My Secret to Building a Successful Business

Katie Dunlavy, Lularoe boutique owner, of The Pearl Pages in a patterned dress lying on the ground next to her daughter and writing in a notebook.

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

-Damon Richards

I don’t have an MBA. I can’t create the perfect Excel spreadsheet. I’m not great with numbers. But I DO know how to build a successful business, and I can hire people to deal with those other things! Over the years, I’ve started and grown two businesses. I’ve learned so much about my customers, myself, and business in general—I really could go on forever. But I’ve found there’s ONE key principle that’s made both of my businesses a success.

Whenever I make a business decision, I ask myself ONE simple question. You may think it’s something like “How much money will I make from this?” Nope, the question is…“Will this best serve my customers?”  If the answer is YES, I do it!

How I built my businesses on serving my customers

When first I opened my salon The Pearl 7 years ago, I knew I could make enough to cover my overhead. This put me at $0 income. But being self-employed was WORTH IT: I finally could run my business in a way that worked best for my clients and my family. My business continued to grow. Soon I saw my customers needed a more comfortable environment. So when I decided to move my salon to a better space, would I make more money? NO. But I knew it would create a better experience for my customers. When I’ve changed suppliers, added product lines, or offered new services, it’s never about profits—my ONLY concern is for my clients.

When I started my boutique (now The Shop on Pearl), it was a financial risk. I was making a HUGE investment and I had no guarantee what the outcome would be. But I knew women needed these clothes. I knew the power that a good outfit had to change the course of your entire day. I found these clothes at a time when I was unhappy with myself. I didn’t know how to feel like “me.” I was struggling to find myself in my new postpartum body. The way these clothes made me feel was something I knew in my soul I had to share with as many women as possible. There was something so uplifting about making other women feel confident and beautiful. So I jumped. I didn’t know when, but I knew if I stuck to sharing that good feeling, I would succeed.

Ways to serve your customers

Katie Dunlavy of the Pearl Pages in her LuLaRoe boutique The Pearl standing next to a clothing rack between two umbrella lights looking at an iPhone in a tripod.

Solve their problems

The goal is always to offer a product or service that betters your customer’s life. I’m constantly working to provide the BEST products—products that don’t just solve a problem for my customers but come from a company I believe in. I do so much research and testing that this process can sometimes take years!

I recently started carrying Davines’ line of hair care products. I love their mission, I love the quality of their products and my sales rep is the bee’s knees. My job is to give my customers’ confidence and make getting ready in the morning as EASY as possible. Davines makes my job easier—I know I can recommend their products without hesitation.

It’s the same reason I ditched my traditional boutique and became a LuLaRoe Retailer. I love the clothes and I love the company. I believe in LLR’s mission and I know that I can help women of all ages, shapes, and sizes feel BEAUTIFUL. And unlike with my traditional boutique, I have the support of a team of sisters across the US. We all work together to share our inventory, which means our customers get what they need with the BEST possible experience.

Build genuine relationships

No matter what your business venture is, it’s important to be authentic and genuine. Gaining your customers’ trust is incredibly important and it’s something I don’t take lightly. I personally test everything I offer. If for some reason I can’t (and this doesn’t happen often), I ask around until I get answers from real, trusted people in my community.

I build relationships with every customer who places an order or walks through my doors. Honestly? It’s my FAVORITE part of my business! I don’t want to be “just” someone’s hairstylist, I want to be their friend. I want their time in my chair to be a time to relax, feel comfortable, and walk out with a look that fits their lifestyle. I don’t want to “just” sell someone a sweater, I want to be able to pick the PERFECT sweater because I know them. I know my customers’ favorite colors, I know what they do or where they work and I know what pieces will bring them the most joy and confidence.

Show your gratitude

As a business owner, you’re living your dream. You’re doing something you’re passionate about on your own terms. The only reason you can do ANY of that is because of your customers! Find ways to show your gratitude for your community: love them, thank them, and add value wherever you can.

There are a lot of ways to show gratitude to your customers. Adding a personalized message with their order. Hosting special events in person or online. Giving discounts or rewards for their loyalty. Remembering them on their birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and special days. Sometimes something as simple as just LISTENING to them is enough to show you care. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to grow my businesses 100% organically, strictly based off of referrals. This is especially important when it comes to growing our Facebook community. I like knowing that my customers are connected—stranger danger is real, lol. It makes us all feel safe, like we’re already friends, which I think my customers appreciate as well. We’ve got an intimate vibe going on that sponsored ads and marketing tactics just can’t create.

A clear crystal angle shaped award sitting on a stone surface next to a plant that reads "2018 Small Business of the Year - The Pearl - Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce" given to Katie Dunlavy of the Pearl Pages.

So here I am, years after launching my businesses, still waking up every day asking myself, “How can I better serve my customers, where can I add more value?”

I know the world of business can get really complicated. And people will try to tell you all sorts of complicated ways to find success. But I promise you: if you put yourself aside and simply focus on serving your customers, good things will come your way.

If you have any questions about starting or growing your own business, please ask away! I’d love to help you in any way I can be of service. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your question in the comments, send me a private message on Facebook or Instagram



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