Making earrings for people with sensitive skin – Jackie Burke of Tini Lux

INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 50:17)

PODCAST AUDIO

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Intro

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux shares how she built a company that accommodates people who cannot wear earrings due to skin allergies and sensitivities. Tini Lux sells beautiful and sustainable earrings that are made with pure metal, allowing everyone the luxury to accessorize without pain.

People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Book: Fix This Next by Mike Michalowicz

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Jackie Burke of Tini Lux

00:00Introduction
00:54Inspiration for the business
04:56Starting the business
08:53Manufacturing process
11:05Target Market
13:01Business model
19:45Sales channels
24:22Marketing and customer acquisition
34:39Fulfillment and shipping
37:20Mistakes made, lessons learned
44:18Rapid fire round

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux

  1. Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: Fix This Next by Mike Michalowicz)
  2. An innovative product or idea and the current eCommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Brands being able to grow rapidly through Facebook advertising or influencer marketing)
  3. A business or productivity tip that you would recommend (Response: To time block)
  4. A startup or business and eCommerce retailer tech that you think is currently doing great things (Response: Summer Fridays)
  5. A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspired you (Response: Sara Blakely)
  6. Best business advice you ever received (Response: Every single day, do at least one thing that will move the needle)

Interview Transcript

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey, they’re entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant, and welcome to Trep Talks. This is the show where I interview successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders, and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.

And today I’m really excited to welcome Jackie Burke to the show. Jackie is the founder of Tiny Lux. Tiny Looks is the first line of fashion earrings and other jewelry made specifically for people with metal allergies and sensitive ears. And today I’m gonna you a few questions about her entrepre journey and some of the strategies and tactic that she has used to start and grow business.

So thank you so much for joining me today. 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Appreciate, thank you for having me. I’m excited. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So very interest, very interesting business. Um, for, for a very specific set of audience. Can you share a little bit about, you know, how, what motivated you to start this business? 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah, absolutely. Um, I did not set out to start a business.

Um, I studied engineering in college and I was working as an engineer. Um, but I had over the years always liked fashion and jewelry, but I had developed really sensitive ears to the point where any time I tried to wear earrings, I would get really painful reactions, um, including like swelling and bleeding and itching.

And I knew that this was a pretty common problem among women or people who wear earrings because, you know, I’d complain about it to other people and they would say, yeah, I have the same problem. I have to wait till the last minute to put earrings in. Or I only have one pair of earrings that works for me.

So that’s the only pair that I wear. Um, and I tried a ton of different types of earrings over the years that all claim to be hypoallergenic or safer, sensitive ears. And yet I’d still. Painful reactions. Um, so I kind of just gave up on it, stopped during earrings completely. Uh, but then one day I was thinking about it and I thought someone has to have come up with a solution to this by now.

Cause it’s such a common problem and there’s a solution for everything out there. So I started doing some research, um, trying to find out really what the root cause of sensitive ears. Is, um, and I learned that it’s really a metal allergy, so your body reacts to these, um, highly reactive metals when they’re present for a long time, like when you’re wearing earrings.

Um, and I learned that there’s a couple metals like titanium that’s safe for the human body, which is why it’s commonly used for medical implant. So that’s when I kind of had a light bulb moment, like, if it’s safe enough to live inside your body, then it should be safe enough for earrings. Um, then I decided to start, um, I found some that I could test out, and from there it just kind of grew into this idea of creating a line of earrings based around this biocompatible metal.

And I figured if I could, I, I really just wanted something for myself, um, and then thought maybe I’ll be able to help a few other people along the way. And it’s really just grown from there. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So that’s very interesting. And when you say metal, uh, I mean, I’m from India and. You know, jewelry in India is very, very common for women.

Like, and the most common metals used there is either gold or silver. So did you find that it’s really titanium or did you find that there’s a lot of people who are allergy to like metals, like gold and silver 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: also? Yeah, so what’s interesting is that a lot of jewelry is made with alloys, which is a mixture of many different metals.

So even bold, um, when people buy bold earrings, they’re generally buy. 14 Kara or 18 karat gold, which means that it’s only a portion gold, and then there’s other metals mixed in. So it’s often those other metals that could be causing an allergy for someone. Um, and same with silver. Um, common metals used in fashion jewelry are like stainless steel.

Grass, sterling, silver, those are all metals that are mixed, a mixture of a bunch of different metals. Um, so it was really interesting digging into, um, a lot of people know, particularly that nickel is an allergen, but they don’t realize that there’s a lot of other metals that are allergens as well. So, We, we realized, or I realized, that baking something with pure titanium, there’s only one metal and it’s less risky than mixing a bunch of different metals because most people don’t know.

Most earrings or jewelry don’t come with an ingredient list, so you don’t know how many different metals are in your, in the products, and you don’t know which ones exactly you’re allergic to. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Cool. In the early days, you said, you know, you, you program me in profession or by profession, you’re an engineer.

Um, did, was that, uh, in some way, in any way useful to starting this business? And when you started this business, you know, can you share a little bit about, you know, what were some of the first things that you did? Did you have to spend, like, did you invest your own money or did you go a 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: different. Um, yeah, so I, I always say that, um, the ve on the Venn diagram of skills between what it takes to be a good engineer and what it takes to be a good entrepreneur.

Those circles don’t even meet or entirely different. Skill sets. But looking back, I do think that working in engineering and working for a big company helped a lot with organization and time management and being detail oriented. I think those are all really important skills to have. Um, but some of the most important skills for, uh, or traits that you need to have to be willing to start a business and to be an entrepreneur are being willing to take risks and thinking outside the box and being creative, and those skills aren’t.

Very useful in engineering. Um, so it definitely was a big learning curve for me, but I also think that it helped that I was so excited to learn all of these new things because it was so different than what I was doing that that kept me motivated. Um, but the first steps that I took were, was to initially find a manufacturer.

Um, I knew it wasn’t something that I wanted to or was going to be able to make myself so. Reach out to manufacturers, started sampling, um, and then found one that was good to work with and the quality of the product was good. Um, and then from there I looked into Shopify. I had heard of Shopify and I knew that that was a good platform for starting a website.

I knew that I wanted to be online because this is a product that pe where people are searching for a solution. So I just kind of inherently knew that Google would be where most people would find us and that I needed to be online. Um, so I always knew it was gonna be an e-commerce business. Um, and then initially I l I, um, Invested my own money.

I invested a few thousand dollars in inventory and that was all I needed to get started. I took all my own photos, um, built out the website on Shopify myself, and then went from there. Just started really small and then, then I realized it would take a little more investment to get the ads up and running, but it was a pretty small launch in the.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And did you find, like when you started, were there other businesses that were selling titanium jewelry or like were selling on the same value proposition? 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: There really weren’t. So there were other jewelry companies saying that they were safe for sensitive ears or saying that they were hypo. But when you really dug into it, they were using materials that were not safe for the body.

And I knew, cuz I had tried all of those earrings, so I knew for a fact that they were selling earrings and really using very misleading marketing. And I knew that their products wouldn’t work. So even if customers tried them, they were going to get the same kind of reactions that I had. And then hearings that were being sold that were titanium, it was really hard to find any.

And ones that I did find were. Very industrial looking or very homemade looking. There was really no one selling a really high quality, pretty fashion jewelry made with a, um, non-allergenic metal. So we really have filled this void in the market that no one was, um, no one was meeting before. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And in terms of book manufacturing, is it something, um, Because there’s an element of design and uh, of course the metal.

Uh, can you share a little bit about, you know, how does the manufacturing process work? Like, where are you getting it, uh, manufactured within uss or is it like outsourced? And can you share a little bit about, you know, how do you make sure. I’m sure, I’m sure you know someone, you know, you are coming up with design, maybe yourself or in collaboration with someone and you know, how are you getting, um, this 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: manufacture.

Yeah, so initially I, I wanted to find a manufacturer in the US but it was very hard. There’s not a lot of titanium jewelry manufacturers. Um, and I couldn’t find any in the US so I went to Asia, um, but I didn’t go there. But I looked in Asia for a manufacturer, um, and I found a few, um, and had. Send me samples of, um, just really simple designs.

And then I had those designs tested at a lab to make sure that they really were made with pure titanium because there are a lot of people that say they’re using a certain metal and unless you have it tested, you can’t be sure. Um, so once I found someone where, um, the lab testing came back good, and the samples looked nice as well.

Then I moved on to the design stage where I sent them, um, I started with about 10 different designs, sent those to them. Um, and it was pretty easy. They sent back samples and then once we receive the samples and okay, the designs, they go ahead and, and put them into production. One thing that’s challenging for us with titanium is that it’s not very easy to manufacture.

Um, it has to be cold worked, whereas most jewelry is melted down and then formed into a shape. Um, so that does limit our design choices a little bit. Um, but it’s something we’ve, um, worked with the manufacturer with and um, and we, we come up with solutions and designs that are still pretty, um, within those constraint.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay, cool. And, uh, in terms of your, uh, target market, uh, I know you’ve said that it’s, you, you know, it’s targeted to a very niche group of audience, so I’m sure anybody who’s looking for, you know, you’re already targeting, uh, you know, the keyword work that someone would search for in this of a thing. Um, can you, you know, have you learned anything about the audience who’s purchasing.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah. Um, our, so we definitely want to cater to people who have metal allergies or sensitive skin or sensitive ears. Um, what’s interesting about that is that it ranges all demographics really, it ranges. Men and women and pretty much all ages. Um, so we started with our, I would say our styles are more, um, focused on the kind of like 25 to 40 year old woman.

Um, but as we’ve grown, we’ve started to, um, Try to cater to a larger range of ages. So now we have, um, a child’s line that’s for like ages, I would say like two to 10 years old. Um, a lot of parents are really looking for something that’s safe and um, that they can trust for their kids’ years and now, and we’ve had a lot of male customers reach out, so we’re doing some more unisex or masculine designs.

Um, so it’s been really interesting over the years to hear from. This wide range of customers and we’ve had people reach out saying that, um, saying things like certain autoimmune disorders cause, uh, cause sensitive skin or cause metal allergies, um, and pregnancy as well often causes people to have more sensitive skin and more sensitive ears.

So that can trigger earring reactions. Um, and those are things that I didn’t know starting this business, but that I’ve learned over the years. So that’s been really interest. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So in terms of like the, the business model, um, and you know, because it’s very heavily dependent on the metal titanium itself. Uh, do you like, in order for, for you to be able to increase your profit margin?

Like are you buying the, the metal separately and then providing it to your manufacturers? Uh, they’re building the design or. Like, is this, is this really a good profit margin business? 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah, we do have a good profit margin. Um, our manufacturers purchase the metals from suppliers. Um, so we don’t do the purchasing of the metal ourselves, but yes, the margins are great.

Um, and we, I have a really amazing supply chain director who’s, um, Uh, probably 15 years experience in the fashion industry and really understands margins and profit. Um, and that’s helped tremendously because I didn’t really understand all of that going into it. Um, but yes, definitely it’s, uh, it’s titanium is more expensive than say, brass or stainless steel, which a lot of fashion companies use, but I think our, our customers understand that and people are willing to pay a little bit more for something that’s really going to work for them.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Can, can this be, um, a mass market product? I’m assuming the answer probably. Is no. And, and the reason really is that if, if there was, I’m assuming some of the bigger brands would already be selling good. 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Uh, I, you know, I’ve gotten that question a lot and I, to me, I think that it is a larger market than most people realize.

Um, around 20% of people have, uh, allergies to metal, which is quite a large chunk of the population. Um,

Um, the, the reasons I think that other companies haven’t necessarily done it already is because, one, I think the design challenges, so a lot of brands are. Their, their leading value prop is their styles rather than their, uh, the function. So it’s hard to replicate their styles. Some like organic shapes or really tiny, or really detailed, that’s hard to replicate.

With titaniums, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to, uh, you know, change over their whole product line. Or their, or their marketing is already built around a different metal, like say 14. Kara Gold, like a company like ur, their whole brand is really built around affordable. 14 Kara Gold jewelry. So to make a switch to titanium would be completely negating their entire marketing strategy.

Mm-hmm. . So I think, and I think that people have ignored it as, As a sector of the market and that’s allowed us to come in and fill that void. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So when you started out, um, and you created your Shopify store and you put this product into the market, at what point did you notice that? There is a demand and there is a good demand.

Like was it, did you start getting orders right away and you were like, you know, I hit a jackpot, , 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: or, uh, not exactly, but we did definitely start getting orders right away. But it was, it was slow. They were definitely trickling in. Um, it, I basically started by, I just kind of threw the website up there, didn’t really do any big launch strategy and didn’t.

A team or a big marketing dollars behind it. Um, but I initially started investing in Google Ads because like I said, I knew people would be searching for this and that is how we got most of our initial customers. And it kind of just steadily grew. It was never, there was never one big giant moment where all of a sudden we were, you know, huge.

But, It steadily grew over the years and I knew, I think I was, I was definitely very nervous in the beginning to that maybe the product wouldn’t work for people. And I was so convinced cuz it had been like a miracle product for me. And then when we started getting orders and started getting really amazing reviews and really amazing feedback, that was when I felt like, okay, this is really working.

People are really excited that this product exists. Um, And then a couple years in was when I left my job to pursue it full time. And that’s, that was when I was really like, I need, I, you know, I believe in this and I know that this is a product that people really want and people really need. And 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: leaving your job was that, you know, the decision for that was like you had hit a certain revenue number in your business, or, or you were like, you felt 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: confident?

Yeah. Yeah. It was really like, I. Was making enough where I could pay myself a livable salary, and I felt comfortable then. And I also felt like, you know, based on the revenue and the. The, um, the customer base that we had grown, I felt confident that I could, I could make this work. Um, I’m, like I said, I’m not really a risk taker, so it took me a long time to really make that leap and I probably could have made it sooner, but I wanted to be like really, really sure.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I think, uh, you know, um, You’ve mentioned it a couple of times that, you know, the, the skills for entrepreneurship and the skills for engineering don’t overlap, or I think, uh, I think that’s a very broad generalization because I would call you an entrepreneur because, you know, uh, you realize that there was a product that worked and you realized that there would be a market for.

and, uh, and I think entrepreneurship is not necessarily about risk-taking. I think it’s, uh, it’s, it’s exactly what you did is like, you know, you identified a market and you, you said, okay, this might work. And of course there a, a risk it, would it be called calculated? Um, 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: yeah, I, I, you’re right. I think the calculate the calculated risk part is, is important.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So in terms of your sales channels, how has it evolved? Um, uh, which, which channels are you selling right now? Is it completely your business completely direct to consumer, to your website or 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: it’s, it’s about 99% direct to consumer. We have a few small boutiques that we sell through, but primarily through our Shopify channel, and then we also are on Amazon.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay, cool. And, uh, is Amazon a good source of, um, getting orders for this kinda 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: product? Yeah, we’ve actually been able to grow that pretty significantly this year. It kind of was on the back burner and I, it’s not. Very user friendly and you don’t get, as you, it’s, you don’t really get to build a customer relationship on Amazon.

So I don’t know that it’s really the best place to launch a business. But now that we’ve grown a little, we’ve been able to use it as almost like an outlet channel. Like some products that we. That weren’t selling that well on our website, we sell on Amazon. Um, or some products like spare earring backs.

We sell those on Amazon. And usually if someone wants those, they want those right away. So being on having those on Amazon Prime is really great for people. Um, so we’ve just tried to market it a little bit differently than we would on Shopify. Um, and we have found that it’s, it’s grown really well, and Amazon is essentially a search engine, but it’s a search engine with purchase intent.

So we’ve found that if someone’s searching for something and they find it, they’re, you know, they’re most likely gonna make that purchase. So the conversion rates are, Um, we also worked with a rep on Amazon who helped us set up, um, the Vine Review program because Amazon’s really heavily reliant on having reviews on your products.

So if you don’t get those initial reviews, it’s gonna be really hard to make sales on Amazon. Um, but they do have programs that help you to get those in the. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So Amazon has those products. Can you share a little bit more about what this, uh, because I think this could be very useful for other entrepreneurs.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah, definitely. Um, so once you’re set up in Amazon, there’s a program called Buy and it allows you to, um, you can enroll your products in there. There’s a little bit of a fee that you have to pay, and then those products are sent out to their reviewer program for free. And then those customers leave honest reviews based on their experience with the product.

Um, but it allows you to get that initial base of say, five to 10 reviews on a product. Um, and then, then once customers see that there’s at least a couple reviews, they’ll feel more confident purchasing. We also found that we, um, We emailed our existing customer list and announced that we were launching on Amazon and we asked them to, if they were purchasing from us, to please leave a review.

And a lot of people did, cause a lot of people are, you know, if they, if they like your product, they’re loyal customers. And um, the combination of those two things really helped us grow on Amazon. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And is this, um, in your business, do you find that there’s a lot of repeat purchases or, cause once someone has.

You know, tried off, tried out one jewelry and it hasn’t given them any, you know, allergies or things like this. I’m sure you know, they want to get newer designs and so forth. What has been your 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: experience with that? Yeah, we definitely have a large repeat purchaser rate, and it’s something that we’re really focusing on growing even more.

Um, we really, we, we want. Our customers to be thrilled with their first purchase and then feel like now they can buy anything from now they can wear any of the products on our site. So we definitely have a strong retention marketing focus, um, and are building it even more this year. Um, and yeah, that’s one of the most important.

Things that we look at is whether customers are willing to purchase again. And a lot of our customers, some of our customers have purchased 20 or 30 times from us, um, because they truly have had issues. And this is once they find something that works, are so excited and so loyal. So that’s really amazing for us to see.

That’s, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: that’s really great. Um, now I want to get into a little bit into the marketing side of things. So you mentioned that Google Ads works really well for you. Can you share a little bit more about, you know, how has your marketing evolved over time when you started and, and to, and what’s working really well in terms customer acquisition and intention?

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah. Um, it’s, it’s. It’s evolved quite a bit from the beginning. So in the beginning I really started with Google Ads and um, started focusing a lot of my spare time on search engine optimization. So, um, what I did in the beginning was write blog posts for almost any question that someone could be asking about earrings or metal allergies.

And that worked wonderfully. Um, A lot of those blogs that I wrote in the beginning are still ranking on the first page of Google, and that brings in a lot of customers. I also, um, reached out to. I searched the questions that people would be asking and found some blog posts that were written about people’s journey trying to find earrings, and I reached out to those people on

They would be willing to write a blog post and try out our product. And some of those blog posts still to this day, four years later, bring us lots of customers. So those were really useful and, and inexpensive ways to market in the. Um, SEO is still a big part of our marketing, but now we’ve, um, we’ve added Facebook and Instagram advertising.

Um, that helps because Google is, Google is difficult to scale because you can’t put yourself in front of people. You’re at the mercy of when people are searching for something versus Instagram or, or Facebook. Maybe someone needs this product, but they’re not actively searching for it. And, but Facebook, you can put yourself in front of them so you can scale a lot faster on those channels.

Um, we also spend a lot of time on TikTok. Now TikTok we find is an even better social channel because it’s really like a truly discovery based platform. Like people are going out to just see whatever they see. Hmm. And they’re not so much going to just look at stuff, pictures of their friends and family.

So we’ve had a couple viral videos on TikTok that really brought us a ton of customers and a ton of sales. That was really, really exciting to see. Cause we’ve never seen that kind of growth on Facebook or Instagram. Um, and now we’re also doing a lot of in person marketing events. So we’ve invited influencers and friends and community to a few different, um, in person social events.

And that’s been really fun to, because it’s such a different experience to connect with people in person and we’ve found that we’ve gotten a lot of good growth and a lot of good content and engagement through those kind of events. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s, that’s awesome. Um, I wanna talk a little bit about TikTok. Uh, so I see, uh, that, you know, you are kind of like one of the primary places for your TikTok.

Um, what has been your experience, you know, making this content, and what do you find, like, what, what is your pulse of, you know, what, which kind of content? Is it totally random or is it. Have you figured out the algorithm that, you know, if you make something in a certain way or talk about something that that will go viral or more people are going to see it?

Um, and is it like a specific kind of a person that comes through TikTok? 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Um, unfortunately I have not figured out the algorithm at all. . I had a few videos that kind of went viral and I thought that I had it figured out, but really it’s, it’s. A mystery to me still. Um, I think one of the keys is just being consistent and consistently posting things, staying up on the latest trends in terms of like the style of video and the sounds.

Um, there was, there’s been a couple videos that I think really went viral based on. The sound that we used and then, you know, it had good content behind it. So that helped, um, the initial video that I posted, um, that really got us a ton of views, um, and, and really converted into both traffic and sales and subscribers.

Um, It was just me talking. I was just in my living room. I was talking about metal allergies and what really causes sensitive ears, and it was just really direct and, um, straight to the point and provided useful information and I think a lot of people hadn’t heard that information before. So, um, that I, I think is what drove the success of that video.

I also found that by responding to videos on TikTok, you can respond to content with a video, so that will drive traffic and more views back to the original one. That can help a lot. Um, but really just being active and present and then really responding and starting those conversations. And TikTok is a lot less produced.

Um, you really can, most of those videos only take a couple seconds to film, which makes it more fun and less intimidating, I would say, than Instagram, but it also allows you to be a lot more authentic and a lot more connected to the audience. So you 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: find that it’s much easier to create TikTok content.

You just turn on your phone and, and record the video. Do you use any like apps or something to like create these captions or in terms of your workflow, like, can you share a little bit about how do you do it so that it’s easy to create a Not a lot. 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah. Um, I will send myself or save videos that I, um, either sounds or, um, styles of video.

Then I’ll set aside a block of time, usually like four to six hours, one day a week, and we’ll just film a ton of videos back to back. Um, most of the editing can be done right in TikTok. Um, I also use an app called InShot if I’m like cutting up pieces of a video and then you can upload it back into the app.

But it’s usually easiest just to do it right in the app itself. Um, but yeah, it usually, you know, it might take a couple takes if your lips, I think something, but a lot of the content can just be responding to comments, which is pretty easy cuz then you don’t even have to really think of a, uh, think of what you’re gonna film.

You just honestly respond to the questions that people have or the comments that people have, and that makes it easy to create content You. Answer the question and post it. Um, and that’s really a lot of times what people are looking for on there. Um, so that’s, that’s the workflow that I’ve been doing for the last six months or so, and it’s worked really well for me.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So in terms of like, uh, like you’re doing mostly organic TikTok talks, so it’s a little bit a time commitment, but, uh, I’m assuming it’s, it’s giving really good results for you. Um, How, how big is your marketing team? Like, uh, are you doing most of the marketing yourself you have like in house team, or do you work with an agency who helps you with like some ads and things like, 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Um, yeah, so I do the marketing, um, kind of direction and creative direction, and then I do a little, like, I do the T con or some of the TikTok content.

Um, and then I have two people on my team that work in marketing fulltime. So one person does social media and um, in person marketing and like influencer relations. Um, and then another person does all of our. Search engine marketing and retention marketing, and we’ve got, most of that is pretty streamlined.

So we have a very good workflow there. Uh, we’re not really wasting a lot of time there. It’s, they have their own rhythms. Um, and then we work with an agency to do our ad creative In terms 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: of influencer marketing is, uh, can you share a little bit? What are you doing it on? Both like Instagram. And other places also, or it’s a specific channel.

And what, what have you learned about Influencer to make it successful? 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Um, it really hasn’t been the best marketing source for us. Um, we’ve struggled to really find the right fit with influencers. I think because our product is more function based. Style based. It’s hard to really get that across in a cool way with influencers.

So we’ve definitely, it’s been a learning curve and we’ve struggled to really get that to a place where it’s, uh, giving us a return that makes it worthwhile. But, and, and we do do it on Instagram and TikTok here and there. Um, We’ve found that what’s worked better for us with influencers is inviting them to in person events.

Um, and then we can connect with them and they can share their product in a more authentic way with their audience. Um, and that’s gotten us a lot of engagement and it’s less expensive than paying for one off content creation services or posts. Um, I think influencer marketing has gotten to a place where it’s.

So expensive that I think it’s really hard to see any type of return. So unless you have massive marketing budgets that you can spend without expecting a return and just spending it on brand awareness, um, it’s really hard to make it work. At least that’s been our experience. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Oh, very interesting. Uh, in terms of fulfillment and shipping, um, I’m assuming.

It’s easier for your products, given that they’re probably very small and not very heavy. Can you share, are you shipping only within the US or are you shipping internationally also And, uh, what, what have been some, your lessons? 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah. Um, we have a warehouse in the us, um, a third party fulfillment center that does all of our fulfillment for us.

Um, and that’s been really amazing because there. Um, you know, it started out I was fulfilling orders myself, um, and then hired someone to do it. But it’s really much more convenient to use a fulfillment center because they work rain or shine. There’s, there’s teams behind them, so there’s no lapses in service.

And also they can normally negotiate better, uh, rates with carriers. So you save a little bit of money. Um, but, and we are very fortunate that our product is small and lightweight, so shipping costs are low. Um, and we do ship internationally. International shipping costs are really high. There’s some places we, we had a, um, a lot of customers from Australia, interestingly enough, and then the due to covid shipping costs.

Through the roof to ship from the US to Australia. So we really, it’s been really unfortunate because we would love to be able to send two customers there, but the shipping costs are so high that it makes it not, it makes it impossible. Um, so there we’ve had challenges like that, but really if customers are willing to pay for shipping, then we can send anywhere in the world.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So, Someone wants to sell in Australia, like would one way be to sell through a marketplace like Amazon? Like, uh, do they have like fulfillment by Amazon in Australia? So like you can send a bunch of inventory there and then basically they can fulfill locally. Is that like a, a viable option to Yes. 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yes, and we actually did do that.

We have an Amazon Australia channel. Um, it’s still small, so it’s not our entire product selection, but we, um, we sent a selection of products there. Um, and we do think that that’s a viable option if, um, if we have similar shipping problems in other countries. Um, Amazon is pretty much everywhere in the world now, so that has worked out well for us.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So, I mean, Looking back at your entrepreneurial journey, you know, you started out through engineering, but now do you look at yourself more as a business person, as a marketer? Uh, because it seems like you’re doing all of it, of course. Um, what, what do you consider yourself today, uh, running and growing the successful business?

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: I, I definitely. See myself as an entrepreneur and marketing is a huge part of my job. So I definitely feel like that’s the biggest, my biggest focus day to day. Um, but yeah, the, the journey has been amazing and really fun to go from really being an outsider and not knowing anything, um, and being able to learn something new.

I feel like I’m learning something new every single day. Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s fun to look back at, at how far we’ve come. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So in every entrepreneur journey, there’s always failures, lessons learned, mistakes made. Can you share, maybe, you know, one of your biggest mistakes that you have made, or you consider it to be a big mistake or failure in your own entrepreneurial journey?

What have you learned from it and what, what can other entrepreneurs learn from. 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: I don’t think that I have one particular mistake, but I think in general, the biggest mistake that I’ve made or mistakes that I’ve made have been around not understanding really the true cost of things. Um, so I think as a founder, as an owner, Really your biggest role is to spend money efficiently.

There’s like a million different ways you can spend money and you can spend money infinitely. Um, and I think there’s been different things where maybe I overinvested in a certain product and didn’t really understand that that would be a really hard product to sell through. And then it, and then it felt like it was just, Wasted inventory or, um, spending money on influencer marketing without really having a clear strategy.

Um, it’s so easy to spend money on those things. And when you have a limited budget or you’re bootstrapping, um, that money, once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s not coming back. So I think really understanding, um, return on investment and costs of marketing and advertising spend is really, really important. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: How do you manage the wasted inventory?

Because I’m assuming this business, like if you create a design and it doesn’t get traction in the marketplace, what do you do with those, with the, with those jewelry? I mean, you’ve invested money in the metal and the, the craftmanship and, and everything. How do you, like, do you do some sort of before you create a product like uh, in larger.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah, we’ve gotten much better about it now that I brought on, um, my supply chain manager Ashley. She really, um, she really keeps. Everything in line, and we’ve built out some kind of forecasting models and now that we’re four years in, it’s a lot easier for us to know what customers are going to like. So now we’re in a much better place where there’s a lot less of that wasted in this, uh, inventory.

But we found really, actually a really fun solution. Um, once or twice a year, we’ll do these mystery box promotions where customers. Four products for the price of one in MS Box. And we usually use that excess inventory that wasn’t selling and we’ll combine into a box and they get, it’s a really good deal for the customer and they get to try out a bunch of different things.

And every time we’ve launched it, it’s sold out in less than 15 minutes. Um, so it’s been, it, it turns out to be a fun way to get some return on that. I. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: How do you get, uh, inspiration for your jewelry designs? Are you looking at like other brands, uh, you know, and other designs in the market that do really well and try to use that inspiration?

Or is it really, do you have a designer who is very experienced in jewelry design and they’re coming 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: up with uh, uh, um, I, so I still do all of the designing. Um, in the beginning I really. Thought that I needed to have all these brand new designs that were different than everything else that was out there.

And I found over the years that our customer in particular just seems to really like very, very simple styles. And I think that’s because a lot of our customers, um, are everyday women and they like to just wear something simple that they can leave in 24 7. Um, also a lot of our customers are kind of new or restarting their journey wearing jewelry.

So they’re, they don’t necessarily need these big statement pieces yet. They just want something simple to test out to see if it works for their ears. So, um, understanding that and understanding our customer really tribes our designs or my designs. Um, so we know. That our customers really love tiny hoops.

They love tiny studs. So we just try to do variations on that. And now before I design a collection, I try to come up with a theme behind it and then just add a few pieces that we feel like are still missing, that our customers are asking for, or something that might be just a little bit more fun or a slight variation on setting that we’ve already done.

Um, and that makes it easier to design around that theme and context. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: In the jewelry, jewelry world, is there something, such thing as like a intellectual property around device? Like, you know, if, if there is like a design that let’s say jewelry has created, uh, and you, you take a design inspiration and you create something similar, can, can you get sued?

Or is it like that’s not really an issue in, in. 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: I, I believe there’s copyright laws around designs, but I think for a lot of really simple stuff like say a simple hoop or a simple stud, um, it would be impossible to own, have any ownership over, uh, the copyright designs for a, something that’s simple because it’s been around since the dawn of time.

Um, but certainly for more. For certain jewelry features or more like iconic styles, like, um, a designer like David Yeman, I’m sure there’s, um, copyright, there could be copyright infringement issues there. But for really simple stuff, it’s, it’s would be really hard to, it’s almost like a, a white T-shirt. You can’t necessarily copyright something like that.

So now 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: we’re going to move on to our rapid fire segment, and then the segment. I’m gonna ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in one or two words or a sentence or so. So the first one is one book recommendation for entrepreneurs or business professionals, 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: and why. There’s a book called Fix This Next.

It’s by, um, Mike mc. I’ve read it twice. Um, I find that every time I read it, I’m at a different stage of my company, so it helps me really like that. In fact, all of his books are really great. Um, so that’s definitely my number one recommendation. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s very interesting. I’ve heard this author from multiple.

People I’ve interviewed, maybe not this book, maybe a different book, but his, this author’s books are around accounting and processes. Am I correct on that 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: or? Yeah. He has a book called Profit First, which is also one of my top recommendations. Helped me a lot. Um, his are kind of, uh, general business advice, but they’re very actionable and specific, which I found very useful.

They’re not, there’s a lot of business books out there that are more theoretical. These are very, um, very actionable and practical. Um, so I found his books extremely helpful and they also apply to almost any small business, an 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retailer or tech landscape that you feel excited.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Um, I’m excited right now about where I think marketing and um, advertising is going. I think. The last few years, brands, maybe the last decade, brands have been able to grow rapidly through Facebook advertising or influencer marketing without really building a relationship with their customer or creating a product that was really useful.

And I think that wasn’t good for the consumer or really the business landscape. And I think now brands have to focus more on retention, marketing and um, having a product that’s, Effective and useful. Um, and I think that’s gonna be good for everyone. So I’m excited to see that. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: A business or productivity tool or software, uh, that you would recommend or a 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: productivity tool?

My number one productivity tip that has worked really well for me is to time block. Um, so I have a lot of different functions because we’re a small team, so I have to wear a lot of different hats. Try to focus each day on a different thing. I learned, or I read somewhere that it’s really hard for your brain to switch back and forth between creative and analytical tasks.

So I try to schedule anything creative on the same day and anything analytical on a different day. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s, that’s very good advice. And I, I would assume, In order to be able to do, which I find true for me is for a creative task. I usually do it better earlier in the day. Earlier in the morning when your brain has not been used much.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Yeah, I would agree with that. And I also think for creative tasks, you can’t really give yourself a timeline like you would with an analytical task like, and sometimes it might. A day to do one thing, but you need to give your mind the space to come up with new ideas when you’re doing something creative.

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Definitely a startup or business in e-commerce, retail or tech that you think is currently doing 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: great things. A brand that I really love is Summer Fridays. Um, they make beauty products and I think they just do an amazing job, um, with consistent branding and marketing. Marrying, uh, their influencer marketing with their, what their customers actually want.

And they create these really beautiful in person experiences for their customers and create products that are really useful and really work. Um, so I’m always excited to see their new products and their new marketing efforts. A 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: peer entrepreneur or a business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: I’ve always been really inspired by Sarah Blakely. Um, her story with Spanx I think is so inspiring, especially for female entrepreneurs. Um, she was able to start something that was a product that was really needed, and she did it without massive, um, investment or funding behind her. Um, so that’s definitely a big inspiration for, 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: uh, final question, best business advice you ever received or you would give to other.

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Um, really early on when I was first starting, I. Read somewhere, and I wish I could remember where, so I could credit this person, but it was a line that said no zero days. And basically the ethos behind that was like every single day, do at least one thing that will move the needle. And I found that.

Really useful. When I was starting and I was still working, um, every single day, even if it was just one thing, I felt like that was making progress towards building this business and a lot of entrepreneurship and, and business building is really persistent. I think that’s one of the most important traits.

So that, that quote, no, zero days really was really vital to me in the. That’s 

great. 

Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, definitely need, uh, persistence in not giving up in entrepreneurship. Well, Jackie, thank you so much, uh, for your time today, for sharing your story, for sharing, you know, some of the strategies and tactics that you’ve used to start and grow your business.

So yeah, thank you. It was a pleasure. Real pleasure speaking with you and wish you all the best. And thank you again for joining me at Trep Talks. 

Jackie Burke of Tini Lux: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking with you too. I really enjoy.

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