Today I’m talking with Damon Oates from DecoExchange about how to build a profitable emergent business by following your audience’s lead.
What is an emergent business?
An emergent business is one that “emerges” out of your audience’s wants and needs.
You come up with a hypothesis of what you think your customers will buy from you. You launch your offering, and test the response.
Then you listen closely to what your customers tell you about your product. You continue to iterate based on their suggestions.
Then you discover what other “adjacent” problems your customers are having, and solve them, too, by selling them solutions.
The exciting part about building an “emergent” business is that you don’t know the direction your business is going to take, but you follow your customers wants and needs and continual feedback to keep building.
I think building an emergent business is the best type of business to build on the internet today.
Damon’s business is such a great example of what this looks like. I also think you’re going to love what a caring, sweet person he is. Definitely listen to this episode and reach out and tell me what you think.
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Damon Oates 0:11
Hello friends. Welcome back to the show. If you are enjoying the Blogger Genius Podcast, and you want to receive a weekly newsletter from me, where I talk about my most recent episode and share my four biggest takeaways from that episode.
Jillian Leslie 0:30
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Please head to bloggergenius.com and sign up and you’ll hear from me on Sundays. Okay for today’s episode, I am interviewing Damon Oates from DecoExchange. Damon was recommended to me by a bunch of friends.
Because he is a really interesting story. He is an engineer turned crafter. And he’s grown this very successful business selling wreaths, decorative wreaths. And in the process of that he’s learned a thing or two about growing online businesses.
So, he also teaches crafters how to grow businesses online. And then he also teaches people who want to craft, how to create beautiful things. He has a lot of knowledge. He’s a really sweet guy.
I’ve really enjoyed this episode and getting to know him and I think you will like listening. So, without further delay, here is my interview with Damon Oates. Damon, welcome to the show.
Damon Oates 1:53
Hey, I’m glad to be here.
Jillian Leslie 1:56
We were just talking offline before I press record, but I went to to a mastermind group with crafters, couple crafters, and all they kept talking about was Damon. Damon said this, Damon said that and the rest of us were like, “Who is this Damon?”
And then one of the people Brooke Riley, who’s been on my podcast said, you have to get Damon on your podcasts. But the funniest part was, we said, “Who is this guy?” And they go, “He’s a wreather.” And we’re like, “What in the world is this term wreather?”
And then they’re like, he makes and sells wreaths. And so then it all kind of connected, but it was so funny that we’re like, what is this strange title “wreather”? We thought it was maybe some spiritual thing or who knew?
But anyway, welcome to the show. And you are the first wreather that I’ve had on my show. Your story is so fascinating.
We ended up talking on the phone briefly and you got to share this with me, but would you share your story of how you got started in making wreaths, especially with you your technical background?
How to Start a Business by Doing Good
Damon Oates 3:02
Absolutely. So, I was actually an engineer for the oil and gas industry, I worked for Shell Oil and all of that was fun. But on this side, we were making wreaths and using those wreaths to donate money to local animal shelters.
Jillian Leslie 3:22
Okay, now who are we?
Damon Oates 3:26
Here’s the thing I always refer to we as our community. As a community leader, I think it’s always important to involve the people who have supported us. And not just saying I all the time, I don’t know.
But when I say we, in referenced to DecoExchange, at that point, it was just me.
Jillian Leslie 3:41
Damon Oates 3:42
At this point, it is me and my partner, he runs the supply side of the business, and I get to run the educational side of the business.
Jillian Leslie 3:51
Okay. So, you’re an oil and gas engineer? You want to raise money for animals.
Damon Oates 3:59
Jillian Leslie 4:00
And so, how did you even think to make wreaths? And these are wreaths by the way that people put on their doors to decorate for the holidays for whatever?
Damon Oates 4:09
Jillian Leslie 4:09
Damon Oates 4:10
So, I had just bought my first house and it was Mardi Gras season and we wanted a Mardi Gras wreath for the front door. So, I went out to the local craft stores looked at the option and I was like, I am not hanging that on my front door. I can’t.
It was $250 bucks, and it was like a skeleton. So, I went to YouTube and I found a whole bunch of videos and supplies. And we made our first wreath. We hung it on the front door.
How You Know When You’ve Got Product Market Fit
And a neighbor stopped by and pulled in the driveway and said, “Hey, my wife’s been talking about that wreath on your front door for two weeks. Where did you get it?” And I said, “Oh, I made it.”. “Can I buy it?” I said “No, sir. You can’t buy that one. It’s mine.”
And he said, “Well, here’s $100.” and I said, “Well, here’s the wreath.” and I took it off the front door and I handed it through the window. And I was like, that’s interesting.
Jillian Leslie 5:03
Damon Oates 5:05
So we made another one. And I get home from work one day and my grandma’s like, “Hey, I sold that wreath on your door.” And I was like, “What?” She was like, “Yes. Somebody stopped by and said they had $100 they heard that’s how much the wreath was.”
I said, “Okay.” And that happened three or four times and we realized that people wanted what we were doing as a stress reliever.
Jillian Leslie 5:29
Wait, they wanted the wreaths or they wanted to make wreaths?
Damon Oates 5:32
They wanted the wreaths.
Jillian Leslie 5:33
Oh, because it’s just something pretty to put on your door.
Damon Oates 5:36
Jillian Leslie 5:36
To bring a smile to your face and the people driving by and that kind of thing. Okay, and by the way, what attracted you to wreaths in the beginning?
Damon Oates 5:45
It’s just a Southern thing. Everyone has a wreath on their door.
Jillian Leslie 5:48
Okay, because I’m not from the South. So, for me, it’s like why do people put wreaths on their doors? Okay, so, it’s a Southern thing.
Damon Oates 5:55
It’s a Southern thing.
Jillian Leslie 5:57
Damon Oates 5:57
Most of our customers are from the South.
Jillian Leslie 6:00
Damon Oates 6:01
Jillian Leslie 6:03
So, what’s interesting then about this is you didn’t know there would be a demand and the demand showed up at your house.
Damon Oates 6:10
Jillian Leslie 6:12
And then you thought to yourself.
Damon Oates 6:15
So, at that time, we were donating $500 a month out of our own paychecks to animal rescue organizations. And I said, hey, what if I take that $500 and I spend it on supplies, and then I can make wreaths and I can sell those wreaths, to our community.
And then I can donate $1,500 versus $500. And that is actually what got us our biggest start by having a passion and showing our community that passion and how they could get something for what they’re giving.
Jillian Leslie 6:57
So, from the beginning that was how you talked about your wreaths?
Damon Oates 7:03
Jillian Leslie 7:03
Damon Oates 7:04
And even whenever we went out and did craft shows we had a message that was to the public, if you bring a bag of dog food, a dog toy, or any of these things, a blanket, and you bring them into our booth, we will give you 10% off your purchase.
Jillian Leslie 7:19
Damon Oates 7:22
So we use that tactic of what we cared about to grow our brand awareness.
Jillian Leslie 7:28
Interesting. Okay. So, now how long did you focus on going to craft shows and stuff while you’re still working as a mechanical engineer. Is that right?
Damon Oates 7:39
Jillian Leslie 7:40
Shifting from craft fairs to selling online on Etsy
Damon Oates 7:42
So, we started this whole thing around 2013. And it was kind of quiet. We kept it a little bit low. And 2015 is when we made this shift on line a little bit. It’s when we opened our first Facebook page.
We started on Etsy and we started realizing that our impact could be a lot larger if we weren’t focused on just our community.
Jillian Leslie 8:05
Damon Oates 8:07
So we made that shift from local craft shows to the online space. And then we cut out all of the smaller craft shows, and we only focused on the large ones that made us the most revenue.
That was a little bit of testing. So, we had to go to a bunch of them to figure out which five we wanted to do every year.
Jillian Leslie 8:28
And did you figure out also what kind of wreaths people wanted to buy?
Damon Oates 8:32
Jillian Leslie 8:33
And what were your top priority?
Damon Oates 8:35
90% of our wreaths were the exact same design every time and it was just a medium sized 24-inch wreath with lots of bows and a sign.
What is the 80/20 rule in business?
Jillian Leslie 8:47
Interesting. We do a coaching group and I was just teaching them the concept of the 80/20 rule. And that is a perfect example where It’s 20% of your products drive 80% of your business so for you, it sounds like it was even more skewed that way.
Damon Oates 9:09
Absolutely. We did other products and we had a variety of options. But we knew that what became a little mundane for us to create was our best sellers which allowed us to then create what we wanted to.
Jillian Leslie 9:25
And what do you mean by that. You could create other products, other wreaths.
Damon Oates 9:28
We could create other wreaths. So, it didn’t have to be that same look or style every time we were able to create something that sold less because of what sold really well.
Jillian Leslie 9:40
Got it. Were you and your partner making all the wreaths or did you hire people?
Damon Oates 9:45
It was just me.
Jillian Leslie 9:45
Damon Oates 9:46
It was just me.
Jillian Leslie 9:47
Damon Oates 9:48
At our peak we were doing around 900 or so wreaths a year.
Jillian Leslie 9:53
Oh my gosh. Okay, so did your house explode with like just crafting stuff all over the place?
Damon Oates 10:00
It did. It did. Luckily, we had a spare room and a spare living room that I was able to take over. And then once we outgrew that, I bought a shop that was behind our house that we were able to store and create in.
Wow. Okay, so now let’s talk about how you translate. You’re seeing tremendous success. And are you still as passionate? Are you still donating money? Where are you in your business journey?
We no longer donate 100% of the profits because it now supports a really large organization, but we still do donate a lot. For example, today when I was at lunch, I noticed that the restaurant had gift cards.
So, we actually bought $1,000 gift card and left it at the restaurant and told them to buy every police officers lunch that comes to the doors until they run out of money.
So, our passion is still there, and it still allows us to do everything that we want to do while building a business.
Jillian Leslie 11:01
I love that. I love that. Okay. So, you’re now making all these wreaths yourself. You’ve taken over parts of your house; you’re still working full time?
Damon Oates 11:11
Still working full time. I didn’t leave my job until 2017.
Jillian Leslie 11:15
Wow. Okay, so then tell me about that transition.
Damon Oates 11:20
So, I was high level in the company, manager, very secure job, benefits 401k retirement. And in October 2017. I was in a meeting with other creatives.
And the person in the room Jennifer Allwood, challenged me that I would have to leave my job and I was like, there’s no way. I literally go into the office. I do about two hours’ worth of work.
And unless they need something, I get to sit on the internet and do my business. Like why would I ever leave that job?
Jillian Leslie 11:58
Damon Oates 11:59
January 2018. Actually, I said it would be a cold day in Heck, before I quit my job. January 2018. It snowed in Louisiana. And I said–
Jillian Leslie 12:17
That’s a sign.
Damon Oates 12:18
That’s a sign. So, I wrote my resignation letter, and I sent her a picture of it. I took a picture sitting in my driver’s seat with the resignation letter and my windshield right behind it with the snow on it.
And I said, it’s a cold day turning in my letter. That January in sales we did my whole salary.
Jillian Leslie 12:43
Damon Oates 12:45
Like the whole year salary and one month and I was like, okay, here we go. And I left my job in February of 2018. And it’s been online ever since. So, from starting though, to that time, I went through several transitions with our business.
Why Facebook Lives Can Be So Powerful
So, Facebook Lives were just starting to be popular and early 2017, mid 2016 and everyone was telling people to go live, it’s going to grow your business. So, I did that. But I did that without the right intention.
So, I went live showing people exactly what I did every single day. Well, that left me with a community of people who wanted to do what I did and not want my product Hmm.
Jillian Leslie 13:42
So, they wanted to become wreathers not buy from the wreather.
Damon Oates 13:46
Absolutely. So I could still sell that wreath when I made it live and people would show up and buy them. But I had a page of 50,000 people and I could only sell that one wreath while I was live.
But every single person on the Live was asking me where did you get those supplies? Where did you get that sign? Where did you get this? Where did you get that? Can you show me how you did that again?
And it made me realize that my audience wanted more than I was selling. So, we created a tutorial.
And it was right at graduation time. And we said, “Hey guys, we’re going to sell this tutorial and we’re going to give a kid a scholarship.” And I think we ended up selling about 1,500 copies of that tutorial in 30 days.
Jillian Leslie 14:45
Was it a video? What was it? What was the actual tutorial?
Pay Attention: Your Audience May Have Different Needs
Damon Oates 14:48
It was a video like a detailed step by step video of me making a wreath.
Jillian Leslie 14:53
And how much did you sell this for?
Damon Oates 14:56
Jillian Leslie 14:58
Okay, and people showed up and just purchased it?
Damon Oates 15:02
People showed up and purchased it. And I’m like, wow, hang on. Our audience wants a different product than we’re offering.
How To Build A Profitable Emergent Business
Jillian Leslie 15:09
Damon Oates 15:10
And they’re willing to pay for it.
Jillian Leslie 15:13
Damon Oates 15:15
And people were asking, “Hey, are you going to do more classes? Are you going to do more coaching? What are you going to do?” Because not only that, but we were showing people all the time, like, Hey, we’re packing another box on Etsy.
We’re shipping out 10 and 20 wreaths a week on Etsy. So they’re asking business questions like, how can we do that?
Jillian Leslie 15:35
Damon Oates 15:37
So it allowed us to just meet the needs of what our customers actually wanted.
So what was then the first product for these people who, let’s say wanted to make wreaths and sell them? What was the first thing you came up with? So first, you had the video. And that was a great proof of concept.
Yes, we actually did that five times.
Jillian Leslie 16:00
Same video or new videos?
Damon Oates 16:03
New videos, same concept, you had five different styles and sold those videos to test the market.
Jillian Leslie 16:10
Damon Oates 16:11
So I wanted to make sure that there really was a need and it wasn’t just a one-off fluke with a good purpose.
Teaching People How to Do What You Do
Jillian Leslie 16:16
Damon Oates 16:18
So we did all five and all five times at least 50 of the same people purchased the tutorial. Not just 50 sales, but 50 of the identical people purchased all five. That let me know, hey, wait a minute.
If I do this subscription coaching group where we deliver content regularly, there’s a good chance that at least 50 people want that information.
It was probably about two o’clock on a Saturday, one of our friends were like, “Hey, you should do a subscription group.” And I was like, “I’m never doing that.” Saturday night about 11:00 pm. I put up a quick sales page and I posted it on my page.
And I woke up and there were 300 people that had paid to join the group. And I was like, turn it off, turn it off, what did you do? Turn it off. And we took down the sales page really quick.
And it’s just been growing a community of people who wanted something ever since. What I quickly realized, though, was that I needed to separate my teaching. So, in that initial community, I was trying to give them business advice and creative advice.
As our community grew, they had people that were like, we don’t want to join because we don’t care about business. Or we don’t want to join because we already know how to make wreaths.
Offering Creative Coaching and Business Coaching
So we were able to actually split that group, the people who joined in that initial rush, they got access to both memberships for their same initial price. But now we actually offer creative coaching and business coaching separately.
Got it. Because the people where I met you, they weren’t wreathers. They’re in the business side. They’re bloggers, they sell products, that kind of thing.
Jillian Leslie 18:20
So when they kept talking about Damon the wreather, it was like such a disconnect for us because we’re like, you don’t make wreaths, and they go, no, no it’s not that kind of group. So they were in your business coaching?
Damon Oates 18:33
Jillian Leslie 18:34
Okay, so now here’s the thing you’re also making wreaths?
Damon Oates 18:39
Jillian Leslie 18:39
So, there are three parts to your business.
Selling the Materials to Make Your Product to Your Audience
Damon Oates 18:42
And we sell the products to make wreaths.
Jillian Leslie 18:44
So, there are four parts to your business.
Damon Oates 18:46
There are four parts.
Jillian Leslie 18:47
Okay, so who is now making wreaths? Do you have a team?
Damon Oates 18:52
Jillian Leslie 18:52
Oh, it’s still you.
Damon Oates 18:54
I still make them. So, we make and produce less. They are higher price now because they’re more of a commodity item, but we sell the product to make wreaths.
So it’s still of a benefit to us to go live on Facebook for free and show people how to use our products.
Jillian Leslie 19:13
Got it. Okay, so you’re making wreaths and like, what percent of your time are you making wreaths?
Damon Oates 19:20
About three hours a week now?
Jillian Leslie 19:22
Damon Oates 19:23
So not a lot.
Jillian Leslie 19:25
Okay. And then now is it a subscription business in terms of selling the supplies? Are you selling them on Etsy? Or is it a Shopify page or Shopify site where you’re selling, let’s say the wire and the bows and all that stuff? How do you do that?
Damon Oates 19:45
So, all of that is just on a Shopify store. It’s just a resell online market, anyone can purchase there, but we do have a subscription attached to it. And that is a discount club.
Jillian Leslie 19:55
Setting Up a Discount Club
Damon Oates 19:56
So, you can join a discount club to always get a percentage off of our supplies store.
Jillian Leslie 20:03
Okay, so you pay how much per month to be part of the discount club?
Damon Oates 20:07
You pay $8 to be part of a discount club.
Jillian Leslie 20:09
Okay, then I can buy as much as I want at a discounted price.
Damon Oates 20:12
Jillian Leslie 20:13
So, kind of like a wholesale price?
Damon Oates 20:14
Right. At 15% off.
Jillian Leslie 20:17
Great. Okay. So, there isn’t a subscription where you’re sending me stuff every month. It’s like I get to go purchase.
Damon Oates 20:25
Jillian Leslie 20:25
Either retail or pay this fee and purchase wholesale.
Damon Oates 20:29
Jillian Leslie 20:30
And are you stocking all of this?
Damon Oates 20:33
We are. We actually have a 14,000 square foot warehouse now.
Jillian Leslie 20:36
Oh my gosh! So, you’re sourcing all of this stuff, say from China, and you’re keeping it in your warehouse? And then do you have a team of people? I take it you are not the one packing the boxes?
Damon Oates 20:48
No, I don’t pack boxes anymore.
Jillian Leslie 20:50
Damon Oates 20:51
So we have four full time people in the warehouse. And then we have three temp people in the warehouse basically all the time who pack boxes.
Jillian Leslie 21:00
And your partner is the one who’s in charge of this part of the business.
Damon Oates 21:05
Correct. He’s in charge of making sure things get packed and shipped. And reordering.
Jillian Leslie 21:11
Wow, got it. And then are you going to China and finding different supplies? Are you able to do all of the sourcing and stuff here from the US? And are you the purchaser? Are you the one who’s selecting product?
Damon Oates 21:24
I am the purchaser. I get to select the product, but I don’t have to go to China to get it. There are about four large companies who go out and do that for us at this time.
Jillian Leslie 21:35
Wow. Wow. Okay.
Damon Oates 21:40
Let me give you all of our revenue streams with just wreaths.
Jillian Leslie 21:45
Creating Multiple Revenue Streams for Your Business
Damon Oates 21:46
Alright, so we have the creative coaching where we show people how to make their own wreath.
Jillian Leslie 21:53
How much is that a month?
Damon Oates 21:56
Jillian Leslie 21:57
Okay, so go ahead.
Damon Oates 21:58
It’s like our life cycle. So basically we go live on Facebook. And we show people how to make wreath. So, we’re intriguing them on the hobby. At that point, we’re selling them products from the warehouse.
So then they get all this product and they realize, you know what, we need a little bit more help than that free video. So, now they’re getting advertisements to join the creative coaching group, which is $24.99.
Jillian Leslie 22:28
You’re targeting them on Facebook, with Facebook ads.
Damon Oates 22:30
With ads. So we’re basically creating our own need for people to join that subscription group.
Jillian Leslie 22:37
Damon Oates 22:39
Well, now you’re in this creative coaching group and you’re making all these things. What are you going to do with them? You want to sell them?
Jillian Leslie 22:47
Yep. So, how many wreaths do you really need?
Damon Oates 22:51
So now we’re targeting them with the business coaching on come over here so we can now help you move that product so you can buy more products.
Jillian Leslie 23:00
Damon Oates 23:03
And along with that we do have a subscription box where we send out supplies, but it’s not a kit. It’s not a wreath kit. It is basically, the coolest random supplies, we were able to find, and you can only get it through our subscription box.
Jillian Leslie 23:23
What Is Emergent Business Building?
Damon Oates 23:23
We do about 1,200 subscription boxes a month at $60.
Oh my gosh. What I love about your business. I’m a big believer in this concept called like emergent business building, which means you see what works and you start building off of it.
Jillian Leslie 23:43
And it can look random meaning it can look like you have all these disparate parts, but they all fit together. I’m in Austin here. And I compare it to, development in Austin is growing like crazy, kind of like New Orleans, that kind of thing.
And how I would use this example there’s like a strip mall, and it’s janky and it’s kind of like a little sketch, and you would never go there. Except all of a sudden, the cool coffee shop shows up.
Right, and you go it’s really weird that there’s the cool coffee shop and then next to it six months later is the weird succulent store with upscale succulents. It’s no joke and you go ha, that’s really interesting.
And then next to that is the sushi place, kind of cool funky sushi place, and like all of a sudden, this strip still probably has like the nursing uniform store. Some old school thing now is starting to get hip and happening because it’s emerging.
Versus my dad lives in Florida in this planned community. where all the houses look alike. And here’s the clubhouse and here’s this and how different those experiences are.
Recommendation: Listen to Your Audience and Solve Their Problems
And I believe when building businesses on the internet, the emergent businesses, the ones where somebody is listening, and responding and serving the need of their customer. That’s the business like that is how to build a business.
So, I am just so impressed. You would never have thought this when you made that first wreath that this is going to become this seven figure business with all these moving parts, but they all fit together and you’re serving needs along the way.
Damon Oates 25:33
Absolutely. Actually, every aspect of our business I said, I will never do that. I said I would never sell supplies. I would never have a subscription box. I would never do all these things.
But the Facebook Live videos, which I also said I would never do. Allowed me to have conversations with our audience, so I could hear exactly what their needs were.
Jillian Leslie 25:59
Damon Oates 26:00
And as a blogging person, you’ll appreciate this. The only reason that we actually sell supplies is because I was going live and telling people about so and so store. And then we reach out to so and so store and they were like, “We don’t need influencers.”
Jillian Leslie 26:18
Damon Oates 26:20
So, the craft community didn’t understand the power of affiliate revenue. So we said, okay, and we just decided to source our own material and sell it and start an affiliate program.
The Power of Creating an Affiliate Program
So, that our watchers could then be affiliates of the same supplies, and we could teach them what affiliate marketing was. Now all of the now competitors all have affiliate programs.
Jillian Leslie 26:49
Damon Oates 26:51
So, we were able to change the mindset of the market by stepping into the role and being a leader in the organization.
Add the MiloTree Pop-Up App to Your Site to Grow Your Social Media Followers and Email List
Jillian Leslie 27:00
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Jillian Leslie 29:01
Another thing that I think is amazing that you’ve done… I have this thing that I preach all the time, which is the internet’s a really big place. And therefore, because you sell wreaths and I sell wreaths, their market is big enough for both of us.
So there you go, oh, no, I don’t know if you were saying, oh, no, but it’s like, I make wreaths, I sell them. If I teach other people to make wreaths and sell them, it could put me out of business.
But instead to say, no, no, no, I can still sell my wreaths and I can teach you how to sell wreaths. And then you can go sell your wreaths. And all it does is it builds this market. So, for example, here me I’ve never really thought about the wreath market.
But now I’m like, I should make a wreath or buy a wreath and so there isn’t this sense of competitor and like I need to hold it tightly. And that you’re going live on Facebook, sharing your information.
It’s not like your saying, yeah, I’m not going to show you how to tie the bow. Because that has to be my thing. Like, I’m willing to share that. And in fact, you like the way I tie my bow?
Why an Abundance Mindset Will Help You Grow Your Business
I can sell you this, I can sell you the bows, I can sell you the ribbon to go make your own bows. So there’s a sense of generosity, abundance, you can have that mindset of scarcity, that mindset of abundance.
And it’s like you’ve just put abundance out there in such an important like, big way.
Damon Oates 30:31
And we actually preach that constantly is there’s enough room for all of us, because there’s always going to be people who are never going to make their own.
Jillian Leslie 30:41
Damon Oates 30:43
And there are people who still today, I’m like, guys, “I can’t fit you into my schedule. There’s no way I can get all your Christmas stuff done this year.” They’re like, “Okay, we’ll wait ’til next year.”
Once you build that loyalty customer as long as you treat them, right. They’re going to keep coming back to you no matter what. I’m always like, I have 2000 wreath makers in my back pocket.
I can get you a wreath tomorrow just won’t be mine. But no, no, we want yours.
Jillian Leslie 31:11
Wow. Wow. Okay, so let’s talk then about your two coaching groups. And then you also have a mastermind where I know a bunch of people in your mastermind. So you spend three hours a week making wreaths and I just have to ask, Is that still fun for you?
Damon Oates 31:28
It is because we have this endless supply in the warehouse. So I can basically walk in the warehouse at anytime and grab something new and something fun to play with.
Okay, got it. Okay, so then you’ve got your wreath making, which is a couple hours a week, but now you’re in charge of all of the coaching and all of that. So you have your creative group and you have your business group.
Jillian Leslie 31:50
And these are memberships?
Damon Oates 31:54
They are memberships.
Jillian Leslie 31:55
And are these on Facebook in the Facebook groups? How are you creating content for them? How do you keep the people engaged in these groups? How do you plan out what you’re teaching that kind of thing?
How to Create Content for Facebook Lives
Damon Oates 32:07
So in the creative coaching, I actually hired two additional coaches back in February. So now in the group every Monday we have a guest coach who comes in and does a Facebook Live and teaches something different than what my style is.
Every Tuesday in the group I’m in there live doing some type of live class. Every Wednesday Coach, Jackie’s in there, and every Thursday Coach, Mel’s in there doing something. So, they’re getting at least 16 live instructional videos a month.
And then the three coaches all record step by step how to videos that are put into their membership portal. So we look at the Facebook Lives as a spot to, of course share information and teach but it’s more about the community.
It’s not always a great video angle. There are lots of conversations that happen. So, you get that community you still get to learn. But then in the membership portal there’s that quick cut and dry. Here’s the steps. Here’s how to make it and this is how much we sell it for.
Jillian Leslie 33:21
Got it. You mean you sell it like ultimately, if you make this wreath, this is kind of what we suggest you sell this for.
Damon Oates 33:27
Jillian Leslie 33:27
Got it. Okay. And this is all happening on Facebook?
Damon Oates 33:30
It’s all happening on Facebook. The membership portal is hosted in Ontraport but everything else is hosted on Facebook.
Jillian Leslie 33:39
Got it. Okay, now let’s talk about the business side.
Damon Oates 33:43
So, on the business side, when I first started business coaching, and I left my job, I actually wanted to do more one on one coaching.
Jillian Leslie 33:53
Damon Oates 33:54
And I figured out that I could replace my current salary with 100 students at $125 an hour and I thought that was going to be amazing. Then I realized if I’m doing that, I can’t help more people.
So I shifted that down to about 30 one on one calls that I do available a month. But I made myself available instead for office hours in the coaching group. So, basically every Monday at 10am, I’m live in the group for an hour, hour and a half.
It’s on a Zoom call, and anyone in the membership can jump up on the screen, and we can work through their problem. Every Tuesday, same concept. Every Wednesday afternoon.
So, we do Monday at 10am. Tuesday, 10am, Wednesday at 7pm for the people who are still working their jobs. And then I hired an expert and websites and coding and SEO and all those things. She’s live in their everyday Thursday.
And then we have another coach who focuses on quick wins, just little small things that you can do in your business. So she’s putting out a quick win every Friday for people to implement.
Jillian Leslie 35:13
I love that. I love that.
Damon Oates 35:14
On top of that, once a month we do a detailed training about something new that we’ve implemented in our business. We always implement something, wait about three months to get the results.
And then share it with the community to let them know like hey, this is working this isn’t. This is how you would do it for yourself.
Jillian Leslie 35:35
Interesting. Wow. How much is your coach your business coaching?
Damon Oates 35:40
It’s $37 a month.
Jillian Leslie 35:42
Okay. Wow. Oh my god, there’s so much value that you are offering and then you have a mastermind.
What is a Business Mastermind?
Damon Oates 35:49
For people who don’t know that’s like an intensive that’s more much more expensive, but they get to go away with you. Because I think a couple of the people like Sarah Williams who was just on my podcast was away at your mastermind.
Jillian Leslie 36:05
And Brooke Riley was just at your mastermind. And so then how does that work?
Damon Oates 36:10
So, for in my mastermind experiences that I paid for myself, what I noticed was it was more of a high-level coaching, they showed up and they were gone. In my head, it didn’t feel like it was meeting the needs of what I needed.
So, I designed our mastermind around a 12-month experience. We meet as a group once a month on a Zoom call. And we meet individually, that person and my staff team so that we can help you with whatever aspect that is relevant to your current problem.
So not only are we working to bring the whole group elevated, but we want to make sure that your needs are being met. And then on top of We meet in person three times a year.
And those in person meetups, we rent a large home with 25 to 30 bedrooms, and everyone stays in that one house for the entire duration of the event.
Jillian Leslie 37:18
And how long is the event?
Damon Oates 37:20
We normally rent the house Sunday to Sunday.
Jillian Leslie 37:23
Damon Oates 37:24
And then the actual event is usually Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
Jillian Leslie 37:28
Damon Oates 37:28
But you have the opportunity to join us on that Sunday and to leave on the next Sunday.
Jillian Leslie 37:33
Damon Oates 37:34
And we literally just stay locked in that house for the week. Discussing business talking ideas. If you’ve ever been in a mastermind, there’s lots of laughing and crying that happens. Lots of stress, lots of stress relief.
My parents come to the mastermind with us and they cook all three meals. So breakfast, lunch and dinner. So you don’t have to really leave the experience at all. And it’s always a rejuvenating week.
And everyone’s business is to allow them to, number one, get some problems solved. Because if we don’t have the answer, we know someone who does and we’re able to pick up the phone and get them on a conference call right there and get things worked out.
We get to bring in some of our friends who are experts in books. The last time we had Roberto Candelario there who does sponsorships. How to work on getting your podcast sponsor, he has those connections.
So we were able to bring in experts outside of what we can teach them.
And again, I find that like, for example, at the mastermind that I went to where I learned about Damon, the wreather because I love it too, when you’re with businesses that aren’t necessarily in your niche.
Jillian Leslie 38:52
So some of the problems are the same across businesses and then some of them are not but weirdly when you hear how somebody else not in your niche is solving a problem.
It’s amazing how a lot of times, it can unlock something for you because you’re thinking about it in a very specific way. This is my niche. This is how my niche solves this problem.
So to hear some orthogonal solution, a lot of times that can be relevant, more so than you think people think. Like food bloggers love to hang out with food bloggers, and it’s like food bloggers should be hanging out with parenting bloggers.
Or crafting bloggers or other kinds of bloggers, because everybody kind of comes at things differently. And sometimes it can get like group think, group mind.
Damon Oates 39:46
And that’s what actually happened in my first round of mastermind students was we were all wreath makers, except for Brooke Riley, Tamra Bennett and Tammy Halls, they were in a different aspect.
Tammy had a brick and mortar. Brooke did her blogging and Tamra did door hangers. Everyone else was a wreath maker. So every solution was the same every time.
Jillian Leslie 40:11
Damon Oates 40:13
This year we split it. It’s probably 60/40 now. Only 40% are actually in the wreath organization somewhere. And the other 60% make up brick and mortars and they make up online boutiques and blogging and a whole aspect of interesting caveats.
We even have a lawyer in there. And she focuses on online businesses. So, it’s an interesting mix of people that make a great learning experience.
Absolutely. I think that being an entrepreneur on the internet is incredibly cool because you can build these amazing businesses however, it can be lonely, and it can be hard to step out of your way of thinking.
Why Networking is Important
Jillian Leslie 41:01
And I always believe like the more you can build communities join communities and that’s why up until Coronavirus, I’m such a big fan of like going to conferences. I’ve always found them to be very useful, even though they can be expensive.
But to get yourself out of your norm, and get interacting with other people and exchanging best practices and being generous, and having a feeling of abundance. It’s amazing how much you can accelerate your growth.
Damon Oates 41:36
Yes. So one of the things that we actually put in our budget as our business grew was a networking budget. It wasn’t a conference budget. It wasn’t educational budget, it was networking.
Because what we realized is going to those conferences, a lot of the times every speaker says something we already knew. What we took the opportunity to do was network with the other people in the room.
And that’s how we’ve met so many great resources just showing up and networking.
Jillian Leslie 42:08
That is amazing. So, back to your own strategy and what is working today. So Facebook has been very important for your business?
Why You Want to Experiment on New Platforms Like TikTok
Damon Oates 42:20
So Facebook, Pinterest, and we’re actually starting to play with TikTok a little bit.
I’m with you on that I’m just barely just scratching the surface but I have a 13-year old daughter who lives on TikTok now, and at first it was kind of like her thing. And then I started to get wind of mompreneurs and people like getting onto TikTok.
Jillian Leslie 42:43
And I feel like a lot of times platforms come and go, but TikTok seems to as my daughter says, it’s more fun than say Instagram. And I think especially during COVID-19 I’ve watched it explode over the last two months.
So, tell me how are you using TikTok for wreathing or for like what?
Damon Oates 43:13
We’re using TikTok mainly to show off the entrepreneur side of our business and how we can help other small businesses. So, we’re doing a lot of facts posting.
We always see those people who get on there and talk about how amazing Shopify is and how they’re doing so well. And you see them they spent $500,000 to make 600,000. I’m like, that’s not good business practice, y’all.
Jillian Leslie 43:37
Damon Oates 43:38
So, I would suggest that your audience goes on TikTok and search for hashtags that are business related. So if they sell on Shopify search for hashtag Shopify, so the way that TikTok algorithm works is that they show you what you watch.
If you get stuck watching funny videos, you’re going to see a lot of funny videos. But if you watch a couple of informative people talking about how to make sales on Shopify, or how to make Facebook ads, that profit, TikTok will start showing you more of those business TikToks.
Jillian Leslie 44:15
Wait, okay, what is your username so we can all go visit you?
Damon Oates 44:19
Jillian Leslie 44:20
Damon Oates 44:20
I’m actually doing it under my own personal name not under DecoExchange right now.
Jillian Leslie 44:25
Okay. And it’s Oates. O-A-T-E-S?
Damon Oates 44:28
Jillian Leslie 44:29
Okay, just so people can find you. Well, that’s really cool. Okay, so Facebook then is still super important to your business.
How to Transfer Your Facebook Audience into Email Subscribers
Damon Oates 44:36
Facebook is probably the backbone of our business outside of our email lists. So, we do a really good job of transferring that one time viewer into either our email list or on text messaging.
Jillian Leslie 44:50
Okay. So, how are you getting them on your email list? In fact, yes, I get your text messages. Okay. So, tell me how are you transferring this transient audience and capturing them?
Damon Oates 45:03
What we like to do is we use Minichat. We connect Minichat to our Facebook Lives. And we tell them hey, if you want XYZ out of this Facebook Live, just comment on the video and our bot will send you a message. So that’s under growth tools.
So growth tools, and it’s the growth tool called Facebook comments.
Jillian Leslie 45:35
This is on Facebook under where you find it?
Damon Oates 45:37
This is Minichat.
Jillian Leslie 45:39
Okay, under Minichat? Okay, got it.
Damon Oates 45:40
Under Minichat? Yes.
Jillian Leslie 45:42
Damon Oates 45:42
You would create a growth tool that says Facebook comments. And you can basically connect that response to a Facebook post. So, you can create a detailed message.
So, let’s say we were releasing new subscription boxes August 1, we could create a whole live video a whole post that says hey guys, if you want information on our subscription boxes, type subscription box in the comment and we’ll send you all the details.
Jillian Leslie 46:14
Damon Oates 46:15
And then Minichat would deliver a message to them. And in that message, it would tell them the price the box how to get it, and they’re currently sold out but if you want on the waitlist to fill out the waitlist form.
And either right in that bot, you could have them give you their contact information, have the bot store it or you can give them a link to go to your CRM system, or wherever you do your text messaging or email list to have them subscribe to your waitlist.
Jillian Leslie 46:47
Got it. Got it. Okay.
Damon Oates 46:50
So, from those waitlists, we’re able to then send a text message which has a 98% open rate to everyone that’s waiting versus an email that gets 20 to 40%, open rate and even less clicks.
Jillian Leslie 47:04
Got it. What service are you using to send the text message?
Damon Oates 47:08
We’re actually using Minichat.
Jillian Leslie 47:09
Oh, wow. I didn’t know Minichat could do that.
Damon Oates 47:13
So, Minichat SMS service right now cost one penny per message.
Jillian Leslie 47:18
Oh, wow. Wow. Wow, that’s amazing. That is amazing. Do you know if you can put Minichat on a Facebook group or only on a Facebook page?
Damon Oates 47:30
So if you use the reference URL link, as the growth tool, you can put that reference URL link wherever you want it. So instead of saying, hey, comment on this post, you would say, hey, guys, click the link in this post.
Jillian Leslie 47:46
Got it. Very cool. Okay, because that was one thing. I was looking at Minichat and I have a Facebook group, but then it got confusing and then I kind of bailed, too hard. So, Facebook has been super important for your business. So, what about Instagram?
How to Use Instagram for Sales
Damon Oates 48:04
Instagram, we have about 115,000 followers. And I would say, maybe 10% of our sales come from Instagram. It’s not that big of a deal for us. We do get a lot of likes. We get a lot of comments, we get a lot of engagement.
But I think it’s a younger audience and the audience that we attract on Facebook is the ideal person to make a wreath.
Jillian Leslie 48:31
Got it. Go where your audiences is. And Pinterest then is a big traffic driver.
Damon Oates 48:37
Pinterest is huge. So Pinterest doesn’t drive us a lot of DIY people. Interestingly enough, it drives us more people directly to our Etsy shop to buy the completed projects.
Jillian Leslie 48:47
Interesting. So now here’s the thing. So you’ve got your Shopify store for supplies. But are you selling wreaths there as well? Or are you selling wreaths predominantly on Etsy?
Damon Oates 48:59
We still sell wreaths predominantly on Etsy.
How to Sell on Etsy Right Now
Jillian Leslie 49:01
Okay. And how do you feel about Etsy right now? Because I know they’ve gone through some changes and they’re kind of wanting you to participate. Not you. Etsy, participate in advertising and that was very controversial.
What is your feeling about building a business on Etsy versus say building your business on Shopify, where you own it, but you’re in charge then of driving people to that store? The great thing about Etsy is it’s got a built-in audience of people looking.
Damon Oates 49:32
Absolutely. So I well, Etsy would have to do some pretty crazy things to make me ever say Etsy is not the place to be. If I look at my traffic on Etsy, 40% of all of our sales come directly from Etsy traffic.
Jillian Leslie 49:57
Damon Oates 49:59
Search. So, far in 2020, we’ve made $143,000 on Etsy.
Jillian Leslie 50:06
Damon Oates 50:08
And on average, Etsy takes about 9% of the sale.
Jillian Leslie 50:13
Damon Oates 50:14
So, if I do some quick math there, let’s see. 142,679 times 9% that says that I gave Etsy about $12,000 for my sales. But if I look at 142,006 79 times 40% that’s $57,000.
So, I could walk away because I’m mad that Etsy charged me $12,000 and I could leave $57,000 behind.
Jillian Leslie 50:58
What do you mean like when were you making?
Damon Oates 51:01
So, because we did 140,000 total sales?
Jillian Leslie 51:05
Damon Oates 51:05
And 40% of those sales came directly from Esty’s traffic.
Jillian Leslie 51:09
Damon Oates 51:10
So, if I walked away and I left those 40% of purchases. I’m leaving behind 57,000 and historically every year after year, Etsy has brought me 40% of that traffic to my Etsy platform.
Jillian Leslie 51:25
Damon Oates 51:26
And if I look at all time, that is almost $600,000 in sales of wreaths. So, talking about 40% of that traffic. That’s a lot of money to walk away from because the platform has its own customers
Jillian Leslie 51:44
Totally. Well, that’s the thing. My partner’s my husband, David, and we talk about this all the time, which is to have a business on the internet, you need traffic, traffic, traffic. Traffic drives everything.
And so, if in fact you can be on a platform like Etsy and get free traffic versus, I have a Shopify store. Yes, I get to own the whole thing. However, how do I get traffic I’m either going to have to pay for that traffic. I’m going to have to work Pinterest.
But again, it’s like all about that opportunity cost or the actual cost of I’ve got to run ads to it. So just being on a platform where there is traffic is so valuable, and I think that’s what you’re saying.
Damon Oates 52:28
Right. And I always tell people that if a customer makes the first purchase on Etsy, Etsy did its job. If they make the second purchase on Etsy, you didn’t do your job. So, your goal should be to use those customers from Etsy to convert from an Etsy customer to your own personal customer.
Jillian Leslie 52:46
How to Move Your Etsy Customers to Your Shopify Store
Damon Oates 52:48
So, your packaging in the box, your thank you cards, all those things that go out with your sales should be driving that next purchase on your own personal platform.
Jillian Leslie 52:59
Damon Oates 52:59
That way whenever that customer thinks next Christmas, hey, I need another wreath. They’re going to remember you and not that they went to Etsy.
Jillian Leslie 53:07
Damon Oates 53:07
Because if they go back to Etsy and put in Christmas wreath, you’re going to be competing with the other 30,000 people again.
The Importance of Selling on Amazon too
Jillian Leslie 53:14
Nice. Are you selling it all on Amazon?
Damon Oates 53:18
Jillian Leslie 53:18
And how is that?
Damon Oates 53:20
Amazon is doing really well for us.
Jillian Leslie 53:22
Damon Oates 53:23
So, we have about 50% of our products being fulfilled by Amazon and the other 50% fulfilled by our warehouse.
Jillian Leslie 53:29
Okay, and are you selling supplies or are you selling wreaths on Amazon?
Damon Oates 53:33
Both so we are doing the supplies and the low price point wreaths. So for us, we noticed that people will spend up to $115 on Amazon for a wreath. On Etsy they’ll spend up to $300, $400.
Jillian Leslie 53:50
Damon Oates 53:53
And what’s nice about Shopify is that you could actually create all those listings on Shopify, and then you can integrate apps to push it out to the different platforms.
Jillian Leslie 54:03
Nice. So, the listing lives on Shopify, but it’s now showing up on Amazon or showing up on Etsy or both?
How to Integrate Shopify, Etsy, and Amazon
Damon Oates 54:12
Or both. And if it sells on one of the three places, it comes off of your inventory everywhere.
That’s incredible. That is incredible. Wow. And I love again how you’ve built this out. I’m sure going wait, okay, how can we do this? Did you start on Etsy and then move to Shopify, and then move to Amazon? What was the path?
So I started on Etsy, and then I pulled back to Shopify. So, it was probably my fourth craft show. I had everything listed. After starting on Etsy, my fourth craft show, I ended up selling out at the craft show, and at the same time on Etsy, we sold four wreaths.
All four had already found a new home at the craft show. So I always had this fear of having a wreath listed in more than one place. So, it wasn’t until we figured out that Shopify actually allowed us to manage our inventory in one spot.
That allowed me to feel safe about pushing our products in multiple locations. Because we always had a website and then the website just had a link back to our Etsy shop.
Because I was scared to list them on the website and on Etsy. It’d be a one of a kind, then I have to call a customer and tell them hey, I’m sorry, but I can’t actually fulfill your need. That never goes over well.
Right. Oh my God. Okay, Damon, I could talk to you for hours. So, I need to invite you back for a part two so that we can dig deeper but you are just you I get why people are quoting you, I really do I feel like you are this teacher for creatives.
Jillian Leslie 56:06
And I think that for you who’s got this technical mind, and this creative side, you’re the perfect blend of those two things. You could put your technical mind on these problems, while you’re also creating beautiful things.
Damon Oates 56:22
Yes. We actually just started our own podcast, but it’s probably the hardest thing that I do. Because as you’ve watched me this whole time I’m talking with my hands, I’m trying to demonstrate stuff. We are very visual.
So, for creatives, you can’t see it, but on the board behind me, that’s literally what I teach on all the time.
Jillian Leslie 56:43
Damon Oates 56:44
So, I can draw it out and help them map out how things flow so they can visually see it.
Jillian Leslie 56:50
Damon Oates 56:52
So, it’s one of those things that’s interesting to do what we’re doing now and talking about business on a podcast where I can’t hold up a sheet of paper and be like, no this is how you connect those dots.
Right. Right. Right. We teach coaching as well and I went from trying to talk it through to now having to have slides because same thing, we too are very like minded it is all about connecting the dots it’s not just do this just to do it.
Jillian Leslie 57:22
We always go how does this lead back to making money. Literally, to either growing traffic or making money but they’re connected. So therefore, those are the two hallmarks that this has to do one of these things.
You do have to really put the pieces together and it is like building blocks kind of like when you were describing your inventory. And how this is pushing to this, which is pushing did this.
We have a whiteboard; I’m going to I know everybody can’t see this. This is our whiteboard and normally there are diagrams of this is connecting here which is connecting here. We love mapping that out. So I am right there with you.
Okay, so please, Damon tell people how can they learn more about you learn about your creative side and your creative business. Learn about your business, business side and business businesses and your podcast.
Damon Oates 58:21
So, for everything business and creative we are DecoExchange all over the internet. Decoexchange.com for supplies. We have a blog that introduces people into the creative world at howtomakewreaths.com.
And then our podcast is Makers Mean Business and the podcast basically started because of imposter syndrome and makers usually don’t feel like they believe to be a business because a lot of people don’t see them as more than a hobby.
So, our whole goal behind our podcast is to encourage them into living into the business owner that they are.
Jillian Leslie 59:06
Oh. I love that.
Damon Oates 59:06
And we interview people. So every Monday, we give you some quick tips on how to improve your business. And then every Thursday, we have a media maker interview.
Jillian Leslie 59:17
That’s terrific. And I hope I will be on your show in a couple months.
Damon Oates 59:20
Yes. We’re going to get you on there.
Jillian Leslie 59:21
I love it. Well, I have to say, I’m so glad that my circle got big enough that you came into it, and that I got to learn about you. And I just think what you’re putting out into the world is so positive and so good. So thank you so much for coming on the show.
Damon Oates 59:43
Of course. Glad to do it, and I’ll be happy to come back.
Jillian Leslie 59:46
I’d love to have you back.
I hope you liked my interview with Damon. There were two things that really resonated with me after talking to him. One is that if you are selling to really explore selling on multiple platforms, each one has a different audience.
Each one has a different flavor. You don’t just have to be selling on one platform. So, think about that.
And the other thing is that Damon is a perfect example of something I teach, which is called emergent business building. And what that means is you allow it to emerge. You, listen, you hear what your audience is asking for, and you provide it.
And you can really grow a very successful business doing that it might not look like what you thought it was going to look like. But always, always follow your audience.
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