Starting A Successful Business Selling Emu Oil Creams

$19,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Emu Joy
from New Jersey
started March 2014
$19,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
6.49M
alexa rank
8
followers
4
followers
2
subs
email
shipping
customer service
reviews
social media
accounting
advertising
app
design
stock images
affiliate
freelance
fulfillment
education
other

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I’m Carole Rains, the founder of Emu Joy. My product line features 100% natural products for skin, hair, muscles, and joints based on a unique ingredient: emu oil.

Emu oil is a highly penetrating oil that’s full of moisturizing and anti-inflammatory benefits. It comes from a thick pad of fat on the back of the emu bird, which looks a bit like an ostrich. It’s useful for everyone from babies with diaper rash to grandmas with arthritis, as well as many other conditions for folks of all ages.

While the most common gender and age for entrepreneurs seem to be males in their 30s, I started my business as a woman in her 50s.

Like many of you reading this, I had never heard of emu oil. Then one day while reading a home decor blog for my other business, Rustic Artistry, the blogger wrote an entire post about how much she loved emu oil, and how well it had worked for her eczema and joint pain. I was intrigued, so I started to investigate.

After studying the research and reading everything I could find about emu oil, not only did I decide to use it myself, I also wanted more people to know about it so it could help them too. Seeing photos and reading about little babies with eczema sealed the deal for me. If there was a way to help them that their parents didn't know about, I wanted to get the word out.

The result: I created Emu Joy as a source for reliable information and safe, natural products. I’ve now shipped more than 50,000 bottles, jars, and tubes of emu oil products, and the customer feedback makes me know starting this business was a good decision. Hearing from a mom who said “I got my little boy back” after the rash cream banished his eczema is what keeps me working hard to grow the business.

starting-a-successful-business-selling-emu-oil-creams

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

While the most common gender and age for ecommerce entrepreneurs seem to be males in their 30s, I started my business as a woman in her 50s.

Leading up to that I had worked for 17 years in pharmaceutical advertising and marketing, followed by 17 years as a chef. Eventually, I wanted more flexibility of my time and decided to try out creating an online store.

At the time there were a couple of resources that helped me get my store up and running. Steve Chou’s blog My Wife Quit Her Job was full of tutorials and extensive information on ecommerce.

Andrew Youderian, founder of Ecommerce Fuel, had published an e-course on how to start an ecommerce business that laid out the process step by step, including things like opening a business bank account and credit card, getting an LLC, and setting up a website. Having a list of boxes to check off was exactly what I needed to turn the idea into a reality. I’ve been lucky to get to know those two in person and now see them several times a year at the ecommerce conferences that each of them hold.

I bootstrapped the business with some savings that I had, putting $5,000 into my business checking account to get started. Since then I’ve been able to fund the business from revenue, with only a few times where I had to take a “loan” from my personal checking account for a few weeks to pay for inventory.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When choosing a supplier for my products I reviewed the online information on several emu farms in the US and spoke with the owners. It was important to me that my emu oil be certified by the American Emu Association so that I could ensure its purity and quality. My other criteria were that all the ingredients in the combination products be only natural.

I’ve learned that the key to a successful business is relationships. Whether it’s with my suppliers, customers, freelancers or fellow ecommerce entrepreneurs, developing a mutually beneficial relationship makes everything go more smoothly and efficiently, and makes going to work each day a pleasure.

I found the supplier I wanted to work with based on the quality of the ingredients they used and the way they care for their emus, but they weren’t particularly interested, having had a bad experience in the past with private labeling for another seller. Just as I was about to sign a contract with my second choice supplier, the owner got in touch and said they’d decided to take a chance on me.

Once that was established I brainstormed names for the brand and the individual products. I wrote the text for the labels myself, which was much harder than I had expected, knowing that I needed to get it just right before they were printed. I then worked with a graphic designer to have the logo and labels designed. Having worked for so many years in advertising I was very involved in suggesting and selecting fonts, adjusting spacing, and overall design, which was a lot of fun.

Holding my first batch of finished products in my hands was one of the most exciting days of my life.

starting-a-successful-business-selling-emu-oil-creams

Describe the process of launching the business.

Emu Joy is my second online store, which I developed after learning the ropes through my first website, rusticartistry.com. That site sells custom furniture and home decor which can be quite expensive, so sales were sporadic. I wanted a business that would have daily sales and an emu oil line of products fit those criteria.

Originally the business was called Emu Bliss, and the products were available only on Amazon so that I could test the market. When sales started to take off on that platform I added a Shopify site.

I also applied for a trademark for Emu Bliss. Then the trouble came.

My trademark application was opposed by a very large company called Bliss. They had a fancy NY law firm handling the filing against my Emu Bliss name, and very deep pockets, so there was no way I would be able to fight the case. Just when I had finally started to get some brand recognition I had to change my company name.

That involved a getting a new logo, printing new labels, removing existing product from the Amazon warehouse and relabelling, and updating all the email campaigns, advertising, social media accounts, bank accounts, etc. Plus it was like having to change the name of your child when they’re two years old.

Fortunately the new name of Emu Joy was well received by my customers, and in the end it didn’t hurt the business. But it certainly took up a lot of time that could have been spent moving the business forward.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Emu Joy’s sales are more than 90% on Amazon. There’s a steep learning curve to sell on Amazon but once you get used to how the platform works it’s easy to make changes to listings, set up shipments to the warehouse and track sales.

One of the most important parts of a successful listing is the images, and not just having a top notch main image. Smart sellers use additional images as mini ads, with lots of callouts, specs and other information that tells the product story. I found an excellent graphic designer through FreeeUp to create my informational images.

starting-a-successful-business-selling-emu-oil-creams starting-a-successful-business-selling-emu-oil-creams

Because I have my brand name trademarked I was able to enroll in Brand Registry. This entitles me to include Enhanced Brand Content, which allows for more images and content in the product description section instead of just all text, as well as the option to create a Store Page that’s like a complete brochure for the brand.

Keyword research is critical in order to write effective listings and to use for PPC campaigns. It’s fascinating pull the reports and see the phrases people use to search for products on Amazon. There are a number of providers who have excellent software to manage Amazon PPC campaigns, especially PPC Scope and Sellics.

Of course, selling on Amazon is both good and bad. It’s great to have a source for endless traffic, but it’s always dangerous to be dependent on one platform, especially one as challenging as Amazon. Even when you run your business ethically and play by all the rules, there are issues that come up on Amazon that are completely out of your control as a seller. I don’t know of a single Amazon seller that hasn’t had a product, or even their entire account, shut down by Amazon for something they didn’t do.

I’d like to increase wholesale sales, and was happy to be approached by The Grommet, which is a shopping platform that features makers and small businesses with intriguing products. That starts soon, so hopefully, that will go well, and also drive customers to my own site.

Another way I’ve grown my customer base is by looking for small, underserved niches that my products are good for. I have Google alerts set up for “emu oil” and often find articles that lead me to new uses. Some of the best information I get is by patient forums for specific conditions.

This shows me the exact language patients use and problems they are experiencing. Based on this information I have made combinations of my products into kits that are targeted to these conditions, such as a Cancer Care Pack and a Soothe My Lichen Sclerosis Kit.

I have information pages in the Learning Center section of the website to address various conditions such as piercing and tattoo aftercare, burns and eczema. Those have been successful at driving Google search traffic to my site.

starting-a-successful-business-selling-emu-oil-creams

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I’m proud to say that Emu Joy is a profitable business. After watching many episodes of The Profit on TV I know that that is often not the case. I attribute my tight control on my finances to the special system of allocating funds that I now use.

Emu Joy’s finances are organized using multiple checking accounts based on the method laid out in the book Profit First. With this system all revenue comes into one account, then twice a month it gets distributed in percentages to accounts specifically for Inventory, Operating Expenses, Taxes, Owners Pay and Profit. Once a quarter I take out a portion of the deposits made into the Profit account and celebrate. The idea is that a business owner should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

My bookkeeper, Cyndi Thomas of Bookskeep, just published a new version of the book: Profit First for Ecommerce Sellers, which lays out all the steps specifically tailored to ecomm folks.

starting-a-successful-business-selling-emu-oil-creams

Since implementing Profit First I have a much better grasp on where my business stands financially at any given time and am able to take advantage of seasonal bumps in sales.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I’ve learned that the key to a successful business is relationships. Whether it’s with my suppliers, customers, freelancers or fellow ecommerce entrepreneurs, developing a mutually beneficial relationship makes everything go more smoothly and efficiently, and makes going to work each day a pleasure.

It doesn’t matter what age you are when you start as long as you go in with an open mind and entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s OK if you don’t know what all those acronyms mean when you start. I was clueless about what PPC, CPC, SEO, LTV, ACOS and the rest of them stood for, but it’s possible to teach yourself about all of it, even if you don’t become an expert in every area.

Mostly it’s important to believe in yourself. Having attended multiple Tony Robbins events, where I walked over 40 feet of glowing hot coals and climbed to the top of a 50-foot telephone pole before jumping off towards a trapeze (we were harnessed!), I know that I can do anything I set my mind to.

starting-a-successful-business-selling-emu-oil-creams

When I hit a bump in the road I remind myself that literally every business experiences that, and sometimes the mistakes and setbacks are the greatest learning opportunities.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Emu Joy is hosted on Shopify using a custom theme that was developed by Smart Marketer, Ezra Firestone’s ecommerce training site.

My landing pages are designed using Zipify app, also developed by Ezra’s team. Email marketing is done with Klaviyo which has excellent segmentation capabilities.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Without a doubt the most important resource for me is my membership in the Ecommerce Fuel private forum.

These brilliant ecommerce entrepreneurs keep me up to date on the latest developments and are generous with their time and expertise whenever I have a question.

My favorite podcasts are Danny McMillan’s Seller Sessions, and Mike Jackness and Dave Bryant’s Ecom Crew.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

It doesn’t matter what age you are when you start as long as you go in with an open mind and entrepreneurial spirit.

Read blogs and books on starting an ecommerce business. Check out Facebook groups for beginner sellers to get an idea of the kinds of issues they experience.. Get on the email lists of the top marketers and attend their webinars.

And remember that perfect is the enemy of done. You can fiddle with your website forever to make improvements but that first sale won’t happen unless you push go.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Carole Rains,   Founder of Emu Joy

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