Why don’t you sell your line in retail stores? A lot of women don’t watch the shopping channel.
M: You’re right. There are different sectors in the economy and the shopping channel is one, but the market is bigger than the shopping channel. Our strategic plan was to introduce and grow the brand globally across shopping channels because it was one way we could start the business, but in the next two years we’ll be taking Elizabeth Grant retail internationally. We don’t have a marketing plan at this stage but it’s in development. However the plan we started with was the right decision for us.
Up to now, you haven’t done any advertising. Will that change when you go retail?
M: Of course. This is why we’re spending time until we’re absolutely ready for retail. Then we’ll hire a company to assist us.
What’s your approach to selling in other countries?
M: Different countries like different things. Our biggest account is Germany and we had to really learn what the German customer wanted. We thought we could just transport what we do here to there but that doesn’t work. We had to identify what they wanted the product to look like and what consistency they wanted the cream to be. Because we have our own manufacturing and lab, we were able to work on this and turn it around very quickly. Consequently, we’ve grown in Germany.
Do you have staff in Germany and other countries?
M: No. Because we deal with shopping channels, we deal directly with the channels and send the goods to QVC in Germany. But we have an outstanding person in Germany who sells for us on television.
What about the Asian market?
M: QVC has partnered with a company in China so we’ll be going on the shopping channel on QVC in China next year. We’ll be doing China before we go to India.
What’s been the biggest learning curve with the company’s rapid growth?
M: Cash flow. The most important thing I learned was that you had to have a good relationship with your bank. Banks are there to assist you if you can give them a solid plan and if everything is up to date. I hired a CFO so we had someone who could talk the same language as the banks. Because we were able to present our figures in a more solid way to the bank, we’ve always had the help we needed. But cash flow can kill a company.
The other thing I learned is I had to let go. I had to understand that the people we had employed in different departments needed to be able do their jobs. I had to move away from being a momma and poppa store philosophy.
How do you do that?
M: As an entrepreneur, you always feel no one can work as hard or be as good as you. But as the company grew, I started to look around and realized I had hired really good people. Entrepreneurs need to recognize that by hiring the right people – and understanding that you always want to hire people better than you – you then have to hand it over and watch them. When they do well, you have to acknowledge it, but on the same basis, move away and let it run the way it should run. I have to be confident that the people who lead their teams are leaders. That’s good leadership.
Is Elizabeth still active as the CEO?
M: Yes. One of the messages people get when they watch Elizabeth is, grow old, yes, but don’t be old. You have the choice to take care of yourself. Get dressed in the morning. Look after your skin. Put on make up. Go and get a nice dress. Enjoy your life. Life doesn’t stop because you’re 75 or 80. Another thing I’ve learned from Elizabeth is to always move forward. Don’t get stuck in the negative because it’s very easy to do that. Rather, look at how something works and figure out a plan to make it better.
What’s your advice to entrepreneurs?
M: It’s so important to have somebody who understands accounting as part of your team because building that relationship with the bank is going to be the most important thing you do. Banks don’t support dreams. They support a logical approach to a business. You don’t sell the dream to the bank, you sell reality.