Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at Devon Maryn and how you got started?
Devon Maryn is a preppy-chic, colorful women’s activewear line. We use bright, resort-inspired prints and patterns in all our products - yoga pants, shorts, tops, tees, and more.
I created and launched Devon Maryn back in 2013-2014 because I couldn’t find athletic clothing that made me excited to get up in the morning and workout. Devon Maryn is for women who are tired of buying basic black yoga pants!
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
I knew little to nothing about the fashion and activewear industry when I got started, but that did not deter me. Devon Maryn is not my first business, so I know that every obstacle is just a stop on the path of entrepreneurship and an opportunity to learn.
Starting out, one of the most challenging parts was finding a manufacturer to work with and produce my garments. I live in Baltimore, and it can be very difficult to find people to work with if you’re not in LA or NYC (also, people are notoriously secretive about their factories!) Luckily, I eventually found a great design partner who was able to take my rudimentary sketches and drawings, help me source fabrics, translate them into samples, and then get them into production.
I’ve worked with factories in Los Angeles, locally in Baltimore, and in China, as well as fabric printing vendors in North Carolina. You have to constantly look for how to improve your products and work to make new contacts that can help move your business forward.
How did you get your first sale?
I started social media channels, and especially focused on Instagram, before I even had product for sale back in 2013. I was able to cultivate a passionate niche audience in the “preppy lifestyle” space, so I had people lined up and ready to buy the product once it was available. I engaged with this group regularly in the months prior to launch by running contests and asking for design feedback. I even let my followers suggest and vote on the name of a print!
Nowadays it is much harder to build a following on channels like Instagram and Facebook, because those platforms have changed a lot. They hide brands’ posts and expect you to pay to promote to your audience, so if you have a very small budget you need to get much more creative in your marketing efforts. We’ve done this by working with media outlets and doing PR, as well as working with fashion bloggers in our space.
How did you build your social media audience in the beginning? Were there any particular strategies you used to get attention and garner engagement?
We were lucky when we started that social media, especially Instagram, was business and brand-friendly. Customers were so excited to discover new brands on social media and it was fairly simple to get new followers. The blogging phenomenon was in its infancy, and it was easy to reach out to bloggers and work with them by sending them free product.
Nowadays, things have really changed. Working with bloggers is much more expensive, so you really have to know which bloggers are the right fit for your product. We would work with well-known bloggers and get good traffic but maybe not a lot of sales; then we’d work with a lesser-known blogger who was more “niche” and they’d bring in much higher sales. It was a constant game of trial-and-error.
Today, the whole world of social media and blogging is very saturated, and I find that customers tend to trust these influencers less than they did in a few years ago. Social media channels constantly changing algorithms also provide major challenges. All of this means you have to iterate and be nimble and creative in your marketing and advertising efforts.
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
A big challenge as a small business is figuring out how to best spend money. Creating and launching a fashion line requires large up-front investment in inventory - and then you’re competing against much more established competitors (with deep pockets!) when it comes to search traffic and online visibility. If you don’t have a solid marketing plan (or a ton of money), it will be near impossible to break into the big leagues.
We’ve had to get very creative with how we spend our marketing dollars, working with bloggers to get in front of the largest audience possible. We also focus on working with physical retail stores as a way to introduce our customers to the product in-person.
Building a brand is not something that happens overnight, and it can be easy to compare yourself to bigger name brands who have been around for 20 years. It’s important to stay focused on near-term goals and celebrate wins as you experience them!
You mention working with bloggers. Do you have any advice for other shop owners who are interested in finding, reaching out to and engaging with influencers?
Do your homework! A lot of bloggers have high follower counts but low engagement. That’s an easy way to know it’s not worth your time or money to work with them. Look at the top influencers in your niche--in our case, we focused on preppy fashion bloggers and fitness personalities--and develop relationships with them. The more authentic the influencer, the better. Go where your customers are - if that’s Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube - be there!
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
I tested a lot of other ecommerce platforms when I was deciding to use Shopify - I tried Volusion, Big Commerce, Word Press, SquareSpace, Wix, you name it. Ultimately, the ease of use of Shopify, as well as the fact that it was #1 in the space, convinced me that it was the right platform to choose. A side benefit for Shopify is the many, many add-on apps they offer, and the fact that other platforms we sell on (like Amazon, Pinterest, Etsy, Ebay, etc.) integrate really easily with Shopify.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
Getting started was challenging, especially because I had no prior experience or contacts within the industry. I put together a roadmap of things I needed to do, and only focused on the next task on the list. If you look at steps 2-500, you’ll get overwhelmed and won’t ever start. It’s so important to look at each task individually and just focus on what’s in front of you.
I wish I had known just how competitive the fashion space is! I was focused on creating a product that didn’t exist, and that helped, but the barriers to entry in the fashion space are very low these days, and the activewear category in particular is very crowded.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business?
I use so many apps, it’s insane, but hands-down the most valuable app I use is the Pop-Up Offer by Better Coupon Box. It offers new customers 15% off their initial order by signing up for our social media channels or our email list. We see a ton of customers use this discount.
I also think it’s extremely important to solicit and display product reviews (we use the free Shopify Product Reviews app for this). Giving our customers the opportunity to share how much they love the product and our customer service really provides peace of mind to shoppers who have never been to our site before.
Awesome! Can you list out the top 5 other apps you love/recommend?
* Mailchimp for email newsletters
* Shippo for shipping and mailing
* Order Printer for pretty invoices
* Form Builder for more personalized contact forms
* Tawk for live chat
We almost exclusively use free apps!
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Devon Maryn?
Our marketing efforts have mostly focused around social media, with Instagram and Facebook. We also do product remarketing via AdRoll (you know, the ads that follow you around once you’ve visited a website). We like to focus on customers who are already interested in our product, rather than casting a hugely wide net. We found that wider advertising wasn’t nearly as effective as focusing on a small, niche group that is already likely to be attracted to our product.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
We talk to our customers any way they want to! We have email forms, live chat, we respond to Instagram questions, you name it. We also like doing occasional contests - everyone loves free stuff!
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
We’ve grown year over year with both online orders and wholesale (physical retail) orders. In fact, over just the past two years alone we’ve experienced a growth rate of 300%. Our site traffic is always increasing year over year, though I haven't recently run the numbers on that. Also, Shopify provided us a metric that we're in the top 3% of stores who launched at the same time as us.
That's amazing - congrats! To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
There is no magic answer! You just have to keep working at it every day. We try new things constantly - especially in today’s world, there is some new way to reach your customer getting introduced every day via new social media platforms, blogger partnerships, etc. You have to keep your audience and customers excited about your products.
What was it like breaking into the wholesale/retail arena? How did you get your products noticed and picked up?
Wholesale/retail is challenging in 2018. Many stores aren’t doing well and are reluctant to take on new brands. We’ve reached out to stores that are a good fit for our space, gone to industry trade shows to find new accounts, emailed, called, you name it. Growing our physical retail presence is hugely important to us, so we focus on making the wholesale experience painless for the stores we work with.
What are you working towards now? Are there any blogs or other resources that have been helpful for you?
I’m always working to introduce more people to my brand. That’s probably my biggest goal - as well as selling more product!
Probably the most helpful resources I’ve found is connecting with other people in the industry. I’ve been lucky to meet several other women brand owners in my space, and whenever I encounter an issue or have a question, I have a network of very helpful women I can ask.
Based on your own success, what advice would you share with others who might be just starting out with Shopify (or with eCommerce in general)?
I would say to just do it! Try to spend as little money up front as you can, and don’t invest in huge amounts of inventory before you have a proven concept. Constantly try new things, iterate, and see what works for your business. Listen to your customers’ feedback - they will tell you what they want!
Don’t get bogged down comparing your business to others (no one has it all figured out, no matter how slick their website might look - trust me). Work hard, don’t get discouraged, and build a network of people who can help guide you through the process on good days and bad.
Fantastic advice! Where can our audience learn more about Devon Maryn?
~ Devon Mish, Company Founder