Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Duffy Betterton and I am the co-owner of Dance Dress Couture. My mother, Debi Camp, is my business partner. We sell ballroom dance dresses and dancewear to the ballroom competitive industry.
We recently launched a new service called The Ballroom Box. It is a quarterly subscription box targeted to the same audience.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Our story started five years ago. As competitive amateur dancers, we admired the beautiful and expensive dresses created for dancers. My background as a web designer led us to create a website for dancers to list their dresses for sale on consignment. We had great responses from both consignors and customers ready to buy these beautiful gowns. We quickly realized that traveling to competitions with the dresses was the best way to showcase and sell the dresses.
Just try it. You won’t know until you do and if you don’t you will regret it by always asking yourself would this work.
Over time we added menswear and accessories. We traveled at least one weekend a month to competitions throughout the southeast. We were happy to grow each year and were able to keep our costs down so that we broke even our first year and earned a little profit each year following.
As we continued to expand to different competitions our dance family continued to grow. We continued to compete ourselves which also grew our knowledge of what is needed for competitive dancers. We built a long list of items that dancers packed in their suitcases for competitions. A few of these items we began to carry with us to shows.
During this time I began subscribing to a couple of boxes such as Fab Fit Fun and Causebox. My teenage daughters would fight over all the fun items when each box arrived. The next Christmas everyone found a subscription box they wanted and asked for those for Christmas gifts from grandparents. Every month we eagerly wait for the mail to see what surprises we can claim.
One day while I was adding to our packing list for dancers I had an aha moment. What if we built a subscription box for ballroom dancers? I did a little research and found none on the market. It was just before Christmas 2019 so we did a little test. We made up 10-15 Christmas gift boxes and took them to a couple of competitions. We had a good response but no time to really dig into the idea as we were busy through Feb 2020 traveling to competitions with dresses and dancewear. We also opened a small retail shop in north Nashville in Feb of 2020. And then came March and quarantine. Our whole industry of dance competitions was shut down.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We spent the first couple of weeks of quarantine working on inventory and taxes hoping things would open back up. As the doors remained closed, I decided to dive into the subscription box. I utilized Julie Ball’s Subscription Box Bootcamp. This proved to be the needed roadmap to start a subscription box.
The training included everything from setting up your business, website, and processes to advertising and fulfillment. With help from this course and an incredibly supportive group on Facebook, we were able to launch our first box in July of 2020.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our summer theme was Dance at Home and we curated our box with tools and inspiration to keep dancers moving at home. We started with a small quantity with plans to use several for promotions. We sold less than half of our first run but, every new subscription that came in was celebrated with our own little dance. We used the extra boxes to send to the pros in our industry for unboxing on social media channels. We continued to grow our audience through emails and social media. Our first box was simple with a plain black box and a nice sticker on top.
We found a great resource through the Bootcamp to have our boxes custom printed with Givr Packaging. They are so pretty and glittery! Our second box just closed this fall with double the number of subscribers. Now to plan for the holiday box!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We are working hard to grow our audience. We have a pretty tight niche market for ballroom dancers. We have expanded our shipping to international by finding the best shipping prices through services like Pirate Ship. We created a landing page to grow our email list and have given away a box as an incentive to join the list. Our ballroom box insiders also receive the best discount.
We have offered free shipping and began utilizing a referral code system with the first box. Every subscriber/influencer receives a special code. As they share that code with friends the new subscriber receives a discount and the referrer receives a % off their next box.
We have worked with professional and other amateurs in our industry to provide desired items in our boxes. For our summer box, we included a journal by The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. She also featured us as guest bloggers on her website - Pivoting to the Ballroom Box – An Interview with the Owner of Dance Dress Couture.
We partnered with a couple of podcasts to share our box with their listeners - Talk.dance and The Ballroom Chat. Both are podcasts focused on the dance industry.
We have tested FB and Google ads. The best success so far is with FB ads with a focus on growing our page likes. This has proven very time consuming and will likely be outsourced for the holiday box so that I can concentrate on building the box and creating content through email and social media posts.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Currently, we are planning the next box. We plan to double the number of boxes for the holidays and add a one-off male box. We have also pitched to a couple of competition owners to customize a box for them for their 2021 competitors. This would be a great boost for our box as we would share about our subscription service while servicing our dance family at the competitions.
Short term goals included doubling subscribers with each box. Long term goals would be to grow large enough to outsource the packing and inventory of items with hundreds of subscribers.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have learned that I enjoy certain aspects of business more than others. I love shopping, creating posts, seeing responses from customers, etc. I do not enjoy accounting and fighting with FB ads. It is worth it to pay someone that loves those things so that I can concentrate on the parts I am good about and passionate about.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our main website for both DDC and the Ballroom Box is created on WordPress with Woocommerce. We use the Subscriptions plugin for the box and connect both websites with Quickbooks online for our back end bookkeeping and inventory management.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
As mentioned above, Julie Ball’s Subscription Box Bootcamp. There are few subscription box FB groups for entrepreneurs. Subtly has also been a helpful resource to connect to suppliers in the subscription industry.
As a business owner, I also subscribe to Sparkle Hustle Grow. It has proven a great resource with training and books that have really been timely and needed. Pat Flynn's book SuperFans, Susie Moore’s training, The Product Boss Rock Your Holiday Challenge and Multi-Stream Machine have all been very helpful.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Just try it. You won’t know until you do and if you don’t you will regret it by always asking yourself would this work. Stop second-guessing yourself, find a team to support you, and get started.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Ballroom Box
- Dance Dress Couture
- Facebook (Ballroom Box)
- Facebook (DDC)
- Instagram (Ballroom Box)
- Instagram (DDC)
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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