How a clothing retailer increased its store’s revenue amid COVID-19
- Gina Ozhuthual started her online clothing business, Bohemian Mama, in 2015 after quitting a 20-year career in sales.
- The business grew to include a physical location that accounted for half of its revenue.
- When the pandemic hit, she had to rethink everything from her model of accomplishment to employee job descriptions to product strategy. Not only did she maintain her business, but she increased it by 340% over the previous year.
Gina Ozhuthual had the kind of career that would make most business leaders jealous. As the vice president of business development for a multi-million dollar financial real estate company, she regularly traveled the country to recruit new clients. But eventually, the work lost its appeal, and in 2015 she said goodbye to two decades of sales. âI was fed up with the mouse wheel in business,â she says.
She decided to use her sales skills in another way. That year, after having a baby, she started Bohemian mom, an online clothing and accessories retailer that sells products that are sustainably and ethically made, both branded items and clothing that she designs herself. âI’ve seen an opening in the market for women like me, new moms who want to shop more responsibly, not just for their kids but for themselves,â she says.
Over the next several years, Bohemian Mama grew significantly – and opened a physical store in New Jersey in 2017. But Ozhuthual’s resolve has certainly been tested this year in the wake of COVID-19. In March, she had to close her physical store, which accounted for half of her income. Still, she had to find a way to keep her 25 employees working and safe. âI was nervous,â she says. “We were just dispersing to make sure we could fill the orders that were coming in.”
Because Bohemian Mama started out as an e-commerce business, she had the infrastructure and knowledge to run a fully online operation. However, Ozhuthual still needed to improve its online operations to make up for the loss of revenue from its physical store. The company embarked on several key changes, including implementing new software to make its back-end easier to operate and adding an affiliate program, which allows bloggers who link to towards merchandise on its site to earn a small commission if one of their readers buys something.
Bohemian Mama has also tweaked its website to make online shopping easier and developed a mobile app that uses push notifications to alert customers when a new product is available for purchase.
On the fulfillment side, the company added what’s called a drop-shipping platform, which allows vendors to send a product directly to customers instead of Ozhuthual having to receive that item first. This allowed Ozhuthual not only to speed up delivery times, but also to easily change its product line, which it has had to do with more and more people wanting home clothing. âIt was a huge part of helping us adapt quickly,â she says. “Since we didn’t have to own the product ourselves, we could work with multiple suppliers simultaneously.”
This helped Ozhuthual keep all of his staff employed and quickly redeploy them to areas of the business that needed the most attention. For example, it moved its physical store workers to order fulfillment to help kickstart online sales. Others were tasked with carrying out projects that had been put on hold, such as setting up their revenue sharing program with bloggers. âWe just refocused their efforts and turned to projects that we had put aside but could do now,â she says. “We have all come together to make a difference.”
Listening to customers
These changes have been far more effective than Ozhuthual could have imagined at a time like these, with annual revenue rising 340% year-over-year. But the most important thing she’s done is something she’s been doing since she started her business: listen to her customers. Ozhuthual is part of several Facebook groups related to moms, where she pays attention to what people buy, which in turn helps her inform her own product offerings.
Over the past few months, these conversations have led her to come up with more children’s clothing. Of the 6,000 items visitors could purchase from her site, about 60% were for women and 40% for children, but today a large majority of items are aimed at children. âWe noticed that when the pandemic started, women weren’t buying for themselves, they were buying for their children,â she says. “We very quickly moved our offerings to most children, including toys and educational items.”
Find funding to help
While all of these changes can be attributed to her quick-thinking and hard-working employees – which she didn’t have to lay off – it helped her have funds to help pay for the investments she did. did. She often relied on PayPal Working Capital1, a business loan that allows businesses to access financing based primarily on their PayPal account history, and then repay the loan as a percentage of each PayPal sale.2 She used those funds during the pandemic to help pay for things like upgrading the site and launching her own private label collection. âThings were expensive this year, so having those funds was extremely helpful,â she says.
Ozhuthual plans to continue investing in his business and refining his product line. And while operating in a pandemic is always a challenge, she’s a better business owner because of it. âIt’s not easy,â she said. “I always put out fires everywhere, but you just have to get out of it and come out stronger. Everyone really comes together – customers, suppliers, staff – and we’re all doing our best.”
This post was created by Insider Studios using PayPal.
1The lender for the PayPal Working Capital loan program in the United States is FDIC member WebBank.
2For PayPal Working Capital, a minimum payment is required every 90 days.