Let’s rewind to 2005 when owner, Tori Thompson began this company. Here is her story:
I was told I would no longer be able to bartend because I had gained too much weight due to being in my final months of my first pregnancy. As you can imagine, being fired for being “too fat to work here” when you are about to be a new mother is pretty darn devastating, but life goes on and on August 1st, 2005 I had my first son.
(pictured below: Our Potbelly Pig, Bacon and our son Luke)
When Luke was born I had two revelations:
1. OMG, WHY IS BABY STUFF SO EXPENSIVE???
2. LIKE SERIOUSLY, WHY IS BABY STUFF SO @*%#ing EXPENSIVE?!
In desperation I turned to eBay and Craigslist to sell stuff. In a short matter of time my merchandise was selling faster than I could obtain it. At this point in my life I had time, but I didn't have money, so I wasn't greedy at all. I was elated to make $3 net profit. This was seriously me:
I figured if I can make $3 net profit by working from home while raising Luke, and IF I could make $3 profit only 1 time per hour, every day, for a month, I could make over $2,100 a month without paying for child care! And $2,100 a month can buy a lot of baby stuff... and *maybe* even a purse for mommy too. At this time I knew I absolutely *could* ask a higher price for many of the items I was selling, but I couldn't afford to wait, so I priced to sell. And it sure did sell!
THEN, the first problem began...
I was running out of inventory.
I began spending 4 days a week driving to stores to scour their Clearance Sections in hopes of finding inventory (If you have a giant smile on your face because you know exactly what I'm talking about, yup, we've all been there!!). Some days i would find lots of stuff but other days there was little-to-nothing and the expense of gasoline and car maintenance from excessive driving was starting to add up. The time I was spending "hunting and gathering" (literally, I was hunting ... then gathering) was taking away from time spent photographing, listing and shipping.
I realized this method is not going to work if I really wanted to make money; if I could get the merchandise delivered to my door I could focus on selling it instead of finding it.
This led me to contact big brand companies and try to purchase wholesale direct… which *sounded* like a simple task but I quickly discovered how wrong I was! Door-after-door was slammed in my face due to:
- Not having a warehouse with a pallet jack, loading dock or a fork lift. I was shocked; because I don't have a warehouse I can't buy???
- Unaffordable "minimum purchase" financial requirements. A 25-year-old-just-fired-new-mother absolutely doesn't have $5,000 to buy Smashbox lipsticks! Jeez! Can't I just buy $50 worth??
- Giant minimum purchase quantities. Where on earth was I going to put 2,500 suitcases? I'm not an airport! Can't I just buy 4 pieces?!
- Insufficient company yearly sales requirements, no Tax I.D, no EIN and no LLC which made it so I couldn’t even apply to become a buyer! It would have been easier for me to donate plasma, blood, eggs and a kidney all in the same day than to come up with all that paperwork!
The vendors I found that were willing to sell to small businesses (or literally brand new sellers) were nothing but frustrating. You didn’t get to know WHAT you were buying, it usually wasn't name brand and it was typically a mixture of stuff, which often included totally trashed merchandise that can’t even be salvaged. I even got suckered into buying this because I was a new seller.
Wanna hear a funny story? (it's only funny because I'm still in business!)...
Ok so... I had found a "wholesaler" (notice the air quotes) on eBay who offered bulk panties, makeup and purses. The listing said "You might not get what's in the pics" and of course the photos showed AMAZING, new, gorgeous stuffs, so I thought "even if it's not those exact items, it can't be THAT bad!". I did notice that the listing also said "DESIGNER BRANDS!" but ALSO stated "Not all pieces will be designer brands". This made me assume that, at worst, I would be getting half-name-brand and half no-brand, which didn't seem *that* bad. So I invest the only money I had saved up, $5,500. I literally blew my life savings on this *spoiler alert* TOTAL TRASH!
So after waiting TWO WEEKS for this Ebay idiot to ship my stuff then waiting another week and a half for shipping from California to me in Michigan, this super sketchy, dirty, busted up, off-white cube van shows up and delivers these 3 massive boxes that were too big to ship regular mail. Each box was covered with black plastic trash bags that were taped together (you can't make this stuff up!). Now when I say these are massive boxes, I mean HUGE. They were so big they should have been shipped on pallets but somehow this Ebay seller got these two dudes in this creepy vehicle to drive them across the United States and unload them in my driveway.
So I open box #1 and it's more trash bags which are full of my makeup, classy, eh? To this day it amazes me that someone thought the best way to package makeup was by dumping 200 pounds of it into trash bags then throwing it inside a thin box and sending it across the country inside a predator-van.
I then open one of these can-liner-bags and the first thing I pick up is a shattered liquid foundation. Off to a great start (obvious sarcasm in case you missed it). I then pick up a nail polish covered in the foundation then I pick up a Maybelline compact, new in package (hooray!)...expiration date is 1999! It's not even the same CENTURY!!
So I think to myself "The makeup sucks but the panties and purses will be better"....
I then open Box #2 and it's the purses. Immediately I notice something chalky and black on the first one. "Must be dirt or something", I think to myself. I pick up the second one, more black powder stuff. Third is the same. Fourth is wet. Fifth is wet and black....it then dawns on me....this is probably BLACK MOLD! BAAAAAHHH!!!
I'm not the "OMG, panic!" type, so I managed to compose myself and move on to box #3.
Box #3 is the panties. I don't remember the exact piece count but it was a ton. Maybe 3,000 or so. I believe they were only 12 cents a piece or something like that. Anyways, I pull the top trash bags off the box and open the first interior trash bag and the worst smell I have ever smelled in my entire life permeates my nostrils. It's this smell like no other...don't laugh, but it smelled like...burnt hair mixed with burnt rubber mixed with....literal mushroom farts... I know, you're like WTF is a "Mushroom fart"; my response is "go eat a plate full of nothing but portabellas and you'll find out". But wait, it gets worse! The panties were thongs straight from China, in China sizing and with tags on them that showed a picture of a little girl and said, in big, bold, English letters, "Kid Thong".
OMG is an understatement. Like, I think my heart missed at least 2 beats. It was probably how Luke felt when he found out Darth Vader was his dad, but maybe worse because I doubt Darth smelled like this bag of my investment and Luke wasn't out $5,500.
So I did what any other person would do, I gagged twice, held my breath then ran to my computer to contact to the seller.
I'm vigorously typing "hello. I received my purchase today and I'm a little confused. The makeup is broken and from last century. The purses are wet and covered in black mold and the panties smell like rubber farts. Can you please ask the two dudes in the van to turn around and load this back up?".
Now let me explain, this is early 2006. Back then eBay was still new and in favor of sellers because ebay wasn't a greedy a**hole yet. Back then there wasn't really any major-major-major "rules" online because mainstream eCommerce, as a whole, was brand-spanking-new and the main concern was sellers not shipping stuff or shipping counterfeits. Nobody really considered issues like thongs for babies, cosmetics older than your child and moldy crossbody bags. Back then, as long as the seller could show it was Delivered, the buyer was out of luck. It took companies a couple more years to realize that sellers can be scammers too. PLUS, I had made another massive mistake...
Although I bought the cheap panties through eBay, the seller had contacted me by phone outside of eBay and convinced me to add on the purses and makeup. He was like, "Yo! Thanks for buying these underwears! We also have these other phenomenal pallets for SUPER MEGA CHEAP and we could add them on for ya! No added shipping cost! We haven't had a chance to list them yet but you will LOVE them" and, in a moment of total ignorance, I was basically like "Please take every cent I have".
It is safe to say, this experience was filled with "Life Lessons" for me... as well as a 6-foot-high pile of sexy underwear for toddlers in my living room. Yes, I can absolutely assure you that I cried myself to sleep that night.
After a few days the seller responds and hes like...
My response "fair enough but you also didn't mention the items will be completely unsellable"
This story goes on and on, so let me spare you the details and fast forward to how this ended...
...which was me, having to start completely over, from scratch after working so hard to save up money. It was really awful. It was super depressing. It was even more depressing when Good Will wouldn't even accept my donation of infant thongs; so much for a tax write-off.
It would have been so much easier to give up. Thank God for good friends and cheap wine. #BoonesFarm2006.
Time Goes on... I then spend time rebuilding to get to where I was before this horrid scam.
It was at this time that i realized my mission; I wasn't just going to sell stuff, instead I was going to find a way to help all the other “Little Guys” out there. I never wanted anyone to go through the hassle, run-around and utter trauma I endured. I wanted to make sure that people like myself have a safe place they can buy through because the reality is, NOBODY, and I repeat NOBODY, should ever have to walk all of their investment to the curb on trash day.
In 2010 I secured my first warehousing in Michigan and obtained my LLC. It was a really small warehouse space, but it worked!
I had finally met all of the requirements to be able to work directly with large vendors. I found ways to buy liquidations directly from big box stores and chain stores. My mission was:
- Let eBayers, Amazon Sellers, Flea Market sellers, College students, Retirees, Dreamers and whoever else wants a better life to have a source to buy from that doesn’t have unaffordable minimums, doesn’t require business licensing or a loading dock.
- Let these buyers know EXACTLY what they are buying without stating "You might not get what's in the pics". SOLUTION: SHOW THEM A VIDEO OF THE EXACT ITEMS.
- Find a way to let buyers purchase only the type of merchandise they want. The “Little Guy” doesn’t want a mixture of random categories; they want niche products and they want to know what the heck they're getting! *pounds fist on table*
- Make sure buyers know the “quality” of items. If it’s damaged; TELL THEM. If it has clearance stickers, make them aware, and it it’s absolutely amazing stuff, tell them how great it is. A buyer should never feel like they were cheated out of their hard earned money. Basically, be fully transparent about what is being sold.
- Create a system that allows buyers to communicate with a REAL person quickly and efficiently. Never reply with Bots or Form Letters.
- Buyers have given their blood, sweat and tears to be able to afford the inventory they purchased. Package it nice because nothing says "we don't care" like being delivered a busted-up box covered in taped-trash-bags!
- Ship FAST. Little guys can only afford to buy when they NEED inventory. Nobody buys milk 8 weeks in advance. You buy it when ya need it! Treat the inventory like dairy! Whoa, that got real weird, real fast.
- And finally, treat people like people, hence the reason this "about us" isn't some corporate speech with photos of us in suits. Have an actual person type an actual response, and speak in real-person terms; treat people like family. #AlwaysCare
The same year I opened a boutique in addition to the online store (that's me holding the scissors):
The next many years became hectic! Trying to juggle two businesses was much more difficult than I could ever imagine! I don't think I slept more than 4 hours a night. At this time my sons were 4 and 5 years old. Oh, I forgot to mention, I had a second son in 2006.
I wanted to not only sell other peoples products, but also sell my own. So I became utterly obsessed with figuring out how to create a body care line that met the concerns of my current buyers. My first products I launched was shampoos and conditioners in totally awesome scents like Crème Brulee, Orange Bunt Cake, Black Cherry Frosting, Cinnamon Bread and more to meet the needs of buyers who griped about the current hair products on the market not smelling strong enough:
The next product line was "Non Greasy Lotions". I constantly heard from people that they need lotion but HATE that it makes their hands feel greasy. After endless research I discovered that if we use Sunflower Oil as one of the main ingredients it will eliminate the oily feeling. So I created the "Extra Light Lotion" line:
Customers demanded more, so I was now spending every free second researching more products. A few months later I released bath salts in the same scents as the body care:
Then came lip care:
But my all time biggest, biggest, biggest, amazing success was the "WAY SUPER AWESOME" Fragrance oils. These became so popular so quickly that I could not keep up supply and demand. We were having people drive from out of state to buy all of our stock:
And what was really cool was that people would often buy a fragrance oil warmer to go with the oils, so it was a great upsell. During the holiday season people were buying more oil and warmers than I could stock:
At this point our customers began demanding that we create a website for the boutique so they could order the merchandise online instead of driving such a long way to buy cases of my oil. It sounds like the solution would be simple; just make a site, right? But I already had a wholesale company, a warehouse, storage, a boutique, a body care line, a makeup line, employees, multiple locations and now a home goods line... I had no idea how on earth I could open an eCommerce business for the Boutique. But I somehow made time to start on the site anyways.
I quickly became stretched so thin that I could not keep up. I was running myself into the ground to manage, order stock, innovate, design packaging, video inventory, sell, assist customer, help employees, make schedules, do banking, be an asset to the community, be a mom and what few seconds were left of my life... be a wife.
Looking back, I should have realized I was getting in way too deep and biting off more than I could chew, but that's many more stories for many more different days.
My first big splurge from my success was a tan 2010 Hummer. Of course I had to upgrade to the "chrome kit package" because I LOVE chrome (and all things gaudy):
I was so proud to FINALLY have something to show for the endless hours spent working. To this day, my Hummer was one of my favorite vehicles I have ever owned!
A second move for the wholesale company was made in 2013 but this new warehouse was outgrown so fast that in under 2 years we were completely out of space and it was chaotic! It became so cramped that only 1 person at a time could fit an aisle! (Yeah, I'm absolutely sure it was a fire hazard).
Every company who stays in business struggles and goes through hard times, frustration and outright awful experiences, but, good grief... it began to feel like just when I thought things were going to flow more smoothly, a crazy storm of chaos would appear out of nowhere.
In the first 8 years of business we suffered through:
- employees stealing from us
- customers stealing from us
- other companies take advantage of us
- competitors outright spreading lies about us
- a terminated employee posting really rotten fake reviews
- having to hire a lawyer to go after the employee slandering us online
- this ex-employee was so crazy that she was literally printing fliers that said never to buy anything through me. She would then pass them out to people at churches. (You can't make this stuff up!)
- water floods
- a leaking warehouse roof
- someone literally hacked into our natural gas lines / meter! our gas was shut off one day and we were accused of hacking our own utility! This was 2012 or so and I still can't figure out why someone would hack into their own utility. Thankfully, we already had the lawyer on retainer from the employee issue mentioned above.
- snow-storms freezing all of our pipes. One day the snow storms even froze all of our doors shut! We had to spray the doors and locks with windshield wiper fluid to get in.
- even some kids playing with lighters set a vehicle on fire in our parking lot in the wee hours of the morning! We showed up to work to find our parking lot filled with fire trucks, police cars, smoke filled air and caution tape!!
- Around 2013 a man who owned a computer repair business next door was on Fox News for stealing his customers devices and leaving town! Since this guy fled and we were the business next door we had his customers coming into our company and screaming at us because they couldn't find him to get their electronics back. Nothing will make you more depressed than having a 70 year old man breakdown crying in front of you because he had brought his computer in to be fixed and all of the photos of his deceased life-long wife were on it... and there's literally nothing you can do to help besides offer him a hug.
- around 2016, the neighboring Spa business next to our boutique was busted for molesting their massage customers.
- REACHING COMPLETE AND TOTAL BURN OUT, then pushing forward anyway.
Also in 2013: It was time to move the boutique. Even though I had given my soul to building the business in that location, the Landlord was, quite frankly, not the best. The ongoing problems we had with the property could not be resolved. Specifically, we had a load of evidence that it was one of his other tenants who was trying to hack into our utilities and he refused to help us solve the issue.
Moving is one of the worst things ever, but, staying in a bad relationship with an uncooperative Landlord is worse than the temporary pain of relocating. So, I ripped down all of my hard work, rented a fleet of uHauls and packed up. It took about 8 trips, but we got it done!
The new space needed a complete "build-out". It didn't even have a floor! Quite honestly, it looked kind of "dungeon chic" but was in a higher income area and I had a vision... and a little more trust in the new landlord than my prior landlord.
The new landlord refused to help financially with the build-out. So, we started from scratch.... painting....
Here's hubby Laying Wood Flooring...
Chandeliers and Grid Walls...
Converting closets to fitting rooms (can you tell how much weight I lost due to stress?):
And getting ready for opening day:
In April we opened our new location and it was GREAT!!!
We were even written about in the newspaper... TWICE!
I have always believed in being part of the community your business is located in. Part of being liked by the community is hosting fun little events:
By Halloween we were really rocking!
I was an active member in the community and with the Chamber of Commerce as well as local charities. I raised money for local schools, wrapped presents for those in need (I am on the far right)...
I was also a donor to silent auctions and Masquerade Ball events that funded local organizations.
I used to LOVE making my own custom masks for the Balls.
Like the Lego Movie Song, Everything was AWESOME... really great… damn near perfect... except for feeling overwhelmed... until disaster struck; complete and total chaos.
One dark Michigan-Winter night in January 2015-or-so, our warehouse computer needed to update. There was only 1 order left to ship so I decided I would load it in my Hummer and bring it to the post office to ship. I was struggling to carry this huge 50 pound parcel for the customer down the narrow stairs. I couldn't see around the parcel so I didn't realize the stairs were covered in ice. I slipped and fell all the way down the cement stairs, my face smashing against the solid metal railing, my legs contorting on the slippery steps and somehow the large, heavy box landed on top of me once I reached the thick-snow-and-jagged-ice covered stoop. My hands and knees were covered in cuts and bleeding from the ice and hardened snow that felt like shards of freezing glass.
Nobody was around because all of the other businesses in the plaza closed earlier, so I somehow managed to crawl to my SUV while sliding this giant, heavy parcel across the snowy, icy pavement. I felt the worst pain imaginable but all I could think at that time was I needed to get this woman's $2,500 order to USPS before it closed. I screamed while I lifted and loaded it into my trunk.
At the time I didn't access the damage but I knew something terrible had happened. Since the injuries were so fresh they looked like blood and instant bruises, which seemed like things would be okay...
I somehow managed to drive the huge parcel to the post office, somehow got it inside and made it back out to my vehicle. I felt this insane pain in my foot and like ice or dirt of some kind had gotten into my eye and it hurt really bad but I assumed the pain would go away.
I then drove 50 minutes home, followed by an immediate trip to ER.
I learned that I broke my foot, fractured my ankle and severed my cornea in my eye. It was a brutal injury.
During this time I couldn't be in light due to the cornea injury, and I couldn't walk due to the foot and shattered ankle, so working at the Boutique was out of the question. It, unfortunately, made the most sense to temporarily close the boutique while I recovered. The city the boutique was located in quickly began giving me a hard time for being located in the heart of the downtown district and being closed for over 14 days in a row. Meanwhile I was at home working on the computer, in pain, in the dark, with the screen brightness turned all the way down. And it's not like rent and bills stopped because I was really injured, so being accused of being "lazy" for not being open was beyond frustrating.
The city harassment created a nearly unbearable level of stress on me and my family during my miserable recovery. They wanted me to open the store immediately because, according to them, a temporarily closed business made "downtown look bad", so the Downtown City Coordinator insisted on a meeting with me at my boutique. So I was forced to drive, with one eye and while wearing a cast to meet with this a**hole. My only demand was that the meeting HAD to be with the lights off because when your "good eye pupil" sees light and expands your "bad pupil" acts in the same manner, which, with a severed cornea, feels like someone is dumping acid into your bad eye ... but this City Coordinator was so determined to yell at me that he was willing to meet me in the dark to do so. And, when he met me, he had very little sympathy for my eye patch, crutches or cast. It was basically, "You need to have your store open because you're making downtown look bad!" His solution was for me to "just hire more people" - as if I don't have to train them? Or interview them? Or even show up? As if I can just magically make "more people" appear out of thin air and run the entire company for me while I sit at home, in the dark?
Recovery was a VERY long and painful process, but during this time I was able to put 100% of my energy into the wholesale company instead of dividing my time with the Boutique.
During my 3 months of recovery, the wholesale company became so busy that we had to expand ASAP. I hired more staff, bought bigger shelves, upgraded all of our computers and printers... and crawled on the floor so much that my knees bled and my hands were black and blue from bruising; but ya can't carry a box while on crutches, and stuff had to ship. I ended up using shipping tape to tape-on my knee pads:
Yes, the employees had to work in low-light... probably not safe, but the internet never sleeps so, as the saying goes, "the show must go on".
After my recovery I had to decide if I want to reopen the boutique. I was so darn busy with the online store that there wasn't enough hours in the day for another job. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Honestly, it felt like having to decide which child you love more, or which child you want to keep.... or worse... which child you want to kill off forever. It was a terrible choice. I had worked so friggin hard to build both companies... and I had just sank over $30,000 into moving the boutique location around 2 years prior.
But I knew I couldn't continue to do both and I kind of felt a sense of calm knowing that this awful thing happened but it gave me the opportunity to restructure and move forward in a better way. I put a ton of thought into the choices...
Tiny things that most people never even think of, such as creating a window display, can take HOURS of work. An elaborate display that requires custom fabrication of props can take days or even a full week ...
Ultimately, I decided that my true loyalty was to the wholesale company.
The following month, my wholesale company bought the assets to my boutique, the body care line, the makeup line, the fragrance oils and every other project I had going. Sure, I absolutely *could* have sold the boutique outright, but I would rather have all of the inventory, equipment and fixtures for the wholesale company. Additionally, I really needed the extra space for the wholesale company since my lease for the current warehouse wasn't up for around 14 more months; converting the Boutique to much-needed warehouse space was a blessing in disguise and a much-needed temporary fix while I wait out those final months.
Taking down the "Open" Sign and hanging a "We have permanently closed" sign on the boutique door was gut-wrenching. I rarely ever second-guess my decisions, but in this instance I truly wondered if I was making a mistake. I wondered "what if I just hire a management team to run the boutique?"... but the reality was that I would still have to manage the management team, oversee the financials, manage marketing, ordering, etc. Even with a management team it was still going to be me working 40+ hours a week for the retail store and 40+ hours for the wholesale company instead of investing 80+ hours into the wholesale company.
October 2017 we moved to our big warehouse in Wayne, Michigan. Although 7,500 sq ft isn't huge-huge, the ceilings are very high, so I knew we can build UP as we need more space. Just like every other space, when I took possession of it, it was a disaster and needed a full build-out. Check out our journey building our warehouse:
The warehouse used to be to a police ATF dog training facility so EVERYTHING had to be totally redone to create an eCommerce warehouse.
Since our website was still open during the move we had to transport all of the inventory to the new warehouse, even though it wasn't finished yet, because we had to ship orders. It took around 10 full-size uhaul truck loads to get the inventory moved. What a nightmare! Here's my husband opening the uhaul door on the first load:
Then came the dreaded unboxing and organizing. If you have ever moved you probably understand how wretched this part of moving is!
But it slowly starts to come together!!!
THEN you can officially start the fun part... making it "yours":
Want to see how our warehouse looks today? You can take a virtual tour of our warehouse by watching the video below:
But the changes don't stop there! If you are not constantly improving and finding new ways to better serve your customers, then you're not giving it your all! Equally, if you have 0 problems you're not succeeding because the more you succeed, the more obstacles you will have to overcome....
There was been a lot of things that have sucked over the years we have been in business, but this was one of the WORST.
In April 2019 our YouTube account that had over 3 million views was terminated for no legitimate reason. I woke up one morning and saw an email from YouTube stating we had violated "rules". The email was so short and vague that I actually thought it was a Spam Phishing email. I then tried to login to YouTube and realized the email was real!
I took out my phone and started recording the situation as it was unfolding:
As you can see above, I read the rules and easily determined we absolutely had never violated any of them; our videos simply show the actual products people will be buying...and we had been posting these types of videos for almost 10 YEARS.
I immediately contacted my awesome lawyer and he sent a certified legal demand to YouTube. We assumed the mistake would be promptly addressed and the account would be quickly restored being that we had done absolutely nothing wrong. This is a real photo of my actual lawyer, Brad:
Days later, YouTube sent my lawyer a super vague, 2-sentence reply that said A report was made against a video claiming the merchandise was counterfeit:
There was no YouTube phone number to call, no address to write to, no way to file a rebuttal and no information regarding who made the complaint or which video they flagged.
My lawyer was absolutely shocked that "someone" could anonymously flag 1 video and *claim* something was not legitimate and a-10-year-old account would be completely banned without ever giving the business a chance to show proof the merchandise is real. He said he's never seen anything like this in the 22+ years hes been practicing law. We had to figure out a way to fight this...
Keep in mind, YouTube never told us WHICH video or WHAT merchandise the supposed complaint was made against. We had like 50,000 videos over a decade so it was impossible to narrow down which products we needed to defend. This made it very hard to fight. If YouTube had told us exactly which video or even told us what brand of merchandise was in question, or even told us the date or year of the video, we would be able to track down the receipts for that merchandise as well as provide Letter of Authorization directly from the supplier. So....all we could do is attempt to prove that 100% of EVERYTHING we sell is authentic and always has been, which was a MASSIVE undertaking. Truthfully, we didn't even know exactly where to start...
I decided it would make the most sense to get copies of all of my legal contracts with designers to buy their store leftovers (liquidations). My lawyer then sent YouTube all of our contracts with Sears, Costco, Walmart, Target, M*CYS, Bl**mingdales and more. I even compiled receipts and bank statements from Nordstom, SAKS, Bath & Body Works, Yankee Candle, Victorias Secret and every single supplier I could think of that I have bought from in hopes that the unknown video the anonymous person reported contained merchandise I was providing documentation for.
We also provided YouTube with phone numbers and email addresses so they could directly contact our suppliers and see that we have permission to sell all of the authentic merchandise we carry. We sent YouTube years worth of bank statements that prove we have paid millions of dollars to designer stores to buy their leftover stock. We again assumed that once YouTube sees this overwhelming evidence they would at least contact us, or, hopefully just restore our account.
Then we waited.... waiting was TERRIBLE. I just wanted an answer so I could figure out WTF to do next. "Fear of the Unknown" is absolutely the worst fear in the world.
They did finally reply via email, and all the reply said was "this account has been terminated". Once again, there was no contact information. The email address they sent the email from was something stupid like "Accounts-NOREPLY@YouTube.com" and there wasn't even an employee NAME on the reply. We didn't know if YouTube even looked at any documents we mailed, faxed and emailed. We didn't know if YouTubes lawyers ever saw our response. It was mentally devastating. BUT, in business there is never time to be depressed. You MUST keep going, no matter what obstacles are blocking the way.
I then had another major choice to make; do I want to keep paying the lawyer to fight YouTube? Reality is that it's absolutely possible that I could pay the lawyer $20,000 more and end up with nothing because YouTube is FREE to use, so the question becomes, "Does a FREE Service have the right to terminate you for ANY or NO reason?". Maybe. Maybe not. But I realized that every dollar I give the lawyer is one less dollar spent on inventory. Every hour I spend gathering evidence to show YouTube they're wrong is 1 less our I am spending working. BUT, EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY... hypothetically, if I was to get the account restored, what happens if the same anonymous person flags another video? Or what if they spend all night flagging 3,000 videos? Will the account be banned again? What if this is just a competitor flagging videos to try to put us out of business? The reality is that there is no way at all to prevent mean people from being mean and if YouTube isn't cooperating to try to help us resolve the issue, we don't want to make their platform an essential part of our company.
So, I decided it was time to move on. We found an amazing video host, Vimeo.com who has AWESOME customer service. Vimeo was happy to welcome us on board, so in May 2019 we started our videos again on Vimeo; we had to start fresh because YouTube had locked us out of 100% of our content.
When we first started our business we were known as WorldsSexiestWholesale.com. We chose that name because the majority of our merchandise was Victorias Secret brand and back then Victorias Secret was known as the "Worlds Sexiest Lingerie Catalog". But as the decade rolled on catalogs started becoming obsolete. At the same time, we greatly expanded our stock assortment and were now carrying mens wholesale, kids clothing, home goods and more. A name change was something I had been pondering for years but I was most concerned about the YouTube account being under the name WorldsSexiestWholesale and the new company name being different, so I never got around to it. But now that YouTube has deleted our account, it was motivation to make the change.
On July 18, 2019 we changed our company name and website from WorldsSexiestWholesale.com to BigBrandWholesale.com.
Going through the whole process of a name change was daunting. One of the earlier obstacles was logo design. We printed 55 different logo concepts and hung them on our warehouse wall. Every day all of the staff would vote on taking down 3 of the logos that we didn't like:
Eventually we all agreed that we liked our new logo the best:
Everything seemed seriously perfect. THEN, the absolute WORST of the WORST happened...
Then I hired a company to build a new website for us, but this ended up being one of the worst nightmares out of our entire company history. We assumed that IF we hired an expensive local web designer we would end up with a top quality website... but it ended up being such a disaster that the company we hired, BrandLabs almost tanked our entire company. We encourage you to read about how BrandLabs almost closed our 14-year-old business because this info is vital to any business owner looking for a new website.
Also in 2020, Covid happened. It changed the course of history. As you likely know people became afraid to leave their homes so I had to figure out a solution and decided to create "Ready in 2 Hours, Contact Free Pickup":
I made an area outside of our warehouse featuring simple locking bins that allows customers to come in get their order without ever having to see anyone. Additionally, we provide hand sanitizer inside the bins, however we quickly discovered that people kept (accidentally???) taking the full bottles of sanitizer:
Often I think back to the disastrous I suffered through and all the really hard choices that had to be made. It makes me realize several things:
1. Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply change course. For example, people have asked me "why didn't you sue the #&LL out of the bar that fired you?" or "why didn't you keep fighting YouTube?" Trust me, I absolutely considered it, but both of these avenues are very costly and time consuming. If I put my time and energy into a legal battle I wouldn't be able to put that energy into selling. Sometimes, as hard as it is, the best route is to salvage whatever you can then cut your losses and move on. But looking back, I am SO THANKFUL I was fired! If I wasn't fired by my short, rude, unreliable boss who had a pile of thick chest chair sticking out of the top of his shirt, I never would have started selling online! This company only exists because of my termination! Sometimes I wonder if I should reach out to that jerk and thank him.
2. Most importantly, that even when things seem impossible, it's mandatory to never give up. Everything you want to be great at takes work and dedication. Imagine if Tiger Woods tried golfing twice then quit because it was hard? If you are struggling to figure things out, just keep plugging away. Instead of putting difficult situation on the back-burner, double down and give it 100%. Read. Research. Learn. If you throw yourself into fixing the issue you WILL fix it! If a fired bartender can be successful, you absolutely can achieve your dreams too!