Tori Gerbig, Co-Founder and CEO of Pink Lily, was making $25,000 per year in 2011 at her insurance job. In her free time, she would browse the internet for clothes that were both on-trend and affordable. However, Gerbig quickly realized that there weren’t too many options, which gave her the idea to start a side hustle selling women’s clothing on eBay.
“At first, it was just a fun hobby,” Gerbig says. “Little did I know, 10 years later, my husband Chris and I would be running Pink Lily full-time. Last year, our online clothing business generated $141 million in gross sales. And today, our social media audience has grown to 3.6 million followers.”
To start their eBay store, Tori and Chris made an initial investment of about $300 to buy clothes and accessories from a wholesale website. Since they weren’t familiar with pricing strategies, Tori priced the items at what she would expect to pay as a customer. They worked out of their living room, so the only overhead they really had to worry about was shipping costs.
Profits varied for Pink Lily for the first few years, but they typically made anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per month. They used the money to pay off their student loans and invest back into the business. Tori would fly to Los Angeles to meet with vendors and place product orders, and she eventually started attending trade shows to expand their selection.
In 2013 they started a Facebook group to market their clothes, and by the end of the year they had saved $20,000 of their profits, which they used to launch a website. After that, business really took off.
In 2014 they surpassed $100,000 in monthly revenue and they both quit their jobs to focus on Pink Lily. They closed the year with $4 million in revenue.
In 2019 they received a minority stake investment to support the business’ rapid growth.
Currently, Pink Lily sells more than 11,000 products online every day, has a brick-and-mortar store, and employs 250.
To achieve the same success Pink Lily has, Tori Gerbig suggests five things. First, find a gap in the market. Find something no one else is doing and do it well. Second, reinvest your profits. You’ll need to invest all or most of your early profits back into the company if you want to see truly rapid growth, which is why the Gerbigs did not quit their day jobs immediately. Third, engage your social media followers in fun and unique ways. Gerbig routinely asks her 1.4 million Instagram followers what they would like to see Pink Lily carry. Fourth, design a brand ambassador program so loyal followers can promote your business and receive personal benefits along the way. And fifth, find something you can truly own as a business. For example, when Gerbig finds something she likes, she will often buy out the vendor’s entire inventory so she ends up with curated collections that can only be found at Pink Lily.
With these five tips and a lot of hustle and hard work, Gerbig believes anyone can make it as an entrepreneur.