Roberta Perry was a busy working mom to three kids before deciding to start her own business. In 2005, she realized that she had forgotten to take care of her own skincare needs because she was too busy with work and being a mother. When she tried exfoliating products, she found that none of them worked for her completely.
So, Roberta Perry decided to make her own skincare products. Immediately after making the decision, she launched herself into the necessary preparations. She threw herself into researching “botanical oils and other exfoliants.” She tried coming up with multiple combinations, and she tested batches again and again, before finally landing on a winner.
With the new product in hand, Roberta Perry and her late sister, Michelle, started Scrubzbody Skin Care Products in 2006. The company sells hand-crafted skincare products made from all-natural ingredients. Roberta also says that, more importantly, her company allows “[my] customers…the permission to pamper themselves.” After years of operating out of her kitchen, Roberta eventually moved to a renovated garage, before ultimately ending up in Farmingdale, New York.
However, Roberta Perry still needed exposure for her business. So, she turned to Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where she pitched her company to several writers and reporters.
Now, Roberta Perry is reaping her company’s success. Since 2010, Robert and Scrubzbody have been featured in “over 100 skincare and business articles, blogs, and beauty magazines.” Roberta has also become a featured speaker on the Indie Business Cruise 2016 and Launch Live Speakers Summit 2016.
Roberta Perry has also written a book titled “The Power of Free Publicity, Using HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to Build Relationships and Get Press Without a PR Firm,” which was published in August 2016.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started? What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Roberta Perry: My AHA moment was really a combination of being amazed that something I whipped up in my kitchen had transformed my skin, and my late sister, who had a retail background and was willing to help me. Michelle called one day and when she said, “Scrubz,” I knew she had thought of the perfect name. We started selling at house parties, craft fairs, holiday boutiques, expos and anywhere else we could set up a table. I began a very basic online store and we were off.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Roberta Perry: Money and lack of it was the biggest issue. I was still doing freelance design and sales when I started ScrubzBody, so I was able to have some steady income, but materials and monthly fees were starting to add up and I needed seed money. I took savings and a loan from my husband to get us going, because I was too afraid at that point to go to the bank for a loan. I juggled low or no interest credit cards. We started selling, but it was slow and there were many months I wondered if I would be able to pay our bills. It was scary being in that kind of debt. I believed in the product and in the fact that I wanted to serve and help people. I wanted to pamper them. Those were my driving forces to keep it up.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Roberta Perry: We were expanding enough to move out of my house in 2011, and within 7 years, we had grown enough to move into the store we presently have. This town offered us plenty of walk-in traffic and party opportunities. We were and are still thriving, even during Covid-19, because we pivoted a bit and our customers are awesome. They went from shopping in person to ordering online. We donated to 28 area hospitals and first response units. This gave me so much joy and purpose. Then, we expanded our wholesale to include private label and have been acquiring new clients weekly. I love mentoring each one and helping them to create a business of their own. We are excied for what the next year will bring!
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Roberta Perry: OMG there are so many. I drove 1.5 hours to a demo only to realize I had left all the demo stuff at home. I turned around, crossed the bridge, got my stuff, drove back and did my demo. Other times I have used words for hand washing that sounded suggestive. Things like, “it will make your hands soft enough so anything you touch will be happy.” The giggles from the person I was talking to have made me laugh out loud as I realized what I said.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Roberta Perry: Akismet for Spam of which there would be thousands if not protected. Klaviyo for email marketing, abandoned cart, segmented marketing etc. Dropbox for transferring files back and forth and for having them handy on my phone when I need to make changes to my website and I am not near my desktop.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Roberta Perry: It’s all about UX! I had my website completely reworked by PType https://pty.pe/. First they used a “heat map” which registered what people were looking at, and where, on the site and then they sent surveys to ask what customers wanted to see and how they wanted to access it. The user experience, as customers navigate your website, is key to customer comfort and more time spent on your site. These all help with conversion. We saw our time on site numbers double as well as our sales. My other suggestions are simple and can be done with any site: Have content that reflects what your customers not only need to hear but wants to hear, to know you are listening to their own needs. Have great photos that show professionalism and a real commitment to making the online experience as wonderful as it would be if they visited your brick and mortar shop, if you had one.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Roberta Perry: That’s an easy one. Show up for your customers. Deliver on your promise every time. Listen to their needs. Care. Respect their money because they can spend it anywhere and they are choosing to spend it with you.
One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand? Brands are human because they are run by humans and humans make mistakes. If the review is honest about the experience, answer it with humility and dignity. Your response is a great chance to make things right. If the review is not true and just mean, you can either respond to that or have the comment removed, if possible. The key is to make so many other people so incredibly satisfied with your brand that one or two mishaps will do nothing to harm your excellent reputation.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Roberta Perry: Write your content with “voice of customer” language. Speak to your best customers and find out what they really want. Use that language in your descriptions. Make the checkout process easy. Give all the shipping and other information they need right on the checkout and cart page. Put content elsewhere that leads people back to your website. Invest time in blog writing, or contributing to stories. Send out newsletters with great insight, and information and have all the links go back to your website. Have literature that you can include in the packages that people can hang on to or share with friends and family. Have photos that reflect the quality of your brand. I can’t stress this enough. When I first started, I took my own photos and because I had some experience in photography, they were pretty good. And then I decided to hire a professional when I redid my website. The difference was HUGE in both how I felt when leading people there and how the pictures spoke without words! Deliver on your promise. What shows up on the doorstep of your customers, in description and price, needs to match exactly what they ordered. And then give more. We include something like a soap sample as a gift, plus literature on how best to use everything. We even gift wrap for free if asked. This brings repeat orders.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Roberta Perry: You can follow me on social media:
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!