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Self-Funded, Profitable And Growing Fast: Pink Lily's Co-Founder Shares Her Secret

People

When Tori Gerbig turned her eBay shop into an official e-commerce site, she quickly became one of the fastest growing online retailers of women's apparel in the United States.


Pink Lily is a completely self-funded home for women's fashion that grew to generate millions in sales, employ over 20 staff and move to a 25,000 square foot warehouse in just three years. With a growth strategy rooted in social media, the company has over 224k followers on Instagram and more than 1.4 million fans on Facebook. What's the secret?

In this Q&A with Gerbig, she tells SWAAY:

How did you get the idea for Pink Lily?

I always knew I wanted to be self-employed one day. While in college, I studied marketing with a concentration in sales. During one of my classes, I became intrigued with branding and the overall concept of marketing items to consumers. I combined all I learned with my love for fashion and social media, and Pink Lily was born. My goal was to create a place where customers could shop for affordable and stylish clothing, all from the comfort of their home.

Tori Gerbig Courtesy of Pink Lily

How did your original idea evolve into Pink Lily?

Pink Lily actually started as an eBay shop in 2011. When I took maternity leave two years later, it turned into somewhat of a side project for me. I quickly gained a dedicated Facebook following and a fast-growing demand for our products. That's when business really took off. On January 1, 2014, my husband and I launched Pink Lily's official website and within six months we both left our jobs to focus full-time on the shop.

How do you get the clothing that you sell?

We work with over 500 vendors in Los Angeles to find new styles and designs. A portion of our inventory also manufactures just for us. It's not easy to keep up with the latest trends, but I love the challenge. I'm always flying out to Los Angeles and attending a variety of markets for inspiration. Needless to say, it has been very exciting to watch our brand evolve over the last few years.

How do you use social media to further excel your business?

We keep our fans engaged on social media, which is how we've managed to generate over one million Facebook fans in less than two years! Our posts currently drive roughly 300,000 likes, shares and comments per week. To engage our customers, we host daily contests and giveaways and we let them “be the buyer" when we attend a market show to shop for new looks. Our shipments all go out in a custom poly mailer bag with our logo and exclusive hashtag, so we also ask customers to tag us when they take a selfie in their new outfit.

What would you say are your goals for Pink Lily?

In the next year, my goals are to successfully open our flagship retail store in Bowling Green, Kentucky, reach $20 million in annual total sales, and grow total social media followers to two million people.

Personally, I am also very active on my own Instagram where I frequently incorporate Pink Lily into my posts. The majority of the items I wear are my own from our shop and I tag Pink Lily often. Naturally, many of my followers are also fans and customers of Pink Lily.

What do you most credit your success to?

My parents taught me that hard work and work ethic are the only things that put everybody on a level playing field when it comes to business. Hard work is something we are all capable of, regardless of how much money you have, what school you went to, or where you grew up. This mindset has made me the hard worker that I am today. When my daughter was born I only took two days off!

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Career

Momtors: The New Wave of Mentors Helping New Moms Transition Back Into Careers

New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.


Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.

Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:

"I didn't think you'd come back."

"You must feel so guilty."

"You missed a lot while you were out."

To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.

There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.

Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.

Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.

It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.

Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship

How to be a good Momtor?

Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.

Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.

Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.

Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.