Joycelyn Mate and Rachael Corson turned their frustration into Afrocenchix a successful business venture. They envisioned a line of natural hair care products for afro, coily and natural hair. They used ecommerce and Shopify to take take their business to the next level. On a recent episode of Shopify Masters podcast they divulged some of the secrets that led to a 10X growth in revenue. In addition they explain how COVID-19 has challenged the duo to find new ways to expand their operations.
The pair met at university and bonded over their shared haircare problems. Rachael explained that Jocelyn was suffering from traction alopecia, which is hair loss caused by tight styling by things like braids and weaves. I also had some hair loss and I’ve got really bad eczema. I’m allergic to most of the haircare products out there. Joycelyn used to relax my hair for me, which is chemically straightening it by using sodium hydroxide. That’s the same active ingredient that you find in drain unblocker and oven cleaners. It’s caustic soda and is really, really strongly alkaline. Dangerous stuff that you should not apply to your hair. Both of us had had our moms do this for us since we were about three or four.
So my scalp was a mess, my neck was a mess, and one day she said, “I’m not doing this for you anymore.” And very long story short, we got talking. Joycelyn had started looking into natural ingredients for her hair loss and she’d made an oil for her hair. I used it on my skin and got really excited because I wasn’t allergic to it. I tried to get her to start a business. She said, “No.” And here we are 10 years later running Afrocenchix making safe, effective hair care products for people all around the world.
What changed is we had all this traffic to our website. We had this award that we won for the idea. It’s funny because we had this huge vision from the start. It was all about health and wellbeing and helping people who have allergies or who had hair loss. We really cared about people having an option for their beauty needs that didn’t mess with their health.
If you look at the research, 78% of products that are aimed towards Black women contain toxic ingredients linked to cancer, fibroids, respiratory issues, all really serious conditions. We had this huge vision that every single person around the world who has Afro and curly hair will be able to access safe, effective products. We just didn’t have the confidence to think we could do it and we were students, right?
The timeline is we finished our degrees, we graduated around 2011, Joycelyn 2012. We got full-time jobs. We realized it wasn’t sustainable for us to do this on the side because it was growing too fast. After work, Joycelyn would get on the train, come to my house, we would make six bottles of shampoo, post them out, and then we’d do the same the next day. It was quite exhausting. Every other day we were having to travel to one or the other’s kitchen, and then go to the post office for these really small orders. Around this stage, it got a bit unmanageable. We realized, ‘Okay, this has been a hobby. We like to learn, we like to make things simple and share that information with people.”
Developing and achieving a 10x marketing strategy
Felix: Tell us about your 10x marketing strategy.
Rachael: It started off with data. We had to go into our Google Analytics, open up our Shopify reports, look at the logs from our customer calls that we do at Afrocenchix.
We had to look at, “Okay, where do we want to go and where are we now?” Then map out the journey. We currently get about 50,000 visitors to our website every month, but we have a lot to do in this. When we started off our 10x plan, we had like 3,000 or 4,000 people visiting the site a month. At that point, we had a conversion rate of around 3%. We thought, Okay, if we want to 10x ourselves, here are the different routes we can take.
We can increase our traffic but keep our conversion rate the same, or we can improve our conversion rate and keep the traffic the same and we could achieve the goal either way. To improve the conversion rate, what do you need to do? Okay, here is the list of resources. We’ll take this many people. You’ll need a developer, you’ll need a designer, you’ll need someone to be managing that project. They could be outsourced people. It could be hiring more people. Even if we take on those roles within the team, that’s going to be quite a large time commitment.
You’ll need serious deep work sessions. That’s going to be three, four months of work. It will take a certain amount of money and we looked at it that way. Then we also thought, “Okay, so if we keep conversion rates the same, but we increase our traffic, how do we do that?”
You can do it through SEO, which people say is free, but it’s not really for you because you have to create content, which takes time and time is money. You have to do research which you can pay someone to do, or you can do the research yourself.
It takes some kind of resource. We looked at that and we mapped it all out and we thought, “Okay, what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a marketing campaign. We’re going to rebrand. We’re going to go to this trade show and we kind of listed out all the different activities.
Then we looked at our data and we looked at where our traffic was coming from and made this huge table. We looked at organic, social media, pay-per-click referrals, and events. Then we broke down the activities that feed into each of those channels, which got people onto our website.
Then we just broke it down into, “These are going to be the steps. These are the milestones in order to 10x sales.” Which we did manage to do. It took us about a year and a half, but we’re quite proud that we’ve reached the milestone of 10 times the cells.
We’re working on a similar project now and what we learned from that is that if you get the whole team aligned in something, so we wrote the timeline out on the walls so that whenever we were in the office, we could circle it and be like, “Hey, this is where we are. We’re going to do a five-hour sprint now.” Everyone is hard working on adding tags and adding alt tags to all of our blog posts. Then going forward, we’ll make sure that will never have to happen again because we’ll have it within a process if that makes sense.
It was about identifying the low-hanging fruit, the areas where you can quickly iterate in the improvement, and then scheduling in the time and lead in the team to do that together.
For the complete Shopify Masters interview be sure to visit here: http://bit.ly/39wXcFL