How this Online Seller Built a $3.5 Million Business in Three Years

USA
$3,500,000
2015

There is no better example of eCommerce geniuses than the online store Noli Yoga. In just three years, they have grown to a $3.5-million-a-year business with a 31% repeat customer base. Reaching 31% is no easy feat and a testimony to the quality of their products and the brand they have built.

Noli Yoga is a ‘made in USA’ company that believes in the quality of their brand. You only have to speak to the founder, Slava Furman, to understand his model for success: Kill them with quality and a great product – something they have done at every stage of their business through sourcing fabric, prints, the vibe of their website and the professional approach to product photos.

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Their products are unique, bold and luxurious and tap into a niche market with a huge demand.

So how did he start this mega online store brand? We spent an hour chatting with Slava to find the inside information on how he got started, his most successful marketing and traffic-driving strategies, and how he launches his new products and lines.

1. Share with us a bit of background about you and the brand you created.

Noli Yoga started very small; it’s a family business with myself and my parents. From the start, we focused mainly on printed leggings that were unique. We wanted to use prints that were eye-catching and got great click through rates with Facebook and Instagram advertising. We therefore focused on designs that were bright, loud and most importantly, unique.

We are located in Miami, FL exclusively manufacturing out of LA, so all of our products are 100% made in the USA, which is extremely important to me.

Within three years we have grown quite a bit, but we try to run the business as lean as possible. I have the title of CEO but am hands-on with everything from product development to marketing, advertising, trend forecasting and pretty much everything else. My family handles the warehouse and accounting aspects. Like any small business owner, you have to wear just about every hat there is. Especially on weekends when employees are off, it really is a 24/7 commitment.

2. What sales channels are you using?

We are selling on- and off-line, with 70% of our sales being online and 30% offline. While direct to consumer was an initial focus of ours, we have begun developing a strong wholesale business. We are now carried in large yoga studio chains, high-end fitness boutiques, and are in negotiations with luxury big box stores.

4. How many designs are you working with?

We put out four seasons per year, with 10-15 styles/prints per season. So you’re looking at developing 50-60 new styles each year.

5. How did you come up with your business idea?

It really came out of the blue. I never imagined myself in the fashion or eCommerce business. With a legal background and some experience in management consulting, this business really is out of left field. Approximately three years ago my wife was pregnant with our first child and I was feeling very burned out in the corporate world.   

I have a cousin who started a small t-shirt business on Instagram; I offered some capital and enthusiasm to become a partner in the biz with him. His partners weren’t keen on taking me on so I decided to give something similar a try on my own. A few months later, they closed shop while I left my corporate job in the pursuit of Noli, which was already growing rapidly.  

Initially Noli (known as No Limit Fitness for the first two months) was actually a gym tank and t-shirt company, until I realized yoga pants were the right product and market to tap into.

6. Take us through your process of creating and launching new products.

About 70% of my sales are from one style, a basic style that we just switch the print of, therefore developing a new “style” (product) is really about the print for us.

We put up mood boards in the office and say, “We want this collection to have this color palette or theme,” and build the boards around these ideas. Then I start sourcing prints at art studios, looking for things that could kind of fit and pick things that are unique and a little bit ‘out there.’ We then purchase the print, manipulate it, and do three or four different versions of it.

We don’t believe in looking at things on computer screens, so instead, we will make physical samples of the different versions. We then try them on, photograph them, see what they look like, and then decide on the new product, create a collection and launch it on the site.

It has become quite streamlined at this point and we can go from purchasing a print to having it sold on our site in as little as two weeks.

7. What is your most effective way of driving traffic to your store?

For Facebook and Instagram, we run retargeting and direct product campaigns and then use Adroll for web retargeting. The majority of my traffic is driven by social media ads. It used to be primarily Facebook, but now it’s 50/50 Facebook and Instagram. We spend around $60-70K per month on Facebook ads and they have been working super, super well for us compared to other advertising platforms. So we stick with what works for us.

I want to show my customers high-end imagery for our products in our ads, so they know the quality they are buying, and social ads enable us to do that. We hire professional photographers for product shoots and do photoshoots about once a month, which include white-background product shots and lifestyle photography outside in yoga studios and gyms.  

8. Do you incorporate UGC in your marketing?

We found that using UGC in ads didn’t have good results, however we have had good results using UGC in our shopabble IG app, newsletters and on our product pages. We do a lot of retargeting ads with product reviews from real customers and that tends to work very, very well.  

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We use a system called YotPo that allows me to easily push that review to Facebook or to my mail list, or I can use it as a retargeting ad, which builds confidence in my product.

9. Tell us a little bit about your email marketing strategy.

1. Onboarding Emails

When someone signs up, they get a welcome series. The first will be your standard welcome email: “Hey, welcome to Noli Yoga.” The next one will give you first-order discount codes, and then there will be one along the lines of, “Get social with us. Check us out on Instagram, follow us, these are our hashtags.” Finally, we will follow up with best sellers – what’s trending right now.

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2. Newsletters

In terms of regular newsletters – if there is a holiday, a sale, or if new styles come out. So every month I can feed new products to my existing customer base. People love that there is such a choice. We’ve been in business for three years, and I have customers who have bought 70 times – we have a ton of repeat business; around 31% of our customers purchase again. I attribute it to the quality of the product and the variety of the styles we offer.

3. Abandoned Cart Automation Emails

We have a 1-hour abandoned cart email that is automatically generated from Shopify, after which we run abandoned cart campaigns through a company called Jilt, in three parts. An urgency ‘Product is selling out soon’ email at 24 hours, one at 48 hours and a discount code offer at 96 hours. We then run retargeting campaigns on Facebook, using Jilt, one week later, every 7 days. On the 14th day after abandoning a cart they get a discount code for 20% on Facebook. We see our highest conversions at the 24-hour mark and have a general recovery conversion rate of 21-22%.

10. What must-have apps are you using?

We are selective with our apps, meaning we avoid anything that comes off as ‘gimmicky’ because we’re a high-end luxury brand, putting the authenticity of the brand first.
I really like Foursixty; that’s our shoppable Instagram platform. They make it very easy to send newsletters, with embedded Instagram tiles, and you can directly click to that product. It’s an easy setup and a reliable system.

Instagram feeds for online store

I think YotPo is a good investment. It’s a little expensive – we’re on the highest plan, which is about $10K a year – but the return on investment has been very good. It’s highly customizable and customers can actually type the review in the email; they don’t have to click over to your website. This feature is great and we definitely generate more reviews than we would get otherwise.
Jilt is good for cart delivery, as I mentioned previously;  Mailchimp for emails, because it’s easy to format and user-friendly; and the Shopify Plus plan for building a one-page checkout with Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Shopify Payments and PayPal.

11. What have been the most influential resources for building your business? Books, blogs, podcasts, etc.

Common sense and Shopify resources. Read their blog; listen to their podcast.

12. What are the big future plans for your brand?

We will be moving our brand to LA. I personally spend a large portion of my time there for sourcing and development and it would be beneficial to be located closer to where we manufacture.  

The main goal is to have Noli considered among the top 3 luxury activewear brands on the market. We want to be an authority on prints in the activewear space and to keep our customers always wanting more great products!

13. What’s the no.1 piece of advice you would give new eCommerce entrepreneurs?

Don’t give up! It is a roller coaster; there are times when you don’t have sales/conversions; a lot can and will go wrong; but if you believe in your product, you will succeed.

Wow, Noli Yoga was a huge inspiration and got our eCommerce creative juices flowing. Want more inside scoops on the most successful eCommerce businesses? Sign up for Success Story newsletters to get them straight to your inbox.  

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