Planning for Future Business Growth
Looking ahead, we want to expand our distribution services. We want to bring in other lines from Europe to introduce them to the United States market. We are expanding our PR division and getting more into television to gain more exposure for our clients.
We’re also developing our database of interior designers and architects that we can use to help our clients grow their sales. I travel a lot. We cover nine markets in the U.S. So, there are nine cities I bounce around to quarterly or bi-annually. In each market we meet new clients and building those relationships is very important to us.
Unexpected Pivots and Organic Growth
The company I started is not the company we are today. We’ve organically grown in the direction that has been demanded by our clients. When I started the firm, we didn’t do public relations, we were much more sales support and business development [oriented].
I was helping companies write their business plans, get their print books together, get their products distributed, getting on the road, and traveling a lot to help build business across the United States. I found there was a lot of overlap of our services. Then I realized that if we could pitch furniture to a designer, we could also pitch furniture to a magazine. So we started doing PR. We were already talking to people about the product so I thought we might as well talk to the press as well.
I don’t have a [formal] background in public relations. It just naturally came to us. That was a major shift. We were sales and business development-focused, but the PR side of it organically grew into another division of our company.
Diversifying Revenue Models
We monetize our business in three different ways.
- We are retainer-based for the majority of the business. Our clients pay a retainer every month to maintain services for their consulting hours with me, public relations and marketing.
- For distribution, we work on a commission basis. We charge a minimum base retainer and take a percentage of the product sales we secure.
- For companies that we are an agent for, we run their business for them in select countries. When we import, we work as a wholesaler and then resell the product. While it is 100 percent commission based, this model is more significant because we are the reseller of the product for the market.
We are completely referral-based. All of our clients come to us through word of mouth and we don’t put anybody on contract — people can leave us at any time. So, it makes us have to work that much harder every month to keep their business. Many of our current clients have been with us since we started the company.
Best Success Story
The biggest turnaround, game changer that brought our company to another level was acquiring agent status for Windfall Contemporary Crystal Lighting in 2012. That was like acquiring a new company. That element alone grew our company over 450 percent in one year. It was a major turning point for us.
I was actually one of the first people to sell Windfall products when they first hit the U.S. market and I became obsessed with it. When I left [my previous employer] I kept in touch with the owners and we became really good friends. It was five years later, since working with them, that we secured agent status with Windfall. The first country they gave us was Brazil, and then the United States. In April 2013, we acquired Canada and Mexico.
Biggest Startup Challenge
My age was my biggest challenge. I started Ligné Agency when I was 23-years-old. I was really young, so people questioned my ability to have the necessary experience to grow their companies. Once I had a few clients the referrals started. The first year, I had to convince people to believe in me and what I could do without actually having [a track record]. Having my degree helped build credibility … but finding those first clients was challenging.
#1 Tip for Entrepreneurs
I always tell everybody to dive in and not think about it. You really have to focus on the day-to-day and your goals … and not think about the big picture immediately, because it is overwhelming. You can’t be afraid of hearing “No!” and having the door shut in your face. I personally saw a lot of doors close in front of me because of my age. So that taught me that you really have to have a thick skin.
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This interview has been edited and condensed. Interview conducted by Amira Ansari.
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