing several teams in retail and working previously as a buyer. “We had very good chemistry. We started sharing really good ideas. We made a decision pretty quickly. It was really a leap of faith,” explained Feldman. A perfect match, but launching a business in 2008 wasn’t the ideal time. Since the recession had hit, venture capitalists weren’t so giving. The two decided to bootstrap it, investing an equal amount that was less than $100k.
But having a little cash was just the beginning. How would they get people to become members of this new online retail shop that sold chic items at a discount? No one knew about them. Their first customers came with the strategy of making a list of ambassadors. They offered their ambassadors a $250 credit on the site if they shared an email about One Kings Lane. This strategy gained them 5,000 members by the day it launched in March of 2009. To give them an extra boost, Daily Candy, which is now defunct, released an article on launch day. This publicity got them another 20k members. On top of that, they offered new members a chance to win a $1,200 Hermes throw. Was it successful? Well, they made $1,300 in sales on day one. But by day two, sales rolled in at $32,000.
It wasn’t just about offering the free perks. It was also Feldman’s ability to identify their customer.
“She’s 35-55 years old. She’s incredibly passionate about her home and entertaining. If there’s someone that likes their home, wants it to be orderly, but not passionate about what it looks like and it being an expression of who she is, she’s probably not so into us. She might show up if she needs something, but she’s not obsessed. She lives in metropolitan, major cities and surrounding areas. She’s well educated. She’s quite wealthy, almost $150k income. She likes to shop,” she described. This kind of clarity also led to making decisions on what items to offer. “Having real clarity about what we were doing, who we wanted to speak to, what our brand was, made it very easy to make a million decisions on what’s our brand and what is not,” Feldman said.
For those who are clear on what they offer and who their audience is, but are in need of financial backing, Feldman has maybe a not so popular idea. “Go get money when you don’t need it,” she said. After getting on a great track and hitting $1 million dollars in monthly sales by November of their launch year, Feldman and Pincus began the funding rounds. They have raised over $200 million in five years. “If it makes sense for you, when things are getting well, and you don’t need the money, that’s the time to raise money,” she added.
Then there’s the actual pitch. “It’s how you present yourself, the actual business idea, and how well you describe what you are doing. Be clear on what you need the money for.”
If you fit the demographic or just got an itch for upgrading your apartment or home, head over to www.onekingslane.com . I’m sure you will find something amazing.