Are you a budding female entrepreneur with a game-changing product in mind? With a little preparation — okay a lot of preparation — the dream of seeing your creation proudly displayed on the shelves of major retailers across the country is within reach. Here’s a look at some of the most invaluable tips I learned along the way that can help you navigate the often-complicated path from your kitchen table to those coveted national store shelves. You got this!
1. To Find Big Success, Start Small
You may have a brilliant product idea, but before you dive into the world of retail giants, pause and ask yourself a few critical questions:
- Have you meticulously calculated the costs of production, sales, and shipping to ensure your pricing is competitive and right for the stores you are hoping to be in?
- Have you tested your product on a smaller scale to uncover potential issues with both the product itself and its pricing?
- Are you prepared for the possibility that your product might not sell immediately and the financial implications it could have on you and your family?
Tip: You may want to start by selling directly to customers from your own website on a small scale. This approach allows you to fine-tune pricing, messaging, and shipping logistics while gaining valuable customer feedback at the same time. Also, starting small minimizes risks and ensures you’re well-prepared for scaling up.
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2. It’s Math, Not Magic
While we may all dream of an explosive product launch, the reality is often much different for many female entrepreneurs… Securing a deal with a major retailer sounds incredible, but if it happened tomorrow, would you be ready for the logistical demands? To make sure you’re prepared, it’s time to do a little math:
- Calculate the volume of product units you’ll need, based on the number of stores and initial stocking requirements. ( Ex: 5,000 stores X 4 units per store = 20,000 units)
- You’ll need a plan for packaging, labeling, and shipping logistics to multiple locations. You may have done it all on your own for years, but a big deal will mean you’ll need to tap into new resources. Ask a mentor for advice!
- Ask yourself if you can afford the upfront production costs, and then wait for delayed payment from retailers… Large retailers can take 30, 60, 90 days or more to pay and that’s if there are no glitches or problems. You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to float yourself (and your company) for as long as it takes.
Tip: When it comes to packaging, including inner packs, case packs, and pallet configurations, most larger retailers have very specific requirements. You’ll need to ask for those before you finalize a deal, so that you can cost them out and make sure that you won’t lose money trying to fill an order. I can’t say this one enough: embrace spreadsheets as your allies! By meticulously analyzing costs and timelines in advance, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure your company remains profitable.
3. Talk to Everyone — But Don’t Pitch To Just Anyone
Identifying the right contacts within retail organizations is half the battle. Here are some essential questions to ask to guide your strategy:
- Where in the store does my product belong? Determine exactly where your product will be placed, and then learn what that category is called. Also determine if your product will be classified as “seasonal” and what that means for placement.
- Who is the best decision-maker for my product category? If you don’t immediately get an answer from the company you’re courting, ask other entrepreneurs in your network if they know how to reach the decision-maker responsible for your product’s category.
- Could you help make an introduction for me? Now is the time to leverage your network and industry associations for introductions wherever possible. Having a trusted friend or colleague make a personal introduction for you can open doors like nothing else can.
Tip: I talk to as many people as I can when I’m researching a potential retailer. Platforms like LinkedIn and industry groups can be instrumental in your search. But remember, while it’s good to gather contacts, information, and introductions for as many people as you can, quality over quantity is key in your outreach efforts. Pitching takes time and energy, so you’ll want to invest your previous time in pinpointing the most relevant contacts within your target companies.
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4. They Are Doing You A Favor, Not The Other Way Around
Remember, you’re asking retailers to invest their time and energy into your product. Make it easy for them by presenting them with a compelling pitch, which includes:
- A concise and engaging product description that highlights your product’s unique selling points.
- A clearly defined look at your target audience and market potential.
- A look at compelling evidence such as data or testimonials showcasing your product’s success.
- Examples of how your pricing strategy is in line with the retailer’s pricing structure.
Tip: Perfection is never required — but thorough preparation is. Retailers appreciate entrepreneurs who have done their homework and who can demonstrate the value of their products. They aren’t going to do all the work for you, but if you come in prepared, they will help.
5. Avoid Common Pitfalls
In your journey to retail success, steer clear of these common pitfalls. Some of the most common mistakes made by female entrepreneurs include:
- Some entrepreneurs fail to establish contact with a buyer before sending product samples. You always want to know who you’re reaching out to and their best address before sending samples.
- Some entrepreneurs fail to ensure their product and presentation meets retail standards before pitching. Ask your network for examples to make sure everything you’re presenting is buttoned up and meets industry standards.
- Some entrepreneurs forget that patience is a virtue. It’s important to understand that retail success may not happen overnight; it often involves relationship-building and gradual progress.
Tip: Patience, preparation, and persistence are your allies on the road to retail success. Learn from others’ experiences and be ready to adapt your strategy as needed.
By following these tips, female entrepreneurs can confidently navigate the path from the kitchen table to national store shelves. As an aspiring female entrepreneur, you have the passion and potential to turn your product dreams into a thriving reality.
About the Author: Leeanna Gantt is the founder and CEO of tooktake dosage reminder labels, a company that originated from her own battle with breast cancer. With products now available in CVS and Walmart stores nationwide, she’s a testament to the journey from small-scale beginnings to national success.
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