Bootstrapped and Brave: The Merry People Story | #022

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In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Danielle Holloway, Founder & CEO of Merry People.  Dani recognised a gap in the market for fashionable, functional, wearable […]

EP 22
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Danielle Holloway is the founder and CEO of Merry People, an established seller of fashionable and comfortable gumboots. She was named #12 in the Top 50 People in the Australian eCommerce for 2020 for Insider Retail. Danielle was also given the award “The One to Watch”.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Danielle Holloway, Founder & CEO of Merry People.  Dani recognised a gap in the market for fashionable, functional, wearable gumboots and used her house-buying savings to turn that idea into a reality.  Six years on, the business operates across Australia and the US and is a fantastic example of doing one thing and doing it exceptionally well.  Dani shares her story covering how to get started turning an idea into a manufactured product, her experience of trade shows, moving into the US market and why her boots will never go on sale.

Starting a business is not just about having a good idea and the resources to get things started. Having confidence, being brave, and believing in one’s vision is also important in creating and growing the business.

In today’s podcast, Danielle Holloway shares the story of how she grew her bootstrapped gumboot business to where it is now, by standing by her vision and her products.

My idea was gumboots and the amount of people that laughed at me and told me that it was ridiculous… but I think if you can visualise it and you can feel it, then that’s what you need to hold on to.

Danielle Holloway
Questions answered in this episode include…
  • How did the idea for Merry People come about?
  • Why do Merry People boots never go on sale?
  • How important are pre-orders for you?
  • What are some of the best lessons you have learnt in eCommerce?

How the idea for Merry People came about

Merry People Founder and CEO started the business six years ago. During the conversation, she shares that the idea first came to her when she was looking for stylish and comfortable gumboots to wear when attending a music festival. Since then, she had been hoping that someday, someone will create fashionable, high quality gumboots.

She had been working as a project manager for a bank when the idea re-surfaced.  She was looking for stylish, comfortable gumboots for her commute to work and failed to find a pair she liked.  She made up her mind to start her own gumboot business with her savings.

From banking to bootstrapped business

According to Danielle, her experience as a project manager with ANZ bank taught her how to navigate change and how to execute things, as well as work in areas that are unfamiliar to her. Since she was technically inexperienced, she had to rely on the advice of subject matter experts and the people around her on how to start a business.

Using a template she found online, she started creating a business plan for Merry People. Dani recalls writing down all the ideas she had in mind, thinking about what would and would not work. She also performed a SWOT and competitor analysis to get a better picture of how things would work.

According to Danielle, she has always been the kind of person who just jumps and tries an idea without overthinking things. For her, she brought to life the product she had in mind and started looking for the people who could help her create it.

Danielle started talking to manufacturers in Australia and looked offshore when she couldn’t find one locally. She found a manufacturer in China who was able to meet her requirements. Knowing she wanted to create and develop a long term business, she got the manufacturers on board with her vision. Danielle emphasizes the importance of a two-way relationship, not just the business owner selling their dreams and the manufacturer proving their quality.

Why do Merry People products never go on sale?

Unlike many other products, Merry People’s products never go on sale. Danielle admits that this decision is based on her personal values.  Merry People sell good quality gumboots at a fair price.  Their customers respect this and Merry People get lots of good reviews from their patrons, especially in terms of product quality.

How big are pre-orders for Merry People?

Danielle shares that if they didn’t have pre-orders, the brand probably won’t grow the way it has. Having pre-orders also helped them grow the company without needing investors to help fund their growth. She adds that she is happy that customers continue to trust their products and that they are willing to pay and wait for the products they purchased.

Merry People has also started marketing its products in the US lately. Danielle discussed how they got some orders organically and started shipping their products in the US. At first, customers usually paid the shipping if they wanted to change the product they ordered. Since this setup is costly, they used to just let their customers keep the product and send them the new item. Danielle thought they can’t keep doing that, so she found a US warehouse and has started advertising in the US.

eComm lessons

Dani has learned that eCommerce is not a set-and-forget activity. She shares that trying new things and making mistakes are all part of the growth process. She stressed the importance of A/B testing, quickly learning what has gone wrong, and immediately finding a solution for the problem.

Supporter of women in business

Danielle has been open about supporting women who have been aspiring to establish their businesses. She recalls how the people around her reacted when she shared her ideas about establishing a gumboot business. She believes that female founders should be more confident in their ideas and they must support each other. Danielle also likes talking to women about their ideas and encourages them to believe in themselves.

“Just because you can’t convince someone right there at that moment, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.”

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