Teaching us a lesson on how to be mindful of your business’s way of being inclusive and yourself as an entrepreneur and a human being, Bili Balogun has been a true delight.

There is so much to say about this episode that we will let Bili herself tell you all about it.

I merely scratched the surface of this insightful conversation by writing a few of the main ideas below.

By all means, enjoy!

Who is Bili Balogun?

Bili Balogun is the Founder of Tribe Beauty Box, also a budding beauty maven who has built a global brand in a noisy industry, leveraging the power of community. Surrounding herself with a network of professionals who do it best, her focus has been on building a business of accessibility and empowerment.

A cool customer retention approach: add-ons

One thing we added about a few weeks before the pandemic started – unrelated – is customization. We allow customers to pick one, two items in their box so that they feel like they have a say in what they’re getting. They do have a say in what they’re getting because we do post spoilers before people get charged. If they don’t like a few spoilers, they can skip, they can cancel. Most likely, we would prefer them to skip. 

So we started doing customization, which allows people after they get billed to pick between a few items that we offer, and that generally allows them to get things that work for their skin tone. That’s where the inclusivity part comes in.

I never want anyone – who especially looks like me – to get a product that wouldn’t work for them. I’m a black founder and there’s no way that any of my customers would ever get a product that does not match them. It’s just never going to happen. 

So customization was great. And then on top of that, we added add ons. Add ons have literally transformed our business in the sense that after you get billed, there is a one-week window where you get to pick items exclusive to subscribers at a crazy discount. You can see discounts as steep as 90, 70 percent off.

The point of that is to help us as a brand increase our average order value per customer. Our box is 34.99. We can’t just cap it at that. If people are getting five products to try, they probably want to get more products already. So we show them items from either past boxes that were really popular and they can just re-up on or we have partnerships with brands and tell them that, hey, “These are add ons, we’ll cover your costs, but we’ll get customers to try these products from you.”

So, for example, this month our hero item was a $55 eye cream that on our add ons was nine bucks. That obviously sold out within an hour of us putting in all the add ons. But people are like, “This is so incredible!” but in reality, that eye cream costs us like $2.5.

We’re making a good amount of profit on the product. Customers have that perceived value that they’re saving over forty-something dollars. It’s just a win-win for everyone.

Embrace and employ diversity

Most brands advertise to minorities without representing minorities. In no way does that make any sense. You can’t capitalize off a certain type of people and not include them in the decision-making process. It’s odd.

There are just so many faux pas. But another thing that we need to be careful about is that people need to realize that social outrage actually is a way for people to monetize. So brands will purposely do these things that will cause outrage. You know what they say, “No, no, bad PR is still PR.” There are still people talking about your brand. There is still someone in the middle of nowhere being like, “Oh, they were racist. You know what? Let me go support them because I’m also a racist.” So it is what it is.

There’s a really important movement. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Pull Up or Shut Up movement. Basically, it’s a movement started by Sharon [Chuter]. She’s a Nigerian woman. I’m Nigerian, too. She’s the owner of a brand called UOMA Beauty. What she did basically is an organization that challenges all brands, not just in the beauty industry, to show their percentage of staff by race. And not only your entire staff but your executive staff.

We don’t care if 90 percent of your warehouse workers are black. We want to know how many people who are executives who make decisions are black, Asian, East-European, all of that. We want to know what that is, because how can you call yourself a global brand? How can you call yourself a brand that sells to everybody, but you don’t have a single person in your decision-making process that represents minorities?

That really got brands to mobilize and hire new people. Some people were making excuses in their city. There is like a low percentage of Asian people or there’s a low percentage of this. But how can you say that? We all work from home now. We’re in a pandemic. You can hire virtual staff, you can hire staff that is working from home. There’s literally no excuse anymore to just not represent everybody.

Entrepreneurial mental health workout

The imposter syndrome

When I started I had a lot of imposter syndrome. I really felt like I wasn’t supposed to be here. I don’t have the skills to be here and stuff like that.

But, you know, it’s a tough industry and it’s extremely competitive. The big competitors get millions of dollars in investment. I’ve got nothing like that. But I think that above all, what’s really helped my growth is just people being able to see that this is something that’s moving from the heart. 

It’s not something like a quick buck and you leave. If I need a quick, this is the last industry that I would work in. I would do other things. I’d do dropshipping. I’d do so many other things. But when people do see the passion for what you have in your business, it fuels them and it also fuels you.

Having connections

Another thing that I really, really struggled with is just connections. When I started the brand, I was fresh out of university, I went to school for political science. I had no clue what was going on. So I had to consume large amounts of information really, really quick. Thank God that I went to a school where I had five essays to do every week. So I was used to doing that.

I think that a lot of the struggles that I had internally, I had to just ask myself if I was a man, would I have these problems? Sometimes not.

I have a couple of guy friends that are also in eCommerce and they just do whatever they want, like without even thinking about it. They’re like, “Oh yeah, man, I’m going to try this!” And I’d be thinking things over and over and over again.

I’m not making this a gender thing. It’s definitely also more like a psychological thing. I’ve worked with therapists. I’ve worked with so many people who’ve helped me overcome some of these problems.

Overcoming insecurities

It’s really important to know that you belong where you want to belong. Who says you can’t do what you want to do? It’s not possible. You can do anything you want. Nobody can put a stop on you except for you. 

When I was able to overcome that, I have noticed so many new strives. I’ve been able to talk to people more comfortably.

When I started the business, I think I was twenty-three or twenty-two. Talking to people who are thirty-seven, forty, forty-five, I didn’t know what to say. I would read emails over and over again. Also, I was very, very apologetic. I’d be like, ”Oh my God, thank you so much!” in my email. Now I’m just like, “Hey. Ok, cool, great. Let me know when this is done.”

And again, I work with people that are older than me in terms of I pay people to do things within the business that are way older than me. Sometimes I’m a bit insecure about that. I grew up in a very traditional home where you respect your elders and stuff like that. So I had a bit of that. But I’m like, “I’m the boss, I don’t care what my age is, so I’m not going to apologize for your fuck up. I’m absolutely going to point it out and I’m going to expect you to fix it.”

Also I say “no” all the time now. When I started, I was so scared of saying “no”. Now I say “no” and I don’t give an explanation. It just doesn’t work for a business. 

Before, if I would talk to a merchant or an app that’s trying to work with us on some agency, I would write a whole email about why this is not a good fit. Now it’s just like, “This is not a good fit, we’ll keep your contact saved in case anything comes up.” Point-blank. That’s it. I’m not going to apologize for things not working. 

Overworking

A lot of these things were actually personal problems. People don’t realize how much personal development goes and ties directly into the projection of your brain.

There was a time where I was so engulfed, growing the brain, focused on that, that I stopped learning and I would notice no matter what new shiny strategies I would try, the business wouldn’t grow. That’s because I wasn’t trying and taking time to learn to be in tune with industry trends, new things going on in the industry because I was just working, working, working.

So now, like two times a week, I don’t do any work. All I do is I do webinars, I read, I catch up on what’s going on in the industry and I’ve noticed that one, my life is way easier and two, the business has been growing and growing because I actually have time to learn and also not working 24/7.

I don’t know who said if you want it hard enough, you sacrifice. Hell no, if I have to sacrifice my health, my family, my friends, myself for this business, I don’t want it. The point of having a business is to elevate your life, to break through things and have an easier life, not to have a harder life. Who wants that?


During the next episode, we’ll be changing the paradigm with Jordan Garner, VP Success & Partnerships at Mulberry Technology. Tune in with us!


This podcast is sponsored by VTEX.

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