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Ep. 35 - Customer Wants vs What They’re Willing to Pay For and Having a Service Mindset with Kimberly Lewis

Kimberly Lewis, the co-founder of CurlMix, took her company’s sales from zero to one million dollars in just a year. But before CurlMix’s success, Lewis and her co-founder, her husband Tim, had already failed at one business--and they were struggling to make their new business, CurlMix, sustainable.

So, they changed tactics, did the research and decided to design the business entirely around what the customers really wanted. And, it worked.

Last year, CurlMmix was featured on Shark Tank, where they boldly turned down Robert Herjavec’s offer. Spoiler alert: Lewis says that the controversial decision was the best thing they’ve done for their business yet. CurlMmix is projected to reach $10 million in sales this year!

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [1:19] How Kim found her co-founder, Tim (her husband)
  • [2:57] Pursuing entrepreneurship
  • [4:07] The first product
  • [4:24] Changing CurlMix’s business model
  • [7:50] Exponential growth powered by data and customer feedback
  • [9:26] Micro-influencers
  • [10:09] The benefit of having a business partner
  • [11:46] Having a serving attitude
  • [12:09] The true definition of being an entrepreneur
  • [12:42] How constant iteration and learning leads to success
  • [13:06] The difference of knowing what customers want and what they are willing to pay for
  • [13:59] How CurlMix got featured in Shark Tank
  • [17:10] The Shark Tank experience
  • [18:10] Turning down the Shark Tank deal
  • [27:00] The biggest lesson after Shark Tank
  • [27:00] What’s next for Curlmix

Resources:

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Transcript:

 

Kimberly Lewis

One of my biggest learnings so far is that it's just really about the people. What matters most every day is my customers and the people that I employ.

 

Making sure they're happy, making sure that they have an enjoyable place to work, a safe place to work.

 

And then really, I do all this for those two groups of people.

 

Annette Grant

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce where we are dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners.

 

Chase Clymer

I'm your host, Chase Clymer

 

Annette Grant

And I'm your host, Annette Grant.

 

Chase Clymer

And we believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game.

 

Annette Grant

If you're struggling to scale your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us. visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more.

 

Chase Clymer

And let's get on with the show.

 

All right, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm super excited today to be speaking with Kimberly Lewis.

 

Kimberly is the co-founder of the wildly successful CurlMix, a beauty brand for curly hair. But this is a really interesting show today. They've done a lot of really cool stuff with the brand.

 

(They have) been featured on Shark Tank, which I know is a buzzword for a lot of our listeners. But let's take it back before you guys had this multimillion-dollar brand. You met your co-founder in high school. Is that correct?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes.

 

Chase Clymer

Let's talk about that. So who is your co-founder?

 

Kimberly Lewis

My co-founder is my husband, Tim. Our names actually rhyme. We're Kim and Tim (laughs) And have been for the last decade. And we met back in high school.

 

Chase Clymer

Absolutely. So did you guys ever expect that you'd be running a business together?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Not early on. Early on, Timothy wanted to be a professor. (laughs) It's totally not what he's doing now.

 

He wants to get paid to read and do work and research and just spend his days reading really thick books and doing lots of research and telling people about what his studies were.

 

And then I was going to be in Corporate America, the perfect worker bee. And I spent all of my years in college just really trying to be that. Perfect suits and learning to talk the talk.

 

So I wear pumps and pencil skirts for all my meetings. and just spent a lot of time trying to look the part in business school, which is kind of funny.

 

And in our last year of school, I had to build an app for curly hair, whatever interest I had. And then we got introduced to the entrepreneur segment, if you will, at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. And we didn't even know existed.

 

It was basically called Research Park. And that's where they had like incubators and such and just things like that. We had no clue those things even existed. And so we were bummed that was our last semester when we figured it out.

 

But we were like, "You know what, maybe we should become entrepreneurs. Maybe that's the only way to really make this kind of wealth or money that we had anticipated in life." We knew that we couldn't get there with a job.

 

And so we were like, "Okay, let's just figure this out." So we started our first business as a social network for natural hair.

 

And if you know anything about tech, you know that niche social networks don't work because you can never really compete with the Googles, the Facebooks, the Pinterest, and Twitter... You just can't compete with these really, really large companies.

 

And so we did for about a year and a half and just decided that the business that we will do the next time will make money on day one. And we wouldn't spend a year and a half doing something that didn't have a real revenue model.

 

And that is how we landed on CurlMix. So it's kind of funny. So we that's how we landed on Ecommerce.

 

Because you get... You sell something, you get a check or you get a payment. And that wasn't the case for a lot of tech companies that you see out there.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah. With tech, it's a lot of... Build the MVP, and test, and test, and pivot, and test. But the cool thing about Ecom is if you build a product people want, you can make money that same day.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Validated. Exactly. Exactly.

 

Chase Clymer

Awesome. So what was the first product you guys came out with?

 

Kimberly Lewis

It was a do-it-yourself-box for curly hair. So, basically we would send you a box with 35 ingredients to make your own hair care products. And we did that for about 2 years. Well, I think there's a little bit more than 2.

 

But basically, we realized that it wasn't going to get us to this multi-million dollar success that we were longing for. But even in doing that, we had a lot of research and figured out what our customers actually liked. I used to say that, "Oh. We failed." But it was Curlmix 1.0.

 

And Curlmix 2.0 is actually implementing what we had already validated. So, we ended up turning our best-selling boxes into a haircare line. Our Flaxseed Gel is our best seller. So Flaxseed Gel was originally only a do-it-yourself product.

 

You couldn't get it in stores. People just wouldn't make it. It was too much work for manufacturers and most people didn't know how to scale the process.

 

And so Tim and I did what the hard thing was: To do and figure out how we could actually scale it and really found our niche in the market for that item.

 

Chase Clymer

Awesome. So I want to unpack that a bit. So you guys launched with the do-it-yourself box. Now, was that under the CurlMix brand?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes.

 

Chase Clymer

Okay.

 

Kimberly Lewis

That was where the name came from. You're mixing for your curls.

 

Chase Clymer

Oh, yeah. That makes sense. All right. And then you found the best-selling products from that from the data of selling that box and turned those into your own proprietary line?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes.

 

Chase Clymer

That's you just using data to make you money. That's amazing.

 

Kimberly Lewis

(laughs) Thanks. At that time, I didn't see it that way. At that time I was like, "My business is failing! Ugh!" (laughs) But I had a conversation with a friend.

 

She was making hair care products at the time and she was telling me that the industry's margins are like 70% on average for other hair care companies.

 

And I was like, "Wait a minute. The margins on my boxes are 30%" And that's when I realized that a lot of box companies have 30% margins.

 

But there's no way I can ever compete with other hair care companies if they're getting 2 or 3 times as much as I'm getting for every customer sold. You know what I'm saying?

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Kimberly Lewis

And basically, when I realized that I was like "Okay, I have to do something different. This isn't going to scale. There's a reason that we're struggling. And this isn't going to change. It's only gonna get worse."

 

So (I asked) what do my customers really want? Why are they not growing really fast? And them not coming back as much as I wanted them to let me know that this wasn't the right... I wasn't doing what they actually wanted.

 

I stopped doing what I wanted, which was the do-it-yourself box and started doing what they wanted, which was making a product for them but making a unique product for them.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, the "done-for-you" solution. I think hindsight is always 20-20 and with that one, someone would get the box and make what they wanted. But at the end of the day, they didn't want half those ingredients.

 

They wanted it exactly what they wanted and that's oftentimes what you find, when you're offering any sort of service out there or trying to educate people about how to do-it-yourself, they just end up going, like, "Can you just do what I want?"

 

Kimberly Lewis

Right. Or "Can you do it for me?" Because we found that our best customers were like, their boxes were piling up. They love the product. They love the ingredients. But they're like, "I can’t reasonably do this every time I would do my hair."

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, so it was a little time-consuming?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes. That was exactly what it was.

 

Chase Clymer

You were solving a pain point of your own product. Just making it better.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Right, precisely. And then when I did that, I realized I could sell it at the same price. Because nobody else is doing it. So...

 

Chase Clymer

And then were you hitting the margins that you had dreamed of?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Oh, yeah. I was hitting margins that everybody dreamed of. And then I got copycats. (laughs)

 

Chase Clymer

Hey! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yeah, yeah, yeah. (laughs)

 

Chase Clymer

Alright. So let's talk about one of the first amazing parts of your story. The million-dollar launch.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes.

 

Chase Clymer

So is this with the now "done-for-you" kit?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes. So we started with the gel. January of last year, we made about $3000 bucks in the month of January. And we had completely switched our model and started making this Flaxseed Gel, done-for-you service.

 

I freaked out and I was like, "Oh my gosh. our business is..." At the time, we were used to... Our investment ever as a do-it-yourself box made like $17,000 in a month. And so pivoting the business that only made $3000, I was freaking out. This is back to day 1.

 

And then my husband was like "No Kim. You knew that we're new. It was going to be slower. You knew this is a pivot. We're on the right track. Just keep going."

 

So, I went to a conference called Traffic, Sales, and Profit and one of the founders of the conference was like "Basically it's easier to sell your old customers new things than it is to sell new customers anything."

 

Chase Clymer

Oh yeah.

 

Kimberly Lewis

So, I went back to my old customers. "Okay, you guys like the gel, what else do you guys like?" And they're like, "Oh, we love the moisturizer. Actually, I use them together.”

 

And I thought they were using the moisturizer and the gel to get this “wash-and-go” look. I had no idea that they were doing that.

 

And so at this time, I expanded the fragrances of the gel. And I thought "Okay. Well, I'll go ahead and add the moisturizer because this is what they want."

 

And then I did that and then we also added the serum and the body butter. Those are other top sellers. For another three months...

 

And then we also start with micro-influencers. So we would give them a code, they will earn a percentage of sales and our customers would get a discount when they came through those micro-influencers.

 

The second month --in February-- we did about $8000. So I was like, "Okay, cool. We doubled last month. This is great!" And then the third month, we end up hitting $30,000. We introduced micro-influencers.

 

And "micro" meaning less than 20,000 followers on Instagram, which converted way better than any macro-influencers we ever used. So I was like, "Wow. This is it!" We've never made this much money ever before or seen this kind of growth.

 

And my husband, he ended up quitting his job that March and came to work full-time on the business. I think that was the biggest benefit in all of that because I basically got somebody who's pretty much brilliant to come and work for free.

 

And I think that's what a lot of people are missing. When they do Ecommerce or just starting businesses, they try to do it by themselves.

 

And you really need somebody to work in the front of the house and the back of the house. So, my job is in front of the house. It's marketing, it's customer service, it's the finance stuff.

 

The back of the house is the operations; Making the products, shipping and making sure people are getting what they need. And so he really took over that part of the business. So that was a tremendous help.

 

And so then, after we hit $30,000 in the following month, we did a little bit of $25k but then in the next month, we did like $45k, and the next month $66,000 and we had our first six-figure month in August.

 

Oh. And I introduced Facebook ads in April. So, I hadn't spent any money on Facebook ads from January to March. So that $30,000 is just... Not all profit, but I didn't have to pay for advertising for it.

 

But in April, we started coupling... I mean, pairing our efforts with Facebook ads which I felt like was the probably the best thing that we could have ever done. Because we weren't trying to make demand. You know what I mean?

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Kimberly Lewis

We were trying to validate it if you will. And validating in the absence of paid advertisements.

 

Chase Clymer

So there's something that you mentioned a few times already in this podcast, which I just want to point out. And I've [spoken] on this before.

 

You have said multiple times, "We asked our customers... We interviewed our customers..." How crucial do you think that was to the growth of the business?

 

Kimberly Lewis

I think it was huge in the beginning because you're really just... As an entrepreneur, you're really are just a servant. And I know that like... (laughs)

 

(You're maybe like) "Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I know. Serve my customers. Serve my customers." But really, if you don't do what they want, what's the point of being in business? No one's gonna pay you. I think a lot of us just want to get paid to do what we want to do. (laughs)

 

But that's just not what entrepreneurship is. It's solving people's problems. It's making life easier for them. It's creating a real solution in the market. And I think it just requires a server attitude.

 

Chase Clymer

Absolutely. I think that people are... Once they hit that first burst of sales, they're like, "Well, my idea is validated now." (But) it's like, "Well no. You found a market. I bet you there's a better idea in there and just ask around. You'll find out."

 

Kimberly Lewis

And I think that's been like our claim to fame is that constant iteration. So basically, my first foot in the door into the hair care space was our social network and we were educating people on hair care.

 

It didn't work as a business model, but I learned so much about hair and what our customers really wanted. And then we started the do-it-yourself box, right based on what we learned from that first business.

 

And then I learned all my customers really were willing to pay for it. And they'll say they want one thing. Everyone says they care about ingredients, and they want the most natural product, but what they're willing to pay for is somebody who saves them time. (laughs) It gets the same results.

 

And so the next one, we figured out what product they were actually wanting. And after we figured out that, we ended up scaling to what we have now: Our 4-step system "to get you the wash-and-go of your dreams." So basically, we started with the end of our line.

 

Our 4-step system is a shampoo, a conditioner, a moisturizer, and a gel. The gel is what we created first. The moisturizer is what we created second. And the shampoo and conditioner, we didn't launch until an entire year later, which was February of this year. And now we have a full system.

 

Chase Clymer

That's awesome. So you guys have this amazing launch. You have these amazing products that you've developed. How did you end up on Shark Tank?

 

Kimberly Lewis

My husband and I have been watching Shark Tank for years. Oh my gosh. Years. And that's actually how we got the idea for the do-it-yourself box. So (it's) just really funny. Because we saw a lady there doing it for cookies.

 

And we were like, "I wonder if anyone does this for a hair because I spend hundreds of dollars at Whole Foods not even (knowing) if the product is going to turn out the way I wanted to. So, that was really serendipitous and full circle.

 

But in Shark Tank, my auntie just sent us an email that they were casting here in the neighborhood. And my husband and I went and we took the baby. We didn't think we would actually make it on the show. But we know that like our story was compelling.

 

Chase Clymer

Yep.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Like the "Kim and Tim"...

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, it'd be fun

 

Kimberly Lewis

...story really.

 

Chase Clymer

At least it'd be fun at the end of the day. You got something to talk about.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yeah. We're curious. We were so nervous. We rolled up with the baby in tow. He was in a stroller. And then we pitched.

 

We were starting like, "Hi, I'm Kim and I'm Tim and blah, blah, blah." And she started smiling at the end. And she was just like...

 

After we pitched, we talked (about) all of our numbers and the study of it. --And this is like May of last year-- She was like, "I like that you're Kim and Tim." And I was like, "Oh my goodness. Okay, so she liked this."

 

But you only get to talk to one judge and a casting. So if they don't like you then that's it. And so as they say, --what is it-- "It's harder to get on Shark Tank than it is to get into Harvard." Which I think is funny.

 

Chase Clymer

It is.

 

Kimberly Lewis

It must have been like 30,000 to 40,000 applicants per year. And then they actually only end up selecting 88 to pitch on the actual show. So it's kind of crazy. But after that, they took you through it and they called us maybe two weeks later.

 

And we freaked out. We screamed. Whatever. But that's like... That was only for a short minute. It was a super long email with a bunch of things you had to do.

 

And then basically, they're doing around the cut, I think three or four more times before you actually make it onto the show. And some people get cut the day before.

 

So literally it's just... Sometimes I feel as if it's just a chance. It's this combination of what they're looking for and what you bring to the table. And then really, I think, what's the most important (thing) is your story. You have to have a really good story because they're on TV.

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Kimberly Lewis

It's supposed to be entertainment or people at home want to see themselves and founders, they want to see how you got to where you are. So really communicating that story is going to make a difference when you actually audition.

 

And then we drilled our pitch like --I don't know-- insanity. We thought we were back in college or something. I think we actually studied harder for this than we did for any exam that we would have studied for in college. We rewrote our pitching seven times.

 

It was tough because we were still trying to figure out the brand. And we're in the midst of a pivot. We were focused on this flaxseed gel, even though the brand was going into something else.

 

And by the time the episode would air which would be six months later... We filmed September (2018) so it aired in March (2019). We will be a different business.

 

So I was like, "What message should we be sending? Are we pitching the right stuff?" It was really stressful, actually. But still amazing. A really amazing opportunity as well.

 

Chase Clymer

That's awesome. So you guys are there. You're on the show. How was meeting the judges? How was the whole experience of pitching? And then you guys actually turned down an offer, didn't you?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes. So, you don't see the judges before you go to the show. So when you... Right there, when I'm pitching (to) them is the first time I get to see them. So then you're nervous. It's like, "I'll get out."

 

Literally just with a frog in your throat or like butterflies in your stomach. It's just everything. It's probably the most nerve-wracking experience you've ever had because you're basically pitching billionaires. Or at least 1 billionaire.

 

Chase Clymer

Plus, they're celebrities.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes, that's the other factor. So, you've been watching them on your TV for the last 10 years or whatever, and you finally get to talk to them. So that's... (laughs)

 

That's nerve-wracking in itself. But it was funny because after I pitched and turned down the deal, I ended up seeing Robert in his golf cart.

And he came up behind me and shook me (and said) "You should have taken the deal!" (laughs) It was so funny. He was laughing. He's being really silly. I thought that was really sweet.

 

Chase Clymer

That's awesome.

 

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Kimberly Lewis

People don't realize a lot of drama is done up for television. But basically, we turned down the offer because we just knew we were going to grow really fast a whole lot more than the Sharks knew. And they weren't willing to take the risk.

 

And we felt like we were a really good risk to take because we'd already done a lot of the legwork as far as research. And this wasn't my first rodeo. I like to look at CurlMix... This is like our 2nd and a half or 3rd startup. We know what not to do now. And so we're just a safer bet than maybe most founders on their first try.

 

But basically, we set up what we would and wouldn't, take the night before. We had a ton of conversation between Tim and I. And we actually went back to watch like the Ring episode. The founder of Ring, he ended up exiting to Amazon for a billion dollars.

 

And he was on the Shark Tank show and he had some of the valuations that we had. But he was laughed off of the show.

 

And so we're like, "Okay. We want to be able to tell America our story and make sure we get our story across. We can't go in there with the valuation that matches Jamie's." (The founder of Ring) That's his name.

 

And then they lowered our valuation. And when the Sharks still wouldn't budge, we were like, "We know we can't go any lower because we've already cut it in half."

 

So yeah, we walked away. And I think it was the best decision for us because we ended up raising money at a much more favorable valuation after the show aired. So...

 

Chase Clymer

So I got a few questions there. One, going into it, did you guys have a conversation like we're prepared to say no?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes.

 

Chase Clymer

All right.

 

No. Not entirely. We were prepared to say no if it's the wrong offer. So I think it was like, we wouldn't give any more than 15% of our company.

 

And we went in with a 10% offer, mainly because we were convinced that if we went into any offer that was single-digit numbers, the sharks wouldn’t even hear us.

 

And so we were like, "Okay, we'll do 10%. But we can't go above 15% because we know at some point, we may have to raise money again. And 15% is criminal from a venture capital perspective.

 

Usually, around, it's like 20%. But then you're getting a million or a couple of million dollars for 20% round, not $400,000 for 20%. That's what Robert wanted. So half of it means you will get anywhere else.

 

And Robert had mentioned that he didn't know anything about hair care. So we knew he wouldn't be able to help us scale. It would just be a check, which you could just get from a bank. And so, we basically went in with our walk-away numbers.

 

In MBA school, they call it your BATNA. It (means) Better Alternative To Negotiating an Agreement. We can't come to a consensus. What's going to happen? What are we going to do? And so we knew to walk away if it was even more than 15%. It didn’t matter (how much) the cash or cash value (would be).

 

Absolutely. So I'm trying to think of the best way to phrase this. The offers from Shark Tank are little... I'm just gonna say they're definitely in the Sharks favor, right?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Always.

 

Chase Clymer

So you'd say doing traditional rounds in the whole venture ecosystem would make for a better financial deal for an entrepreneur?

 

Kimberly Lewis

100%. And the Sharks know that. They know that if you went to a traditional venture fund, the conversation will be different, the expectations will be different.

 

You would get more equity as a founder or they wouldn't take as much. I think they make a lot of the math simple for at-home viewers.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah.

 

Kimberly Lewis

So that you guys can easily calculate it. But one person having 1% or 2% of your company is still a lot. But they do it in 5% and 10%, 15$, 20%, and 30%. And that's just not how venture capital is done.

 

And we raised a million dollars in funding led by the CEO of LinkedIn, and some of his partners, and Backstage Capital. And so that (being) said, it was nowhere near... Looks like 10% of our company.

 

It's nowhere near the 20% Robert wanted for $400,000. And we actually... It was $1.2 million. Not $1 Million. So you'll get a much better deal if you go through a traditional venture route.

 

Chase Clymer

That's amazing advice right there. I know that Shark Tank is just the "Golden Goose of Entrepreneurship." Maybe it plays up to the vanity but not so much. It's just... I don't know where I was going with that thought, really.

 

Kimberly Lewis

No, it's okay. Because some people's dream is to be on the show, which is great. It did it was wonderful for sales, for sure. But if you won the show and you really want to... There are other ways to get capital. There are better ways to get capital.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, that was actually a question I had. So do you have the math worked out on what kind of bump after the airing happened for the sales?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yeah. I think we made a few $100,000 extra from the airing. So the month before Shark Tank, we did maybe like $300,000 in sales in the month of Shark Tank. Even though we upped our spending as well.

 

So we always spend about 30% of revenue on sales. We upped our spending to like $250 K that month. We ended up doing $900,000 that month and that was like our best month to date. So that was almost a million bucks in a month.

 

Which is insane because last year, that's pretty much all we did for the entire year. You can imagine my staff was like swamped. And then the next thing...

 

People don't tell you this but sometimes people go out of business after Shark Tank because it can't handle such an influx of orders. So, it was a lot around getting prepared for the show on the production side. But even...

 

There are certain things you want to do to your site for it to be ready when Shark Tank airs. We had to upgrade to Shopify Plus a couple of months ahead of time to deal with the traffic. We had to make sure we have all our email captures in place and our ads going.

 

Our retargeting ads, especially because we know we're going to get traffic but people will just (be) lurkers in that buyers. There's so much more to be done when you find out you're going to air. So it's the biggest opportunity you might get so you don't mess it up.

 

Chase Clymer

Oh, yeah. I think, right there is an amazing piece of advice. Be it Shark Tank or a press feature or you happen to have a piece of content go viral, all those things you just mentioned are things you really need to consider.

 

Kimberly Lewis

You wouldn't believe the work. I feel like I didn't sleep in those 3 weeks. Because you get 3 weeks of... You'll know 3 weeks ahead of time if it's actually going to air.

 

Because even if you filmed, you don't know if it's going to air. And you don't know when it's going to air. And so that's the crazy thing.

 

So you get 3 weeks to get ready for you know, hundreds of thousands of visits to your website (laughs) in a day. It's so big. It was crazy. It's crazy.

 

Chase Clymer

I am guilty of this when I watch Shark Tank. The second thing I'm interested in pops up there. I'm instantly on their website.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yep, yep.

 

Chase Clymer

And you know what, to be honest, I've seen some really bad websites.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Because sometimes people end up being on the show with just really a gimmicky product. They're not focused on being a real business. And so they don't even... They have no clue what to do.

 

We were already making 6-figures monthly before the show aired. But if we hadn't, if we hadn't been featured in Shark Tank maybe the third month in business, oh my goodness. We would have been, we didn't have any... Well, first we want some advertising.

 

So there's no way you're going to do a million in a month on any Shark Tank episode airing in today's day and age because your site wouldn't have been nearly ready for something like that.

 

It would have crashed, you probably would still have a bit of a basic version of Shopify as a payment plan, you probably don't have a customer service team in place or chat or live chat, you don't have... It is a million things.

 

So, I'm just lucky that we were ready when we were actually on the show. And it wasn't my business two years ago when we had a bunch of do-it-yourself boxes and we would have lost money because we weren't having high margins on the boxes.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah. Absolutely. I definitely can agree there. I've seen a few pitches that were, I would say, just there for comic relief.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Right. Right. Entertainment.

 

Chase Clymer

And that's the key. The show is 100% entertainment and maybe 20% helping entrepreneurs.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yeah. I think the biggest benefit to Shark Tank is helping me figure out the math. If you don't know anything about venture capital, I think it's a good show to watch.

 

But then once you learn venture capital and you wanna grow your business, you're (going to be) like, "Oh, a lot of this is not entirely accurate."

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, there are a lot more numbers that go into it.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Right. Precisely.

 

Chase Clymer

Alright. So post-Shark Tank, you guys have been cruising along now. So what would you say, in this whole journey of yours, what's the biggest lesson you've learned?

 

Kimberly Lewis

The biggest lesson that I've learned is that...

 

Chase Clymer

Or I can phrase it in a different way. What's the biggest mistake you've made?

 

Kimberly Lewis

No, that was good. The biggest lesson I've learned is that the goal is not to not work. I think people think that, but every stage requires a different Kim or a better Kim. And one of my biggest learnings so far is that it's just really about the people. What matters most every day is my customers and the people that I employ.

 

Making sure they're happy, making sure that they have an enjoyable place to work, a safe place to work. And then really, I do all this for those two groups of people, my employees and my customers.

 

And that's something I don't think people think... You start your own business as a way to leave your job. To not work with the people you work with now or a way to escape.

 

What you don't realize is that if you're successful, you're going to build a better version of what you left. And that's crazy to think.

 

Okay, well, what's the purpose of all of this at the end of the day. And it's really just the people that you start on both ends of it.

 

Chase Clymer

That's a great answer. Awesome. So as a millennial, as an African-American, what it's like the biggest goal in impacting your community and generation that you guys have.

 

Kimberly Lewis

I like to create more jobs. I think we have to pay people better than what I think the industry pays them. Minimum wage is something like $9 or something like that.

 

They just raised it here in Chicago, but none of our employees make less than $17 an hour because I just don't believe you can live on $2 an hour here in Chicago.

 

You can't make a living wage there. I think it's actually close to the poverty line, which is insane to me. And so, that's been a goal of mine to make sure that we employ people with a lifestyle that's reasonable. Someone that has a feeling and is happy.

 

Again, people matter most. And so that's a goal of mine. Employ people, --more people who look like me, too.-- We hire a lot of underserved communities.

 

Our staff. We have about that maybe 15 to 20 folks in our manufacturing facility. And they are from the west side, here in Chicago. And it makes me happier. That's my goal, to continue serving them.

 

Chase Clymer

That's amazing. So, all have your production is there in Chicago?

 

Kimberly Lewis

Yes. Our production is in Chicago. Some of the small pieces of our production, we outsource. But even still... That's still here in Chicago to another brand new another company who's employing people from the same communities. So it's, yes.

 

Chase Clymer

That's a great mission.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Thank you.

 

Chase Clymer

Awesome. So as we wrap up here, what's next for CurlMix?

 

Kimberly Lewis

My goal is to make $10 million this year. (laughs)

 

Chase Clymer

Oh, well, I hope that you do that.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Thank you. I hope so too.

 

Chase Clymer

All right. Well, people were inspired by you and they want to know more about you, where can they find you online? Where can they check out the products?

 

Kimberly Lewis

They can have the products at CurlMix.com and if you want to follow me and Tim specifically, --we really only post our kid he's one year old. We were pregnant so that was a lot of pregnancy stuff-- but my personal Instagram is @kimandtimlewis.

 

Chase Clymer

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining the show today.

 

Kimberly Lewis

Thank you so much for having me.

 

Chase Clymer

We can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing the truth. links and more will be available in the show notes. If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you'd like to apply to your business, please reach out at electriceye.io/connect.

 

Annette Grant

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