Building a DTC Brand through COVID: Wk 9

Week 9: Sales through COVID

“Building a DTC Brand During COVID” is a series written by Farah Azmi to serve as a discussion for starting a company amid a pandemic. The stories are meant to share personal experiences and is not in any way meant to promote a “correct” methodology. We hope readers find this informative and amusing and we welcome informed advice and active discussion.

After months of dreaming, building, and developing, the time has come: sales. When someone says sales, I instantly picture the scene of the classic door-to-door salesperson who comes prepared with a scripted and overzealous sales pitch. That salesperson is basically the opposite of me: introverted, fairly level-headed and calm. As much as I love my own product, it’s hard for me to drive excitement and try to convince you to buy something. But the day is unavoidable, the day is here: sales in a world of COVID.

In a normal world, a brand launch is exciting and elaborate. There are parties. There’s a big splash of influencers who are sporting your product across Instagram. There are thousands if not millions of dollars spent on paid advertisement and PR to be featured on social media, billboards, and even subway ads. Then there’s me and IXORA – where I have solely my bank account and a few small grants generously received from school. On top of that, I’m limited by what the government and school will allow me to do in the COVID world.

At Harvard Business School, we’re taught to not focus too much on the HBS consumer which makes sense. Like my friends & family, my HBS peers will easily support my business, but the true turn will be the strangers. In full transparency, I still have a fear that even my HBS peers won’t buy my product. As much as my friends say they will support me, will they? I say that even if 10 people buy my product, I would be happy. However, that’s not a business. As much as I tried spreading news of my business, let’s be real, I still have less than 500 followers on Instagram. Even if I converted all of them to buy, it’s still not enough to justify a business.

My list of fears go on and on. From how to do sales to how to fulfill them and live up to consumers’ expectations? The voice in the back of my head is filled with self-doubt and worry. However, through COVID, COVID has taught me several things:

  • Do what you can: I can’t control the fact that many women are not back in the office yet. I can’t control that many women are more comfortable in leggings. (Who can blame them?) I can’t control the state mandated numbers to how many people can socialize (in a socially distant and responsible manner). I can only do my best given the parameters in front of me.
  • Lead with Optimism: We all know it’s too easy to be depressed in this state of the word. However, we must make the best of the days that we have. I have to remind myself that I’m fortunate enough to be able to explore my passions during this time. Despite my many doubts and fears overwhelming me, I do have to think positively that all will work out in the end.
  • Forgive yourself: I wrote previously that you should forgive yourself if you did not accomplish all that you wanted because of COVID. Making it through COVID has been a mental feat on its own. Therefore, I have to remind myself, if IXORA doesn’t work out and if no one buys a thing, it’s ok. I’ve always wanted to run an apparel company, but it may not be my time today. Failure is inevitable for everyone and I will forgive myself if IXORA doesn’t work out.

I’m excited, terrified, scared, giddy and overwhelmed thinking about trying to get sales in the coming weeks. With the advice of my peers, we've developed a three-step plan for IXORA sales.

  • Small events: Host small events in a COVID safe way to introduce people to the IXORA brand and showcase product.
  • Sharing is Caring: Encourage those in attendance to share the event and post photos to help promote the brand.
  • Discounts & Promotion: Offer unique discounts for the first few weeks to encourage sales and engage our consumers.

While this strategy is still being refined and who knows if it proves to be successful, I’m excited to try, test, and improve. If you’re in Boston and would like to come to an event – and are willing to get tested prior – please sign-up in the newsletter for more information! And if you have any ideas to help promote the IXORA brand through COVID, leave your comments below!

IXORA Apparel is an early stage start-up fashion brand founded by a Harvard Business School student. Our mission is to support women in their lives through the way she dresses while providing resources to support her in the workplace.  We aim to provide made-to-measure trend-driven apparel for women, where everything is made-for-her and not made-to-stock.



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