Is that an okay way to start a blog post? “Hoo, boy”?
I need a minute to take a deep breath. I know you can’t see me right now, but I am 1000% aware of how many strong emotions the brand LuLaRoe can dredge up for so many people, and I’m kinda sorta dreading the sense of security that the glow of the computer screen can provide for some Internet bullies.
So let’s just make a deal right here. You be nice, have an open mind and remember that opinions are like … bellybuttons. We all have one.
I’m just one human. One human trying her hardest to make a difference and live her passion. I’d love your support in that, even if we don’t see eye to eye on LuLaRoe. The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own, nobody else’s.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll start with the good. I loved my team. Like BFF status loved. (Still do!) I loved the women I met through social media trainings. (Still do!) I also loved the product. (Kinda over it. Sorry. I love solids and jeans, what can I say? Madison, Lola, Classic? I just can’t quit you, dolls.)
If you haven’t read any of my background, I’ll give you the quick scoop. I am a teacher by trade, an entrepreneur and fashionista by birth.
I onboarded (this is LuLaRoe speak for “started selling”) with LuLaRoe in July of 2016.
I had a 12 month old (and a 5 year old and a 7 year old), a big empty spare room, and a burgeoning doula career. I was excited to have these comfy clothes be a profitable and stress-free side hustle for me. My commitment has always been to my kids first, ideally finding a career that allows me to be home when they get home from school, volunteer ocassionally in their classrooms, and be able to not have laundry coming out of my ears for at least two days per week.
Selling LuLaRoe started out great. When all was said and done, I spent about $10,000 on my initial investment. LuLaRoe shipped me 350+ pieces of clothing, and I went out and shopped for clothing racks, hangers, shipping materials, etc.
While my initial onboarding package had a ton of duplicates (you never get to choose the prints you receive with the brand), I was able to swap with my teammates and curate a decent collection. The product sold itself, really, as women were still rabid for the brand on Facebook, and in-home parties were still a new concept. I was having a blast and making good money doing it. I paid my initial investment off quickly.
Whenever a consultant (aka a retailer) makes a wholesale order through LuLaRoe, she can choose the styles (all of them sport women’s names, except, confusingly, the Perfect Tee and the Classic Tee, which are totally different tops and everyone gets them mixed up) and sizes (one of the best things about the brand is it goes from size XXS to XXXL, so size 0 women can shop with their size 26 best friends), but the prints are always a surprise, chosen by the warehouse worker that day. Sometimes consultants will order 5 size M Nicoles and they will all. be. the. same. freaking. orange. triangle. print.
Despite the roulette of my orders, my inner fashionista came out to play, and I started challenging myself with matching outfits for customers, styling outfits on my mannequin and of course, styling myself.
LuLaRoe released their “Elegant Collection” (glittery versions of their staple pieces) for the holidays, and I sold mine so quickly during a live sale that I bought another box. It was around this time that I couldn’t keep up with the demands of family life, doula life and LuLaRoe life. Doula life was a constant hustle, not to mention planning childcare was near impossible, so I put it on the back burner – despite some accrued debt from certification trainings and the like – for LuLa.
Christmas leggings came. My prints weren’t super awesome, and they seemed to fit a little tighter than usual. Nonetheless, I sold them all and set exciting goals for myself for 2017 to push more subscription style boxes, have open houses and parties at my in-home boutique only (nobody wants to lug collapsible clothing racks and totes of thousands of pieces of clothing from their minivan to someone’s living room over sheets of ice!) and expand my online pond of shoppers. My customer service was – and is – impeccable. I sat down and planned out my social media in advance. I started my sales forecast and strategy spreadsheet.
I did everything right. And yet, my sales started slowing down.
Because I had forecasted winter and early spring sales to look like my fall sales, I now had a ton of inventory that I just wasn’t moving. I was working my tail off for my current loyal (and totally awesome!) customers, but not gaining any new ones.
I felt worried about my financial future with the brand and creatively stifled.
By this time, I knew my customers’ style, and I was annoyed about not being able to choose my own prints when I placing my wholesale orders. LuLaRoe restricts consultants from publicly discounting the clothing, and I wanted to be able to discount the prints that I had been hanging on to for a long time so that I’d have the capital to purchase fresh inventory. I wanted to purchase from other brands that weren’t LuLaRoe (also against policies and procedures) so that when I had an amazing printed top, I could find a simple, solid skirt to match it. I wasn’t allowed to sell jewelry or accessories, and this felt restrictive.
Between the fashion Sudoku of trying to find outfits or mini wardrobe capsules that matched each other in both color and size, the booking/planning for/hosting/following up on parties and pop-ups, responding to emails and Facebook private messages about defective items or secret sale prices, attempting to keep an engaging VIP Facebook group and Instagram feed, watching the weekly Home Office calls, photographing the inventory (OH, photographing the inventory! Every piece being different means you spend a boatload of time photographing everything) and placing wholesale orders and fulfilling retail orders, I was always working, and often on my phone. And this is with an assistant. What I had intended to be a part-time side hustle was a full-on, full-time hustle hustle. There weren’t enough hours in the day, and my family and my self-care took the brunt of that.
When I first joined LuLaRoe, there were roughly 20,000 consultants. By the spring of 2017, there were five times that many. I lost many customers to consultants who were closer in proximity to them.
I consider the typical LuLaRoe shopper pretty similar to the typical Target shopper. The clothes are similar in quality and price point, and the customer is usually a 20-50 year old suburban woman. One day out of curiosity, I looked up how many Targets there are in the US. There’s less than 2,000. There are a tenth as many Targets in the US as there are LuLaroe retailers, and the Targets are allowed to sell various brands, advertise their sales in print, and choose their inventory. I did not major in economics, but this seems like a no-brainer to me. LuLaRoe was not a sustainable source of income for me, due to constraining policies and market saturation.
There are tons of people (people smarter than me) that disagree with me on this, but I felt firsthand that LuLaRoe had become saturated.
By April of 2017, I knew I wanted to be done, but I had created such an amazing support system of women through the brand, that I really didn’t want to leave. Not only were my teammates and other LuLaRoe consultant friends fabulous, but my customer base was, as well.
It took me a few more months, an amazing conference, some training and coaching to make the decision to open my own independent boutique.
I must be a rebel at heart, because having someone tell me that I can’t choose my prints/colors, I’m not allowed to post my sales in print, I’m not allowed to sell any other beautiful brands of clothing or accessory – all of that stuff was just weighing me down.
As soon as I wrote my letter of resignation, I felt unburdened. As soon as my stale inventory started flying off of the racks because I was publicly discounting it in my “closing up shop” sales, I felt even freer. I am still waiting patiently for an almost $10,000 check from LuLaRoe for the unsold inventory I returned to them a few weeks ago. I know that once that milestone is reached, I will be ecstatic. Having that kind of money tied up in limbo is nerve-wracking, not to mention keeps me from really spreading my wings with my tiny new boutique.
Since making my divorce with LuLa public, I have been inundated with questions from consultants and customers alike, wanting to know the good, the bad and the ugly.
Some of the most common questions I am asked:
Do I regret selling LuLaRoe? I don’t. I met some women who I now consider a part of my tribe, and I have gained a wealth of knowledge in both business and social media. My confidence both in myself and in my abilities to empower other women have grown by leaps and bounds.
If I could change one thing about my LuLaRoe journey, what would it be? I think it would be to have trusted my gut and left earlier. I was on the fence for too long, and it made me (and my entire family) stressed out and sick. For months.
Do you harbor any ill feelings towards the owners of LuLaRoe? Ugh. Yes. I do. I expressed this to them multiple times, and would do so again in a heartbeat. I don’t think they are transparent with their retailers regarding the uniqueness of prints, and I think that the onboarding of so many consultants hurt everyone. I think their communication is sloppy, and their leadership style is confusing. I guess you could say we had creative differences, and they were irreconcilable.
Do you think all direct sales companies are terrible? Nope! Far from it! I think direct sales companies are a great option for people who would like to run their own part-time or side business without a lot of startup capital at their fingertips! I also think being a member of the Direct Sales Association is key when choosing a company you’d like to join.
How did you get so into fair trade and American made products? Does that mean LuLaRoe uses sweatshops? In early 2017, LuLaRoe started shifting their branding a little bit, and called themselves “comfortable fast fashion” in some of their media copy. I (ducking while I admit this on the Interwebz) didn’t know what the term “fast fashion” meant, so I did what everyone else on the planet does when they don’t recognize a term. I Googled. When I Googled the term “fast fashion,” I was struck by how many negative connotations it had. I heard about and watched the Netflix documentary The True Cost and cringed when I learned how terrible polyester is for the planet. (Most of LuLaRoe’s pieces are polyester.) I contacted LuLaRoe to ask them about the conditions of their factories around the world. I was bounced around from one department to another, and finally told to call My Dyer, a manufacturing firm used by LuLaRoe. I emailed them, and was referred to their Sustainability Practices. They look good on paper, but I have learned that oftentimes, sadly, following a country’s (sometimes non-existent) labor laws isn’t enough. I started researching fair trade, sustainable and American made brands, and the rest is history!