F&M Celebrates Our 1 Year Anniversary
Pictured above: Cheryl & Bryan Fork, owners of FORK & MELON
Today marks exactly 1-year since the "coming soon" preview page was removed, and I first launched the full FORK & MELON website on November 30, 2018. A lot has happened in a year! Trying to build a business from scratch is not easy - quite an understatement. Coming from a 15+ year career in consumer products, marketing, & ecommerce, and being a skincare & beauty product aficionado since I first hit adolescence, I had hopeful expectations for where we'd be within a year of launch. Now that the first year is behind me, I fully admit to underestimating the challenges I would face in starting FORK & MELON on my own, with no outside funding and no one else to help me with the multitude of tasks I was used to having teams to help with. I could write a book on everything I've learned so far (including what I learned in the more than a year prior, developing the products and preparing for the launch) if I had the time! Instead, I thought I'd take a moment to recount some of the highlights of the past year. With so many ups and downs, it's important to celebrate the victories big and small along the way. Read on for a peak behind the scenes...
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS (IN LOOSELY CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER):
1. Seeing The First Orders Come In From Family, Friends, & Former Colleagues
Feeling supported. After over a year prior of working on the products, extensive research, building the website, coordinating photo shoots, applying for business licenses & permits, and countless other steps leading up to it, I was so excited to see the first orders come through forkandmelon.com on the first day of our soft launch, and the coming weeks after. It was purely word of mouth in the beginning, and the initial orders were all from family and friends, including some friends and former colleagues in my network that I hadn't spoken to in quite a while. I felt very supported, and I appreciated that so much (I still do).
2. The First Online Orders From Customers I Didn't Know
Diving solo into the deep waters of digital marketing. Coming from years of experience in successfully marketing and selling consumer products for esteemed, globally-recognized brands via mostly direct channels (which means via the brand's own website and brand-owned stores), my initial selling strategy was to build our digital presence and online business. I knew I needed to start driving traffic from all the traditional digital channels, i.e. email, search, etc. But I had come from positions within large companies where I was managing these different digital channels from a level of oversight. Trying to optimize and learn the intricacies of each one on my own was (and is - I'm definitely still learning) a whole new ballgame. Not to mention dipping my toes into the (newer at the time but now ubiquitous) world of influencer marketing - and the mind-warp that is the instagram algorithm. I had little understanding when I started how much of a barrier my limited resources (with both time/bandwidth and money) would pose. Seeing the very first orders come through from each of the different marketing channels - from people I had zero personal connection to - was quite a thrill. Also a thrill was seeing orders come from customers who were recommended to us from friends of friends, as well as the first reorders from repeat customers - both confirmations that people really loved the products!
3. Seeing My Product On Good Morning America
Our first press mentions. Once initial launch and the holiday season was over, securing earned media became a focus. The first major media outlet to feature FORK & MELON was the International Business Times (they included us in their Valentine's Day gift guide). From there we were able to secure a number of other notable press mentions - most notably, we were chosen for Good Morning America's first ever “Green Living” Discover Box, where our product was recommended on their national TV show, on GMA.com, and via their massive social media channels. Other big highlights included seeing orders roll in from a one-day deal we did with The Today Show, and being featured in Forbes and other major publications we admire. See the full list on our press page.
4. When Zac Posen Commented On Our Instagram Post
F&M celebrity love. Since we started, we've had some very fun opportunities to get our products in the hands of and/or have some brushes with celebrity. Early on we were able to participate in and gift product for the annual luncheon that raises money for the privately-owned Hudson River Park, in the posh Manhattan neighborhood of TriBeCa, with multiple celebrities in attendance and a write-up of the event in Vogue. And through the powers of social media, less than 2 months after we launched, Zac Posen loved one of our Instagram posts so much that he personally commented on it and also shared it to his own feed of almost 2 million followers! As an NYC fashion industry veteran and long-time fan of the illustrious designer, I almost died. Later, through personal connections, we were able to send luxury product packages out to a handful of well-known celebrities - some of whom sent us positive feedback personally.
5. Receiving Our First Customer Letters
Customer love. Probably most fulfilling of all the highlights is when we receive positive customer feedback. Some of the comments, letters, and reviews we've received have been enough to keep me going during particularly rough patches (running a business is a constant roller coaster of highs and lows). Customers have told us our products have helped with multiple skin conditions including eczema, keratosis pilaris, dry & rough skin patches, skin allergies & irritations, and more. Some have said they thought they had tried everything and nothing worked until they found our products. When someone tells you your product has made their life better, it makes it all worth it!
6. Participating In Our First In-Person Marketing Events And Connecting With The Local Community
Sharing F&M IRL. Another highlight worth mentioning is our participation in a few in-person events here in San Diego. We set up a booth for the first time at a local Vegan fair, and we also had brand presence at a local influencer event where we were able to connect with new influencers and make connections with other clean beauty and independent brands. Creating in-real-life brand activations and getting out in the community was another notable first and a break out of my comfort zone. You may have seen some photos from the influencer event on our social channels - here's a few below:
7. Getting Our Registered Trademark (Finally)
Legally legitimized. Maybe not the first thing one thinks of when starting a new business, but there are so many little details you have to figure out in getting set up as a legitimate business entity. From getting my "Ficticious Business Name", to applying for business license, to getting business insurance, registering for bar codes, and more, there is a lot to figure out. Another hurdle we finally accomplished in more recent months is securing our trademark! It is a very long drawn-out and somewhat intimidating process that takes several months, but we finally have the serial number and certificate to prove we're the rightful owners of the FORK & MELON mark.
8. Breaking Into Retail
A new frontier. Though my comfort zone lies in building our brand online (both because of my prior work experience and because I'm just more of a natural introvert) - trying to break through as a purely direct-to-consumer brand in today's over-crowded digital marketplace requires an enormous amount of start-up capital. Since realizing this earlier into the journey (and not wanting to take on outside investors or massive debt) I decided we needed to also start selling to retailers. Our very first wholesale order came from a salon that my wonderful mother-in-law frequents in Tucson, AZ. Since then we've expanded to other boutiques and salons locally and elsewhere in the country. More recently I've brought on some help in this area, and we've secured sample requests from prestigious hotels/resorts, a high-end maternity wing at a notable hospital (if you're familiar with our inception story you'll know why this is so perfect), and some very major retailers. More to come on this soon!
While these were some of the most notable highlights of the past year, there have also been failures and many hurdles to overcome (I touched on some of them, but I'll have to go into more detail on those in another post). During all of it we've also dealt with the devastating experience of another year of failing to grow our immediate family of two (3 including our dog Zeus), suffering multiple miscarriages and failed IVF. That's also a post for another time. But we are doing well now and have so much to be grateful for. I couldn't have done any of this without my amazing husband.
We've hit some big milestones this past year that I'm proud of. I've gotten a lot of help from a support system of family, friends, and also some newer connections who have stepped in to help in one way or another. We have a ways to go, and I frequently need to remind myself to be patient (Rome wasn't built in a day, etc.) There are many things in the works, and many things to look forward to. We're still just getting started!
If you're running low on hand soap, body wash, and/or hand/body cream, I invite you to order from our site directly, where you automatically earn $5 credit for every $50 you spend. Consider signing up for our subscribe & save program, where you get 15% off and free shipping on every order (no obligation, easily cancel at any time after first reorder). And if you're in the market for chic, clean luxury gifts (for yourself or others), check out our Gift Shop. Items are made by us and other independently-owned brands we love - and everything is under $100!
I hope you'll continue to follow along our journey as we continue to grow. I love getting your feedback. We're so grateful for your continued support. And for those of you that have been with us since the beginning, happy one year anniversary!
Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season,