How This Sister Act Used a Move to Refocus Their E-Commerce Business
Two sisters move their e-commerce plus-size lingerie business out of Mom's basement and onto Internet Retailer's top 1,000 list.
Playing Dress Up
Here’s how it all started: In December 2004, Mia Bulifa shopped with her mother in Denver, looking for plus-size lingerie and sleepwear. She couldn’t find anything bigger than a size “large” and went home empty-handed. Instead of giving up hope, Bulifa decided to create a place she could shop. She launched Angelique Lingerie a few months later with her sister, Nadia, and her mother, Taina. Mia was 22 years old at the time. Nadia was 15.
In the beginning, they auctioned their lingerie and sleepwear products on eBay to gauge shopper interest. They tested which products sold more than others. While they built their company, they both worked other jobs and attended school at the same time. Before long, they decided to sell plus-size lingerie on Amazon’s marketplace. Sales took off. “We knew it was time to move our business. Our mother wanted her basement back,” Mia says.
The Right Fit
In 2009, the Bulifas found a warehouse in Denver, where they set up operations. They used the move as an opportunity to take their small company to the next level. They hired programmers and launched their own e-commerce website. Along with hiring a team of customer service representatives to answer phones, the Bulifas worked to improve the way they serviced their orders.
Teaming up with FedEx was key. “When we were trying to find a shipping carrier, our father — who owns the outdoor tools company, Alamia — referred us to his FedEx representative. We met with him and were blown away by how easy it was,” says Mia. Terrence Lawver, their FedEx account executive, advised them about the shipping options that would work best considering the size of their average orders and the fact that most of their shipments were lightweight. He also set them up with a scanner and printer so they could process their orders faster and more efficiently.
When Angelique Lingerie offered their customers the option to use FedEx Express® shipping with 3-day, 2-day and overnight shipping options, the Bulifas learned something important about their customers. “We discovered how impulse-driven our sales are when we started offering shipping with FedEx. It was a great move on our part. Customers had repeatedly requested FedEx® shipping from us. Now they order what they want and have the option to choose overnight shipping. People love it,” says Mia.
During the 2011 holiday season — a peak selling time for Angelique — they allowed customers to place orders up until the day before Christmas. “Many people took advantage of it and were thrilled by everything arriving on time and in perfect condition.”
Crossing the Pond
Sales doubled for Angelique Lingerie between 2010 and 2011 and show no signs of slowing down. “A lot of our success is word of mouth,” says Mia.
The sisters also actively market their company. “We optimize our website for search engines. We are active at the plus-size conventions. We’re active on social media with the plus-size audience,”says Nadia.
And when they noticed online interest from potential customers in England, the Bulifas researched how to export their products to England through Amazon UK. “When you sell internationally, there are a lot of taxes and tariffs for the products you’re selling,” says Mia. “I read through all these government websites trying to figure it out, but I had no idea how to calculate the duties and fees so I would know what to charge for our products and shipping. It was confusing.”
The Bulifas consulted with Lawver and found out that by shipping with FedEx internationally, all the work of figuring out the fees are calculated for them. “We get one bill from FedEx that spells out all the charges so we can base our markups on real costs. It saves us a lot of time. We don’t need to hassle with doing it on our own, and for that reason, we will be using FedEx for all our Amazon UK shipments. Plus, the shipments arrive there really fast,” says Mia.
As the sisters continue to grow their company, they plan to consult with FedEx to ensure they’re growing smart. “We value our relationship with FedEx,” says Mia. “They’re an easy company to work with and have the fastest and most reliable shipping out there.” Nadia adds, “FedEx makes things easy for us. We guarantee all of our orders. If people don’t receive them, we refund them or reship the package. When we ship with other carriers, we spend a lot more on damages and loss. With FedEx we have no issue with missing packages, and that’s huge for us. Packages get to customers really fast and in great condition with no hassles. Our customers can easily track the status of their packages. It’s great,” Nadia says.
All Dressed Up
Now that the Bulifa sisters are 29 and 22, they are focusing on Angelique Lingerie’s continued growth. “We’re working on a catalog so we can expand into the mail-order market, and we want to open a retail storefront for plus-size women,” Nadia says.
The only curveballs they can foresee? “We’re sisters,” Nadia says. “That can be a fun adventure and a challenge.” Curvy women around the globe count themselves lucky that the sisters have found a successful way to work together.
“We discovered how impulse-driven our sales are when we started offering shipping with FedEx. It was a great move on our part. Customers had repeatedly requested FedEx® shipping from us. Now they order what they want and choose overnight shipping. People love it.”
Angelique Lingerie Owner
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