If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you already know all about BKKP’s re-brand. If not, you might be thinking, “Why a re-brand?”
There’s an expression, “Run your business, don’t let your business run you.” Mine was running me, but I couldn’t see it. Like if you’re in a bad relationship, you can’t see all the red flags, but your friends can, and when they try to help you, you get defensive and say, “You just don’t get it!”
I know what it costs to get a pair of Bee’s Knees out the door in terms of labor and materials. (I’m not that dense!) When I started out, I just marked the price up a little and then hoped it would cover everything else. It had to right? Red Flag #1: Willful ignorance is not bliss.
Initially, I wanted to be priced comparatively to my competitors. It didn’t matter that my competitors aren’t made the same way, don’t offer as many features, and don’t last as long as my knee pads do. Who wants to be the highest priced knee pad on the market? Red Flag #2: Know your value; then calculate your price.
Black Heart was always in back order. I’d submit a PO for 100 pairs, and 75 would be gone by the time they landed on my doorstep. Strange, there didn’t seem to be any money left to pay the invoice. One week later, I’d be in back order again. With such an in demand product, I have to increase supply, right? Red flag #3: Be realistic about capacity.
Flags on flags on flags.
I was talking with my business coach about coming up with a new product, one that was less expensive to make, so I could offset the cost of making knee pads. I’d already been down the road of trying to lower production costs. (Trust me, if you are thinking of suggesting it, I’ve already looked into it.) She asked, “Why are you trying to come up with another product to make you money instead of making it so knee pads make you money?” When she challenged me on my retail price, I was so filled with fear and doubt that I yelled at her. The phrase “make you money” sounded so crass, and I hated the way it made me feel greedy. But then again, wasn’t I raiding my own savings account to keep the business going? I’ve given a lot for this business; maybe it’s okay if it’s legitimately structured to give something back to me and sustain itself at the same time.
So I raged against my own machine for a week or so, and when I was ready, I grabbed a pen and wrote the following:
My flagship product needs to have a strong margin for the business to be sustainable.
Being constantly in back order is a sign that I can and should raise prices.
Raising prices will slow sales, giving the cut and sew team a chance; four human beings can’t keep up with demand at these prices.
It’s okay to charge what they are worth. Customers can say no if they want to.
It doesn’t matter what other brands charge; it matters what my costs are.
Okay, raising prices it is. But I knew if I hiked prices, I’d better explain to customers, both new and returning, what they are getting for that price. So I closed the shop and did a marathon re-branding. I wrote new copy for the website, reinforcing the things that make Bee’s Knees Knee Pads unique.
We are small batch manufactured ethically in the United States.
We are size inclusive.
We are the first skin color inclusive knee pad brand.
We are woman owned.
We are designed by a pole dancer for pole dancers.
It was pretty easy to find the words; I’ve been saying them for years, but I never thought to look at these elements as assets instead of limitations.
Which is where the “don’t let the business run you” part comes in.
Frequent requests to wholesale Bee’s Knees pushed me to give authorized dealer discounts that I couldn’t afford. A knee pad round up review that gave me low marks for being “not widely available” pushed me to sell more, more, more in as many places as possible. A quip from someone about “not making another pole thing that’s like, $40” pushed me to cap my prices regardless of what my costs were. Watching other brands who mass market manufacture or private label products from overseas conquer the world pushed me to think that cheap and fast was the only way forward.
This wasn’t just about pricing. This was about capability. I had to stop letting my business push me around.
If I hadn’t made a dramatic change, Bee’s Knees certainly would have collapsed. At least now, it has a chance to succeed. In addition to all the new copy, I made a video for the home page that explains how they’re made, why they’re worth the price, and why they are worth waiting for. But probably, the most feelgood thing I did was the Non Model Model Call. Bee’s Knees loyalists followed directions like champs and worked quickly, sending in pictures that they took on their own; the pictures they sent in were far more creative, diverse, and exciting than what I would have captured if I staged my own traditional photo shoot. I had a lot of fun making their baseball cards with their stats and info, and I love that new visitors to the site will see BKKPs on the real people who wear them.
There’s more to do, but we’ve course corrected, and I think things are going to be okay. Thank you to my Non Model Models, who are featured everywhere on the website and on the 'gram, and everyone who counseled me through this re-branding. You are legion, but I’d like to highlight in particular:
Kailyn, my ads manager who launched me to a new level and told me some hard truths in the nicest and most supportive way.
Kimmie, who drank wine, ate snacks, and inspired me flaunt my sustainability.
Hannah, my business coach who didn’t hold it against me that I yelled at her, but instead swapped emails for 48 hours straight going line by line to teach me how to price a product.
Danielle, who gave me the Non Model Model Call idea, the title for this blog post, and told me that QBSE is a thing.
Nathaniel, my old friend from college who is very smart, but did not make me feel stupid, and instead made me an Excel spreadsheet.
Jen, who listened and said “That sucks” or “Fuck yea” at the right times, and tested the re-launched site for me.
Chris, for listening even though he’s sick of hearing about knee pads and for writing me music to use my videos.