Iyia Liu on predicting trends and how Kylie Jenner helped her business

Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt. This week Simon is joined by Iyia Liu, a master of social media marketing.

You would have seen a few weeks ago that Kylie Jenner is on track to be the youngest self-made billionaire. She is perhaps the most prominent and successful of a new breed of entrepreneur that has weaponised fame and a deep understanding of the way social media operates to create products and market them to a super savvy audience of switched-on super consumers.

One of the most remarkable things about the Jenner story was how she did it with so few employees, using third-party suppliers to manufacture and distribute. I tell you this story because it is not just happening overseas. We have a local example of someone who did not start with the fame or resources of a Kylie Jenner, but who has managed to start three hugely successful online businesses in Australasia, sell two of them for figures that have set her up for life, and has been so strong at using the new influencer channels that she has even used Kylie Jenner herself to sell her wares.

Iyia Liu is a serial entrepreneur who is a social marketing star. She is now sharing what she has been so effective in doing by creating a network of events around Girls in Business, and is doing consulting and helping other brands succeed online. The Waist Trainer, Luxe Fitness, and Bambi Boutique founder joins me now.

Either download this episode (right click and save), have a listen below or via Spotifysubscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

In the case of Waist Trainer that you built from nothing, to be doing around $3 million plus per year, that’s a huge growth over a year. Talk me through the mechanics of that. 

It was very hectic. When we started it was just me and one casual girl. We were on the floor of my spare lounge sending parcels. I started getting a sore back so thought I should buy some furniture for the room and within one to two months I had eight girls doing all sorts, packaging, marketing, and then that shrunk back down to 5 fulltime. I stuck with those five for the rest of the time.

It was hard to scale so quickly. Trying to find people and trying to get more product but e-commerce is so scaleable so if someone can send five parcels then they can send 200 parcels in a day. A lot of it’s automated, it’s through the computer so e-commerce is the best way to scale.

And your inventory was reasonably simple I imagine, just a few products, single supplier, you can turn the tap on or off to get bigger or smaller.

Definitely, so Waist Trainer has been the easiest business that I’ve run so far. All of the mechanics were very straightforward.

What would a day look like for you? From the outside looking in the marketing is a huge component whereas in a traditional business people might not spend that much time and focus on that aspect.

So we’ve got product, we’ve got product range so the only thing we have to do is marketing. Just being e-commerce means you don’t have a physical presence so people can’t just find you, you need to get in front of people.

We have one person processing and sending out orders, we have one person doing customer service, just making sure everything’s fine and doing returns. We’re contacting influencers, organising collaborations, tweaking Google and Facebook ads. Every day we’re just tweaking, we’re trying to make everything smoother, cheaper, and run better and better each day.

Collaborations and influencer engagements were a really key part of Luxe Fitness, what makes a good experience of collaboration?

Sometimes we have guidelines if you want them to talk about anything in particular about your product but mostly we just leave it up to them. If someone is going to endorse your product, they should use your product, so they can say what they want to say, they can have their opinion.

The reason I like using third-party content creators is they’re essentially creating content for you and they’re spreading the word so it’s killing two birds with one stone.

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