Hi, Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business
Hello, my name is Danna Norek. I am the founder, owner, and everything in between of AuraSensory.com®. My business offers a line of naturally healthier (and very effective) skin and hair care products focused on providing peace of mind while also offering outstanding value, high quality, and affordability.
My mission is to make high quality skin and hair care universally affordable by maintaining low overhead and a business model that delivers our products directly to the customer.
No shelf time, no overhead in providing the product wholesale – just direct business to customer sales. This not only translates into a low overhead, but it also means maximum product freshness and increased efficacy.
Our monthly revenue varies currently from $2,000-$3,500.
What’s your own background. Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
I actually remember the exact moment I had the inspiration. It was 2011. I was having a bit of a frustrating day at work and am lucky enough to have a day job that offers a gym, so I was working the anxiety out through exercise.
As I was moving, inspiration suddenly struck for a natural perfume business. I was already on my own health journey when it came to the products I was using on my body and in my hair and found that natural, chemical-free perfumes were lacking in selection.
I actually went looking for a pen and paper so I could get my thoughts down. The name for my business, Aura Sensory actually came from this brainstorming session.
Although the direction of my business didn’t end up including a line of natural perfumes (I do offer a natural body spray though), this was the moment the business was conceived.
I did come from a business background, not by trade, but as my other “side hustle” I was a beauty and health blogger that made income from affiliate programs.
So having a web presence wasn’t a foreign concept to me – but a lot of other details about actually creating your own products and having a fully functioning e-commerce web presence certainly was!
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
My initial product was a natural deodorant, inspired by my husband’s allergic response to one of the natural deodorant brands we were using. I wanted it to be in a traditional roll-up tube like the stick style you are used to seeing at the store.
The first few attempts were a disaster, as one might expect when first attempting something totally foreign. The product was too soft and would not roll up in the tube, and the consistency just wasn’t appealing.
It was effective at combatting underarm odor though, so I knew I had an effective formula, I just had to work on the consistency and practicality of the packaging.
After adding a few more ingredients that lent a firmness to the product and made it more usable, I noticed that the product began to shoot strange crystal-like formations off the top as it aged. The combination of ingredients must have had some sort of unexpected interaction!
So I actually ended up having to go a totally different direction with this product. Today it is in its final form and is offered in a scoopable container with an applicator pad.
I found that, although some people may still prefer a roll-on or roll up tube, the container offers a “zero waste” component that can be really appealing for those that don’t like to waste product and also don’t like a whole lot of container for eco-friendly considerations.
The multiple failures of the roll-up version ended up being a blessing in disguise!
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business
After securing the trademark for my company name, I felt it was time to actually get this product out there into the customer’s hands to see if I really had a viable business idea.
I was anxious to see if people liked these products as much as I did. In order to launch, I needed more than just a natural deodorant. I had worked up early versions of what remains in my line today in their final form – a Natural Shine Enhancing Shampoo and Deep Hydration Conditioner.
These were really my core three products. I also ended up adding an early version of my Nourish & Hydrate face cream, which is one of the top sellers today. I needed a website and a working shopping cart to collect orders and payment information.
I went with an inexpensive website offered by a large hosting company, but the interface wasn’t exactly polished and the site suffered from some speed and usability issues.
The orders coming in were slow to start, but this was ok as I worked on improving the website and overall customer experience.
I learned a lot as I worked through the early days of launch, and I was also able to further perfect the products themselves since the business was slow at first.
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
Although it sounds cliché, customer service is my number one priority. This is how I retain so many customers, but I also maintain high quality and consistency in my products, which is something I struggled with for a while after launch.
When you’re not making products in a factory, it can be hard to maintain consistency, but I learned many tricks along the way that helped me to dramatically improve this issue. I learned as I went because I use every single one of my own products in my personal beauty and self-care routine too, so I’m essentially testing them out every day.
My repeat customer rate is pretty high, I would say something like 50% of the customers who purchase will come back to purchase again.
Retention stays high because of the consistency, high quality, and results of the products, but also because I have a strict and consistent shipping schedule that gets orders out fast, 30-day money-back guarantees, and am quick to address any customer questions or concerns.
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
Currently, holiday sales fared much better than expected, up around 30% over what they were last year. There was uncertainty about this since I’ve recently had to increase prices to offset the costs of the newer free shipping offering ($35 orders and higher get free domestic standard shipping).
Also, Aura Sensory only carries a few products that are conducive to giving as gifts since most of our products are really items that men and women buy for themselves and don’t tend to buy as gifts for others.
We tried to really capitalize on the few products we do have that make great gifts by putting them front and center in marketing emails.
Overall profitability has also increased since the price increase and free shipping offering, and almost all debt for my small company will be paid off by the first month of next year if all goes according to plan. Being debt free will help with freeing up money for business improvements.
Also, one of two things may happen early next year regarding product offerings. Two new products were offered in the past two months. If they do not sell well, it may be an opportunity to scale back on offerings to help boost profitability as well.
It’s a balance that must be calibrated constantly, maintaining profitability while also offering customers what they want the most.
The newest product, Herbal Relief Balm, is unique because it is the first one that is designed to target a very niche problem that affects millions of people – cold sores and the chronic dryness and cracking that tend to accompany them.
It’s the first time we are offering something that is designed as a natural remedy for a common issue that affects everyone from children to the elderly.
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
I find the whole experience to be really rewarding for me as a woman. I get to unleash the creativity that is often stifled or unused in the corporate world, and it gives me a real sense of empowerment to be able to run a business on the side and not rely entirely on the whims of a business that is not mine.
I think being a woman in my line of business is immensely helpful in my marketing efforts as well since women are typically the main buyers in most families.
There’s plenty of marketing research that shows that women make the most large and small purchasing decisions in most families, and being a woman myself has offered a unique insight into what the biggest consumers in our economy are really attracted to.
I ask myself questions about why I would or would not buy something when I’m considering adding a new product to my line, or what would make something more appealing if it is not selling well or I’m having a hard time getting it noticed.
Listening to my instincts as a woman has been really helpful in this arena.
What tools or services did you use?
Google Analytics is a tool I use every single day to check my website stats. It is a free service, and it invaluable in gauging where your web traffic is coming from, which pages are being visited most often, and from what search engines you are being found.
You can use this information to improve your “bounce rate” which just means people leave within seconds of visiting a page, and to better market your pages that are getting a lot of free, organic traffic to help get them to pages that are more geared toward marketing a specific product.
Big Commerce is the content management system for my ecommerce site and simple blog, so I am in it quite frequently as well. It’s a really user-friendly tool for building a website and for efficient and easy management payments and orders.
Etsy is a service I use to host a secondary shop for my products. It brings in a different crowd and helps me to diversify where I’m getting my traffic from.
It’s also a great spot to gather and showcase product reviews since they have their own in-house reviews system that solicits reviews for your products after they have them in their hands and have been using them.
As most business owners know, getting good reviews really helps sell your product because they are endorsements from unpaid third parties that your products are worth the consumer’s hard-earned money!
What are your key challenges today. How are you planning to tackle those?
My key challenges are to draw in new customers. I have plenty of existing customers who consistently buy products when they run out, however I’ve always found it challenging to bring in new traffic to my store.
The competition in my field is immense, and there are many large players who have lots of advertising dollars to spend with little regard for ROI.
I found out a long time ago that most paid advertising doesn’t really work for my products after experimenting with dozens of paid avenues.
The ROI just wasn’t worth it, so I decided a long time ago to only use free or very limited cost advertising. It is much more effective that paid click or banner advertising.
The hard part is finding free ways to advertise and get the exposure that is actually worth your time.
Most free advertising requires a lot more work, but if you can find an avenue that works even just once, it’s like lightning in a bottle as far as advertising and exposure efforts go. Free publicity is the best kind!
Which are some resources, books, articles, or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
My all-time favorite books on self-improvement and motivation are “Think and Grow Rich” by Napleon Hill and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.
They both contain timeless wisdom on how to not only achieve success and fulfill your potential, but also how to live well, treat people well, and achieve not only financial success but also personal happiness and fulfillment.
I’ve read both of them several times and will continue to go back to them when I need to re-learn some of the principles or am going through a period of self-doubt and need encouragement and confidence.
I record the show “Squawk Box” on CNBC. This may not seem directly business-related, but it helps keep me informed about what’s going on in the world of business as a whole, and there are occasionally some nuggets of wisdom about the economy or consumer behaviors that I can leverage in my business.
Not only that, it’s actually just a really entertaining show and I love that they have intelligent, well-informed hosts and guests from every political viewpoint, which is refreshing these days.
Many times, women feel that businesses are only for men. What’s your take?
I think that idea is becoming less and less prevalent as women business owners make up more of the successful business ventures we see today.
Not only that, we have very successful female CEO’s of large companies.
I think the idea that women are held back by desires to also have a family and be able to dedicate time to that very important endeavor, or aren’t “aggressive” enough to be good business people, has also become less of an issue as the roles of men and women are redefined and evolved now.
Women offer a unique perspective to the world of consumerism, just as men do, and there are plenty of businesses that are conducive to both men and women for their unique skills and viewpoints.
Women may also be a little more in touch with the social and emotional aspect of customer and coworker or employee relationships.
Not to say there aren’t plenty of men that are in touch with this side of their instinct, but women naturally have a bit of a leg up in this arena, and it may really benefit employee and customer loyalty.
Tapping into this can be invaluable in building a solid, successful, and resilient company.
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