How A Dark Week In Bed Helped This Hippie Entrepreneur Launch An Apparel Brand That Went From Zero to $1.6 Million Overnight

How A Dark Week In Bed Helped This Hippie Entrepreneur Launch An Apparel Brand That Went From Zero to $1.6 Million Overnight

She collapsed onto the bed in a heap…

It was certainly a soft place to land, but the hard times visiting Karolyn Fox would require more than just a dark bedroom to overcome.

“I just laid there for a week,” Fox recalls.

The clothing Fox had dreamed of selling online had begun piling up in her home; no one was buying and Fox was increasingly having a hard time buying the notion that she might one day become a successful entrepreneur.

“I was frustrated and sad,” Fox says.

Hiding from the world just seemed easier...

Fox had run up thousands of dollars of debt on her credit cards to get the company off the ground. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay the interest,” Fox says. “I needed a break and didn’t know if I was going to be able to do this anymore.”

It was on that bed Fox came face to face with the entrepreneurial grim reaper…

The choice: to give up or keep at it?

What emerged from that bedroom is something that would have global repercussions and nearly send Fox into shock less than a year later...

Evolving Beyond The Leg

It started with a leg…

Fox began marketing organic athletic leggings with little success.

“It just wasn’t working,” Fox recalls of the leggings. “It was like we were targeting a super niche that just didn’t have enough people.”

So Fox, and her marketing chief Nikki Sequeira, broadened their focus. The idea was to offer wardrobe staples, sweaters and jackets, to a target market comprised of strong salt-of-the-Earth women who value comfort. These women are inspired to live the lives they want to lead, rather than uncomfortable suits or tight dresses that is the trend or norm for today, but not necessarily enabling them to live at their best.

“We don’t want to be just another sweater or jacket brand,” Sequeira says. “We want to be the brand that makes your favorite sweater or jacket.”

That’s how Military Hippie was born…

But where’d that name come from?

“We like camo prints which definitely appeals to people with ties to the military,” Fox says. “And the free flowing nature of our clothing attracts hippies so we put the two together, military and hippies, and decided that would be our name.”

It seemed like a unique idea that just might work…

But Military Hippie would need much more to succeed.

The days that followed Fox’s bedroom hiatus would make or break her and the company. Instead of giving up Fox gave all she had to studying successful ecommerce merchants:

  • Books
  • Webinars
  • Case studies

She took Tanner Larsson’s Build Grow Scale seminar to learn how to target and scale social media ads. Armed with this knowledge, she reverse engineered a course of action she hoped might yield the kind of success for which she had always dreamed; a successful ecommerce business that might eliminate the inventory piling up in her home, pay off the growing credit card bills, and reverse months of lackluster sales performance.

But it’s what Fox never saw coming that surprised her most…

Military Hippie, after doing just a couple thousand dollars a month or so in sales over several months, recently made a sound Fox still can’t stop hearing.

Outsmart Facebook? Don’t Even Try

Boom!

That’s what sales sound like when they explode...

Or at least that’s how Fox describes the growth Military Hippie experienced seemingly overnight. However, as most overnight success stories go, this one didn’t really happen by chance or luck.

“We became Facebook and Instagram advertising masters,” Fox says with a laugh. “Most people worry too much about ad copy but we focus more on quality images and targeting and allow Facebook to suggest ways to broaden our reach. Remember, you’re not smarter than Facebook.”

It’s sage advice backed by numbers…

Upon sharpening its digital advertising skills, Military Hippie went from generating roughly $1,500 in sales in October 2016 to:

  • $400,000 in November 2016
  • $1.25 million by the end of 2016
  • $272,000 in the first week of January 2017

“It’s incredible to wake up in the morning and see we’ve already done tens of thousands of dollars in sales,” Sequeira says. “People are falling in love with the brand.”

Initially, employees fulfilled orders at Fox’s home. But when growth accelerated Military Hippie moved into a warehouse, which it soon outgrew- and needed an even bigger warehouse.

“To be honest we’re not in shock but it is a bit overwhelming to take in,” Fox says. “I have amazing workers who have never taken a day off. It’s why I’m giving out bonuses and raises every other week.”

Fox also credits Military Hippie’s success, in part, to Shopify Plus, an enterprise level ecommerce solution for high volume merchants. Military Hippie, whose site was designed by Sleepless Media, recently upgraded to Plus to keep up with demand and chose Shopify knowing the platform can scale on demand and grow right alongside Military Hippie.

“Shopify is the best thing I’ve ever discovered,” Fox says. “It’s easy to use and gives me full control over my business.”

Fox touts the platform’s easy-to-integrate third party applications like SocialShopWave, which provides merchants with a collection of apps that improves the customer experience, boosts engagement, and increases loyalty by:

  • Allowing customers to login with social media accounts
  • Offering customers discounts for sharing merchants with friends
  • Providing community feeds where users can discover new products

“SocialShopWave is my favorite app,” Fox says. “It really helped our brand go viral.”

It’s also spurring another trip around the world...

The Future: Recycled Desks & Cheap Chairs

The company’s global eyes and ears…

That’s how Fox describes Sequeira and her world travels in pursuit of new fashions.

“Everything Nikki touches turns into gold,” Fox says. “She scours the web and travels the world looking for the perfect fashions.”

On a recent trip to Colombia, Sequeira spotted what Military Hippie expects to be its next big thing; swimwear. Look for a brand new line of swimwear this summer following a new collection of dresses slated for spring.

In the future, the company hopes to design the vast majority of its collection, up from approximately 30-percent today. For now though, Military Hippie is simply trying to source enough inventory to keep up with demand and stubbornly control costs in light of success that might cause others to splurge.

“We’re moving all of our desks from my home to the warehouse,” Fox says. “We buy our chairs from Walmart to keep overhead low and offer our customers the best possible price.”

It’s the type of discipline you might expect from someone who has been working non-stop since that week-long stay in bed…

Which ironically, is now a place in which Fox doesn’t spend enough time.

“Yes, I think I need another week in bed after this whirlwind,” she says with a laugh.

About the Author

Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog & founder of The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best know brands, businesses, and marketers. Get more from Nick here.

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