Lara Sengupta is the founder of Cork Yogis, selling ethical yoga products including cork yoga mats! They launched in April 2016 and just over 1 year in now turnover £3-4K per month.
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About the business
- eCommerce Business Structure – Online Only
- Product Range Scale – fairly niche
- Selling on Woocommerce and via Amazon and eBay
- In the UK, selling worldwide both B2C and B2B
A couple years ago, Lara was in a job that she hated, so despite not having a business background, she began playing around with the idea of starting her own business. She’s always been inspired by social enterprise companies such as TOMS shoes, so she wanted to start up an eCommerce business that had the same sort of ethics and that had a mission that inspired her.
She spent six months thinking it through, talking to people, and trying to convince herself that it wasn’t going to fail as soon as she launched it. The business wasn’t going to launch itself, so she just did it.
Listen to learn why if you’re going to start a business it has to be something you care about, and how Lara’s passion for yoga helped her develop her range of products.
When you’re in a yoga class and your hands start to sweat, you start losing your grip and sliding. With Lara’s cork mats, the grip actually increases as you sweat. It’s also a natural surface. Given the ethos of yoga, it is strange that yoga is practiced on plastic mats. Using a natural surface like cork is better for the yogi’s energy and mindset. Cork mats are also antibacterial, and they roll up nicely just like a regular yoga mat.
Listen to learn how Lara’s first batch of yoga mats weren’t what she was expecting, and how she used that to her advantage.
Cork Yogis has two team members right now, Lara and her partner Chris, who does all the technical marketing duties and designed the website. They are planning to recruit a salesperson in the coming months to help them reach out to yoga studios.
Yoga studios are starting to sell products to their yogis. It’s a hard sell to get the studios to throw out their own yoga mats for Lara’s cork mat, but it’s a much easier sell to get studios to put cork mats out for their yogis to purchase.
Listen to learn why Lara has declined to take on studio sales herself.
The Most Awesome Thing Right Now
Right now, the size of Cork Yogis is the most awesome thing. They are turning over a decent amount each month, but since there are only two of them, they still have fluidity. If Lara comes up with an idea today, they can implement it tomorrow. They are small enough to be able to test new things to see what’s working and embrace opportunities.
Cork Yogis started off with the classic Google adwords and Facebook advertising, but it hasn’t worked well for them. It gets the brand out, but hasn’t led to conversions. The best marketing for them right now is content marketing by getting their products out to fitness bloggers. They’ve also been using Youtube and Pinterest advertising.
Listen to learn why Pinterest is their perfect audience.
The market on Pinterest is much less crowded than on Facebook and Instagram. It’s also much more visual. People go on Pinterest to buy and to find things that inspire them.
Instagram is very aspirational — ‘This is the sort of person I want to be in five years’ — while Pinterest is very much in the now. People are creating things now, they want inspiration now, and they want to buy things now. It’s a different audience.
Making Ethical/Social Enterprise Companies Work Financially
After working with a charity in India, Lara wanted to create a female-founded business that gives back to women and empowers women worldwide. Social enterprises are harder to sell than regular businesses when it comes to investments and getting other business people to take them seriously.
Cork Yogis went through a stage where they were actively seeking investment, and they ended up walking away from that in the end because it wasn’t right for them. Investors wanted to turn it into a business that wasn’t giving back much. Instead of diluting their company to please the investors, Lara decided that either they liked it or they didn’t, and she was going to concentrate on the people who did like it rather than the people who didn’t.
Listen to learn more about how Cork Yogis’ message is inspiring people, and how passion must drive it.
Selling on Amazon
The back end of Amazon is like a maze. It is so difficult to use that Lara had to hire an Amazon specialist to do her listings, and it took two weeks to put four products up for sale. If you want to do Amazon, it’s like a fulltime job. There are many rules and regulations, but once you’ve got it, it really works because people are on Amazon to buy. It’s also good for brand awareness.
Lara’s To-Do List
This month, Lara is focusing on Youtube and Pinterest adverts that direct to the website. Next month, she’s focusing on recruiting a salesperson to target studios.
Listen to learn how dividing goals up by month helps reduce stress levels.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- SEOs that direct to your website to get organic traffic
You can hear about all this on the podcast, for free – right now…
Tool Top Tip
Start Up Top Tip
- Do something you’re passionate about. It will be really hard, but the rewards you get will be amazing.