Building Legitimacy: Jacquelyn Rodgers of Greentop Gifts Tells Her Story

Emmanuel: Welcome to the Journey to an Eight Figure E-commerce Business podcast. We are back today. I'm joined by my co-host this season, Grace Eleyae, CEO and founder of I am your host, Emmanuel Eleyae, CEO and founder of Eleyae Systems. And we are joined by the super wonderful, gracious, stupendous, magnanimous, magnificent Jacquelyn from Greentop Gifts. And what would you like us to tell you, call you Jacquelyn or Jackie? How would you like us to refer to?

Jacquelyn: Jackie's fine, that's fine, either one.

Jacquelyn’s Background/How She Started Greentop Gifts

Emmanuel: Jackie's here. Great, Jackie, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast for this season three. Can you tell us a little bit about your business and how it came to be?

Jacquelyn: Thanks so much for having me. I am Jacquelyn Rogers, founder and CEO of Greentop Gifts, and we bring diversity to celebrations with unique gift wrap, home decor, and apparel. I started the business in 2016. I had my son in 2014. Didn't see any images that look like us in the celebration space and wanted my son to see a black Santa. Growing up, I remember my mom painting them and making sure we always had representation on the holiday moments. And so I wanted those same memories for my son and that led me to start Greentop Gifts and now he's nine.

Grace: Wow, that's awesome.

Emmanuel: It's come a long way. How has business been?

Jacquelyn: It has. Business has been good. It's always learning. You know, the entrepreneurship rollercoaster, right? It's like, yay, this is fun. Oh my God, what am I doing?

Grace: Yeah, 100%. I used to say that it's kind of like having quadruplets, you know, like a two-year-old quadruplets, you know, so sometimes at one point one could be peeing on the TV, another one could be drawing on the walls, another one is just running all over the place, but then there's those random moments when there are three of them are sleeping and one of them is on your lap, falling asleep and just looks up at you and says, I love you mommy, and you're like, that's why I do this for those random moments of peace and joy. What was your background before you started Greentop Gifts?

Jacquelyn: Yes. Prior to Greentop Gifts, I worked for consumer product good companies. So Nestle Mars Wrigley and I sold candy as an account manager selling into corporate stores to a lot of retailers that people buy from. So it was a fun job, a very fun job.

Grace: That's awesome. So a lot of, did you bring, it sounds like you brought a lot of that experience into your entrepreneurship journey then.

Jacquelyn: Definitely, I've done a lot of meetings, presented decks, talked to a lot of buyers. And it's different when you're selling a big, gigantic brand like some of the candy company, but some of the brands we grew up with, and when you go in with your own business and they're not familiar with you, so that kind of presents its challenges, but the basics, understanding of new items and how the products get set up and how they go from a presentation to on the shelf, I had a pretty good understanding of.

Grace: So your son was born in 2014, you said, right? And then you start, so two years later, that when you notice that he's starting to be aware of Christmas, right? And you're realizing, oh, there's not a lot of representation. At what point did you basically get the manufacturers and actually start selling the product? So yeah, take us to that journey.

Jacquelyn: Yeah, 2015 I started looking for the product because he was one and he didn't, you know, Christmas isn't, but I wanted the wrapping, I wanted wrapping paper and I couldn't find it. And so I kind of joked with my husband, I was going to make some paper and like go to Kinko's and like make it on Photoshop. And he was like watching Sports Center or something. And he was like, okay, and kind of went back to the TV. And because I'm a really crafty person, I'm always working on some project or doing something. So this to him was another expensive hobby that I was starting. And then I started reaching out to manufacturers and understanding how a wrapping paper was manufactured. And I learned.

Grace: Where did you, sorry, I don't mean to interrupt, but where did you find wrapping paper manufacturers back then?

Jacquelyn: I did, first I started with YouTube University and I learned the techniques of how it's manufactured and the rolls and the plates and how they do the ink and the Pantone colors and so I knew enough to be dangerous. So I knew enough that I, once I found some manufacturers and Googled and smoogled until I could find my way, my friends called me the FBI, they're like, you can find anything on the internet. So I found some people, I called a couple, I call this one manufacturer and he was like, he could tell I really didn't know what I was doing but for some reason he wanted to help me. And so he was super kind and he explained, he filled in the holes for what I didn't get from YouTube University and explained it to me and was like, send me your artwork and we'll get some samples and we'll get this rocking and rolling. And I was like, okay. And so then I went to my husband, I was like, hey, I found your manufacturer.

Grace: And he's like, I was watching the football game when you, when you said that, I don't know what you're talking about. Wait, what manufacturer? Sorry, okay, so you went to your husband.

Jacquelyn: So this was like, this was, yeah, this was like spring. By summer I had found a manufacturer. And then I was like, in the summer I was ready to print and have the product delivered to my house. So I was like, hey, I found a manufacturer and the 18-wheeler's probably gonna come in the next few days. Like we gotta clean out the garage and move our cars out of the garage. And he was like, huh? And so that, and the four, two pallets was it. No, four pallets with two SKUs showed up in our garage and we shipped out of our garage for the first month. And then I realized Black Friday was coming and that we could not sustain packing orders in the garage. I was like, we gotta find a fulfillment company before Black Friday. Cause I was literally working all day and then I was packing boxes at night and my aunt would come over and watch my son.

Grace: Wow. So you're working at Mars or Nestle or one of the big companies right now and doing this as a side hustle. How did you find your first customers? So you're saying we can't sustain the... I don't even know if we have enough, you know, manpower to ship out these orders. I'm wondering how you even got your first customers.

Jacquelyn: So the way we got our first customers is I have a sorority sister who was like an Emmy award winning producer and editor and she works in DC. And so she has a super amazing knack of storytelling. And so she came and shot our first about us video and explain what we were doing it, why we were doing it, and how we were doing it. And I posted that on social media and people started to share it. And I won't say it went viral, but a lot of people saw it. And it grew really, really fast and people started to go to our website. And at first, like the first, maybe the first 75 orders were people that I knew. And then it was like, oh, I don't know any of these people. Like I don't know them. And so we would pack the orders. I have my little car table shipping station and I would pack them in the tubes. I ordered the products, those boxes off Uline and I printed them out and I dropped them off at the post office every morning before work.

Grace: So cool, I love it. So now we're approaching Black Friday and you're seeing this is actually something that could be for real business. At what point, I'm assuming that you're not working still for one of the big brands, is that correct? Is that a good assumption?

Jacquelyn: No, I left in 2020. Yeah.

Grace: Okay, just checking. Okay, so in those four years, what was the growth journey like and how did you get from this is my side hustle, I will ship at night, to I'm making this my main hustle and this is my full-time job?

Jacquelyn: So when we first started, it was really a strictly seasonal business. We didn't have any product outside of Christmas product. And so I was able to manage working. I say I double-dutched, and I worked corporate during the day, and on my lunch break, and if I was like driving, I would take calls, and then at night I would do a lot of calls. So it worked, and I was so passionate about it, and I wanted to see it happen so badly that I would work all night, and my husband would be like, wake up, and be like, can you please close the computer and go to sleep? So after double dutching for quite some time in February 2020, I realized for the business to grow and for us to get people to take us seriously and to possibly say, bring on an investor or do these accelerators or programs or get into retail, I knew I had to commit to the business full time for it to grow. And so that was when I decided, okay, I think it's time to make the leap. And, you know, it's never lost on me like you know, there are a lot of solo entrepreneurs and there are people who are not doing this with a spouse or a partner. And it's not it's never lost on me that I had a spouse that was like, you can quit your job and you should work on this full time and we'll work off of one salary. And so I'm not, you know, that's not everybody's story. But that was what we were able to do. And I'm very grateful that I was able to do that. So yeah, it's once it was able to make sense, sense in both sense of the words, that's when I was like, okay, it's time to quit so I can commit to it full time and I have no regrets so far, I wish I had quit sooner.

Emmanuel: And I appreciate that most people don't have the support of a spouse, but also, as good as that is, it has to present some challenges though, having a business. Right? Doesn't it? Yeah.

Jacquelyn: Listen, you've been on some calls with the two of us. So I'm the creative. I'm like glitter, I have Pantone colors. I'm like, ooh, I want to do it this way and this way and that. And I'm super excited all the time. My business partner, my husband, is finance strictly numbers and what is the ROI on this and why are we still paying for this? And I can come in super excited about absolutely anything. I could come in the door and be like, we're in this publication. And he will be like, okay, well, what is that gonna cost? Like he has no excitement. Like it takes a lot for him to get excited. It takes ROI, but I think that really works for us. It works because we both can't be of that same personality and go about business that way. We balance each other out well. And we have learned over the years how to have a business and communicate and when to communicate. So it's a learning curve, but I feel like we got across it pretty fast.

Grace: That's good. And so how do you guys set up boundaries to switch from business partner to husband and wife at the end of the night?

Jacquelyn: We've learned when and how to communicate. I wanna talk about everything as soon as my feet hit the bed at 5:45, 6 a.m. He wants to talk about it at the end of the workday. And so I'm exhausted at that point, and he's like, why are you talking to me? I'm trying to brush my teeth when I wanna talk about it. So we do a better job now about middle of the day, like, you know, a little huddle. If we go to dinner, we'll only talk about it for a little bit of dinner, but it's not gonna be our whole meal. Sometimes it could be our whole meal, but something that's really important, things that are going on but learning when and how to cut it on and cut it off and how to communicate and be mindful of each other's feelings and not let things escalate or talk crazy to each other, which we don't do. We've been married for quite a while, so I feel like we have a good cadence of that and every business partner's different, but I feel like we've learned pretty well how and when to communicate.

Grace: That's awesome.

Emmanuel: And do y'all have an office or you go somewhere else to your separate corners to work or?

Jacquelyn: No, we have a home office. So with the pandemic, we've, I've always worked from home my whole life since I graduated college. So and then during the pandemic, he started to work at home. So he works, still works full time for his job. And then I work on the Greentop full time. So we'll kind of connect midday or something like a fire drill out, you know, walk down to his office. But we don't even have like real offices. We're kind of like in two very close proximities to each other in the house. So like I can hear his calls. He can hear my calls. Not ideal, but it's where we are right now in this global pandemic and we haven't made snaps. So I guess it's okay. We, you know, we're not on Dateline.

Struggles in Retail

Grace: Okay, so you jumped in full time in 2020. How did you start scaling it? Both in terms of getting additional customers, and I know you're in a couple of retail stores, so I wanna hear about that too, but also in terms of financing. How did you end up financing growth? Because we all know that growth is really what is expensive.

Jacquelyn: Yes, growth is very expensive and going into retail is super expensive. And I kept saying, I want to get into retail. I wanted to get into retail. And then we got into retail and I was like, I won't cuss. But I said some words like, 

Grace: I want to get out of retail.

Jacquelyn: oh crap, what made me think this was a good idea? I don't know if I should have done this. Um, so that was one of those things where, um, we bootstrapped the business from the beginning. We haven't taken any investors and we've funded through all of our own POs and now as we're continuing to grow looking at some PO financing and ways we can continue to do it without having a strain on our finances. But retail's expensive and there's so many different things when people are looking at retail that they don't consider. The UPCs, the charge backs, the freight, the international freight, you know, the ads, there's so many moving parts about it. And I think people are like, oh, this is great. And a lot of people have told me how easy it was and how great it was, but there's a lot where you're like, oh, no one talked about this. You know, it is like testing a product, all kinds of stuff that is required of you and knowing and just, especially if you're even shipping overseas, just the regulations and requirements. And so,

Grace: Yeah, it was a huge learning curve, like huge. It's steep.

Jacquelyn: it's definitely a learning curve and I'm trying to make sure I answered all your questions.

Grace: Yeah, so it was just the growth journey. So from 2020 to basically present, it's like, it's you. So you talked about financing now. It's like you have retail customers. Are you continuing on your website as well?

Jacquelyn: Yes, we have retail customers, we're continuing on our website. You know, direct to consumers changed so much. You know, there was a point where it was like everybody was ordering online and now we're all fighting with each other. The ads have changed the way you go about it. And so it's like, you know, being in retail stores is most for us, it's where the way to go because people aren't buying our products, you know, months in advance for a party. A lot of people wanted the same day. So having the ability to go into the store and get that item immediately and pack it in the car before they go to a baby shower is kind of what a lot of our customers do. And so being a retail is crucial for us and it's been, it's been a, we've seen the rewards in us being a retail, also online. We do ship a lot of online orders, especially during the holidays. But anybody that's like telling you like, that's it. I'm like, what is the magic trick you have to do that? Please tell me.

Emmanuel: Can you tell me, I'm wondering your perspective, we hear it all the time because we get clients coming in, they're like, we're trying to get into retail, I just want to get into Target and I just want to get into Macy's. Why is that seen, it almost feels like that's the goal. Even though they're doing profitable, healthy, six, seven figure business, they don't feel successful because they're not on the shelf. Why is that such a goal?

Jacquelyn: You know, I'll tell you a joke and then I'll answer your question. For us, I had this business in 2016. We had gotten on NBC News, we were featured in Oprah magazine. We had celebrities wearing our product on ESPN. None of that mattered to my nine-year-old son. But when he could tell people Mommy was in Target and he could physically walk in and see it with his eyes. To him, it was like, our blue check. It was like, we're legit, we're a business. This is you go in a store and you buy things. He couldn't understand the internet and orders and he got people bought our stuff, but it was just like, yeah, whatever. But Target to him was like our blue check. And I think to tie that joke in to him thinking, he humbled me and was like, oh, you're legit now. But I think people think that too. Like if I get in retail, that makes me legit. That's the blue check. And I think that's what makes all the difference. Yeah, so I think people will see it as a blue check is validation. But to me, I have realized and I am under the impression that. Retail is a lot of marketing in the very beginning for a small brand, as opposed to it being a main revenue channel, because it's so expensive. A lot of times when you're starting out, especially in our cases, we bootstrap. So I think for a lot of people, if they look at it as a marketing way to reach more new customers and then expand and grow your brand, that I think it can be profitable, it can be rewarding and worth your time and your investment. If you know what you're doing and you don't like stretch yourself too thin. So I feel like that's kind of why people are like, well, I'm not in retail and, and people can't see us, but there are benefits, obviously, you know, when you have one, but you're in, as opposed to being in 300 or 2000 stores and people can see it every day, um, and pick it up at their convenience and they'll Target pickup or Walmart shopping or online ordering. I think it just makes a difference for people. And I think consumers sometimes buy into that like, oh, this brand that I've been buying online, like they're legit now, they're in retail and they look at you differently. So that's my personal opinion. I'd love to know y'all's thoughts.

Grace: I know Emmanuel has quite a few thoughts, 

Emmanuel: Yes, yes I do.

Grace: but I wanted to just, I just wanted to make a point. I like that you, it depends on the brand. You made an interesting distinction. You said that for your product, a lot of people, and especially people of color, because that's me, I literally on the way to the baby shower, I'm picking up the gift and I'm writing the card as I'm driving, you know, trying to fill it out. And so it makes sense for you to go where your customers are, the pool that your customers are wading in. So that actually, if that's retail, that makes sense to me. But there are brands where people don't mind waiting two or three days to get their product because I don't wash my hair every day so I just need that shampoo or I don't, you know, need to wear that tomorrow. You know, so it makes sense to me. But Emmanuel, please, what are your two cents?

Emmanuel: Yeah, I definitely hate retail. Absolutely hate it. I do not recommend it. It is just pain and misery all around. But I love what you said, Jackie. You made a very clear distinction. It gives legitimacy, right? So I'm always, the reason why I hate it is because I love profits, I love cashflow and retail is death for both of those things. Profits and cashflow, they want, the payment terms, they're big and you're small. They will be, right? Oh, it's awful.

Jacquelyn: Right. The payment terms, the payment terms! God, awful.

Grace: Yeah. Ah! Yeah. You're right. That's true.

Emmanuel: They will hurt you bad on purpose, just for the fun of it too, and cost you an arm and a leg and make things difficult. So from a cash flow and money perspective, it's a disaster for, especially for a small brand. It can kill a small brand. But if to your point though, I will concede the point. If you're like, look, I wanna look legitimate, right? I wanna look like to my nine year old son, like we're a good company. I wanna look to my mom, my dad, my cousins, my aunties, my audience, I wanna look like I made it. Then in that case, absolutely, actually, that works. And Grace, you had similar, like from a branding perspective, Grace, what were your thoughts? I'm curious what your thoughts on retail were, because we had debates about this. Drama.

Grace: Yeah, we still have debates about this. I think, I think, I think, I think that there is something to, so it's kind of like the adage, if you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go together. I think that what retail partners do is they put you on, technically, they give you real estate in their store to put you on their platform, essentially. Now, do you still have to drive customers to their store in order? Yeah, you're going to have to do that. I think that's a lot of that's honestly where a pitfall that I fell into and realize, oh, now that I'm in, you know, Sephora, now that I'm in these places, you know, people are just going to go and Sephora is going to do all of that. No, you're going to have to do the work still. Right. That's something that I that I that I fell prey to. But I do think that there's benefit to using their platform in order to, especially in for the long term. I don't think it's a short term play. If you need cash now, you're right, it's e-commerce. Again, to go fast, you can do it alone. Go e-commerce and you actually have a bigger profit margin. But I actually think that retailer for the long game is it's a way to go because basically you're saying, I have, let's say 100,000 followers, but Target has 24 million followers. Even just one shout out of a quarter could still do more for your brand then. So it's like you're just expanding. He's like, let me see the ROI. I need to see these numbers. Ha ha ha.

Jacquelyn:  Whatever and you make a good point too because I think a lot of people think about oh once I get in and on the shelves I'm good, but no the key is to sell out once you get on the shelves the retailers are wanting to see how fast are the turns is this product how quickly our customers buying it off the shelf because if it's sitting there and it's collecting dust they're not making any money and they're gonna delete you and add somebody else. And nobody wants to be on the delete list. So I think a lot of people don't realize that point too, that it's not about getting on the shelf, it's staying on the shelf by having your customers come in and shop. And that's all that, you know, I think there was a stat when I worked in corporate that was like 96% of new items fail. We looked at that from like a, like for one business cause there's tons of products. But when you think of it that way, it's just like, that's a lot of products that are gonna get deleted and something else is gonna go on their place. So.

Emmanuel: But you see why I hate it, why it makes me so mad? I'm having a hard enough time trying to sell my product on my website. Then I go to this retailer with 24 million people, like you said, just needs to send out one shout out and they want me to advertise away from my store to have people buy in their store. I'm selling product, yeah, so what are you doing for me other than legitimacy? Yes. 

Grace: True, that is true.

Jacquelyn: for a lot of money. And then they don't want, and they want exclusivity. They want that color of that product to only be available in their store. So you can have that inventory if you got an overrun in your store. I know I'm preaching the choir with you all, but for your listeners, like that's, it's so like, there's so many moving parts.

Grace: Yeah. And you're right, you make such a good point, Jackie, that we have to, you have to do it with intention. Like no, go eyes wide open. You cannot, if you're going in rosy-eyed, thinking this is my big break, that's not, it's unfortunately, you might be one of those, in that 96% that gets deleted. You really have to go in with intention. Like you said, I actually need my product on the shelf for X, Y, Z purpose, and I'm gonna, so for a reason. And so there's going to be sacrifice because you're going from, you know, let's say it takes, you know, 60 days to manufacture your product, and then maybe 45 days to sell it out when you're doing it on your own channels. That gives you, I'm gonna change to 30 so it's easy for math for me, but that gives you 90 days to from when you spent the cash on your product to actually get it back, you know, get your return. If you go retail, you got the order, you say you get the order today, it takes you still that 60 days to manufacture it, then you ship it to them. That's gonna take another two to three weeks to actually get to them. It's not gonna go onto their shelves or onto their store for another two or three weeks after that. Then they say, I'm not gonna pay you for another 90 days. You just added.

Emmanuel: after it sells. And it may not even sell right away.

Grace: after it's, no, they'll do, they'll at least.

Jacquelyn: And it's not when you ship it, it's once they receive it and get it in. So you gotta make sure the time, once they receive it, not when it leaves your door.

Grace: When they receive it. Exactly, exactly. So now you went from 90 days to almost six months between when you spent the money for the product and when the cash actually hits your bank account. And so while it's nice, because it comes in as a nice big chunk, on top of that, to Emmanuel's point, they took out chargebacks. And they decided that you didn't ship it exact, and by chargebacks, let me clarify for the viewers and the listeners, chargebacks are, they're not just, oh, some of the product came damaged. Some of these chargebacks are, you didn't ship it with the right label. You didn't, when it came in, you didn't send the right document via this very antiquated system called EDI, Electronic Data Interchange. You didn't send it with, you didn't send the right document back with an acknowledgement, Form 810. And when you sent the Form 810, you forgot to put this one little thing, and so that's gonna be $150. It's like, wait, what? And so there's little things like Jackie's been saying that all add up, and so you have to do it with intention when you're going into it. And then realize that that's going to be, there's gonna be work. Work, that's that, yeah, and a sacrifice.

Emmanuel: Intention and the intention is going to be work.

Jacquelyn: And sometimes it's okay for a small business to say, no, not right now. Like you don't have to say yes. Like it's okay to say, no, not right now. Like this is a great opportunity you're presenting me with. I need to do some more things. I'd love to come back again and have another interview next, next time there's, you know, this is up for a review. Yeah.

Emmanuel: Yes, thank you.

Grace: Retailers like that.

Emmanuel: They like saying that you have some backbone because your intention, this is what I think we should really stress and we can make it clear for people. You should go in with an intention and that intention cannot be to get rich, to make money. Because that is a very hard way to make money when you're going in with somebody who's way larger than you are, who can literally decide how, when, and if they wanna pay you. JCPenney literally was like, oh, we're in bankruptcy proceedings, we're not paying y'all. And then they didn't go through bankruptcy, but then they still were like, yeah, but we ain't gonna pay you.

Jacquelyn: Correct.

Grace: Yeah, that P.O. that became a loss. Yeah.

Jacquelyn: Oh my gosh. Still ain't paid you. Still ain't paid you. Still ain't paid. Right.

Emmanuel: What? Wait, what? But you sold our product. You took the money. So don't go in it for the money. Go in like what Jackie was saying. I love the idea of, I just want to look legitimate. Get in a limited amount of stores, just so you can say it, and then be safe about it, right? Just send them limited amount of product and don't depend on it.

Jacquelyn: And it's okay to do a small, yeah, you can do a small number of stores because you'd rather have success in a small number that'll help you talk to possibly another retailer, and then it can give you, it can make, validate your business and that you're able to handle retail at a small will and do it effectively and have a high sell through. And then you can go to another retail with that pitch and say, hey, we did this here, and you can do a little bit and stretch it out as opposed to going in every door and saying, I got in every door, but it didn't sell out, and then they don't want you back, to sell story for the next retailer. So it's, there's strength in tiny numbers too.

Grace: Exactly. 100%. I love it.

Founder Rounder

Grace: I don't know if you want to get into the found rounder stuff, Emmanuel.

Emmanuel: Ooh, I love the Founder Rounder stuff. And make sure Jackie, we want to support you. We're always talking about how do we put cash in our folks' pocket and support you. So that's coming too. But our Founder Rounder, it's a term we are definitely gonna be working the coin. We love just a round table as founders helping each other do solve challenges, right? Because I know some folks out there probably struggling with the same thing. So is there anything in your business that you're like, I need to help solving this, or I'm having trouble with that, or even just that you're curious about that you want to ask us because we have some things we want to ask you too. But you can start if you want.

Jacquelyn: I'm always curious about gaining new customers, ways that you guys go about it. Traditionally, it's email or social media. It's changing every day as the algorithm's changing, the app's changed. But what are you all finding now that's been tried and true or has been good or been stay away from as well? Because it's constantly changing, constantly changing. I'm ready.

Emmanuel: I have an answer but you're not gonna like it.

Jacquelyn: I think I know what it is, but go ahead, go ahead. 

Emmanuel: What do you think it is? I'm curious about that. 

Jacquelyn: I, nope, I wanna hear your answer first. I'll tell you if you are right.

Emmanuel: Okay, fine. Okay, it's not gonna work. Don't worry about it. Like the revenue that we were making during the quarantine pandemic, it's just not there. And everyone is struggling with that. Every, literally every founder rounder so far has been that question. Every single one, everybody's struggling with it. And so you shouldn't, that should be encouraging actually. You shouldn't feel alone with it.

Grace: Literally every found rounder question. Yep. Yeah.

Jacquelyn: That is encouraging. I guess, do you know the Powerball numbers? It's the next question I have for you.

Grace: Yeah, let's all go in on some lottery tickets because it's looking bleak. No, honestly, that literally...

Emmanuel: What did you think of our answer was going to be?

Jacquelyn: Not that. I thought you were going to say like, you know, you need great services.

Emmanuel: Mm, customer service and all that, no.

Grace: No, he's more on, he's like more like your husband in the ROI cut costs, give me the numbers kind of respect. But I agree, I think that right now it's just global kind of, everyone kind of just being more conscious about how they're spending. And so we're seeing people holding onto their wallets a little bit more. And then on top of that, of course, we know how the iOS updates kind of affected all of us as e-commerce brands, including us, and I'm sure the big retailers are feeling it too. And so there's, I think that there is, to Emmanuel's point, new customer acquisition was really easy during the pandemic, right? Because people were actually even looking, especially as a black-owned brand, people were looking for black-owned brands to buy from. Now it's a little more difficult, it's tricky, and we're kind of in a...downturn in terms of economic downturn. And as long, but to me it's like, it's really hard when we're comparing the numbers against the pandemic numbers and the pandemic and new customer acquisition. But if I'm looking at like our startup numbers, like if I'm looking at my 2014 numbers, my 2015 numbers, you know, for you, your 2016, 2017 numbers, it's like, oh yeah, we're still fine. And we're still way better than that kind of thing. So. I'm trying to compare it. It looks like, oh man, I guess we're not doing the steep trajectory that we did in 2020, 2021. But it's there's life. I think that the lifeblood of a business is cash and as long and honestly, revenue cash coming in revenue coming in. So if there's still revenue coming in, that means you have lifeblood coming in still. And so it's more I think we just need to get through this little downturn that's happening right now. And so my brother, he's like, I don't want to, on most of these, and Emmanuel I'll let you speak to this, he's like, I don't want people to focus on new customer acquisition, I want them to focus on cost cutting measures. 

Emmanuel: Yes, cut costs. That's what nobody wants to hear right now. Everybody wants me to tell them some Facebook strategy and some YouTube strategy, they're not working. I'm sorry. You know, like I know y'all don't like hearing that, but really at the end of the day, save your coins. That's how you do it, right? We were able to get away with that during the quarantine pandemic, because everything was working. I mean, you have people sliding into your DMs and sending you cold emails about some cold email outreach strategy. You hire them and all of a sudden you make another 30,000, because everything worked but that's because the economy was hot. People were buying online because all the retail stores were shut down. They were closed. They had to buy online. So we had all this demand that was coming in artificially. That's gone now. That shouldn't have happened. So what do we need to do? We need to peel back the things we were doing during that time. So all those people that we hired, all those agencies that we brought on, those extra marketing things, all that extra product, discount it 50% off, get rid of it, turn it into cash. All that inventory sitting on that shelf is cash that could be in your pocket. The way I look at cost cutting, it sounds bad and it sounds like no, it's not gonna grow the business. No, but it will grow your bottom line. And I think that's what we need to focus on. Cash flow and profit because every dollar that you do not spend in your business is a dollar that puts food on your table that goes in your pocket to feed your family. And if we look at every single dollar that way, then we will start to actually make legit money. You don't have to be reinvesting everything right now. Start pulling out cash, hoarding cash. Even if your business revenue is coming down or staying flat, you can still increase your profits. And I think that's the benefit. So to that end, that's the sobering news. Strategies, I do have some tactics, right? In fact, we have a whole cashflow course, which I'll link to in the group and I'll make sure to send it to you too, Jackie. But things that are super easy, like a cash scrub, there's a lot of services where it's like, ah, we don't really need that. Shut them off. This is the time to shut them off. That's easy money. Every business can save hundreds of dollars, if not thousands right now, just by doing a scrub of those things. Your inventory, like I said, you probably have inventory right now that you can bundle up into big packages that will slow moving. Sell a case of them to somebody. Call up your most, the customers that have bought the most, be like, look, I got a case of this stuff. Y'all want it, right? Close out inventory, do that stuff. And this is the time, because what people think is that, no one's buying, no one's buying, no one's buying. It's not true that no one's buying. People are buying. They're just being very specific about what they spend their money on. And you just need to give them something outrageously over the top value, and they will spend their money with you. And that's okay. So pre-sale, so that's bundling your inventory and moving, slow moving inventory, turn it to cash. And then pre-selling is a big thing. Cause cashflow right now, spending like Grace gave the numbers, 60 days you pay, then you wait 60 days. Try and close that number as much as possible. If you can sell your product before you buy it, then you have no cashflow hit. So even what Grace was talking about, if you pay your manufacturer for your inventory and wait 60 days, what if, you know, if you make, you sell it for 50, buy it for 10, you just need to sell one fifth of that inventory pre-sale and you've covered that entire manufacturing run, no cash out. That was no loan, no nothing. So that's another way to me that I look at and recommend to clients of you know, new customer, not new customer acquisition, but how to make money. But I didn't answer your question. 

Jacquelyn: No, I think those are good answers.

Emmanuel: I'm sorry, with all of that, how do I get new customers, Emmanuel? How do I, you know what I think? I do have an answer. Yeah, I have an answer for you. It is something that I wrote it down a note to follow up with, is how you started your business. You said you had a friend that was a producer that told a great story. I think that is something that will never go out of business and is what we're transitioning almost all our clients to. And in fact, most of the advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, YouTube, TikTok, all of them are saying content. We have machine learning algorithms that will do targeting for us. You don't have to worry about that. Campaign budget optimization is available on almost every platform, smart campaigns, performance max campaigns. So if you can get good at telling stories, your story, your customer stories, even what we're doing now

Grace: Or your son, the story about your son. Yeah.

Emmanuel: is an example of how your son's story, yeah, and putting those out there, testimonials, reviews about your product, those now become the best form of advertising that we are seeing working across the board. So just redoing that, that is the biggest win.

Jacquelyn: I was just saying that makes total sense. Yeah, for sure.

Emmanuel: Yes. Okay, good.

Grace: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And now would you say that you are, make, is retail now your main focus and like your main source of revenue? Or would you say it's split or is still e-commerce more?

Jacquelyn: It's more retail than it is e-commerce for us right now.

Grace: Wow, okay. At what point did that switch for you?

Jacquelyn: Probably once we started working with Target, that would be the one once it started. And so now we've expanded to TJ Maxx. And so a little bit TJ Maxx, a little Target,, and a little Amazon. Amazon still, it's a little tricky with us with the size and the length of our rolls. So most of the other products on there, not so much the wrap.

Emmanuel: So it was a supply chain issue with Amazon.

Jacquelyn: The bags do well, the mugs and other stuff, but not so well, much more wrap, just because it's the length and it puts us in a bulk rate, so yeah.

Grace: Yeah, not worth it for FBA.

Emmanuel: Yeah. Have you thought about cutting down the size specifically for Amazon?

Jacquelyn: I've toyed with the thought of it, but the big roll is what we like, and people that like to wrap don't want a short roll and they don't want it folded or creased. But it's not off the table.

Emmanuel: Yeah. And then, but do you know how much you would need to shorten it? Shorten it. Cause it might not be that much. 

Jacquelyn: Uh, yeah, yeah. It's, yeah, it's quite a bit. It's a short roll. It'd be like books, small toys. Yeah, they're using a lot.

Emmanuel: Oh, you do. But it's too much.

Grace: Yeah, yeah. Or you're using multiple layers on a big box. Yeah.

Emmanuel: Yeah, the reason why I ask is because I used to work at Amazon and that is I can see what is happening. You're literally in a whole different class of warehouses based on that, which is, and you're right, once you get into that bulk, they don't even want to push your stuff as much because it's like, it's hard to ship and then they have to deal with different carriers. But if you can get into the smaller warehouses and all of a sudden your stuff starts, you know, sales just go up because of that. So it's worth it if you can. But to your point, if no one's going to buy a shorter roll, then there's no point to making that change.

Jacquelyn: Yeah, we focus more on our bags on Amazon because the bags are easier, lightweight, they can fit in an envelope.

Grace: Yeah, yeah. Polymy. So what would you say are some of the biggest lessons that you learned in the journey? I know there's a lot.

Jacquelyn: You need to lay eyes on your fulfillment. We had a lot of fulfillment challenges in the beginning. I would try not to hire a service that does fulfillment or a manufacturer without at least doing a Zoom tour or going in person and seeing their facilities. I would say...

Grace: Okay. Did you have some Roach motels or something in some of the ones you had?

Jacquelyn: They were being acquired by another brand and we didn't know until it sold. And we were unsure as to why we were having so many issues. And it was like, oh, you guys were selling and we're outsourcing and we know none of this. And it almost like killed our business. I would say that. I would say try not to be a seasonal business. It makes for being seasonal can make for challenges as you're looking at your books and you're looking at the revenue and how it comes in when you're looking for financing, it's like, oh, well, it's not a full year. It's only three months out of the year. And so getting them to understand how and why you do your business and why it is the way it is can sometimes be very difficult, even with banks. So those two, I would also say, what's another good one. That the internet and social media will make entrepreneurship look like this super sexy, amazing, get rich fast, become a superstar, and dripping labels type thing. If you're doing it for those reasons, I would don't do not. I would say that it is wonderful, it is fulfilling, but it's really hard work and it's not as sexy as it looks.

Grace: No. I completely agree with that.

Emmanuel: That is so true. Wow.

Jacquelyn: And if somebody is telling you that otherwise, I think they're lying. Do not believe all the screenshots you see. And a lot of the people on the internet selling you courses are scammers.

Grace: Yep, yep. No, it's true, it's true. And I do feel like people have glamorized entrepreneurship in this day and age, and you're right, there's a lot more to it than, yeah, the glitz and the glamor. So, that's good, those are good.

Emmanuel: Yeah. And the tough part of it, what makes it tough is because if someone's trying to teach you entrepreneurship, that you really can't. Because if you're doing entrepreneurship right, you're innovating. You're blazing a trail that hasn't been blazed before. And so somebody's like, yeah, just start a business doing the same thing that worked there. Well, things have changed. Like if you're trying to get into e-comm now and drop shipping right now compared to during the pandemic, you're not. And the people who are teaching you started during the pandemic, their stuff isn't going to work for you. I'm sorry. It's not going to work.

Jacquelyn: They've changed. They're not, and 90% of the screenshots in their courses are showing you data and reports and sales based on platforms that don't exist or ads and campaigns. And I was at an event recently and this person was speaking. I was so angry because I was watching and I was just like, they were talking about this money, they made all these things, and I was just like, these people are just spoon feeding, like he was spoon feeding to them, they were eating it up. And I'm like, they have no idea. They have no idea that this screenshot is obsolete. This is this will never happen again ever again. Yes, like, no, all the glitters and gold is not, anybody is telling you they can make you become you know, eight figures or whatever is like.

Grace: You just want to shake them. Wake up. Get out of here. Get your money back. Yeah.

Jacquelyn: You got to ask a lot of questions. There are people out there that can help you, but a lot of it is you have to do it. You have to just put in the work and do it and do good work consistently. It is no get rich quick scheme. It is not.

Grace: Just ask questions. Yeah. Yep.

Emmanuel: So do you recommend entrepreneur? Like if one of your friends came to you and like, oh, I like what you're doing. I think I want to do it too. Do you recommend it? What would you tell them?

Jacquelyn: If it makes sense and you have tested it out, I would say I wouldn't quit your job until you're sure. And I don't say don't do entrepreneurship, but I do tell them that it's very different. Things have changed. And the way we went about business when we started is not the same. But I think, I have a friend that started at the end of the pandemic. It has a really great business and it's doing well and is in the beauty space. But I think what I...been encouraged by her is she's really gone slow and said no to a lot of things and moved at a pace that was comfortable for her and not going to like wipe her out. So I think it's about doing it and being aware and doing it within reason. And I think it can be done. People are still doing it. So yeah, I think there's still some space out there.

Emmanuel: There absolutely is. And I think that's, if people come in with that healthy attitude, right? That this is, there's space and there's room and you can be an entrepreneur, just this is not a get rich quick scheme. And if you come in with the attitude that this is just, basically it's another job. It's a full-time thing that's actually harder than working at a job where you have consistency when a paycheck and benefits, but you're like, look, I just love it. I love the process. If you fall in love with the process of entrepreneurship and that's what you enjoy then you'll be successful. I feel like that's the- Ben Horowitz wrote a great book about this, called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. I always recommend that about mindset stuff. He says, if you fail at being entrepreneurs, fine, go be the president, be an astronaut, which are all hard things, right? But it's like, entrepreneurship is so hard, because you really only can succeed if you have a passion for it, if you're wired for it. If you're like, look, I can't do anything, I don't want to do anything else. This is what fuels my life, it gives me joy to blaze my own trail. Then if that's the case, then yeah, you're in the right spot. If not, just go get a job. Yep.

Jacquelyn: If you wanna be a firefighter, if you wanna be a police officer, if you wanna be an investigator, if you wanna go be a marketer, a photographer, entrepreneurship is for you.

Grace: Yeah. Cause you got it all. You literally.

Jacquelyn: If you want to wear many, many hats, yes. And I also talk about that a lot with my husband about like, there's some people who are excellent barbers or they're excellent chefs, but they're terrible at bookkeeping. They're terrible at customer service. And they just want to cook or they just want to cut hair. They just want to color hair. And then when they have to do all those other things, it's not fun anymore because what they were passionate about is this one creative piece. And then when they have to do all those other things, they're miserable. And it's like, maybe this isn't the space to go in, or maybe you need to outsource it so you can focus on the thing that you're great at, and you can have other people to support you in those things that you're not.

Grace: Yep. Yeah. That's a good way to put that. Mic drop. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Emmanuel: Powerful and I love the commercial that's gonna be the trailer right there then entrepreneurship is for you for this episode. I love that if you want to be this you want to be that. It's facts, so true. Well, then here's to that in new customer acquisition. We want to help you with that. How can we put more cash in your pocket? Our audience is listening, people are available to support, we want to support you. Can you please tell us how because we want to make sure you are successful and say thank you for dropping these knowledge bombs on us and helping us out. How can we help you out?

Jacquelyn: You can help Greentop Gifts out by shopping our website, I will give you guys a promo code. I don't know what code or name you like to use so that your listeners can shop. And follow us online, share our site with your friends and family that love holidays and celebrations. And you can also find us in some retailers, Target this holiday season and TJ Maxx right now.

Grace: Awesome. Congratulations, I love it.

Emmanuel: That's wonderful. Thank you. We will do that. Yeah, I'm thinking JT8FE for the Journey to an Eight Figure E-commerce podcast. If that's available, we'll try and do that one. And we'll link to that in the show notes. And everybody go buy, show up on her website, support Jackie, help her with her new customer acquisition because we are so grateful. And you're absolutely right. I do wanna make sure we end on your mission, representation. Can you dig into that a little bit more? Because I do think that is an important mission, even beyond. Just we're commerce people, we sell product. But just the idea itself, I never had a black Santa Claus on any of my clothes on anything when I was a kid. So that just tell me about Clarence a little bit or even just what is you're trying to do.

Jacquelyn: Sure. So we call our Santa Clarence Claus. He's as he's affectionately known as, which is my dad's name, but my dad doesn't look anything like Clarence Claus, which makes it even funnier. But no, for us, his representation is so important, right? You can't be what you cannot see. And even in celebratory spaces and in holiday moments, it's so important for children to see images that look like them. And I wanted my son and my daughter now to see a little girl with braids or a little boy with locs or a little boy with a fade or a girl with vitiligo or a little girl with a hijab. It's so important for kids to see because there's so many children that aren't represented on retail shelves and I feel we've come a long way but there's still a lot of people that are placing the orders and making purchases fine decisions for customers that don't think, oh, there's not enough representation here. I don't have a little girl with red hair. I only have little girls with yellow hair. And so that is why it's so important for me to make sure my kids see themselves and all the things I'm always talking to my children about. Oh, have you met this person? This is what Mr. Anthony does. This is his business. This is how he makes money. So they can see entrepreneurship and how it shows people and representation and all the different things you can do. Because there's so much more than what school you can be or what they push you at. And so for me, it's always important. And the books our kids read and the television shows they watch and all of the things that we expose them to and making sure that they see images that look like them and other people, because I feel like that's important for kids to see, you can understand and have a better appreciation for somebody when you've been exposed to it. So super important.

Emmanuel: I love that you can't be what you cannot see. That's so true. Thank you for that and everybody like I said go support her, let us let us let our next generation see themselves the way we'd like to see them and so they can be what they can be. Thank you Jackie for joining us and You too

Jacquelyn: You're welcome.

Grace: Thanks Jackie. Yeah, you too. Bye.

Jacquelyn: Yes. Thank you guys. It was so great chat with you guys.


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