Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Rumana Bai, and I am the founder of Turmerry, an online retail store providing all-natural and non-toxic bedding products to health-conscious and eco-conscious people. A year ago, I started my own e-commerce store after many years of running a web design and marketing agency.
We sell latex mattress toppers and pillows made with pure and organic non-GMO latex and cotton. Turmerry’s goal is to always source materials that have a less negative impact on the planet and a more positive impact on our lives. Our customers share our sustainable, but practical values, which have allowed us to grow steadily since our online launch. We have many products that are made in the USA, and that is definitely something people are looking for during the pandemic.
Our product line includes latex toppers that are great for people who are not satisfied with their current mattress and want to soften it or get more support without replacing it. We offer mattress protectors that are very breathable and don’t trap heat and are waterproof without the use of toxic chemicals. Similarly, we have designed pillows with natural materials that are good for both neck and shoulder pain. Traditionally, pillows are made from petroleum-based foams or highly-toxic cotton. We use only organic cotton, kapok, buckwheat hulls, and wool.
The world is full of great ideas, but success only comes through action. A lot of people have ideas, but they never go for them. There is no need to quit your job, but do something small consistently and get started on your dreams.
We sell a special type of latex topper made using the Dunlop process so that they are firm and supportive for people who experience a range of body pain. One of the most satisfying things about running this business is seeing the reviews from people who found relief from chronic pain after adding one of our toppers to their mattresses.
Since we started the business, we have had many customers call us to share their appreciation for our product offerings. We are inspired by companies like Patagonia, which focus on creating social and economic value through business. We plan to become the Trader Joe’s of affordable, organic, and natural home products by being very strict about our offerings. Our products meet all or most of the following conditions – if they don’t, we won’t sell them:
- Made in the USA
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I am an IIN certified health coach with a passion for healthy, non-toxic living, and I always wanted the opportunity to provide affordable products to people with similar values. I graduated from Thomas Edison State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Arts and majored in Computer Science because I was very interested in computers and online operations.
Alongside my work with Turmerry, I run an agency helping e-commerce businesses with marketing, and I also have many clients in the health industry. Helping out many businesses in different fields was consuming a lot of my energy and time. So, I wanted to do something that allowed more time for myself and my family.
I was looking for a niche in the organic natural industry, and the “aha moment” came to me when I went to India during the summer of 2019. I wanted to get an all-natural mattress, and by chance, got one from an online marketplace. I loved its feel, and the level of comfort was very similar to memory foam – but without any toxins. Rubber trees are common in India, and latex comes from rubber trees.
After learning everything I could about the subject, I started talking to various exporters in my area and visited many Indian Fair Trade Certified manufacturers who produce organic and natural bedding products. On the way back home, we came up with our company name Turmerry, which we chose because it sounds similar to something natural and popular like turmeric. I do much less agency work now and am finally able to focus on growing the business, our selections, and our community.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I wanted to bring in latex mattress toppers from India but did not have the resources initially. So, to get started, I decided to import a few small, low-cost items. I thought hard about what item to start with, and decided on organic, undyed, unbleached, raw cotton pillow covers! I ordered them in heavy-duty fabric and 400 thread count sateen finish.
95% of e-commerce site visitors don’t make a purchase. One of the best methods for ensuring you don’t lose them as a potential customer is to capture their email address.
It was important to me to focus on non-plastic, minimal packaging as part of our business values, and I had a lot of fun working on the packaging. As a design and marketing agency, we were always designing for other companies, and now it was my turn to do it my way! I love the design we created as a team, and we use it for many of our products.
We also worked with many similar companies offering organic and natural bedding in the USA to get started. Eventually, we were able to bring in mattress toppers from Sri Lanka from a carbon-neutral company that is Oekotex, GOLS, and GOTS certified.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The “ching” sound from the Shopify app for the very first order is unforgettable. From launch to the present day, we have bootstrapped the business every step of the way. Since we have an agency with a group of experts, launching a website was an easy process. Bringing in customers was not so easy. It took a couple of days for our first order to come through. We were allocating some money for advertising but the initial months were not as profitable as expected. So, we had to back off and slow down many times.
Although we offer a lot of products made in the USA and want to support the US economy, it’s important to me that I do not forget my roots. I am from India, and I always wanted to support the country by providing employment opportunities just like we do here in the USA. I run a small operation there, including a team of experts to help me design and maintain the website. This way, I am also able to keep some of my costs low, offer great prices to my customers, and maintain a beloved connection with my personal history.
A lot of online businesses rely on other marketplaces like Amazon and eBay for their primary source of income. Although they are great channels to get people familiar with your products, we wanted to focus on our website. We realize that we can offer value to our customers through future relationships and build brand loyalty only through our website, unlike the other marketplaces.
The process to become successful is not always simple, and we have to overcome multiple hurdles. There are many disadvantages of growing slowly, but there are also many dangers that come from growing too fast. We are trying our best to maintain a balance where we grow at a steady pace without compromising our values or profit margins.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
After the launch, we had no trouble bringing in traffic through Google and Facebook ads. But bringing in traffic that converts and making the business profitable were hard. I have worked with many e-commerce companies as an agency, and generally, the conversion rate is anywhere from 2-5%. It takes some time for your Google quality score to go up and the Google AI to work. Until then, the marketing costs are high. It is hard to hang in there. But, once you get your paid campaign costs lower and gain some organic rankings, things get better.
Although we wanted to offer mattress and mattress toppers right away, we had to start with small items like pillows and pillow covers. Eventually, with hard work, we were able to add a wide range of natural bedding products including organic mattress protectors, comforters, duvet covers, sheet sets, blankets, and mattress toppers. We also offer natural, organic latex mattresses, but as a small player in the space, it will take more time and energy to make them a top seller for our brand. We’re not there yet, but we will be!
95% of e-commerce site visitors don’t make a purchase. One of the best methods for ensuring you don’t lose them as a potential customer is to capture their email address. Creating unique, eye-catching email flows for your e-commerce business allows you to cultivate brand recognition and awareness over time, ensuring that you’re not leaving money on the table. In my agency work, I’ve had lots of success building email marketing campaigns for our clients, exponentially increasing sales - and now I’m lucky enough to do the same for my own business.
Also, even if you don’t love paying for ads, I would still recommend setting up retargeting on a low budget. Bringing potential customers back to your store, reminding them of your unique products or services can be much less expensive than bringing new customers in.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now, our business is profitable, although it was not in the initial months. We have a 50% COGS and 25% marketing budget. Keeping our prices affordable is one of our primary goals, despite creating slimmer margins. Our conversion rate varies with seasonal changes and other factors but typically runs between 3.5-5%. As I mentioned, email marketing is an important piece of our online strategy and we have around 100,000 email subscribers with multiple targeted campaigns running concurrently. When comparing the last quarter of 2019 to 2020, our YOY growth is 6000%, which is phenomenal!
We see that what we’re doing is working, and we know that Turmerry has a great future ahead. However, the number that brings me the most joy is the 10,000+ trees we contributed to planting in 2020 as an American Forests Partner. This business isn’t just about making an impact on individual lives, but also promoting positive change for our global community.
To be successful in running a business it’s important to get involved in all aspects of it – at least in the beginning. Focusing only on the product design and ignoring marketing or accounting leads to tunnel vision.
At Turmerry, we are always looking for opportunities to grow. In the coming months, we hope to offer even more natural and organic bedding products. Demand is exploding for copper and silver antimicrobial finishes, something we would love to add to our product line. On the internal business side, we hope to add social media dominance to our portfolio as we put more focus on these important platforms and work to expand our online community.
Recently, we introduced a product very different from bedding - a hair oil. Ayurvedic herbs are very popular in India, where my mother still lives. She has dabbled in creating hair oils and eventually developed a very successful formula. As I was researching specialty stores in the US, and even products in India, I noticed that many contained undesirable ingredients like petroleum oil and parabens, with just a hint of herbs. With her expertise and my passion for natural ingredients, we created Turmerry’s 100% Natural and Organic Hair Oil.
This special formulation contains real organic coconut oil, jojoba, and castor oil plus generous amounts of fresh aloe vera, eight other herbs, and finally lavender to promote sleep and relaxation to tie the product back into our primary offerings. Maybe more important, though, is what it doesn’t contain -- artificial fragrances, preservatives, or other toxic chemicals. I use the product myself and truly believe it has improved my hair health and am excited to have the opportunity to introduce it to my customers.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Get involved. To be successful in running a business it’s important to get involved in all aspects of it – at least in the beginning. Focusing only on the product design and ignoring marketing or accounting leads to tunnel vision. As an entrepreneur, a big part of your responsibility is to see the bigger picture, the overarching goals. You have to keep your eyes on every aspect of the business – great customer support, high-quality products, marketing ROI, internal operations, and understanding how all of those pieces fit together and become your bottom line.
Learn from your mistakes. As a business grows, it’s equally important to know when to step back, when to ask for help, and when to defer to others so that things don’t fall through the cracks. Business is a lot like life, there will always be frustrations and failures, big or small. Every business goes through those periods. But, as I constantly remind myself, they are just a part of the business. It’s okay to take it easy from time-to-time, to let go of the small things, and to embrace failure as a learning opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s all about staying positive.
Lean on your support system. My husband is a very optimistic person with zen-like qualities, and I do not think I could do this without his help. He is my therapist, friend, motivator, and everything in between. It often takes a village to run a business. Do not try to do everything yourself! I highly encourage you to find support from your family members and friends. If you have a mentor who can offer you clarity for your thoughts, encouragement for your actions, and constructive criticisms when you’re wrong, go for it.
Practice patience. When an e-commerce store is first launched, you don’t get immediate traffic and sales. When I was working as an agency, I saw many people designing a website through me and hoping for traffic to come in without doing anything. Many of them believed in the adage, “If you build it, they will come”. But, it takes a lot of work to bring in traffic that converts. Organic rankings certainly don’t fall into your lap overnight. So, a new business has to rely a lot on properly managed paid ads. Even paid ads can take time to start returning a profit on investment, and in this case, another adage rings true, “You have to spend money to make money.”
Don’t be afraid to pivot. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, we immediately saw the need for masks. Alongside our partners in the bedding industry, we were able to offer reusable masks to our customers. Since we were one of the first companies to start selling masks online, we got some natural ranking in Google for antimicrobial masks. With profits from this new revenue stream, we are now able to allocate additional funds for growing our primary product line of bedding supplies. Mask sales are slowing down, but our masks introduced people to our brand who might not have found it otherwise. Although face masks were outside our comfort zone at first, the decision to offer them during a time when availability was limited really helped propel us forward in the long run.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We run our business on Shopify. I know other platforms like Magento, BigCommerce, NetSuite, and more, but we love Shopify. We’ve never had any issues with the server being down and it is a stable platform with great flexibility to design and code. Additionally, there are a lot of powerful apps available in Shopify, more so than any other platform.
We use Loox for our reviews and Klaviyo for email campaigns. My favorite feature of Loox is that happy customers can post pictures of their products, and it posts with their written reviews. This provides social proof right on the product page for potential customers who are still researching their options. Klaviyo is an ideal email tool for e-commerce marketers because it’s very easy to use and allows for a high level of customization that fits your business.
We love Upwork to hire freelancers, but I have also set up a group of experts in India to manage all our website-related work. Platforms like Slack and Asana are used to manage internal communication and task allocations.
I believe exercising is a big help to activate your feel-good hormones. I use Alo Moves to exercise at home. With thousands of videos available for a wide range of practices, I can get exactly the kind of workout I want, without the commute to the gym or yoga studio.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My favorite pastime is listening to podcasts from motivational speakers like Marie Forleo, Tony Robbins, and other life coaches. I often enjoy walking while listening to audiobooks and podcasts to get inspired. But I always make sure that I don’t keep consuming.
Every time I hear a great idea that I can implement, I pause the book or audio, take action and then continue. Many times, we just get lost in the pool of great ideas, but never take the time to take action. Never forget to be a doer and give a piece of yourself to the world!
Here are my favorite podcasts:
- Design Your Dream Life by Natalie Bacon
- The Think Grow Podcast by Ruben Chavez
- The Marie Forleo Podcast
- The Tony Robbins Podcast
And, a few of my favorite books:
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The world is full of great ideas, but success only comes through action. A lot of people have ideas, but they never go for them. There is no need to quit your job, but do something small consistently and get started on your dreams. Invest in yourself and learn. Initially, a lot of things cannot be given to experts due to limited budgets. Eventually, when you start growing, you can quit doing things that you don’t enjoy and focus on your dreams.
Entrepreneurs are a special breed, and there is a lot of freedom and happiness that comes out of it when done right. But know that success is not an overnight thing; it happens over time. I listen to many motivational speakers and read many business and personal development books. We need a lot of inspiration and motivation but don’t leave ideas in your mind, always take action so that good ideas have the opportunity to become great realities.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At this time, we are looking at hiring 1-2 people for warehouse operations and customer support.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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