Lazyjack Press Update: How I Expanded My Product Line
This is a follow up story for Lazyjack Press. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi guys! Miriam here from Lazyjack Press, a fun and preppy accessories line I started in 2012. My whole goal with Lazyjack is to create a better quality prep brand – a luxurious, yet modern take on the traditional European motif tie, while using the best quality goods I can source. In addition, each item (whether a pair of socks, tie, or a women’s scarf) has a cheeky name, which adds to the fun! It’s always gratifying when someone has to get really close to actually figure out what the pattern on the tie is and then laughs when they figure it out – like the Do You Even Lift Bro tie below. Yes, those are barbells! Basically, this is not another boring tie collecting dust in the closet.
My flagship design is the red party cup, aptly named “The Re-Rack.” It’s on a tie, bow tie, socks, and even lines our boxes and our shopping bags! Another popular design is the “Mullet tie: Business in the Front, Party in the Back.” It is made from gorgeous Italian woven silk on one side and has our signature Re-Rack design on the inside lining, so you can wear it to a more conservative office but not sacrifice any of the fun!
Lazyjack Press started as a small line of ties, bow ties, and pocket squares but has since grown significantly to socks, scarves in various sizes and materials, boys’ bow ties, and now, masks! We also focus on custom, which I love! It’s very satisfying to help someone come up with a special design for a wedding or turn a regular logo into something more interesting and exciting!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
It’s no secret that bow ties were NOT the first item that people thought to hoard in the midst of a global pandemic. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there were many hard days a year ago when I had no idea whether I'd ever sell a tie again. I made it through the entire Survivor TV series from season 1 to 40, anecdotally, in those beyond slow days. There were weeks and weeks without a single online sale. And trying to post regularly on social media, trying to make life appear exciting took a lot of extra effort (and imagination). It got tiring to try and drum up tasks for myself to do. I do not like being idle.
I find that small things like discount codes and little touches such as a personalized thank you note go a long way. And, most importantly, don’t ever ever give up. It will get better.
But, I stuck with it.
I had a few offers to make my ties more cheaply in other parts of the world because they would be easier to sell. Who is going to buy a $105 tie when you can’t even find toilet paper and paper towels at CVS? It would have always been easier to sell a $40 tie (pandemic or not), but that’s not the route I took from the beginning when I started Lazyjack. Through it all, I had faith that we’d come out of this pandemic at some point and, though business was not great, the one thing I didn’t want to do was sacrifice everything that the company stood for. I’d never get that back.
At one point, the mill in Italy suggested that I start making masks. I wasn’t interested. I saw every other company making masks, but I didn’t know how I could do it and stay true to the brand. The mill ended up sending me a Re-Rack mask prototype anyway and let me tell you, I LOVED it! (Well, as much as you can love a mask!) It was soft, Italian cotton, so it was of great quality: three layers and the requisite filter layer inside. The best part? It was fun! I wanted to try and make a small difference to people struggling, so I decided to donate a percentage of the sales to Feeding America.
It wasn’t long until I sent out an email to my subscribers pre-selling the masks in a few designs. I sold out immediately before the masks even landed from Milan. So then began the ever-challenging struggle to keep the masks in stock. It seemed like if I ordered a lot of one design, people wanted a different one that was sold out or that I hadn’t even made into a mask. But it was nice to be sending out orders again and seeing so many repeat customers pop up on my Shopify app. As the mill in Italy pointed out, the masks were a good way to remind people I’m still here despite what’s going on in the world.
What’s more, I’ve never gotten so many compliments on a product. People wrote that they were only using my masks from now on. One customer even framed a group of them with a mini axe with “break in case of emergency” written on there for posterity’s sake. It makes me feel good that I made something to hopefully keep people safe during these crazy times.
I also took the time to not only come up with new designs and colorways but to come out with a new product altogether – stay tuned.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
My philosophy has always been that I say yes to (most) every opportunity and if it doesn’t work out – well, at least I tried. That had to obviously change with Covid. I’ve never had more FOMO in my life. For example, I look forward to my pop-up in Bryant Park, NYC every year, which runs from the end of October to early January. Half of the rent money is due in the late summer, but we were told that there would be no refunds if the City shut down, even if it was before the market opened. That seemed like such a big risk (a $22k risk to be exact + investing in a lot of inventory) and trust me, so many sleepless nights. I also would have had to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks (which would have been expensive) so I finally decided to skip the 2020 market. It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made since I started Lazyjack. I really hope things will be open and much better this holiday season because I can’t wait to be there and see everyone and meet new people. I really live for those markets. The jury is still out on that decision, but one thing is clear: my FOMO has not gotten any better.
Another lesson this last year was dealing with disappointment – from lack of sales to canceled shows, and just general uncertainty. I thought everything would be okay in a few weeks, but Covid just kept getting worse and life changed so drastically. I think the biggest blow came when my showroom in Atlanta closed by choice (not my choice). Not having a wholesale show is one big way to make you feel stagnant. The shows normally happen twice a year. Not meeting new stores, connecting with reps from existing accounts, and just being present is hard. I knew that the July 2020 show wasn’t a great idea – the pandemic was still pervasive and no vaccines were available, but I was really bummed that the showroom was closed in January 2021 when a lot of people were attending the show. I kept seeing Instagram stories from Atlanta and it didn’t look normal, but it seemed like it was all very much heading in a good direction. (See? There’s that FOMO again). Also, side note, I love the group of people in the showroom. We all support each other (which isn’t too easy to find in the industry) and laugh way too much! I think now that vaccines are rolling out, I’m hoping the showroom will reopen in July, but if not, I’ll have to find another one, which won’t be easy. But I’m hopeful.
During the last year, it’s been impossible to escape Zoom. Everything has been happening virtually, even happy hours with friends. The same goes for virtual trade shows. Some things work virtually and some things that don’t – virtual trade shows do NOT work. I think part of the appeal of a tradeshow is to see a company’s entire line, see the colors, and be able to feel the quality. You’re completely immersed in a brand when you see it in person. All of that is totally lost when it’s virtual. It’s not even as organized as a website because it’s all haphazardly listed, in no particular order or reason. It’s also just so impersonal! For the New York show, it took me three weeks to painstakingly set up my virtual booth with basically no reward. The same went for virtual holiday shows – showing a product to glassy-eyed strangers on the other side of the screen who just sat through a dozen other brands rattling on and on about their product, it all seemed to get lost in the shuffle. I thought for a little while that after this pandemic was over, virtual would replace all of the in-person events, but it seems, thankfully, to not be the case.
Another lesson I learned is how valuable an email list is – those are the people that love your brand already! They have subscribed to YOU and want to hear what you have to say. I timed my emails to be as sporadic as I could and filled them with as many amusing puns as I could muster to keep people interested. (Sidenote: I laugh pretty much the whole time I draft emails). But growing and maintaining that list has been a really great tool that I didn’t take advantage of in the beginning years. Privy, a marketing app I prefer to MailChimp, has been really great with the email marketing aspect as far as apps go. They also had a really great daily email marketing boot camp that was about eight minutes long each day for a week. See, these are things I could take advantage of in the off times.
I said this above, but it’s so important to stay true to your brand (and yourself) even with rising pressure and crazy, uncertain times. Make customers know how much you appreciate them. I find that small things like discount codes and little touches such as a personalized thank you note go a long way. And, most importantly, don’t ever ever give up. It will get better.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I want to continue to make new designs and new products that do hopefully not mask. I want to expand to new stores, figure out the Atlanta showroom situation and just get back to whatever “normal” life was.
This is the second week during which I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’ve been so busy (no time for Survivor reruns) and it just feels so good! I hope it continues. Some people have said we are going to be entering into the “roaring 20s” after this. I hope they’re right because basically everyone wore a tie then!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- Shortform guides are essentially superpowered book summaries.
- Get all the book’s key ideas clearly and simply explained, plus smart commentary and analysis.
- It’s like having your smartest friend dissect a book for you.
Get your free trial + $42 off the annual sub today
Collect and analyze feedback with Delighted, the self-serve experience management platform of choice for thousands of the world’s top brands.
Choose from 8 ready-made survey templates including: Net Promoter Score, Product Market Fit, Smileys, Thumbs Up/Down, 5 Stars, and more.
And 5 survey delivery methods: email, web, link, kiosk, and iOS.
Sign up now and start collecting feedback for free.