He Built A $13 Million Business Selling Undies By Subscription

Anthony Coombs was 16 years old when his mother, a single parent with two children, lost her job in Florida. His family was forced to take public assistance until his mother found a job in retail. He realized at an early age that he wanted his boss after this experience. He recalls that he thought right then, “I never wanted to leave my future in the hands of anyone else.”

Coombs decided that entrepreneurship was the right choice for him. He runs Splendies at 40, a Los Angeles-based business that sells undies subscription boxes for curvy women. After being told by a cousin that there were few options for plus-size women, he started the business with $500. Coombs claims that the business brought in $13million in 2020 annual revenue and turned a profit. He expects to make $17-18 million by 2021. Coombs uses automation like chatbots and email marketing to get things done. An extended team of contractors handles tasks such as customer service and social media influencer marketing.

These are some of the strategies Coombs used to grow his business to seven figures in revenue.

Keep your mind open to new ideas. Coombs, who received his BA Magna cum Laude at the University of Pennsylvania in Entrepreneurship, was a serial entrepreneur who had previously started successful businesses selling tiles and automobiles. He also owned a mobile app that failed to take off when a cousin suggested the untapped opportunity of selling plus-size underwear.

Coombs did extensive research on the industry via “a lot more Google and a lot more YouTube” before coming up with the idea of a subscription service that would send three pairs of underwear per month to customers. One would be a limited-edition, fun print. Coombs would send two pairs of underwear per month: one would be a fun, limited-edition print, and the other would be sexy and practical. He decided to sell his monthly subscriptions at a reasonable $12, which would make it affordable for women with average budgets. It’s currently $14.99. His app was not thriving, and he was ready to try something new.

Low-cost methods to test your idea. Coombs began the business in 2013 and worked 70 hours per week during its launch. He started Shopify by building a basic e-commerce website. Then he began purchasing inventory from 99 cents bins in his local mall to fill his subscription boxes. This was a low-cost method to discover what women want to buy. Coombs learned how to promote his subscription service using paid Facebook advertising from a $9 video tutorial course. He says, “We market it to ourselves as a gift and something fun for us.” I was shocked to discover that people are eager to open the package. Our customers get more than three pairs of underwear. Every month, it’s something people look forward to.

Practice patience. Splendies earned $40 in its first year of business (May 2013) and brought in $29,000 annually. In 2014, the revenue reached $275,000. 2013 was all about finding everything. He explains that it had become a business by 2014. In 2015, the company had sales of $474,000. In 2015, sales reached $474,000. They grew to almost $1.5 million in 2016. He started online advertising in 2016. Coombs says that online advertising was a game-changer.

Do a Ph.D. in the field you love most. Coombs was relentless in his quest to find out as much information about his customers as possible to keep them coming back. SurveyMonkey, a free tool that allows you to conduct surveys, was used by Coombs to learn more about his customers in 2016. Coombs says that a lot of our customers live in areas brands don’t consider. “We have many people in the Midwest and a lot more people in Alaska, Hawaii, and the South. Manhattan (Kansas) is our largest client base. We also have clients in Anchorage, Alaska, Davenport, Iowa, and Davenport, Iowa. He says, “Those are people who love Splendies.” He said, “It might be a 30-to-forty minute drive to get to the store.” Many people have lower incomes than $70,000 and are ignored by lingerie companies that target the upscale market.

He also paid close attention to the grassroots signs that customers loved the brand. For example, in 2017, a group started a Splendies Facebook group without any assistance from the company. The group now has over 7,000 members who can share their purchases. Another group on Facebook was created for women who trade, buy and sell unused items. He says that sometimes they find a pair they don’t like and want to buy something else they can share with others.

Do not try to do it all alone. Coombs, a student of Tim Ferriss’ book, has become a better person over time. The 4-Hour WorkweekHe was able to run the company in as little as 10 hours per week. This included automating tasks such as digital marketing. Coombs began to lose control over the schedule he had set for himself as the brand grew rapidly. He decided to hire a contractor to assist with customer service in 2016. He says, “My first hire was a friend.”

Coombs realized that one contractor could do so much more than he could and that hiring help was crucial to his success. Coombs began to look for people with similar experiences after finding out that his next hire had worked in her own business. Coombs saw that they could quickly address a customer’s complaint before the customer takes to social media to tell others not to buy. He says, “To someone who has managed their own business, it’s not necessary to teach that.”

Coombs sought entrepreneurial experience when he hired other team members to assist with web development, influencer marketing, social media and web design. He would often take stock of the websites of others to gain an understanding of their business. Coombs has a constant communication channel on Slack with them, but he needs them to work independently as they are not all in one room.

Coombs can focus on the bigger picture and allow his team to manage the specialized aspects of his business. This has allowed him to spend more time on the things he loves, such as strategy. It’s exciting and fun to grow the business and see the numbers rise. He says he can do it all day.

For example, at one time, the company outgrew its shipping partner and had 10,000 backlog orders. He says, “They would need at least a week for everything to be fulfilled.” “That was not enough for me. I rented a storage unit. I rented a truck, tables and chairs from a party shop and then found five people on craigslist. I showed them how to package everything. In just two days, we were able to get 10,000 orders. This is what entrepreneurship is all for.

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Samatha Vale
Samatha a senior writer for HC's entertainment team. She is an entreprenuer, mother and an excellent writer. She's also an avid reader, music enthusiast and all around inquisitive person - which is just a nice way of saying she's nosy.

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