How Did I Manage My Skincare Business While Studying Abroad in Italy?
How I Managed My Skincare Business While Studying Abroad in Italy?
by India Green
In the fall of 2019, I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad at Temple University in Rome, Italy for a semester and intern at an Italian production company as a Media and Production Accounting Intern. As exciting as this opportunity was and as much as I wanted it — because listen, I WANTED IT!
I was extremely afraid as a new business owner. NaturallyIndy Urban Glow Cosmetics had been operating a little under a year and I was traveling to the other side of the world, to a different time zone, and had to “pack light”. So yes, I was afraid to say the least! There was no way for me to bring what I needed to conduct business as is in Italy. However, I didn’t bask in fear for too long. Once I set my mind on pursuing this opportunity abroad I began my planning for my departure. I swore the summer was mine. And it was.
If you have read this far, I’m sure you’re ready for the tea and have had enough of the anticipation. So, preparing for departure went something like this —
Assessing Current Business :
Once my abroad program was solidified, I knew that I had to increase sales and brand awareness that would last throughout the duration of my absence. That spring, business was going very well as I had a balance between online, pickup and on-site vending sales. I made sure to book events on campus and in the Philadelphia area because I knew that I connected with customers better at events. It gave me the opportunity to get my products out and also get my name out more as well.
9 times out of 10 people invest in YOU, not your product!
Setting Goals and Developing a Plan:
I had about two months prior to moving back to New Jersey for the summer to create a successful sales and marketing plan so that I could execute as soon as I arrived home. I had to keep the momentum of sales up from Philadelphia to New Jersey — which is harder than it seems! It is true that you gain more support from strangers y’all. However, I am very fortunate to have a supportive customer base. Family, friends, customer turned friends all helped me get to where I am and I am forever grateful.
Ultimately, my plan for the summer was to increase brand awareness, increase sales, and provide my customers with an opportunity to purchase products at the quantity that would last them until my return. I set out to achieve these goals through strategic social media campaigns and promotional events. The biggest event of the summer would be the official Urban Glow Cosmetics Launch Party! The goal for the launch party was to officially declare my space in the market while providing an opportunity for my customers to access my products while enjoying a live experience.
It’s all about Execution, Right?
If you’re following me on the socials, then you very well know about the numerous vending events I took part in over the summer. I traveled between Philadelphia and New Jersey with the support of friends and family who accompanied me in my vending ventures — shout out to yall! At each event, I met new people, networked, and connected with those I met via social media so that we could continue supporting one another.
Meanwhile, my family and I were planning the launch party. We took care of everything from ticket sales, to decor, to food and beverage, etc. That experience was — an experience in itself! Planning events are not as easy as people make them seem. Selecting a venue, catering, entertainment, media coverage, are all important factors in the success of an event depending on the scale. As the months went by vending, party planning, and working a 9–5 (because your girl still needed to live and eat) , the marketing and social media campaigns really started to pick up. I would spend most nights creating promotional content for posting on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that not only promoted the launch party, but also advertised my actual products. I also booked photoshoots and accepted an interview as I knew that would help contribute to brand awareness. My interview with Clear Colour Entertainment, a broadcast and media production company helped me broadcast my brand and brand identity. It served as an opportunity to compile all of my thought, beliefs, goals, and most importantly my story into a short video that the world could see.
By end of June I was hit with a tough decision. I could no longer keep up with online orders while producing the amount of products needed for display at the party, so I “shut down” my online site. It was a hard decision to make because I was refusing to conveniently provide for my customers, who were expecting to be able to order their skincare from me. Not only that, but the expenses for the party increased yet I had stopped one of the main sources of revenue. I also had to adjust my marketing material and in doing so, created an incentive for people to attend the event by assuring them products on-hand at the event. There were promotional deals and bundles too! I also launched new products at the event such as a skincare travel bag, shimmering body oils, and the new Green Tea Mud mask. All new products were intentional and played a part in the marketing plan.
Establish Customer Retention
I landed in Rome, Italy about two weeks after the launch party and the goal was to keep the momentum high on social media. Providing “A1 customer service” to current customers and continuing the social media marketing plan helped to continue on the right path. I made it a point to consistently create and post content while abroad so that my social media presence did not drift. I tailored my posts and tips to travel life and how to maintain healthy skin. The release of the travel skincare bag was the perfect addition!
As we know, nothing is ever perfect so I am here to say that staying in tune with the business while the time zone was 6 hours ahead of my customer base was a struggle. While I was getting ready for bed doing my night-time routine, many of you were justing waking up! Some days, I lacked motivation to create content. Some days I had no wifi to even post.
What helped me continue was seeing the notifications from current customers tagging me in their #MaskMonday selfies and the sweet “complaints” about me not being back yet because their toner was low or that they just used the last of their Turmicnator mask. I had to find solace in the fact that I have products that my customers love and that just because I was away didn’t mean that I would be forgotten. — Glow Babes if y’all reading this, y’all are real ones I swear. Lastly, I networked while abroad. I promoted myself and my brand to fellow classmates, faculty, and my internship supervisors and co-workers. Although I couldn’t provide them with a tangible product at the moment, they were now aware of my business and they supported me.
Most importantly, my family really was there for me and helped me establish customer retention during this time because they became brand ambassadors for me. My mom, dad, sisters, and brother were not only selling the remaining products that were available from the launch party, but they were shipping out orders and fulfilling new orders as they came in. They sold and promoted my brand at school and at their jobs, so that helped raise brand awareness and sales. It was truly a team effort!
Okay, So Let’s Wrap It Up . . .
I know — I done told y’all my whole life story right? Listen, summer and fall of 2019 was long, fun, exhausting, and exciting all in one! But here are the key points to running your business while either on vacation or extended travel;
- Assess Your Current Business. How is business currently?
- Set Goals and Develop A Plan. Where do you need business to be by the time of your departure? How will you maintain and/or increase sales and brand awareness while physically away? Think about those things.
- Execute.Make sure to have everything in order prior to your departure. Assign roles and procedures for when you are away, maybe hire or get family to volunteer to help out.
- Establish Customer Retention.Follow up with your customers! Keep in contact with them to some capacity and provide customer service and assistance whether it be manually, virtually, or via post announcement. Reassure them that they are still well taken care of and valued.
Those were the four key strategies that helped me maintain my business while abroad. I returned home to eager customers and jumped right back into the swing of business, because essentially it was like I had never left! I hope you find this helpful and entertaining. I enjoyed writing this for you! If any established or upcoming entrepreneurs have any additional questions regarding my journey feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.