When Jamie Lee's husband, Deeps de Silva, created an Instagram account in 2019, she didn’t expect it to turn into a brand that would become her full-time job. But that’s exactly what happened with The Kind Friend.
Through the online community, which focuses on bringing positivity to the social media space, Jamie and Deeps realized that there were plenty of people out there struggling with all the curveballs life throws their way. From personal experience, they knew journaling could be helpful in managing emotions and maintaining a positive outlook.
So, they launched a line of gratitude journals. It’s only been around for about four months, but they've already learned a lot about being an entrepreneur (though this isn’t their first rodeo!). We caught up with Jamie to talk about her brand, the ups and downs of starting a business, and what she’s learned about running an eCommerce business.
Easyship: Hi Jamie! Let’s begin with what inspired you to create The Kind Friend.
Jamie: We’d built a community of over 50,000 followers on Instagram. This was a place where we believed a little kindness could make all the difference in the lives of everyone who interacted with us here. These virtual interactions gave rise to a desire to create a physical tool that would empower anyone, anywhere, to exercise self-care every day despite a demanding schedule.
I think our community was born out of a desire to spread positivity on social [media] and that’s what’s so unique about us. Our purpose is to help people live a more purposeful life through kindness, and a supportive community is a big part of that.
Easyship: So, why create a journal?
Jamie: I never thought I’d turn a side hobby into a full-time business. We’d initially started the Instagram account in January 2019 because we wanted to see positive affirmation in the online space, which can be very negative. Every day, we would post positive quotes centered around humanity. We were so shocked that the account grew so quickly! I knew we were onto something when we received over 1,500 direct messages. Many of these were centered around emotional wellbeing, about being overwhelmed and stressed at work.
I wanted to create a product that served this community. I grew up writing in journals, so stress, anxiety, and depression aren’t foreign to me. I had depression when I was 12. My family moved to Australia, and I couldn’t speak English and got bullied in school. Then, my parents got divorced. So, my mum took me to a therapist who recommended journaling. Initially, it was a tool to regulate my emotions and manage my pain but later, I found it helped me turn dreams into reality. I thought other people could benefit from this, too.
Easyship: Launching a business is no easy feat. Was there anything you worried about before your launch?
Jamie: Well, one thing was I lacked the capital to succeed, so that was a concern. This is my third business so I look at things a little differently now. I definitely believe in taking calculated risks. At 20, I invested all my money in my first business, but this time, I did things differently. I didn’t invest so much, but I also didn’t pay myself for the first year.
Easyship: And what about after you launched? Did you come up against any challenges?
Jamie: I was definitely being underestimated for being a woman. But, there are so many amazing women around me who have attributed their success to being underestimated. I actually love [being underestimated] because I use it as a source of motivation to make myself work even harder.
Another issue was quality. We care a lot about quality. We’re extremely focused on this and the customer experience. Once we got the journals, I felt they weren’t up to standard, so that was definitely an unexpected challenge we had to deal with. Through that experience, I learned that you can get quality assurance agencies to check your products.
But, I usually look at challenges as opportunities. Right now, our key challenge is the coronavirus. Our shipping cost has increased, it’s nearly doubled. So you have to take things like that into consideration and have a buffer. You need to have contingencies.
Easyship: As an online retailer, getting orders out to your customers is a priority. Can you tell us what you look for in a courier service?
Jamie: Currently, I ship just under 500 orders a month, so I need fulfillment solutions that can handle this type of volume without hefty charges. When it comes to couriers, I mainly look for affordable rates, fast delivery times, the best value service, a variety of shipping options, and accurate delivery. Previously, I used only one courier. It wasn’t exactly right for me, but I found using multiple couriers far too complex. However, using Easyship has allowed us to provide more delivery options, improve our customer service, and reduce delivery times by two days on average.
Easyship: Do you have any hacks to offer aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs?
Jamie: Customers love a discount and shipping can be a good way to do it without reducing the price of your products. We offer free shipping when customers order above a certain value and I’ve noticed that this increases sales for us.
Easyship: Let’s talk about international expansion. What does international shipping look like for your brand?
Jamie: We’ve always shipped internationally. Our first international customer was in Australia, and along with Malaysia, it’s still one of our most successful overseas markets. I think this is because we already have a good network in these two markets.
Generally, though, we pick our markets based on where our customers are from, so we’re looking at expanding further. We always want to do a small test before picking a specific market, so international growth is something we scale carefully.
Easyship: Many eCommerce retailers are using automation to make managing their stores easier. Do you do this? How has it helped you?
Jamie: We definitely use automation; it’s helped us cut the time we spend on shipping! I’d say that on average, we would spend up to five hours a week organizing our shipping, but with automation, it’s so much easier. For me, I think automatically showing dynamic rates at check out and using branded tracking emails have been the most useful things we’ve automated. We’ve actually also seen sales conversions increase with automation!
Easyship: Lastly, what advice can you offer to someone that wants to follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps?
Jamie: Put your focus on being respected instead of liked. I’ve seen so many young girls who care too much about being liked and compromise to get approval and external validation. If you set out to be liked, you won’t achieve anything. You’ll never be able to negotiate with others. You need to earn respect and yes, this takes time, but in the end, it’s worth it.
I’m offering this advice to women, but I think it applies equally to men. Your power and influence don’t come from being nice. It comes from the unique values you bring to the table, so make sure you showcase this.