If you look at the companies and industries that have been disrupted the most over the past five years, it has been from young companies who have forced bigger brands to not only take a look at their operations but start thinking more like beginners instead of experts.
The same goes for the direct selling industry. New companies with new ideas, deserve our attention. Red Aspen is our latest Young Company Focus interview published exclusively on DirectSellingNews.com.
I recently caught up with Red Aspen CEO Jesse McKinney to share with us their story.
Founded: October 2017
Headquarters: Meridian, Idaho
Top Executive: Jesse McKinney, CEO
Products: Beauty Website: RedAspenLove.com
Are you a party plan or a network marketing-based model?
We’re a party plan, but we’ve taken the model 100% online to social media. Our Brand Ambassadors share “pop ups” through different social channels.
How many employees?
We have 12 employees at our office based in Meridian, Idaho.
Tell us how the idea came about to start the company and how it got started
When my partners Amanda Moore, Genie Reese, and I started Red Aspen we weren’t sure what product we wanted to sell or the sales model we wanted to use, but we knew one thing—our mission. We knew we wanted to start a company that would “inspire women to stand up, stand out and stand together by uniting passion with purpose,” and everything just sort of fell into place from there.
What did you do before Red Aspen? How did that experience prepare you for your role as CEO?
I have a background in direct sales various in field facing roles, but the CEO hat is definitely a new one. I’ve had to dust the cobwebs off my accounting 101 text books from college, think strategically about how to do more with less and really set my sights on the future of Red Aspen.
“When Nia Franklin was crowned Miss America last fall wearing Red Aspen’s “Reese” lashes we were elated. We quickly realized that in the “influencer game” it’s not just about having the influencer promote you, it’s what you do with that promotion that counts.” – Jesse McKinney, Red Aspen CEO
Tell us about your company values. Never heard any company who has “playful” for a company value. Explain for us why you chose these four.
Curious, courageous, playful, and fulfilled. These four values were picked intentionally and all have a special meaning to us:
Curious: Be flexible in your assumptions. Be smart. Be inquisitive. Be nimble. Never forget to share the rewards of learning and success with others.
Courageous: We experiment with new ideas, try and try again, learn from failure, celebrate success, and seek to become the best versions of ourselves.
Playful: We believe in showcasing enthusiasm in our work by creating cheerful communication, building imaginative products, and causing just a little bit of mischief.
Fulfilled: Seek an authentic life and fill it with what matters most. Create more time to dream, to live, to grow. Design the life you’ve always dreamed of!
What were your struggles, first wins, and the time you knew you were building something special?
I think we knew from the moment we got going that we were building something special. When you’re working on a project you’re truly passionate about with people you love it feels like magic. We didn’t have a lot of capital when we set out to build Red Aspen, and the little money we had was greatly depleted by the time we actually launched.
On launch day I felt pretty overwhelmed with the idea of “what if.” What if no one joins? What if we can’t pay our bills? What if our product isn’t viable? Then launch day happened, and with it, our first big win. People joined! Just six weeks later we broke even, another big win.
What did you learn from your mistakes in the beginning? If you could do anything over again, what would it be?
We were really hesitant to hire in the beginning. We knew it was a big responsibility taking on someone’s livelihood, and Red Aspen was so new! If I had to do it again I think we would have hired people to help us sooner.
Tell us a little about your product line. What sets your products apart from others?
We launched with six false strip lashes, a lash applicator, and a lash adhesive. Eight SKUs in total. Our lashes are reusable, cruelty-free, reasonably priced, and not readily available at many beauty retailers. Oh, and they are beautiful!
We now have over 70 SKUs and we’ve ventured beyond lashes into the beauty world. We’re always on the hunt for non-traditional beauty items, and last October we launched another hot item with our Nail Dashes, which has gone over extremely well with our customers and Brand Ambassadors.
Share with us a little about the concept behind your Lash Loyalty subscription box?
Our Lash Loyalty Box was created to target those that love subscriptions. Lashes are consumable, and we knew we could learn from other companies like Dollar Shave Club that have had so much success in the subscription space. Customers that subscribe to our Loyalty Box automatically get 10% off their monthly subscription, and orders over $20 receive free shipping. There are no hidden fees or contracts so you can cancel anytime.
We’re currently playing around with the Loyalty Box concept and trying to determine where it can go from here. Brand Ambassadors appreciate the Loyalty Box because it generates recurring volume, and customers appreciate the ease of setting their order on auto-pilot.
What is the makeup of your Brand Ambassadors as far as those who have direct selling experience versus newbies who are in for the first time?
I’ll be honest, our Brand Ambassadors rock! They inspire me every day to live our mission, and are the best #girlgang any CEO could ask for. We have reps with and without experience in the direct sales industry, influencers, leaders from corporate America, hobbyists and many more. We have at least one Brand Ambassador in every state, and Directors scattered all over the country. One thing is for sure, we feel extremely grateful that they chose Red Aspen and that they are growing with us.
“Not being tied to a catalog cycle has allowed us to drop new products and discontinue them as needed, which has really helped us manage our inventory.”
You did some great influencer marketing at last year’s Miss America. Tell us the effect it has had on your business and what you learned from it?
When Nia Franklin was crowned Miss America last fall wearing Red Aspen’s “Reese” lashes we were elated. We quickly realized that in the “influencer game” it’s not just about having the influencer promote you, it’s what you do with that promotion that counts.
In this case, it’s not just enough to have Miss America wear our lashes, it’s what we do with that information. The next day we released a blog post letting everyone know that Miss America wore Reese while being crowned, and with it, a promotion. For the next 24 hours anyone that spent $50+ received a free pair of Reese lashes. That day marked the biggest sales day we had had since we launched.
Do you handle everything in house or do you have trusted partners helping you do any part of your business?
We handle almost everything internally with the exception of our IT system. We are really fortunate to have amazing third party partners that help us with everything from photography to accounting. We don’t know what we’d do without them!
What is your philosophy on training and tools?
If there’s one thing that I think we do really well it’s providing quality training and relevant marketing tools via our Treehouse website. The Treehouse is an open website where Brand Ambassadors can access information, training, tools, photography, business insights, and promotional material. We chose not to put this website behind a firewall because we want people to know it’s there and have the opportunity to look around before they make a decision to join.
What do you attribute your growth to? Any one thing? Many things?
I think in business you have to have a core strategy that drives you forward, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of luck as well! When we launched with lashes we knew we had an amazing product on our hands, but it was lucky that just a few weeks later Pinterest named false lashes as the beauty trend for the upcoming year.
What do you do different than anyone else in the direct selling/party plan space?
We’ve taken a hard stance on paper products. We don’t print catalogues, brochures or any other marketing materials because we believe you only need three things to run your Red Aspen business: 1) Your brain, 2) a business kit and 3) your smartphone. Not being tied to a catalog cycle has allowed us to drop new products and discontinue them as needed, which has really helped us manage our inventory.
How does the direct sales model stay a relevant business opportunity now and in the years to come?
We’re living in the gig economy. People want flexibility and freedom to work when and how they choose, and I think Direct Sales is a natural fit for those looking for something other than a traditional 9-5 job.
What are your goals for the coming year and beyond?
We aim to become one of the leading beauty brands in the direct sales industry known for high quality products, amazing service, and a Brand Ambassador culture of comradery and positivity.