Pregnancy: it’s arguably one of the most transformative periods of a woman’s life, a time of anticipation and joy at the profound change that is about to occur. But the months before the stork drops that gorgeous creature into your life can also be a time of anxiety: What can I eat? What products are safe? With so much to do, can I make time to pamper myself?
With three children of her own, Ericka Perry knew these concerns well. Her exceptional knowledge of the market along with her entrepreneurial spirit led her to found The Stork Bag, a subscription-based business designed for women at all stages of their pregnancy. Whether you’re in the first trimester or entering your postpartum phase, The Stork Bag sends you quality maternity products tested by their all-mom team. From soothing aloe baby socks to pregnancy journals to stretch mark “Bellie Butter”, The Stork Bag is full of quality products designed for a healthy and happy pregnancy.
“We serve pregnant and postpartum women, sending out a new bag full of different curated products based on the trimester our customers are in,” Ericka tells us.
Each bag has 8-15 products and 90% of products are either branded by the stork bag or other female entrepreneurs. It’s also the only pregnancy subscription bag with an OB GYN approval seal, and a business devoted to celebrating women in the industry, says Ericka.
“The vision I had for the Stork Bag was to promote and encourage female entrepreneurship and serving a market that means so much to me.”
What separates The Stork Bag, Ericka says, is that contrary to most subscription models who ship customers a box that they then dispose of, The Stork Bag often comes in handy itself around the house. This helps with branding, she explains, because customers reuse the bags for storage, forcing them to remember the name of the brand should they find themselves pregnant again or looking for a great gift idea.
Sending the Stork Out Into the Market
The business idea came about when Ericka’s best friend called her for advice during her pregnancy, confused and anxious about what to buy, which medications to take, and what products to use. Ericka prepared a care package for her with many of the products she had tried. But while she was doing this, something struck her:
“I started to think: Why isn’t there a company out there serving such a huge market that’s virtually untapped? It was like a lightbulb going off.”
Ericka launched the brand on her own, with a goal of selling 100 bags within the first year, which she managed in the first few months. It was then that she knew she was onto something.
Product sourcing initially proved a challenge, with few companies willing to see the value of offering their products to a subscription-based business. But Ericka kept at it, propelled by the knowledge that being part of The Stork Bag would give certain companies excellent exposure and access to an untapped market. After being rejected by several larger companies, Ericka decided to target smaller businesses, realizing that she could expand the reach of the brand to help more than just her customers: helping small businesses owned by women:
“That’s where the idea of promoting women-owned businesses came from, because I saw so many amazing products for pregnant and post-partum women, and no one knew about them. They weren’t in retail stores yet because they didn’t have big marketing bucks. So we started to reach out to those companies and show them where the value would be if they placed their products in our bags. And they did!”
The Stork Bag now has an application process for companies who want to have their products featured, and each member of the team tests out the samples as they go through review.
Metrics and Software Fit for a Stork
As far as social media is concerned, Ericka is constantly thinking about how she can get customers to talk about the product more, share more pictures, and like the content. “I try and make sure that we are speaking to the right group of people,” she says. “What that means is that when we get an order in and it’s showing more word of mouth than blogs or tv or social media. Then we know we need to speak to the people who are out there spreading the word differently, maybe offering them incentives.”
Part of their strategy of establishing credibility online has been their partnerships, which include OB GYNs, clinics, and lactation specialists. She says as a customer herself, validation, endorsements, and reviews are important.
“I know that when women are pregnant, you’re super cautious and you want to make sure that you’re putting the right types of things on your body, in your body, and that the product and business makes sense for who you are.”
Paypal is her best friend, she jokes, as well as Quickbooks for accounting. Having everything automated, from payments to shipment details helps streamline the process. Although they operate on a Wordpress site at the moment, Ericka is entertaining the idea of having a site designed directly for what they’re trying to do. “Most mothers don’t find out that they’re pregnant until shortly before the second trimester or during the second trimester,” she notes This means that having a platform designed to send boxes out timed with the client’s prenatal schedule could be really helpful.
Learning and Paying it Forward
Ericka is a lifelong learner, and her business gives her the chance to keep growing and improving all the time. She sites Project Entrepreneur as a vital inspiration for her, sharing the stories of female entrepreneurs across the globe. She also loves attending expos and conferences, particularly for networking, finding mentors or advisors, and connecting with other women in her industry, who she loves to champion:
“I identify with business women. I feel like our way of doing business is totally different from our male counterparts, and so listening to them and learning what worked and did not work is super inspiring for me.”
Ericka insists that her success has been achieved by having solid, measurable goals, and she encourages anyone interested in starting an ecommerce business to do the same. “I think oftentimes as entrepreneurs you get super excited to start your business and then you start to get discouraged,” she says. Quantifying your goals and having clear steps to reach them is integral, she says, and helps keep things in perspective and build your business with confidence.
Also, she warns, know that just because business is happening online doesn’t mean that you won’t have to put in long hours. While initially Ericka thought that she could make money in her sleep because the sales would be happening digitally and she wouldn’t have to go stock shelves or show up at a storefront, she soon discovered she was mistaken:
“You are working almost all the time, because there are things that will come up with your website, things to pay attention to on the backend that will take up your time. So I think the misconception that it’s all digital and you don’t have to do so much is a huge misconception, because you have to do a lot. If one thing stops working, the whole thing falls apart.”
Ericka sees ecommerce as the next revolution in retail, thanks to its convenience and customer-centric nature, and welcomes the change with open arms. She jokes that her goal is to get to a point where real storks can offer direct delivery to client’s doors. With everything Ericka has achieved so far, we wouldn’t put it past her at all.