How I Started A $12K/Month Turkish Beach And Bath Towels Brand

Published: May 15th, 2020
Grace Druecke
Founder, The Bali Market
The Bali Market
from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
started March 2016
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Slim margins, out of stock inventory and a shaky foundation. That’s how The Bali Market functioned in its first year of business.

I’m Grace and I own The Bali Market, a Turkish beach and bath towel company. The business was launched on Amazon in 2016. I didn’t have a clear understanding of how I was going to run the business. I mean, I didn’t even know who I was selling to or why they would actually want my towels. Regardless of my muddled business plan, I crawled my way to the first page of Amazon. My towels sold out quickly and were getting five-star reviews.

That all sounds great but my margins were tiny (thanks to Amazon's hefty fees). And selling out meant I lost my first-page ranking. Even once I had more products in stock I was unable to get back to the first-page status.

I made the urgent decision to pivot off Amazon. I invested time and money in building a brand and re-opened on Shopify. That move paid off. The Bali Market now connects clearly with our target market and broke the 6-figure mark after less than 2 years in business.


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

The Bali Market was not my first business, but the first one that really took off. I have 15+ years in retail (I love it so much I even have a degree in Retail from the University of Wisconsin - Stout).

I was home with my first daughter so I was drawn to the flexibility of e-commerce. I just needed to find the right product to sell. So I turned to something I personally used and loved. Turkish towels.

I requested samples from 8 or more manufacturers. And I quickly realized that the quality of Turkish towels varies vastly. From those 8 manufacturers, I easily picked my favorite. The quality was clear and as a bonus the company was owned by a woman. Something I valued.

Sold out the status and five-star reviews on Amazon proved that the product was spot on. But just because they were selling well didn’t mean I was raking in the profits.

I quit my job before I had my daughter. We had a chunk of money in savings to get us through the first year. But that money was running out and I knew I needed to make The Bali Market profitable.

Learn the retail basics. I know my retail background helped me create an eCommerce store that has a sturdy foundation. Laying the foundational work first means you’ll have a better chance at success later.

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

Working with my manufacturer I decided to start with just three towels. I’m still grateful she took a chance on me. I was inexperienced and made lots of annoying mistakes in the beginning.

I knew that neutrals were a safe bet and that blue is the best selling color. So I started with grey, blue and pink (I guess having a baby girl influenced me on that choice).

My towels are made in small villages throughout Turkey. This means they’re handmade on antique wooden looms and hand-tied in the streets. Which produces a towel that just feels amazing. The downside is quality control can be hard to manage.

Once I decided to grow the brand and knew I needed a cohesive assortment. Going back and forth over email and waiting weeks to receive samples was fine in the beginning. But now that I was ready to fully commit to a line of towels I knew I needed to take a crazy leap.

I had to meet with my manufacturer.

Going to Turkey wasn’t possible at the time. But I knew they would be at a huge home goods trade show in Paris. So I jumped on a plane and met my manufacturer in Paris for the weekend. It was cold, rainy and the trade show was massive.

It was a whirlwind two nights in Paris.

At the show, I was able to finally meet the women I only conversed with via email for over a year. It was an extremely valuable experience. I was also able to hash out a cohesive line of towels for my Spring launch. I got more done in those two days than I could have gotten done in weeks trying to piece together a line over emails.

I feel like that experience gave me an advantage over my competitors. There’s always a “big thing” thing you can do in your business that will catapult you toward success. After my Paris experience I now 100% recommend business owners find their “big thing” and do it.


Describe the process of launching the business.

I was determined to sell my towels off of Amazon, but hitting publish on my own website wasn’t filled with fanfare or cha-chings. At least not at first. The problem turned out that I had terrible branding. And I don’t mean my logo. My entire brand message was off and I wasn’t connecting with the right customer.

I purchased a course called My Own Irresistible Brand. It was the most money I ever spent on my business, aside from purchasing inventory. I spent 6 weeks re-working everything involving my branding. And in the end, I had a cohesive brand that I was confident to put out in the world. That was a huge turning point.

After taking the course I invested in a photoshoot. That was also pivotal for my brand. It can be scary to invest in pro photography, but photos are EVERYTHING for selling online. In order to convey the lifestyle of The Bali Market, I needed those photos.

Once I had my new messaging and images in place I worked on my PR. I contacted tons of bloggers and podcasters and got a few key features, one on Apartment Therapy and one on a podcast called Cohesive Home. Those features brought in most of my first sales.

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

I started collecting emails day #1. My email list consistently brings in 40-50% of my sales. I’m always trying new things with email. I do aggressively sell and make offers in some emails but I also mix in really personal and conversational emails. I think that helps me retain customers. This year so far my return customer rate is 40%. (And my product is not consumable).

I also think that the high return customer rate shows I have room to grow my customer base. And when I do grow it, those customers are likely to stick around and buy again and again.

I also see a lot of sales come from retargeting ads. I think this just shows that building a relationship over time is necessary for customer longevity.

I’ve learned that I can’t build a business in a bubble. My best ideas seem to materialize when I’m at a hotel bar having happy hour drinks with friends or family. Personal connections have proved to be the most valuable assets.

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

The Bali Market is a profitable business. And my goal for this year is to really focus on profits over anything else. I have a bad habit of overspending on things that “would be nice” for the business and not necessarily things the business needs. So reigning in spending is the mantra for 2020.

I trademarked another brand name with the dream of adding a luxury brand to The Bali Market family. Similar to how Gap has the Banana Republic. I want to add another brand of towels that would be more luxurious, with upgraded packaging, and of course a higher price point.

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

I’ve learned that I can’t build a business in a bubble. My best ideas seem to materialize when I’m at a hotel bar having happy hour drinks with friends or family. Personal connections have proved to be the most valuable assets.

I’ve also learned that one big idea is better than lots of little ideas. My New Year’s Resolution for the past two years has been “To focus on one big project each month”. Some past projects have been writing a top-ranking blog post (which is now on the first page of Google and brings in tens of thousands of dollars in sales each year) and working with a designer to rebrand. That move also brought in more sales every month after the launch of the new branding.


What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I mean, Shopify and Klaviyo are really the foundation of my business.

There are a million reasons I love Shopify but I think the biggest reason is it gives tiny companies access to enterprise-level POS. And for $29 a month to get started - it’s ridiculous anyone would think that’s too expensive. Coming from the retail world I know the value of analytics. Having access to detailed analytics alone is worth the price.

And Klaviyo is 100% designed for eCommerce. I’ve tried other email service providers and they just don’t compare. Like, why would you use something that’s NOT designed for eCommerce? Just use Klaviyo.

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

How I Built This is my favorite podcast for inspiration to go big. Every featured business owner started small. But they chose to take a big leap and made it big. It’s super motivating.

Kurt and Paul at Ethercyle were also a huge part of my success in the beginning. I purchased a few of their info products that helped me build a functioning Shopify store. And their podcast, The Unofficial Shopify Podcast is one of my go-to’s.

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

Learn the retail basics. I know my retail background helped me create an eCommerce store that has a sturdy foundation. Laying the foundational work first means you’ll have a better chance at success later.

Retail is an industry. And I think it’s important to understand how the industry works before jumping in.

Also, remember that you don’t know everything. And there are people out there who can help you with your shortcomings. My first big investment was a branding course called My Own Irresistible Brand. I credit much of my early success to what I learned in that course.

Where can we go to learn more?

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