Ali Edwards is an influencer with a social media following of 50,000 consumers, and the name behind her multi-million dollar e-commerce site Ali Edwards Design Inc.
But a following and sales are not built overnight. Edwards lives in the scrapbooking realm. It was in 2004, when she was working at Keepsakes Magazine, that she started her blog about making scrapbooks.
Slowly, she built an audience who was interested in her stories and style of scrapbooking, which Edwards calls “real life memory book keeping.” Unlike typical scrapbookers, who often focus on large events, such as a wedding or a birth, Edwards focuses on everyday occurrences and more challenging experiences.
For example, Edwards has a child with autism and is divorced. Creating scrapbooks how she has dealt with those experiences makes her more authentic to her audience and serves a source of encouragement to them, she says. “I’ve learned telling some more of the challenging stories actually is helpful,” Edwards says.
Over the years, Edwards started teaching scrapbooking classes, designing digital word art products that she licensed out, and also designed and sold acrylic stamps. However, she was working with several companies on all of these endeavors. She decided to bring it all under one umbrella in 2014 with e-commerce technology vendor Inked Brands.
Inked Brands specifically works with influencers and powers the entire e-commerce operation, while the social media star contributes her following, ideas and brand. For example, Inked Brands is the e-commerce platform provider for AliEdwards.com, and also handles the manufacturing, fulfillment and marketing strategy for the site. Edwards continues to scrapbook, blog and design products, but all in one place.
“It allows me to focus on what I’m good at and let them take care of the rest of the pieces,” Edwards says.
Edwards has three main scrapbooking projects a year, and she designs and sells hundreds of SKUs related to each project. For example, Edwards has a “December Daily” project each year where she documents the 25 days leading up to Christmas. On her website, she blogs about each day, has an image of the scrapbook page for that day and then sells all the products that she used for it, such as templates, stickers, paper photo frames and designed word art.
Edwards and her contact at Inked Brands work together daily on projects and product releases. Edwards will come up with an idea for a design and then Inked Brands will handle creating it, tweaking it with Edwards until it is ready to be manufactured. It takes about 8-12 months for a product to go from idea to production, she says.
Edwards also sells craft products that are related to scrapbooking, such as acrylic paints. Edwards, however, is careful not to inundate her followers with products. “I don’t want to make products just to make products,” she says.
Because she is an influencer, she doesn’t want to sell products she wouldn’t use herself. And she keeps in mind that consumers buy from her largely is because she is doing the projects herself and talking about them. Consumers are visiting the website for education, stories and encouragement, and the selling is folded into that experience, she says.
And this model of commerce works, as in 2016, AliEdwards.com generated more than $2 million in sales and it’s on track for $3 million in 2017.
“It’s a great option for someone who doesn’t want to be a Fortune 500 company,” Edwards says.
There is no upfront cost for influencers to use Inked Brands, says Inked CEO April Foster. The vendor makes money via a profit-sharing model, and takes 40-60% of the profits the influencer makes. Most of Inked’s clients turn cash flow-positive in about three to six months after launch, Foster says.
Edwards was profitable from Day 1, although Edwards decline to share her profits.
Inked Brands has nine clients and plans to add 15 more in the coming year. Inked Brands has about 60 employees in its office and 90 total including its fulfillment team.Favorite