Follow up with your customers after they receive the product: This one is key for me and the success of my business. How do you know if your customer is satisfied? You can’t just assume. One thing that always surprises people is that it’s actually ME communicating with them on social media or through email. And that’s important to me.
As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Akilah Scott-Amos, owner of Kissed By A Bee Organics. Akilah is a 3rd Generation Herbalist, an “urban farmer”, and a Gen Xer entrepreneur.
Akilah comes from generations of root-workers and sharecroppers; she learned most of her knowledge about the healing powers of plants via her Grandmother (LeDora) and Father (William). Born and raised as a vegetarian, most of her meals were made from scratch and grown right on the family property. Many plants and roots were grown to nourish the body, but also heal ailments as well. She decided to start Kissed By A Bee Organics in May 2013, with the support of her husband and friends.
Akilah also has several certifications in herbalism and is constantly honing her craft. She, along with her family, utilize their backyard to the max by growing roughly 75% of what she uses in the products. She lives in Spring, TX with her two sons (Alex and Aiden), her husband (Christopher) and a Fish named Atgah.
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?
“I started Kissed By A Bee Organics as a business eight years ago. For a little background, I’m a third generation, certified herbalist. I learned everything from my grandmother and father. Kissed By A Bee is modern apothecary and herbalism at its finest. Before starting my business, my friends would always ask me to make various lotions and products for them, and finally I decided that as much as I love giving back to friends and family, I need to support myself and my family. Shortly after starting Kissed By A Bee, I lost my job. It was a blessing and curse, because I was solely focused on the success of my business and never looked back.”
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?
“The biggest mistake I made at the beginning was undercharging my customers. Looking back, I was giving away my products — practically giving them away. At the time, I just wanted to get my products out there, and wasn’t thinking about the price.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
“My husband. Funny enough, we are an example of a couple that got married at first sight! When I first started my business, we didn’t know each other at all. It was a connection like no other. But, his support has been unwavering. I lost my job, we moved, and then I decided not to go back to corporate America… that caught his attention! I’ve been grateful for him since the beginning, for pioneering our marriage, and believing in me and my vision.”
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“I’ve read the story of Madam C.J .Walker and watched “Self Made” on Netflix. I love her tenacity, it resonated so much. As women, we tend to take a step back to our husbands. I didn’t bow down, and she didn’t bow down.”
She built an amazing business that gave other women the opportunity to make money, and to do something for themselves. I admire that about her, and that’s exactly what I want to do. My plan has always been to make Kissed By A Bee a place where women can make extra money.”
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
“Me. I’m going to say it. There are countless other small businesses in health and beauty. There are many herbalists out there with a similar product to mine. But, I’ve built my brand around ME. I’ve had requests come in asking to take over my social media, but I politely decline because my brand would lose the authenticity I’ve worked so hard to build. Kissed By A Bee is me. It’s about my story, trials, and victories.”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
“Ah, the burn out! The biggest tip I recommend… Do not be afraid to ask people for help! I’m a very independent and prideful woman. But the truth is, I learned that I was not able to do it all by myself. As a mother, we feel the burn out there too. We’re typically afraid to ask for help because it makes us feel like we’re failing.”
“As independent women, we think we can do it all on our own. But, we don’t always have the right answers. I joined Ecwid, which allowed me to sell my products online in the easiest way possible. The amount of time I’ve saved with just the touch of a button is immeasurable.”
“Looking back, I wish I had asked for help a lot sooner than I did. Currently, I have three assistants, and the weight off my shoulders has done wonders for the success of my business, and sanity!”
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
“It’s all about brand loyalty. We know these brands very well, and we trust them. During the pandemic, larger retailers were able to tap into the ‘human connection’ piece for their customer base. Every piece of advertising included, ‘We’re all in this together…’ and ‘We understand…’ and that resonated with the average consumer. The key to success is how you relate to people.”
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
“My simple advice: There is no competition. There is only you. I like to take it back to the days of Sesame Street, ‘There is no one like you.” You are what sells your product. In my opinion, the only competition is with yourself.”
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
“The most common mistake I’ve seen, and experienced firsthand, is: underpricing your products thinking that people will not buy. There are more than 7 billion people on this planet, and someone will be buying your product. It’s important to note that your price point is not for EVERYONE, and that’s okay. You will build your own customer base, but be confident in your product and its value.”
This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?
“It’s important for your customers to feel like they are part of your family, or home, if they are entering into your store. When people experience great customer service, they are more likely to come back. That’s a fact. As a business owner, you start to develop relationships with your customers. It goes beyond the monetary value.”
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
“Many times, the ‘customer is always right’ comes into play. As a business owner, you possess a lot of pride and (occasionally have an) ego. That comes into play. It’s important not to get offended by negative comments or reviews. You can’t please everyone, and that’s okay. I’ve received bad reviews that are public on my website, but I keep them. It’s all part of the business. Nobody is going to be perfect.”
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided? Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
“I have one incredible experience that I would like to share. I shared my products with Samantha Irby, a famous author and comedian. After she received my product, she wrote a phenomenal write-up about my product line. She used her platform with thousands of followers, to advertise for MY product! Her review snowballed the amount of customers that were coming my way. I was very grateful to her for that.
“But, on the other hand, it doesn’t always have to be someone with a big following or social presence. I appreciate any shares and likes that I receive on my product. I like to “WOW” customers at any chance I get.”
A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?
“My formula for a fantastic retail experience is pretty simple. Take positive energy, add in a great product that your customers want, and mix that with some amazing packaging and ongoing communication. Now, when I say, ‘packaging’, it might throw some people off. Packaging doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Packaging is the visual brand of YOU and your business. It’s what your customers see first.”
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 fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
“It’s hard to narrow it down to five, but to me, the five most important things for creating a fantastic retail experience include:
- Having a great product: Many people don’t know this about me, but I make my own products! And not only make the products, but I GROW the ingredients that make up my products.
- Open communication with your clientele: Be open to the good, the bad, and whatever else may come your way. I’ve built a loyal customer base through open communication. Do I like negative reviews? Not a chance. But, it’s important to listen t
- Branding and packaging: At the beginning, I didn’t have a lot of money, and definitely didn’t have money to spend on fancy packaging or labels. I did the best I could, but inside the packaging was where the magic was included. I add a fresh Texas honey stick to every order. People look forward to it each time, and it doesn’t cost me much.
- Efficient shipping or pick-up process: Phew! Especially during the holidays and busy season. I am fortunate enough to have both an online store, and a physical location, giving my customers the option to either ship or pick-up their product. I cannot control the USPS, but I get my products out there, and I get them out fast!
- Follow up with your customers after they receive the product: This one is key for me and the success of my business. How do you know if your customer is satisfied? You can’t just assume. One thing that always surprises people is that it’s actually ME communicating with them on social media or through email. And that’s important to me.
“Additionally, I use a rewards program, which is powered by e-commerce platform, Ecwid. It’s so easy for me to use and they funnel all of the information I need right through their app.”
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
“It would be impossible for me to pick one! But, I will say this… I give back as often as I can. I’m inspired by others that give back and support. For example, Samantha Irby, an author and comedian, really helped me boost my business by sharing my product with her thousands of followers on Instagram. One thing many people don’t know about Samantha, is that she suffers from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease that attacks your digestive system. Every single order that I received from her, I donated 5 dollars to the Crohn’s organization.
“Kissed By A Bee is a movement. I partnered with “Breast Friends” at the local hospital to support women suffering from breast cancer. I share my healing products with women because it helps with their radiation burns. Women supporting women!”
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!