Tracey Wallace is the founder of Doris Sleep a luxury pillow brand build on 3 generations of family expertise, that is also using recycled water bottles! The business is 6 months old and they’ve already done $10k in sales.
About the Business
- Based in Austin Texas
- Recycled Product
- Manufactured in the United States
- Segment focused in Texas and the Midwest
- Sells in North America exclusively, but looking to expand
Tracey has been in eCommerce since the beginning of her career. Her first job straight out of college with naturallycurly.com, a company that sells curly hair products.
From there she moved to elle.com and then to a boutique start-up in New York City and finally to a four and a half stint at BigCommerce, where she served as the global editor in chief. In that role, she was able to speak with customers directly to better understand their needs.
Tracey has decided to focus on a smaller market segment for specific reasons. Her experience in eCommerce has proven that most brands choose to focus in larger coastal cities.
Tracey says the reason for this is those cities often have early adopters. Focusing on a different region allows Tracey to take advantage of missed opportunities. Tracey also comes from a manufacturing family and part of that legacy informs how she focuses her business.
Doris Sleep has figured out a process in which plastic bottles destined for United States Landfills can be rerouted and made into super soft, high-quality filler for their product. Wallace’s supply chain is all US-based and she says that combined with the family legacy story resonates strongly in the Midwest.
An Alternative to Foam
In the 1970’s most pillow and mattress materials for US products switched to foam. Foam is much cheaper to make and cheaper to ship because it easily compresses and reshapes.
Foam has some really big downsides, the biggest one perhaps being that it never goes away. It’s also incredibly flammable, so all foam products must be sprayed with fire retardant chemicals, which is not the best thing to sleep on every night. Foam is also incredibly dangerous to the workers who work to produce those products.
Another concern was worker safety. Tracey says that creating products that can be made in the US is a way to support safe, well-paying manufacturing jobs and contribute to rebuilding the declining middle class.
Focusing on a Smaller Market
Tracey focuses on direct mail campaigns, specifically to people who have just moved to Texas. One of her favorites is a campaign for new residents—”Welcome to the Softer Side of Texas” A lot of people don’t replace their pillows often enough and Tracey uses direct marketing as a way to urge people to consider what they are sleeping on.
Shockingly, Tracey says that billboards along major highways in the United States are cheaper than Facebook Ads. She uses them for social media campaigns and to build awareness in general and while they aren’t as easy to track, she points out that having billboards makes you look like a really big brand.
Tracey says that 10 years ago Facebook was a really profitable place to advertise but is so saturated now that the impact isn’t there. The pendulum is swinging the other way and brands are returning to old ways of doing things.
Of course, Tracey is running her business on BigCommerce, largely because she used to work there. She says her one point of frustration has been that with the amount of customization she did, it has become difficult to update even simple images without the help of a developer.
She has noticed that other brands who have gotten fed up with this problem have moved to a headless Concept Management Platform like four street prismic butter contentful. These use a static site, basic language and pulls on an API to serve up the content.
That she says is a custom build but the site will be incredibly fast and is far more secure than WordPress and scales better too.
Building a Community
Today, Tracey says the market is too saturated not to build a strong niche community around your product and content is king for that. Unfortunately, most out of the box platform sites don’t support that as well as they need to.
The Doris Sleep Team is Tracey only right now. Outside of direct mail campaigns, Tracey says that her main strategy right now is building content, getting backlinks and so on.
She is currently hustling to push out as much good content as she can. She says that her strategy is pulling in the right customers, not scaling quickly. Tracey recognizes who she can compete with and who she can’t, so she focuses on finding space that is less crowded.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- Justice 101 -14 Episode Introduction to Philosophy from Harvard—Addresses the way to understand how you make decisions
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Content Marketing and SEO—too few brands are investing enough in it. Gets you visibility in search without paying for it.
Tool Top Tip
Growth Top Tip
- SEO Content Marketing and Community—You need to build loyalty and give people a reason to buy from you over a marketplace.
- Fresh Clean Tees’ Matthew Parvis 4 months into his startup subscription business and growing 200% per month
- Studio 15’s Jia Wertz masterclass on fashion startups inc popups and social media (10,000 customers in 12 months)
- The Product Startup’s Filip Valica – should you create your product? And if so, how do you get it right?
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