This week I got to sit down again for an update with Rochelle Porter, founder of Rochelle Porter Design, a lifestyle brand and design house specializing in sustainably-made home and fashion textiles. When I first sat down with Rochelle in 2019, we learned she launched her business as just a side hustle. Today her products are being sold in major retailers and being featured on outlets like The Today Show and Oprah Daily while consistently maintaining profitability.
In this episode she shares:
- How she pivoted from full-time corporate employee with a side hustle to full-time entrepreneur since she was last on the podcast in 2019
- How she was able to launch home decor collections in major retailers like Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Wayfair
- Her advice to fellow retail entrepreneurs on everything from print on demand to funding your business
Links mentioned in this episode
- Original SHP episode w/ Rochelle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO4tOxJoIjY
- Rochelle’s Website: https://rochelleporter.com/
- Rochelle’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roporterdesign/
- Macy’s Workshop: https://www.theworkshopatmacys.com/
- Minority-Owned Business Certification: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/grow-your-business/minority-owned-businesses
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Guest Social Media Info
- Rochelle’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roporterdesign/
- Rochelle’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roporterdesign/
Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:00
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Hey, Hey friends, welcome welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here, back with another episode of side hustle Pro. And today in the guest chair I have an update episode with episode 167 Guest Rochelle Porter. Rochelle is the founder of Rochelle Porter design RPD a lifestyle brand and design house specializing in thoughtfully made home and fashion textiles. She is back with so much more wisdom and knowledge about how to run this kind of business. In today's episode, she shares how she pivoted from full time corporate employee with a side hustle to full time entrepreneur since she was last on the podcast in 2019. She also shares how she was able to launch home decor collections in major retailers like Nordstrom, Macy's Wayfarer, etc. And she shares her advice to fellow retail entrepreneurs on everything from printing on demand to funding your business. So let's get right into it. So, Rochelle, welcome back to the guest here. How are you?
Rochelle Porter 2:24
I'm doing amazing. Glad to be back.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:27
I'm very happy to have you back. You know, I went back and I listened to your original episode. One of the things we touched on at that time, you were still side hustling. Now you had a real you had a great deal. You had a contract with a company, you have flexibility. But that contract was going to come to an end. So pick us back where we left off. How long did you side hustle after that? I'm trying to think of what year that was 29 2019. Can you believe it four years ago? Yes.
Rochelle Porter 2:59
It seems like just yesterday. Yeah. But yeah, a lot has happened since then. So my contract actually ended December 31 2019. So 2020 was was the year yeah, that you know, I was gonna take this seriously. I was gonna go full time. go full throttle. And you know, then COVID happened know what happened? Yeah, it really changed the game. Yep.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:25
So when you were gonna go full time go full throttle. What did that look like for you doing online sales, doing business to business sales for your interior design products or completely focused on customer base for your athleisure products.
Rochelle Porter 3:42
It was mostly at least at the time, I was looking mostly at athleisure. Okay, that was kind of what was getting the most traction. I actually even thought about like getting rid of the home stuff. Oh, really, just nothing was happening with that. And all the attention was on the athleisure. So that was what I thought was gonna be my ticket. But um, you know, things don't always turn out the way we think.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:05
So what happened? What was the challenge for you? If people were home, they were still shopping. So what was the biggest challenge you had during the pandemic period?
Rochelle Porter 4:13
Okay, so I should back up. Prior to leaving my full time job, nothing was happening with the home decor. Okay. Um, so I thought just, you know, going into 2020 that I will kind of put that to the wayside or get rid of it completely, and focus on athleisure then, you know, we know what happened in March, the entire world changed, and so people were in their houses more. So it was like night and day it the home decor suddenly had a resurgence. And it was crazy. Everyone wanted to decorate their house now because they're there all everyone wanted to decorate their house including me and also same, so, you know, we got a little bit of buzz from that action. Actually, let me back up even more the catalyst for that. So 2020, everybody that did anything related to fabric, fashion design had pivoted to making masks
Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:13
masks. Okay. It
Rochelle Porter 5:14
was right. Yeah. And at first I was like, oh, like, do I really want to do this? Because everybody's doing it. Yeah. And then it was like, Wait, everybody's doing
Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:24
right. Like, I need to get in on this. Yep.
Rochelle Porter 5:27
Absolutely. So it was to the point where, you know, you couldn't get anything shipped. So like, we were taking fabric scraps, I was like cutting up old things, even old pillows that weren't selling, and literally making them into mass. That's how great the demand was at the time. So um, I think one of the catalysts was, we got written up in an article in Forbes with other like black owned brands, who had pivoted to mask making like that was the whole topic of the article. And, you know, that was not even any picture of the product in the article, but just our name being mentioned, brought a lot of attention to my website, and to the other products that we had. So that was really a turning point.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:09
It's so funny, that period of life will always just seemed like a blur, like, Did that really happen? And I remember my first mask was like a Jamaican flag folded in hard times out here. Oh, my God. So yeah, Was that enough to sustain you financially, though your mass sales and your interior design sales?
Rochelle Porter 6:32
Yeah, it wasn't just the mass set first. So press begets more press. So from, you know, the mass sales, we started getting more attention to other products, including the athleisure. So that caused a surge in sales of that product as well. But also, what happened in 2020, was that black lives started mattering to the mainstream. And I remember this was, I think, right after George Floyd, like, literally, the day after, like, I noticed my Shopify notifications going off. Like, I had no idea what was happening. And then like, a friend was texting me like, Oh, you're in such a such blog, or you're in such and such publication. I'm like, what, you know, like all these home decor publications, buzz feed, you know, Pop Sugar, all these places started covering me out of the blue.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:24
I've heard that phrase. Yes, I've heard this. Yes,
Rochelle Porter 7:29
yes. So needless to say that degree of coverage was not sustainable. But at the time, it was really what it took to kind of blow us up and take us to the next level, and even get noticed by a retailer.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:47
So talk to us about the next level, what has that looked like?
Rochelle Porter 7:51
Sure. So I'm still figuring it out. I feel like I've been through a couple of pivots, you know, first, since just leaving my job, and going full time, you know, I've really had to, like re evaluate my product mix and figure out, like, what sells, what doesn't what business model I should follow. But I think right now, as we've started working with more major retailers, and I've also separated the activewear out into its own separate brand called Fit by row. I think I feel like I have a whole new company. I feel like I have two companies.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:28
So what did you learn about the product mix? What you should keep what you should get rid of? And how did you get to the point where you knew you needed to separate out to athleisure?
Rochelle Porter 8:37
Sure. So I think, you know, 2020 2021, people were just kind of discovering us in the mainstream because of the press coverage. And you know, it was cute. They, you know, people were people loved the product. And they were still you know, I don't want to say they were feeling guilty. It was there was still an emphasis on supporting black owned businesses. So that was great. Um, but as we grew like getting into Westone, for example, it was kind of a game changer. And started kind of venturing to other places in the home decor product category, adding additional products, table runners. Now wallpaper, it just did not make sense for that and like a sports bra in the same space
Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:31
Rochelle Porter 9:33
It Yeah, it was cognitive dissonance. And it's a whole different business model. It's a different customer is, you know, they just needed to separate.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:42
How did the West Elm partnership work? What did that look like?
Rochelle Porter 9:48
Sure. So that was an interesting product of the pandemic as well. But it's been it's been a great partnership. So while I was working full time, I did pop up shops at Whetstone. So I started with my little collection of throw pillows. And not because I have a great affinity towards pillows, but because it was like literally a square, I didn't know how to produce anything. I didn't know how to manufacture a product. But I knew I could get my print onto a square. So I did that. And my collection, as it was, was like eight kilos. And I heard that Whetstone had pop up shops at their local stores. So I was like, let me see how that works. So when it's my local Westown, showed him my product, they liked it. And I did pop up shops, you know, on and off for a couple of years. While I was still working full time, it wasn't like wildly profitable or anything. But it was a good way to test the market. And to you know, really see how people responded to my product, what feedback they had. So it was cool. And they let me do whatever I want in their store for a few hours. So that was great. And I just kind of maintain that relationship with the staff at these western stores. And there were different stores throughout Atlanta, and I didn't want to New York as well. So I was able to, you know, meet people from a bunch of different stores and build those relationships. Then, you know, 2020 came about, and I don't know if you're familiar with the 15% pledge,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:19
I've heard about it, but the actual meat of it escapes me at the moment. So explain it.
Rochelle Porter 11:25
Sure. So it was started by the designer origins. And you know, while the whole George Floyd murder happened, like big brands, were asking, you know, what can we do? How can we support black owned businesses? And she was like, well, here's what you can do. Since black people comprise roughly 15% of the population, our products should be 15% of what's on your shelves. So a few large retailers took the pledge Westown was one of the first ones. And being that I already had this relationship that I had established with them over a few years, it was just kind of a seamless transition for my products as they evolved to be on West elm.com.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:08
What did that require of you to fulfill orders on West elm.com?
Rochelle Porter 12:13
Oh, girl, um, fortunately, it was a dropship relationship. So I didn't have to, like, you know, ship them a bunch of inventory. We're still in the pandemic two. So that may not have even been possible at the time. But um, you know, it was a great, just legitimize for our business. Like, even though it was the same products I had been making, you know, that had been on my site for a couple of years. The fact that it's associated with West Elm,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:43
their website, that's amazing. How did you find a drop shipper that could deliver the quality? It's one thing when you create it, but how do you make sure that the quality is the same for the customers who order it? Sure. So
Rochelle Porter 13:01
initially, the drop shipper was me. My family, everybody in my house. Yeah. So that was not only because you know, just financially at the time, it's what worked is just again, in the pandemic is just hard to get out there and do business as usual. Eventually, I started working with the manufacturers that I worked with were local, and they were able to drop ship. That was part of the services as well. So that made it a lot easier. Okay.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:35
But when you were doing it, were you literally receiving orders to your email and fulfilling them. Yeah. Wow, that absolutely.
Rochelle Porter 13:44
You got to do what you got to do a little bad in the work right now. Receipt? Yes. And the packing slips everything right.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:51
And is that partnership still going right now? It is. So would you say that's like the big part of your revenue stream right now? Or is what you're doing with expanding to wallpaper and then of course, the athleisure division, also a really important mix.
Rochelle Porter 14:09
I would say in the first year or two of the Western partnerships, it was probably like 30 or 40% of our revenue. That's kind of tapered off, as the years have gone by. And as there has been less emphasis on programs for minority owned brands. They are could say a lot about that. Um, but, you know, expanding to other retailers is definitely a big driver of revenue. Wallpaper is very new. But the few engagements, the few sales that we've had, have been just a larger volume and a much better margin than any of the commercial products that we have.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:55
What made you decide to expand into one more product space?
Rochelle Porter 15:00
Oh, girl. I mean, my philosophy has always been, if it can have a print on it. So, I mean, and that that was the goal from the beginning, it's just a matter of what makes sense to do when, because I'm not a, I'm not a home decor designer, I'm not a fashion designer, I am a an artist, I'm a surface pattern designer, as they call it. And I feel like my work and my aesthetic is, has the versatility to go on any type of product. And the ultimate goal is to, you know, just create a lifestyle moment, like the lifestyle brand.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:36
I love that. And what I love about you know, you and catching up with you is just looking back at where you've come from, when we talked in 2019, we talked about the importance of just understanding what you need at different moments in this entrepreneurship journey. And at a time, you were very aware that there are times when I need to get a job, but it has to be a specific type of job, right, you can't get this job that is expecting you to stay there for 20 years, because you know, you had an opportunity to do a role like that. But you need to understand when it's time to get an A capital infusion. Because you fund your business, you fund it yourself. So have you had thoughts of that since leaving this last time?
Rochelle Porter 16:21
I'm like, when do I not?
Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:26
Rochelle Porter 16:33
we definitely want the capital, we need the capital to scale into this, you know, lifestyle behemoth that I hope to be. But um, you know, I've bootstrapped from day one. Yes. And that has worked up to this point. But in order to scale where I need to be, it's just not sustainable. And you know, at a certain point, you run out of your own money. Yeah. And also the people who really succeed in this field that I know, they use other people's money. So we're definitely looking into right now, as non dilutive as possible. Right, right means of getting capital. We've had a few grants, you know, we won some pitch competitions. So that was a little bit of capital infusion. But to get where I need to be, you need to seriously start thinking about like strategic partners and investors.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:30
And where do you need to be? Where do you see yourself? And what do you see yourself needing more cash for?
Rochelle Porter 17:35
So hiring is like number one right now. I mean, I am the only full time employees still, I have a team about four contractors that I work with regularly. And they do everything from production, to sampling to my publicist, and my virtual assistant. And that's all well and good. But in order for me to really like, do this CEO thing for real, and not just be a founder, CEO, and to really focus on the strategic vision and the mission of my business, I'm going to need somebody else to put out fires here and there or other high level tasks, okay, that I find myself doing.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:21
In order to grow your business and have actual full time employees, you definitely need more money. I'm glad you bring that up. Because it's a scary and huge transition in business as an entrepreneur to go from solopreneur working with contractors to, I'm going to hire someone full time. Because that is that is a commitment, like every week or every two weeks when I run payroll, you're gonna get paid benefits, and there's going to be some benefits there. There's some incentive for you don't want to work for me, who am I to? I'm not there yet. So you know, you're preaching to the choir here. We're working it out, guys, as we work it out, we'll share more with you that you're pursuing. What are some ways that you were exploring that and you know, what are you finding is available to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Rochelle Porter 19:12
I'm sure there's very little available. If you're a non tech company, especially. It's, there's not a whole lot there. I've been in 5011, programs, accelerators, incubators, some have been more valuable than others. Some come with a cheque, and others don't. But I have found, I won't, I won't name it. But there is a particular funding source that's associated with one of the retailers that we're working with. That is really not just, you know, amenable to a business like mine, but it's strategic like I'm working with somebody who is like a retail trader who knows my business This, who knows what we need? Okay, so that's the one that we're pursuing.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:04
Oh, okay. And you can't say that for business reasons for legal reasons. Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah. Okay. All right.
Rochelle Porter 20:11
But I mean, that you might be able to, I know,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:16
based on your partner's Yeah. I mean, it was well separately about that question, though. So it's not sure. But thank you for sharing that, though, and the real challenges that you are facing, but even still, with all these challenges, you are pursuing new surfaces to put your prints on. So you understand you have bedding launching as well, this year, right. So what went into that decision?
Rochelle Porter 20:40
So we are working with a manufacturer slash licensee, which was a huge part of how we were able to scale into mass retail. So we're currently in, we're in store and home goods. And we're online at Macy's, Nordstrom, Amazon, Wayfair, and a few others. So that definitely changed the game. Licensing was the avenue that we chose for that. Because A, it just allows us to scale very quickly. It allows us to create a great quality product. So the company that we work with, also works with like Tommy Hilfiger and Martha store, so they know what they're doing what they're doing. Exactly. So like, if you could? Exactly. So you know, they have manufacturing facilities all over the world. So, you know, if the beach towels are made in El Salvador, it's because El Salvador is the best place to own shells. If the throws are made in Pakistan, it's because they have that expertise. So I'm really able to leverage that without some huge initial capital investment to the licensing. Yeah.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:57
What does that actually mean, though, the licensing model when it comes to retail, and what you do so in my particular case, and
Rochelle Porter 22:03
it varies, you know, by company, or just by the arrangement you have with a particular company. So my company has long standing relationships with all those retailers I mentioned, like Macy's, Nordstrom, what have you. And they're also kind of a giant embedding, okay, and home decor in general. So what they do is, they really take all the risk upfront, so they, you know, I've designed the product, we work on product development, you know, pick out the fabrics, the colors, so to speak, and then, you know, it gets manufactured, and then they pitch me at all these markets, these trade specific markets around the country. And you know, Macy's will decide that they want to bite, you know, home goods will decide that they want to order x amount of units of this product, and it gets manufactured and stocked in the stores. I get paid quarterly via or royalty arrange. Okay. So, because it's No, I didn't put a lot of upfront, I get a percentage of the total revenue, but a good percentage, right? Solid percent, a decent enough percentage, given that it's, you know, they're able to put it in multiple doors, and multiple websites,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:23
and you can rely on that quarterly payment being on time. Yes, good. You don't always know how much it is. But you can definitely rely on Oh, that's interesting. So there's no like back end system that kind of shows because yeah, I know, sales are tricky. And this is why retail sometimes intimidates me, you have returns, you have this other you have these moving parts. That's good to know. And if someone else is trying to get into places like Nordstrom, and West Elm, and it's a different time now, right now everyone's taking the 15% pledge anymore. Where Where can they begin?
Rochelle Porter 24:01
There are a few ways to begin with the licensing that was just through relationships that I had with people in the retail industry. So I would say relationships are number one, they're paramount to anything I've been able to do successfully in my business. But there are a number of ways to get into major retailers. You definitely have to have your product assortment like down. You have to know who the retailer is, you have to know who their customer is. Back to front. You have to have know your numbers as well. And be able to project I think someone told me like if you want to sell on macys.com For example, they look for businesses that can generate minimum like to pay a month, okay. On their website. That's just for me. I mean, it's like the bare minimum. Yeah. You need to consistently generate that. And of course it varies by product to pay a month. For a pillow may not be that much. But you know if you're selling a product that costs $10, no. Yeah. So there's a licensing model, there's going to trade shows, you know, getting to know the actual retailer relationships. Absolutely. There are also several programs like one that I just completed. It's called the workshop at Macy's, which I would highly recommend applying to anybody who's in retail, you might not get in the first time most people applied two or three times to get into it. But they call it like the Harvard or retail that may be putting in a little too much. It's at least it's ground. Yeah.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:41
You know, this is the first time I'm hearing about a Macy's program. Usually I hear about like, the Tarjay target or whatever. But yeah, tell us more.
Rochelle Porter 25:49
Absolutely. So I think the difference with this program, and all those other programs is that this has been around since I don't want to misquote 2011. All these other programs cropped up in 2020 as a reaction or a response. So they've been invested in working with minority, and women owned businesses for years. So it's the best established program, I think, and they give you real like tangible information that you can use. And it's also there's no guarantee, but it's a roadmap to getting into Macy's and other retailers.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:30
That is awesome. Thank you for sharing all those tips that people can use if they want to get their retail brand into retailers. CEO School hosted by scenario Madani is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals, SEO school is committed to closing the gap and helping more women level up by sharing stories and strategies from powerful women in leadership. Because as Sonera likes to say, nothing bad happens when women make more money. I was recently checking out our episode the big pitch. And in this episode scenario teaches the ins and outs of a professional concise, and attention grabbing PR pitch. So you get to learn the power of third party validation through earn media escenario shares, insider tips on making your brand shine and then how to establish yourself as a thought leader by harnessing the incredible influence of publishing your own content. So listen to CEO school wherever you get your podcasts.
And what about tips for if you're still doing your own ecommerce sales as well, obviously, you you built this website, you want that to be successful as well. How are you making sure that that thrives?
Rochelle Porter 27:51
Great question. So that's even something that I'm pivoting on as we speak. So you know, the products in our latest collection are sold online and in store it all these other retailers latest
Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:05
collection, meaning the wallpaper or the note the the
Rochelle Porter 28:09
throw pillow throws and beach towels that I came up with this spring are in the Nordstrom in the nice home goods right now. This was my first time you know collaborating with my current manufacturer to do a collection like this. And I'm now having to think about do I want to stock these products on my website as well, because I currently don't like you can't go to Rochelle porter.com and get those items, you can get our legacy products on there, or is that going to be cannibalizing what I already have? So it's it's always a cost benefit analysis with that and
Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:53
do these programs that you've been a part of give you any advice on that? Like once you get into retail? How do you manage that on your own website?
Rochelle Porter 29:04
I personally haven't gotten advice on that specific topic. I'm sure it's available in the programs. But honestly, I think it's a case by case. basis. Yes, product line by product. We got a lot going on and a lot of different means of production for every product.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:26
I think about so many things as you're speaking. So I think about the fact that so for a lot of people when they're starting out, there's an intimidation factor. Like I'm not ready for retail, I'm not ready for retail. And it seemed like for you you kind of jumped into it. You said okay, the opportunity has presented itself. I'll make myself right. Yeah. So what would be your advice for people who don't feel ready? Should they still pursue it and they'll rise to the occasion or what are knowing what you know now, are there things that you would suggest they get into place before they pursue retail?
Rochelle Porter 30:00
Well, the retails retailers will let you know if that isn't should not be your concern whatsoever. But yeah, do everything you can now to, you know, boost your sales as much as possible. I would say, even, like press has has been a great catalyst for me to get the attention of retailers just as much as you can do to create buzz on your own for your products. Do that. And when you say and that will even Eclipse sale sometimes. And what about the audience factor?
Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:42
The community factor your email list factor? How has that driven traffic to the retailers and helped you perform well, when you enter into these partnerships?
Rochelle Porter 30:51
Sure. I mean, our audiences everything, seriously, establish that relationship early. Keep in touch with them often. I have I don't have a specific VIP program per se. But like, they know who, like, you know, these are the people who, you know, while I'm not super accessible to everybody, like they, they've emailed me specifically about products or, you know, like, Hey, have you tried this, every time I do a survey, or a focus group, they're the people that I contact. So yeah, your audience everything. So start building it early, and just maintain that relationship? How
Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:37
do you do your focus groups?
Rochelle Porter 31:40
We pick it, of course, it varies product to product, but I'm able to see just from, you know, like our Shopify sales, for example, who bought what, who's the repeat customer that's buying every new product that comes out, that's the person we targeting, because we want to 10x 100x that person. So you know, we just have advisors that I work with marketing, specifically market research. And we just asked a very specific pointed questions of those people and actually make changes
Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:14
based on so you send a survey to those people, or just email them.
Rochelle Porter 32:18
Sometimes it's a survey, sometimes it's a phone conversation, you know, they've become sort of like my customer advisory board. So these are people that I talked to quarterly for like, maybe 30 minutes or so. And, you know, maybe like, I'll give them an incentive, like a coupon or something for participating. But honestly, they would do it for free, because they're true fans of the brand. I love this high touch up really want to see us succeed. This
Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:43
was very informative. I love this high touch approach. Yeah.
Rochelle Porter 32:47
How sustainable as we grow was helpful.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:51
So a lot of people, as you know, lose money as they take on these new retail partnerships, as they grow as they get inventory as they launch new brand lines, all of that, what has been your experience, profit wise, breaking? Even? Are you profitable breaking even, or still getting there? Sure.
Rochelle Porter 33:21
So while I would say, there's things I definitely regret spending money on, we have been profitable since the beginning, it, you know, hasn't always been a huge profit, but we have been profitable. And that's because at least up to this point, I've done things in a fairly low risk way. So with the act of where, for example, it's print on demand. So that's immediately profitable, once the customer makes a payment, part of that payment goes to the production of the product, and the rest of it goes back into the business. So, you know, without me having to really expand it to get the product made. So I mean, that initially was just because, you know, I just didn't have the capital. But going forward, you know, we are a sustainable company. You know, we prioritize ethical production, we want to reduce waste. So I don't want to create a bunch of stuff that you know that I'm going to be sitting on dead inventory, or it's going to be rotting in a warehouse or polluting the environment in a landfill. So it's, that was a two fold benefit of the print on demand model. But again, very low risk, we're able to pivot if a print doesn't work, we can get rid of it. If we want to introduce a new print. I can do that tomorrow. Okay, without having to stage a huge campaign. So there's that initially with the home decor, I produced in small batches. That's because I only had a small batch. And I also used local factories because the community is also a huge part of our brand ethos. So In Atlanta, we have a large refugee and asylee community. And I work with an organization that actually trains these women and gives them job skills, particularly in sewing. And once they graduate, they're able to work for commercial companies. So not only were they able to do a great job in creating the products, and they were really very low minimums, to work with that factory, you know, you also create opportunities for people in the community. So that was a win win, and also very low risk. And now with the licensing model for our latest collection of home decor, again, they are taking the risk on me by, you know, putting so much into the production and marketing of the product upfront. So that's what's worked for me so far in remaining profitable going forward, we will probably have to take on a lot more risk to really grow and scale to where we want to be okay.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:01
What do you regret spending money on?
Rochelle Porter 36:06
Oh, girl, um, it's mostly advertising and digital marketing related. So, yes, so I worked. And I know, digital marketing is, you know, a beast in and of itself. And it involves a lot of experimentation. And I know that upfront, but there's a thin line between experimenting and you just wasting money. So, you know, we worked with a lot of firms that just didn't get our brand, like this one particular agency that I worked with, they were suggesting, specifically for active wear, like that I have like a perpetual sale. And I put all these like widgets on my website in you know, all these write ups. And I'm like, that's not what we do. And he was like, Well, you know, fashion overdose, and they get sales. I'm like, the fact that you'd mentioned me and Fashion Nova in the same sentence. You don't get it? Yeah, you don't get it. So there was that? I've hired copywriters that came highly recommended from subjects and verbs didn't agree, just, you know. So learning was
Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:18
a learning curve, learning curve for sure. And marketing, it's one of those things, everybody is so overwhelmed by it, they tend to hire out for it quickly. But then there are a lot of people out here just doing any anything.
Rochelle Porter 37:33
Yeah, and I think my mistake was thinking I could just, like, throw money at it. And, you know, it would magically come together. But in the beginning, when you're establishing a brand while you're in it, even though I'm not the one make creating every ad and like I'm, you know, a vital part of the content creation, and just the heart and the ethos of the brand to the pump. Right.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:01
So what's working for you marketing wise nowadays?
Rochelle Porter 38:04
Um, so, you know, we, we do the typical, you know, social marketing, digital marketing, email outreach. Ironically, linked in is our most engaged real channel. Interesting. I don't get it,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:19
I guess I don't understand what kind of stories you tell on LinkedIn. Like, what kind of posts that you have there. That's true.
Rochelle Porter 38:26
I just, you know, everybody assumes myself included that as a visual brand, you know, Instagram or Pinterest. Know, like LinkedIn is where we get the most attention. And, you know, even gotten sales and relationships up on LinkedIn. So like, you know, if it ain't broke, don't be using it. But through our license, we have the benefit of actually leveraging their kind of marketing prowess. So you know, we're able to do like giveaways and get reviews that are able to be kind of circulated throughout all the platforms. So if somebody reviews us on Nordstrom, it also appears on Macy's and Wayfair, for example. So that's been a huge help in marketing. And also press has been huge for us and I'm presses usually considered PR, but honestly being on the 10 best pairs of leggings list on Buzzfeed or Oprah daily has really been a big generator of sales
Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:34
I can imagine. I mean, yeah, that's like that's vouching that's validation. You're getting the stamp of approval there
and I like that you bring up you can't just do what big brands are doing when you're starting out as even a medium sized brand. You can't just say oh, fashion over does this like fashion over has a lot of money. They doing a lot. Okay, Um, and also, those coupons, if you just say, oh, I'll just give a coupon like, you have to know how to do financial projections, like giving everyone a discount, you have to actually do the calculations of what that looks like with the final sales. Yeah. And then the margin, because that affects how much you profit. So it looks nice. And it's great that oh, people see the coupon they're coming in, they're taking the sale. But are you making enough money when you do that? Exactly, all things to consider. Now, I love that she talked about the, the, the drop shipping. And before we jump into the lightning round, I just want some final tips, you have been very successful with print on demand. And I'm curious what advice and tips that you have for people who want to have such a high quality brand, like yours, like fit by row, for example. And make sure that that quality is maintained?
Rochelle Porter 41:00
Sure. Um, for one thing, I would say make sure the product that you're using is high quality. Okay. So, you know, I've worked with print on demand companies that can make anything from art prints to, you know, the top I'm wearing now, to leggings to phone cases, what have you, not every product that they make as high quality? Definitely order samples, definitely. Just really look carefully at the product, maybe try different companies to see who has the best product in that particular product category. You can't sell everything. There are some designers out there who, as long as they can put a print. They'll sell it. I can't do that. If I can't wear it. If I won't wear it. I'm not gonna sell it. So there's that. Also, just make sure the margins make sense. You know, because there's a base price that the print on demand manufacturer will charge you. And then there's your markup. Make sure your markup is enough to you know, take care of you. But also not so ridiculously high that a customer won't be Yeah. So you just really have to find that sweet spot.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:21
Absolutely. Absolutely. All right. So now we're going to jump into the lightning round and updated lightning round with Rochelle. I'm curious to know what you have to share this time. You know, the deal. You just answered the very first thing that comes to mind. You ready? Sure. All right. So what is the top resources helped you in your business that
Rochelle Porter 42:42
you can share with the side hustle pro audience? I would say and this is very recent for me certification, like getting certified as a woman owned business, a minority owned business, or municipal business. This will open doors for you. It'll give you access to being one supplier lists, partnering with larger entities that may want to have you as a subcontractor. That's where you really scale and access like the big money. Yes.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:09
And how do you begin with that you go to the minority owned business website. Yes,
Rochelle Porter 43:14
you can go to MPW. I think for minorities, it's, I'll make sure to link Yes, yes, you want to make sure the acronym
Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:23
where to get started. So we'll make sure to link that for you. There's so many acronyms.
Rochelle Porter 43:28
Yes. But definitely, yes, we bank for women owned businesses, and I think the MSDC or minority owned businesses,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:38
and not to extend the lightning round. But I'm glad you bring this up. So what that does is when people are looking to work with a minority owned business, they go to the directory, they know you're listed there. So now you're being discovered more. So that's that's opening doors for you with corporations and entities and things like that. All right, back to lightning round number two, who is a non celebrity black woman entrepreneur who you would want to switch places with for a day and why
Rochelle Porter 44:05
Justina Blakeney of the jungalow is probably While there's no model of the business that I created, she's probably the closest thing to you know, what I want to look like within a year two, three. So I love the way that she has been able to over her very long career probably like 20 plus years to partner with these really large brands while still maintaining her very unique aesthetic and seemingly her
Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:36
value. Yes, yes. So love that. Number three, what is a non negotiable part of your day these days?
Rochelle Porter 44:45
silence I need to be able to sit for like the first 50 or 30 minutes of the day and just like not talk to nobody. Be boss. Yes. Yes. I mean, as a creative person, I have a lot of ideas and sometimes that sometimes you're scattered. So if I'm not able to sit there and just like streamline my own thoughts for a minute, like, my whole day could be shot. So I hear you,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:13
that's critical. Number four, what is a personal trait that has helped you significantly in business?
Rochelle Porter 45:20
Following up sending a note, you know, if you meet somebody at an event, you know, you know, we send that LinkedIn request and we never hear, like, follow up, you know, touch base, follow through, send, send a card, send a note, some of the best and biggest opportunities that I've had that I'm currently have, are because I maintained a relationship with somebody loved that, taken years to realize, but we all need that reminder, including me. Sometimes I hate talking to people believe it or not. Yes. Oh, no, I don't know what to say. All right, email.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:01
Okay. Finally, number five. What is your parting advice for fellow Black women entrepreneurs who want to start their own thing, be their own boss, but are worried about losing the steady paycheck?
Rochelle Porter 46:14
I don't know what my answer was last time, it was probably something very, like,
Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:18
it doesn't matter. We need to hear where you are now. Yeah.
Rochelle Porter 46:23
Okay, this time, just real practically. Stack your money, stack your money, stack your mind. Get out of debt, if you can. And even when you are ready to make that transition, if there's something you can do, even on a part time basis, or there's another stream that you can create, outside of the business that you're creating. do that because you don't want to put the pressure on your new fledgling business to be wildly successful in the beginning. And you want to give yourself that cushion and that room to like, experiment and make mistakes without a huge financial consequence. Yes.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:03
I love it. Talk about it. All right, Michelle, where can people connect with you and your brand after this episode,
Rochelle Porter 47:10
you can find me on Rochelle porter.com. And on all socials, I'm row Porter design.
Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:17
Alright guys, there you have it. I hope you learned a lot on my retail folks. I hope you learned a lot from this episode, you now have a guide that you can go hit up to learn even more and I will talk to you guys next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like unify the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon
Transcribed by https://otter.ai