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Shannon Fitzsimmons - The Curly Hair Niche and Western Influence in the UK Market

icon-calendar 2021-10-21 | icon-microphone 56m 48s Listening Time | icon-user Joseph Ianni
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We've had a lot of great guests on the program to talk about the origin story of their products, and what we've got today is a fine addition to that collection with Shannon Fitzsimmons and her innovative approach to haircare. Being a UK entrepreneur, we also get to focus a great deal on how the USA influences and informs her decisions.

Shannon is a natural hair blogger and the founder of hair tools and accessories business 'O So Curly'. The business was founded in 2015 out of frustration of having no access to the essential tools needed to maintain natural curly hair in the UK. She invented a unique product, the reversible satin pillowcase which is a best-seller, along with now expanding to a range of satin scrunchies, bonnets and hair tools. Shannon's goal is for 'O So Curly' to be the go-to accessories brand for all curlies around the world.

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Tags: #Debutify #osocurly #shannonfitzsimmons

[00:00:00] Shannon Fitzsimmons: I feel like what helps us in the beginning, I'll give a tip is we used to do something called Follower Friday where we would actually post some of our followers on our page. And it just used to really make them feel seen and excited. And I think that's what really helps us to build a community in a fast pace and yeah so I'd advice that for anyone who's just starting out.

[00:00:26] Joseph: You're listening to Ecomonics, a Debutify podcast. Your resource for one of the kind of insights into the world of e-commerce and business in the modern age. This is Joseph. I'll be presenting a wealth of industry knowledge from interviews with successful business people and our own state-of-the-art research.

Your time is valuable, so let's go.

We've had a lot of great guests on the program to talk about the origin story of their products, and what we've got today is a fine addition to that collection with Shannon Fitzsimmons and her innovative approach to haircare. Being a UK entrepreneur, we also get to focus a great deal on how the USA influences and informs her decisions.

Shannon Fitzsimmons. It's good to have you here in Ecomonics. How you doing today? How you feeling? 

[00:01:14] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Thank you for having me. Yes, I'm good. Thank you. 

[00:01:17] Joseph: Um, uh, happy to have you here and happy to be able to continue on with I'm learning more about, I mean, I get to learn from pretty much every niche on the planet. We've had to talk to people and candles and skincare have had a previous hair expert on which I made sure to link you to just so you can get a sense of like where my experience is at this point.

And we have another, uh, hair expert on today. The first clues that I wanted to give to her audience, but usually it is to my guests to answer the question. So here goes, tell us what you do and what your updates. 

[00:01:46] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. And so I am a curly hair blogger. I give advice on my curly hair page UK Curly Girl on YouTube channel, um, on Instagram, on how to transition from really damaged hair to get your natural curls.

And I'm also the owner of the brand, oh so curly, which is a hair tools and accessories brand. 

[00:02:08] Joseph: To my audience, just so that they know. I mean, I wouldn't say I, I totally obsessed over hair, but I definitely prioritize making sure that my hair is in decent shape. I, it is a value to me. And, and we've established in the past the importance of being able to convey, convey that image.

And you said, you know, transitioning from, from damaged hair to, you know, something that. Uh, less damaged and repaired and, and luxurious, but I don't actually know how does one identify that their hair is damaged? I mean, there's obvious, like if somebody was a little too close to a candle, but, uh, how would, how does somebody actually know if their hair is damaged?

[00:02:48] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. Um, so a lot of people with curly hair and they tend to straighten it just because they feel like they don't know how to deal with their natural curls and that results in a lot of dryness in the hair. A lot of the times the ends of the. Just straight because of the straight, the heat damage. Um, so I have a lot of people come to me that don't know how to merge the two textures, the damaged, and then the new growth coming in.

And then also they have problems with dryness, which is normal for people who have curly had. But if your hair is damaged, it's even more harder for it to get moisture back into it. So that's usually how you can tell. 

[00:03:27] Joseph: I was obsessed with that in high school. Cause I had a much longer hair. And uh, I, I think, I think for me, some of it has to do with, um, you know, what, what we're influenced by like, um, for me, reservoir dogs was a big influence and that's, and they're all like professional criminals that far didn't influence me.

Uh, at least not too much, but for the most part, you know, they're, they slick their hair back and it's all, uh, quaffed and. And there's probably a lot of gel involved. And if you want to emulate that, uh, you know, other people want to emulate something more expressive and I'm like, no, I love this businessman kind of cut that's, that's my kind of style and I couldn't do it.

And so I was trying to, I would, I would run to the washroom and I would like drench my hair and I would try to comb it. And then I would have this freaky part in the middle. I'm like men. No wonder I I'm not getting dates. Like it was just really, really difficult. So to make peace with my hair. And I feel like if I couldn't figure this out, I'm not, I can't figure the rest of it up.

I mean, I finally worked out a system and I'm actually going to throw it into the crucible because I'm curious to know if I'm actually doing like a lot of harm with this. So, uh, here. So I like, I like some curl if I don't do anything that it just, it goes into, uh, Einstein mode. Um, so usually what I do is I warned my audience about this then, and I, so, so after, after the shower towel, dry, uh, leave in conditioner, and then I just use some gel on the sides only a little bit just to keep the size from going haywire.

And then I put a hat on. Uh, and what I do is I try to warm my hair almost like I'm baking it. If I do it in the, in the night, it's a bad idea because of a rollover, my sleep had falls off or, you know, I get heat stroke, but if I do it during the day, you know, six to seven hours later, I take my hat off and my hair is it's not only is it dry, but it's set.

And, and, and I actually get really close to the, to the look that I have wanted to achieve. And then the curls kind of come in little by little, they start to overtake the work done. And so it doesn't get too out of hand. So I've always felt like, okay, this is, this has taken a lot of work, but I'm just wondering if any of what you said is raising a red flag.

[00:05:28] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Um, it's actually not, but I feel like you could probably make it easier just by using a diffuser. I dunno if you've heard of that before, it's basically like a round head that you attached to your hairdryer and then you just dry your pills upwards. It's going to do exactly what you were saying, the handoffs, cause it's just going to dry it and bring some more fun and it should set the cows.

So I would probably just save some time and do that. 

[00:05:55] Joseph: W where the shot, I I'm, I I'm just relieved that. I wasn't like, no. Oh my God. You're, you're, you're, you're increasing your chances of, uh, of liver failure or something like that. Like I was actually genuinely worried about that, so. All right. Uh, so let's, I just wanted to get that out of my system, so I appreciate your.

You have a core product. It's the, uh, it's, it's a satin pillowcase and a lot of the products that we talk about on the program. And again, I'm, I mentioned our candle maker, our skincare maker. Um, they always start with an issue that the seller, in this case, you is fine. Is not going solved. So let's, let's go back to that point.

What problem were you having and what was it about a satin pillowcase that managed to resolve this? 

[00:06:38] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Definitely. Um, I think I always struggled to not especially, um, be in mixed race and have been mainly family of like you're from Europe, Scotland, so straight hair, and I would go and stay at family houses or friend's houses.

I would just wake up with my head just phrase because they didn't know how to look up to my head. I can, in those days in the UK, there were hardly any products for like my head time. So it was always, always dry. And then when I managed to go to university and YouTube was just, just getting quite popular.

So I decided to research how to actually look after curly hair, it sounds so basic, but we just went there. And a lot of the girls from America was saying that a satin pillowcase just transformed their hair and made it so much easier to manage. So I decided to try it. I didn't have a satin pillowcase, but I had a satin scarf.

So I tied it around my pillow to try and keep it secure. And I woke up. I still remember that day. I woke up the next morning and my head was just so like tamed and still curly. And so moisturizing. Completely transformed my head's house. And at the time I was kind of looking for a business idea. I was already blogging about hair, but I really wanted to own something of my own.

So that automatically was, you know, the, the closest thing I could think of, but I also, I also want it to be different. So whatever I invent has to be something different than what's typically sold on the market. So I remembered when I tied that scoff around my pillow and how tied to ones and a lot of satin pillowcases, they just sit up at the side, but it slips and slides when you're like sleeping on it.

And there's a lot of room. So I thought how about if it was like a huge bonnet and fit around the pillow really tightly and had lock and elastic line in. And, um, yeah, but that's where the idea came from. 

[00:08:38] Joseph: So I wanted to continue on with this. So with the, uh, the development process and I wouldn't, when you said bonnet, I immediately imagined that it was a string based, so tie it in a, in a tight knot and then put that underneath and just hope it's not really warm because you know, it gets warm. You turn the pillowcase over the cold side. And so did you just come to that elastic idea or was there some troubleshooting that took place beforehand? 

[00:09:05] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, I think, especially because bonnets are good as well, and I do sell on it, but I find that sometimes they can fall off as well.

And then you're just left with the cotton pillowcase and you're Bonnie at the end of the bed, which isn't good at all. 

[00:09:19] Joseph: Right. Well, okay. And going into the, into the next step. Um, so, so one thing that I think is an important factor in this is that you have, uh, um, a blog as well, where you're, you're sharing information and receiving information too.

I, I believe that the, um, the, the, the latest from the UK or some novelty came from the US that informed you about this, they were connected to, by way of your blog, if I'm understanding it correctly. Yes. So we'll touch on that because I think that's another important through line too, is that what I've noticed is with a lot of the product manufacturers that we talk to, they tend to have a presence already, and that presence helps to inform them that, um, actually in your case, you said you were looking for business, but a lot of times what happens is it doesn't occur to them to even get into a business.

It's just, a lot of people are like, please give this to us. It will give you money. So, uh, so, so, so we'll factor that in, but the next part that I want to know about. Um, getting into the manufacturing process. So there's a level you're starting at when you started making this. And then I guess there's a level that you're at now.

So what are those two pillars look like when you had to start making it, um, where you, uh, importing the pro product, but in the final touches together, did you have a, you just get in touch with the supplier to, and you instructed them? So how does it work. 

[00:10:30] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. So, um, in the beginning, because obviously mine is unique.

There was nothing like that on the market. I couldn't even buy it from a supplier and chat on Alibaba. Couldn't find it there. So I actually had to contact a seamstress. A local seems stress in the area who made sat in wedding dresses, because I thought at least she's an expert in satin. I stapled sample that I, cause I can't sew so I stapled it together, cut it out. How I think it should be and met her in person and ask, can you do this? And it took her about five tries to get it right. And then when it had to with her and I'd buy like a few a week, if that at that time. And then I eventually now how I do it is I have the manufacturer just outside of London who makes them in bulks and the completely different. It started off very small, very humble beginning. 

[00:11:28] Joseph: Yeah. And, and it's always, um, encouraging to see if that, you know, that humility, uh, beginning at that beginning, because I think that as that expands, you know, the, the gratitude of what people share with you and they're so happy about. I would effect it's having on them.

There's another aspect of this too. I guess I'm wondering about this is getting very specific in regards to it, but, um, what's been the, the, the, the longevity on these, is this a, a buy for life product, or is this something that you have to cycle through every three, four years? I don't know what that is capable of.

[00:11:56] Shannon Fitzsimmons: A lot of customers has said that it has lasted in a few years and, but I find that I have a lot of repeat customers. So I'm not sure if they're buying for friends and family or because we also have quite a few different color options. I think there may be trying out the different colors or, you know, sometimes people have four pillows on their bed.

Maybe they just want one every single pillow. So, um, yeah, but they should last year. Definitely. I mean, I have mine, I've just got some of mine that I first ever made samples. I still use to this. 

[00:12:30] Joseph: Yeah, well, and I guess I can also say too, if somebody just wants to rotate between them, uh, rather than have to overuse one.

And so there's just, okay, well, you know, if I think if you, the more you have the longer all of them last, because each of them has more, has more downtime. Okay. I like I haven't met, like I mentioned, I got curly hair on myself. I generally don't know if I am going to go ahead and order a satin pillow. I'm not completely, but, so my, my overall question is, um, have you had much luck in, in marketing to men?

It seems like it's kind of difficult for, for guys to really want to commit to, uh, to this kind of product line, um, versus ladies. So I'm just curious about your experience in that role. 

[00:13:11] Shannon Fitzsimmons: I've had a few men and I feel like the men come from that, like wives or partners and they realize how it's up to them.

And then they test that to me, helps me, but I am thinking of that create in a men's line, just so it's more marketed to men, um, directly and maybe change the colors in Brandon, but, um, yeah, all my customers are mainly female, maybe like 10%. 

[00:13:36] Joseph: Yeah, well, it gets into, I think, a deeper psychological and cultural issue, which is, you know, just encouraging men to, uh, be, be open-minded about something like this.

I think for me, even one of the limiting factors is, is sat and I've always related, sat in as a, as a feminine product at even sound as feminine. And so I think it, part of it is, is, is the material. I, I don't know if, how is it possible that other, there might be another material that's more a male friend.

[00:14:05] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Um, no, I mean, you could have silk, but I stay away from silk because it's not vegan. And I got to stick with satin and silk is quite expensive as well. So I like to go with a more affordable option for the. 

[00:14:20] Joseph: Well, and, and again, speaking as a guy, I don't know if, um, if silk company would come across any more masculine anyways.

So it's, it's, it's a, it's a tricky, it's a tricky issue. And, um, before, before we go on to the next question, I'm just wondering if, uh, you know, if you, if you've had any other, um, insights, uh, on, on this issue, uh, and I don't just mean specifically on, um, uh, your particular product and your particular brand, but what you, what, we've, what you've observed more in aggregate in, you know, where, where is it.

Men not wanting to look like crap. I need to look, you know, a Bismal and being, and being open-minded about this me I've I don't know. I just, I kind of care, but not all that much. Like I said, I was using straighteners. I use conditioners I'll I'll I'll do what it takes. Uh, but I'm also like I'm, what's referred to as metro-sexual.

We were born and raised in the city very much more like the gentlemanly vibe rather than like the, the lock cutter vibe. So it was that's my take on it. So, yeah. So just to go back to the question, have you, have you observed anything more in like the broad sense? So again, not just specific to your product, but even in other products that other people are marketing to, just to, to, you know, to help convince men that these are the problems that they do need solving.

[00:15:35] Shannon Fitzsimmons: So for example, we sell a shampoo brush and I've had different uses. So, so I usually mark it from the Sargent oils into your scalp and for getting rid of dandruff and stuff. But men that have actually used it, I've found it really good for the beds. And they've also, I've had boards, partners of some of my customers that have just enjoyed having a massage to that, to their scout.

And then also, if you, I know a lot of men like waves. So it can be used to encourage that wave in the hand that cow. So, um, I, I personally haven't gone out with my way just yet to market directly to men, but I do know how I could do that. It would just mean getting some male models or male influences, and I can definitely tell them what to do more to them, to the men. And the market. 

[00:16:29] Joseph: Well, I mean, if, um, the door is always open by the way, so this is not like your, your one and only chance. So, you know, when, when you get to that point, you're always welcome to come back and let us know how things are going in that, um, th the other part, so one thing you touched on is, you know, people from the, uh, the US they were providing some insight into this, and that was a question that I had prepped.

So, um, Uh, I, I can kind of see where, uh, where the logic of that question was going. So the question was, you know, the USA, it does tend to have a great deal of influence on marketing and on branding. Um, and, and I don't talk to people from the UK as much as I talked to people from the west. So from the point of view of somebody in the UK, uh, how much, uh, residents does the, does the us have, uh, in influencing on a cultural level, on a marketing level, on a, on a business level?

Um, I want to know about your unique point of view being from the UK. 

[00:17:24] Shannon Fitzsimmons: It is huge, huge. Like I said, in the beginning, when I needed advice for hat, I typed it into YouTube. It was all Americans, um, which actually encouraged me to do my own channel because I thought there's a gap in the market here for people in London, for people in the UK, um, to get someone like me to speak for them because.

There are a lot of similarities that are a lot of things that are different. For example, a lot of the curly hair brands that you see now in the UK, when I started, they weren't available here and it wasn't until they saw the growth of the UK natural hair industry. They all decided to come into the UK and now they're in UK stores.

So, um, I like to think that I contributed to the UK and the US scene, but still to this day, I usually get a lot of my inspiration from the US brands. And, um, it's growing bigger here in the UK, but still weak in every single thing, music, fashion, we will look to the US.

[00:18:30] Joseph: So going back to your blog, I think this is an important element of your, your, your, your story. And I, myself, I tend to encourage the audience to, you know, consider a blogging and writing. Um, I think it's a great way to support a brand. Um, and then sometimes it also ends up being the leading factor, the determining factor in somebody's brand.

And I think that's true in your case. So, um, I I'd like to hear about your, your, your, your social presence on that blog and how you're able to leverage that and be able to take the product to the market and how it, I guess, uh, helped, uh, helped accelerate your growth. 

[00:19:17] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, definitely. So, um, I started off with blogging.

I had to like an actual website that I was writing blogs and posting my pictures and before and afters, along with my Instagram page. Um, but for a long time, I actually did not connect the Oh So curly and the UK Curly Girl pages, just because I, I dunno why I just felt like people would maybe not like me advertise in my own brand or be put off because of it.

So for years I didn't actually show that I was the person behind it. Um, but it wasn't until I actually did post it and put it out there that I saw a huge increase in sales and following. Um, just because I think customers like to see the person behind the brand and they trust my advice over the years, they've seen my hair be really, really damaged and get to the length and the health that is now.

So personally, I feel like having a, a blog or just a presence as a founder on social media is, is going to really benefit you when it comes to launching. I always, when I give advice to other business owners, I always tell them to show their face. And so behind the scenes, because it's really going to help, um, gain trust with the customer.

[00:20:35] Joseph: Right. And I think it also, it makes a big difference, um, especially because of the, uh, of the personal and an intimate nature of the product. Um, I mean, hair is something very, very close to us and it's because it's physically on us. And, and I think the difference between having, you know, somebody who is, and also you're technically modeling the product too, because you're, you're showing the results of it and you're showing the work done.

So seeing, seeing that, I think, um, really elevates the trust level and also the results of their product. So reverses seeing just the product itself and not really being able to draw a connection between the product and the results of the product a hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, you can get them, you can get models to do it, but again, being, being the founder and, you know, having that personal connection to the product that elevates the story as well.

[00:21:24] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. A hundred percent. I feel like sometimes when it's just influences on the page of the time. Um, it can kind of feel not as genuine my friends, if they say like the founder and you seen her before and after how of it's, how it's improved their life and definitely works. 

[00:21:42] Joseph: Um, and when you were looking at other, sorry, if I'm trying to figure out exactly how to us, the hair, hair brands, um, uh, I guess in the USA, uh, did you notice one trend more than another where a lot of these smaller brands or up and coming brands were, um, were based on a, on a person or did you notice, did you observe brands that were actually didn't do that, but we're still doing all right.

And maybe what w what it was they were doing well, that I love them to continue to succeed anyways. 

[00:22:08] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yes. So I noticed that mainly they all had a female founder who was the face of that brand and we knew their story and they came from very humble beginnings, which I always loved and bought into. And then there were a few, didn't shine, but they had a huge presence on social media and they had every single curly hair influencer that you can think of using the products. So their page was just full of every single blogger that you can think of using the products. So it was one of the two really, but I felt like where I already have a following as a founder or the best for me to kind ofshare my story to. 

[00:22:50] Joseph: Just so I know, when did you start the blog?

Like what, uh, what year did it start?

Okay, so it's been about seven years, which in, you know, uh, online content time is an eternity. So that's, that's what I'm wondering next is. Um, what would you what have you noticed to be the major changes in blogging compared to now, compared to when you started or some of the major shifts in trends, or, um, just how people have, uh, have related to it or engaged with the blog over time?

[00:23:22] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, definitely. I feel like blog isn't as, um, as they were right in the beginning. Um, cause if you think about the customer journey, a lot of the people that are following me, they've already done their hair journeys. And now it's just like, how, how do I maintain this? How, um, they don't really need the full detail load on low down on what I actually did to get to that place.

And now I've realized that it's mainly just really short videos that people engage with the most now. Whereas before, it was a lot of YouTube videos that was me talking through what I was doing, but now it's just like, now I'm just going to say it really quickly. You've got the rails now you've got YouTube shorts and everything's video form, and people don't have as much patience as they used 

[00:24:08] Joseph: I mean, I'd like to, I'd like to think you can use a short videos to engage the audience. And then when you do have the ones that are looking for more information, they might be the ones to then come to the blog or come to watch a longer form content. So I, I mean, I don't know, I've always been a fan of longer form content.

Like if I'm scrolling through YouTube and I'm just looking for something to put on, I'm like that's six hours. I don't even know YouTube allows for six hour content and I throw that bad boy on and I just, you know, uh, I get to get to whatever. 

[00:24:38] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, that's cool. I feel like we've had tutorials as well.

Like, um, it's very. Well, everything's been done already. So it's like that this whole industry needs to find excited and new ways to engage people. So, um, yeah, we've all grown. 

[00:24:58] Joseph: Uh, I guess innovation is a, is a, is a tricky subject and you certainly innovated in your way and you've, and you've contributed to, to the bigger picture.

But I think for, just from what I've observed in the other, not, not just in the haircare, but also I guess in. And the whatever personal, um, body care. I, I think the biggest, um, place for innovation has been making it either more eco-friendly or more environmentally conscious. So it hasn't been, I mean, I think the tactical peak was reached.

The problem is it was all chemical based and it was a dangerous to the body harmful to the environment. So it's like, Let's try to now reach that same result, but in a way that's more equitable to all involved. I'm just wondering if you've kept your eye on it. And have you seen other, uh, major innovations that, um, have even surprised and delighted?

[00:25:49] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah definitely there's a lot of brands that aren't using packaging though, as well for hair products, just to be more friendly to the environment and being made in the UK is quite an attractive thing for customers too, and obviously vegan. So I like to point. I love that. 

[00:26:10] Joseph: I want to get into, um, some of your, some of your strategies, uh, in involved thing, you're involving a brand and how you convey things online.

Um, so, so one thing that stuck out to me is that, you know, you have your two Instagram. Uh, typically what I'm looking up on, uh, on my guests, I usually only find one either. I find the company that they represent, if they're, you know, an ambassador on behalf of a company. And I don't know, I can't find their personal Instagrams or I'll find, or we went to speak to, you know, dropped shippers and or a brand owners is usually I go onto their Instagram and you know, there, there were sunglasses and they're just showing their, the results for the day. That's all well and good, but I don't usually see too, you know, your person went in your company. One, there was the positives that I see is, you know, there's cross-pollination and the.

I guess it was the ability, you know, you can use your personal one more casually and more, even more for fun, even as a hobby at times. And then, you know, focus on what's what's important for building the brand on the other. Uh, cause I said, I think what happens is a lot of people get into this position.

They have their personal Instagram and it's all they've got and they feel pressure from having to convey the, their brand or something like that. Like my personal Instagram does not have anything to do with Debutify whatsoever. I have pictures of Fortnite. So it's just, it's just, it's a different thing. So, in your view, I'm wondering about the positives, what you've noticed about having the two Instagrams.

And I guess I'm also wondering if there's any, if there's been any drawbacks as well. Like if it's, if there's any like spreading yourself thin or if the saturating content or anything along those. 

[00:27:40] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, definitely spreading myself in. I always find that I take breaks from my personal one, just because having to create content for the both can be a bit much sometimes, but at the same time, it's really helped.

So I do try and keep up with it. Um, and I often find, because I did, I started off doing a lot of curly hair tutorials and content, um, that people are missing that a little bit. So I tried to incorporate it with the Oh So Curly products, just so I feel more, okay. I am doing that content to please them, but I am still promoting my brand.

So it's just trying to incorporate them both. But, um, to be honest with you, it's still something I'm trying to figure out. 

[00:28:24] Joseph: Yeah, well, I, and like I said, I didn't want it to be. Um, all glowing either, because I think it's important if you ever going to do this and it does take additional energy, there's additional resources involved.

So it's a, it's a balancing act between the two. Uh, so, and then the other thing that stuck out to me too, I mean, I use Instagram a decent amount, and I know that there's, you know, those reels, it was just for photo. Uh, but I've never seen a guide. Uh, I I'd looked at your Instagram. That was actually the first time that I saw a guide.

Um, and so I looked it up and, you know, sequence of photos and my memory is kind of blanking on me. I think there was texts in between the two and it was a pretty digestible way to. Maybe not have all the answers, but at least know, like, okay, well here's the, here's the basics of it. Here's how I can, how I can get started.

And so I, I I'd like to know what kind of traction you you got from that. If you can tell it from the backend, but, um, what were the results of it. 

[00:29:19] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. I feel like with the guidance thing, it's like Instagram kind of made that feature, but it's not useful at all. I don't think people go out of their way to read guides on Instagram.

I've had a few notifications on it, but I don't, I don't really know how it's doing. Is that clear? I think people are featured and focus more on reels now in IGTV. But I thought when it came, I might as well try it and test it out. But to be honest with you, I haven't seen any benefits from it, but it's nice to hear that.

[00:29:52] Joseph: I mean, yeah. Uh, luckily it's, it's part of my, my, my role here, you know, I got the time to do my research and just see. And, and I, and I see that's the thing I have about Instagram. And this is an issue that I have with platforms in general is the more that they, that they add different forms of content. Um, the more addicted I am, but also the less, I, I don't know.

I appreciate it. It's like, if you look at Twitter, the character limit increased. And then now I think Twitter is doing stories as well. Facebook is just a buffet. It's like, it's got everything and, and I, and I, and I feel like changes the relationship of the person to the, to the, to the platform. Instagram, I knew Instagram as a photo sharing app.

I mean, if I'm, if I'm on it, I'm almost exclusively looking at reels and stories. And I, and I barely as scan three images. So I, I, I mean, at this point, I'm just, uh, I'm just ranting. And I guess the issue with guides in particular is the mindset that people are when they're on Instagram. I think for the most part, Instagram is really a, you know, you can, you can disagree if, uh, if you feel.

Uh, I'm wrong about this, but it's, to me it's really a, a luxury app, a platform it's really just about, you know, seeing beautiful places, beautiful people, uh, cars, um, uh, updates from, you know, Fortnite. And, and I think it's very difficult to turn it into a. Um, an educational platform, even in, in a small, a format, incidentally TikTok which is half the length, um, has actually managed to become somewhat of an educational platform because people just do these bite-size videos where they're pointing to like a bunch of steps.

Like here's the things you eat in the morning, this, this, this, this, and this, and like, oh wow. That's actually a lot of information in a very short amount of time. 

[00:31:38] Shannon Fitzsimmons: It depends on the niche that you're in as well. Kind of gone more into teaching other people how to start businesses and stuff. I do find that Instagram does have that same theme as TikTok within reels and IGTVs. And I see the people that I follow do a lot of lives daily, just given our advice. And you know, now we've got that the badges and. So I, lot of people are taken advantage of going online. So I think it just depends on what you're interested in and what your need is, but there's definitely space for a lot of education on, on Instagram.

[00:32:12] Joseph: Yeah. Have you, have you used a IGTV? I don't even know. I don't even know how that, what, what's the difference between? 

[00:32:19] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, soIGTV is like, um, Instagram's try to compete with YouTube a few years ago, so it's just simply a video that's longer than one minute. And you even get ads in IGTVs, but I, I find that rails are more effective than IGTV started trying to stick to rooms. Of course. 

[00:32:40] Joseph: Okay. Um, and you mentioned, um, you know, you're, you're, you're doing your course and, uh, that's been a much more in involved method to, to, to, to teach people. So, uh, I believe that it's a, it's a business course, right. To, to help people start up their own brands as well. So, I mean, you can't divulge the whole thing because, you know, to your benefit, not to do that, but we do want to know what it is, what is about what it runs through.

And if any case studies, if anything sticks out to of, uh, what people have of a results, people have experienced coming out the other side. 

[00:33:11] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Um, I launched just two months ago, the course is called how to start a product business from scratch. So it's basically going to teach you how to in steps that I went for you.

Um, I made a lot of mistakes along the way, so I'm just trying to help people to avoid those costly mistakes. And it comes to, um, trying out samples and getting product from China and all the fees that come with it, um, which I was burned with a lot to remind journey. Um, when we talk through how to actually operate your business posters and posters and packaging, marketing your business on social media, um, Your website, pretty much everything.

And so if you are someone that is thinking about starting a business, or you've tried to start, but you just, you're not sure where to even begin. That's what this course is for. And, um, I've actually had a testimonial come in from a lady who is starting a fitness brand. So she has, um, the bands that you use to exercise out with the glutes.

And she found that it really helped a lot, especially with the manufacturing side of things, because you had no idea where to get the product or how to even start with that. So, um, that's really helped her. And I've also got now a coaching group called boss up mentoring, and I have like a selection of entrepreneurs and a private group, and we have monthly calls and access to a group of WhatsApp where I just give out advice here and there.

So that's been going really well. 

[00:34:44] Joseph: And I would ask, cause you mentioned on AliExpress it or so I think you said Alibaba and you said you were burned on some of the products and I may have taken that literally to the point where actually. 

[00:34:56] Shannon Fitzsimmons: No, I'm just the, the costs that come with it. Like you'll buy stock. And then a month later you get burned with customs charge. If you don't know about that in the beginning, you can be quite shocked and not even know how to pay for it. 

[00:35:12] Joseph: So this is just one small part of the, of the chorus that I guess I would like to, uh, uh, divulge. But it's the only way other than when I'll ask, um, which is when it comes to.

Um, uh, you know, looking for products in the, in the instance of, um, looking for the exercise, what product sources are you, or what suppliers or websites are you looking into these days that you find a reliable? 

[00:35:32] Shannon Fitzsimmons: I still use Alibaba? Um, I, I expressed, but I find that for my type of business, because I'm very like branded and need a lot of stock.

I usually sit to Alibaba, but I try to also research manufacturers here in the. But I do find that the price is way higher than buying from outside. 

[00:35:53] Joseph: It's a, the prices is higher in the UK than to purchase from that side. Yeah. Sorry to hear that. You would always think that because it's closer proximity that it would offset in some way, either shipping times or, or something along those lines.

Uh, a better quality product, but it's, that's, that's the thing is that, uh, China's just leading the way they, they, they got the infrastructure for it in there and they can self-fund so they just, yeah, it's just, they're just really hard to beat. 

[00:36:21] Shannon Fitzsimmons: I like to say with the UK, for our sat in accessories, because I'm very high on the quality.

But for tools and stuff like that. I definitely stick with time because it's just.

[00:36:36] Joseph: Now that Shopify has upgraded to version 2.0, we needed to make sure we were up to speed. So we've released version 4.0 to ensure that we're 100% equipped to take advantage of the 2.0 revolution. If you haven't upgraded your store, head on over, and if you haven't gotten started, now is good time as any.

So my next question is about, uh, advertising. I mean, we've, we've talked somewhat about your promotional, um, uh, strategies so far, you know, you have, you have a block you're on Instagram, you're on Instagram twice. Um, but I guess the other thing is also, I was just curious about like, if you're running ads, say like, are you running ads on Facebook or Google, or if different, what platforms have been receptive to the kind of ads you want to run?

Um, I don't know if you're running them or not. 

[00:37:24] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. I just dabbled into Facebook ads last month. So I'm on, I say I've been running a few ads and just trying to test the right audiences. I've been getting some cells in, so I'm just still in that testing stage, which is difficult. It's very difficult. And that we'll see.

I've spent most of my marketing budget on influencer market. 

[00:37:49] Joseph: Yeah. I wanted to ask you that as well about negotiating and working with influencers, how do you, uh, how do you seek them out? So, and that's the thing that I was wondering about too, with the influencers, because influencers have got to be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal and along the same lines as to if like user generated content and affiliate marketing, which you also want to know about.

So I want to know how you. Uh, I mean, where are you looking for influencers, how you're vetting them. And I also, th this is a very specific curiosity in regards to, um, the hair niche, which is. If say they've already used other hair products, if that is an advantage or a disadvantage, just because if they're already, you know, maybe promoting another brand, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, I guess in like in the clothing, for instance, no brand is expecting somebody to wear the same clothing all the time.

So it might be different in that niche, but I guess I'm just wondering more about. Um, what kind of issues you've run into as well? 

[00:38:44] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, definitely. So, um, I think I kind of had an advantage in the beginning because I was an influencer and I knew I've even met influences in New York. Um, and obviously within London and the UK, so I already had a connection with some of them.

So in the beginning I managed to get a lot of the influencer contents or for age. As favors. Um, and now we've evolved into paid marketing. So we usually that most of them influences via Instagram. Just seeing what influences are getting the most engagement at that time. Um, once I've actually interacted with us as well, because I, I tend to like to go to influencers that genuinely like our products before we even offered to, you know, work with them. What was the second question? 

[00:39:31] Joseph: But yeah, affiliate and user generated content is the, as the other component of this too, is, you know, the, the, the customers, how you're turning them into ambassadors. And, uh, and now you're using, I, I I'm, I think, cause I was looking at your Instagram and I'm pretty sure. I was seeing, um, some of your customers were images posted on there.

So, and, and this is, I think is one of the strengths and advantages of, um, uh, of self care products is, you know, you, you can see the results. People were happy to share it and they can, and they can show the results for themselves. So I just want to know more about, you know, your UTC programs, affiliate, marketing, anything along those.

[00:40:09] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, definitely. So I started off with a brand ambassador program, which was just managed by me. I just put it out there and asked if anyone would be interested in being a brand ambassador and they would just post, um, I'd send them products for free and then they just post on their page for free. And now we have more of an affiliate program.

So. Um, beloved we'll get paid or even customers. If I feel like they are actually going to create content with the products, they'll get paid from every sale that they make, which has been going quite well, especially for the larger influencers that we work with. I find that you're paying them to do content, but because they've got that affiliate link, they end up doing a lot more content on their own, off their own back, which is really good for us.

Um, and then I feel like what helped us in the beginning, I'll give a tip is we used to do something called Follower Friday, where we would actually post some of our followers on our page. And it just used to really make them feel seen and excited. And I think that's what really helps us to build a community in the first place.

Yeah. So I advise that for anyone who's just starting out. 

[00:41:19] Joseph: Yeah. Okay. I can see the value in that because it gives people something to anticipate. Um, so that the Noah's Friday, the community comes together and are, and are you seeing a community is forming and bonds are forming amongst your customers.

[00:41:32] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, so we just thought it's something else called, um, it's our secret close friends story. So our like top, um, engaging followers and customers, we'll add them to our close friends story. And then on our close friends story, we'll post any updates or exclusive sells. So it's just, again, something to make them feel more special than everyone.

[00:41:55] Joseph: So something that I, that I look into in regards to affiliate marketing is the, the, the pricing structure. Well, I guess for me, one of the things that I always found, I guess, difficult to reconcile about affiliate links is so say I do a blog or I'm doing it or doing an images video, um, whatever it is. And I have the affiliate link and they click it and they go and they purchase a product and then I'm getting the commission for, and it seems like the customer in order to really incentivize them to click the link from the affiliate, rather than from.

Then going to the store themselves and it gets bypassing. The affiliate link is for the link to have some form of, uh, even a discount or a coupon, even if it's like 5%. Do you offer links? Do you provide like coupons or discounts for the, uh, for those promotions? 

[00:42:41] Shannon Fitzsimmons: So that customer gets 10%.

[00:42:47] Joseph: Okay. Yes. Yeah. I'll I'll, I'm, I'm, uh, I'm always wondering about that just to, just because it's, it's just a different means and it's an investment on your part, but you're getting a lot of, uh, extra customers, a lot of extra activity for that. And so once I, and I would imagine that once the. Repeat purchases are now all on all on your business.

[00:43:05] Shannon Fitzsimmons: And it's also good research for us as well, just to see what influences have the most influence. And so it's always called to see who's using the most codes influence. 

[00:43:15] Joseph: Yeah, well that was a, that was all the questions that I had in regards to, um, into your business operation, a lot of good insights. So for our audience, always important to think about these different strategies.

And so one of the terms that you used, um, earlier on was a hair journey. And I guess I, without realizing it, that I had told you my hair journey at the beginning and end, you know, it's still a little ongoing, um, um, you know, I'm going to the mall later today for the, for a dental appointment. So, uh, we'll see how the, how much the diffusers are.

Uh, um, and I guess I'm, I'm wondering about the overall philosophy of a hair journey, because I don't know, journey's usually. Uh, can they infer that there a destination where people, they really find like a hairstyle that they really like, and they want to stick to, um, w with me I'm, I, I just kinda like best case scenario.

I'm just, I was just trying to get it to, to look good. It w it wasn't like I was inspired by anime characters or final fantasy or anything like that. And that was just. Comb their hair back. And you, you, you know, you've talked about your hair journey as well. Do you feel like hair journeys is about finding a destination or is it more of like an ongoing exploration or on a continued reflection of, of who you are?

[00:44:29] Shannon Fitzsimmons: I think, um, the, the whole natural hair journey is definitely getting into and destination. And that's one of just understanding how to look off to your hair. What products are going to benefit your hand and, um, just grow in your natural hair back. Because a lot of us relaxed our hair, which is putting the chemicals on it to just straighten it, just because growing up, I find that a lot of the princesses and Disney have long straight hair.

And if you're someone with I didn't really have anyone to look to that looks like you. Um, which I'm so happy that that's changed. Now. We have a lot more princesses with kindly home and a little bit more influences and celebrities wear their natural hair now. Um, but I feel like for our generation, we needed that transformation.

We needed the roadmap on how to go from that damage and just get back to natural and learn to love your natural hair. So for me, the journey. Loving my natural hair, but also loving myself as well, because when you're in the processes, having to remove those negative thoughts about, I hate my hair, it's frenzy, it's always dry.

And then just learn how to maintain your natural hair and learn to love it, how it is not. 

[00:45:42] Joseph: Yeah. Cause I guess I didn't think about that. Cause you know, I don't spend too much time being influenced by Disney princesses. They put videos on in elementary school. Okay. Well, we'll watch it. But uh, when, when very proud moment was when the entire class just refuse to watch all of snow white.

Like we kind of like after the first 30 minutes. Um, so, so that was a proud day and, but I, yeah, you're right there hasn't been that many, um, I guess cultural influences, uh, you either had like, you know, the, the, the straight or, uh, you know, tied up hair, I look there's is they're going to a ball or you had like, you know, princess Leia and, or, you know, I don't think anybody would go to school with that look.

At least intentionally the only character that I can think of off the top of my head was, um, Marla from brave the movies. She's a redhead big curly hair. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:46:31] Shannon Fitzsimmons: And then there's another princess. I think it was like a princess. I forgot her name, but that was a new one. 

[00:46:38] Joseph: I think it's the, the frog princess.

Cause it's like, um, yeah, there's like a Louisiana, um, the Bayou of vibe. Yeah. So usually what I try to do, depending on, um, the, the, the content, uh, or the context of, of the conversation, uh, try saying that five times, uh, I. I'm always, I try to avoid like going too far into backstory at the beginning. Um, so obviously we did the, we did the product backstory, um, but your personal backstory too is, is interesting.

And my producer, Micah, uh, this is my, one of my favorite things that she does as a favor is, uh, she goes onto the LinkedIn. I'm paranoid. I can't go on LinkedIn. I can't, because I just, I don't like the fact that LinkedIn is so yo, this purse so-and-so village profile. Yeah, I just, I can't, I can't stand it.

Um, social, she does it because she has more of a spine than I do. What I, what I saw was, you know, you have a vast array of positions and a lot of experiences. And, um, and a lot of it is like television and film and film and media adjacent. Um, I, not to my recollection, I don't know if you had actually been on camera or anything like that, but what I, what I'd like to know.

There's two things I'd like to know about your, your, your work background. Um, one of them was whether it was iterative or if there, if it was lateral. And what I mean by that is if you were able to build off of each experience, you know it, and it would come with you in a, not dissimilar to, you know, a house being built one brick at a time.

Um, or if you were it was more of different pillars, like one pillar. Uh, boosted your experience in one area. And then you had to kind of start from scratch at a different area. So myself, like I've had a lot of different work experiences, but some of it is like a grocery store and there was not a lot of experience from the grocery store or the carers over into what I'm doing now much to my dismay.

So I'd love to hear about that. And I'd love to hear about some of the major milestones or what, from your experience really sticks out in your mind, even to this day. 

[00:48:35] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, definitely. So I, um, I started off wanting to be a media so bad. Like I auditioned for there's a place called the British school here in the UK.

Amy Winehouse went there, a Dow and that, um, it was mainly like singing, dancing, but there was a sector for media and they had like a radio station that you could work in a TV studio. And I managed to get in. After there I went to university to study from and TV. Um, went into it as an intern. I interned at MTV and a lot of other production companies, but I didn't enjoy it at all.

And that's when it was just like, oh my God, what am I going to do? So I ended up working because I needed money, um, at Tesco, which is kind of like a woman. 

[00:49:23] Joseph: Yeah, I it's it's come up in my research earlier on. I was looking at what are the major, um, outlets, not research for you, but like my research in general.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I remember seeing that. I don't know. At first I thought it was Tesco. I think that's butter. I confuse it with something else. 

[00:49:40] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Uh, it's pretty much one of the biggest ones here and they have a clothing department, so I used to work in the clothing department, but it was right next to the health and beating IO.

So naturally I did night shifts. So when it was quiet, I'd find myself in the health and beauty aisle looking at the hair products, but notice that there was never anything for my hair type. So I feel like my whole journey has led up to this moment because that's when I kind of realized, hold on, there's a gap in the market here.

Um, I didn't enjoy my job. So I was trying to look for something that I could. Why not fill the gap in the market. So I'm sure at the time, I didn't think it would work out this way, but I feel like everything that I have done, even the film and TV, I still am my YouTube videos now. So I know how to edit everything came from Matt naturally.

[00:50:27] Joseph: So I'm happy to hear that you're, um, experiencing new supermarket actually did have. I, I can't say that other than my backers, like that's a F from that that's, uh, that's pretty much everything that I've, that I've got. Um, I've prepared for you today before I do our wrap up question. Um, I'll leave the floor open to you.

If there's anything else that you'd like us to know about your business, maybe I missed a Mrs spot, or if there's a rock, I forgot to upturn something along those lines. I like to hear about, you know, what, in, in like, uh, in the grand perspective, you really like to see. Either change within the, you know, the, the self care products.

And by that I include here includes, can all of that stuff, uh, what you'd like to see in the e-commerce space, or what's kind of like either, like, what's exciting, you what's scaring you. I'd love to hear what your views are on that, in that, in that. 

[00:51:19] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah, I think I'm leading back to what we just talked about with Tesco.

So like for me, with my brand, my like full circle moment would be if we could be in Tesco actually on themselves. So ask them one of my main goals with the brand. But, um, at the moment, I'm just trying to figure out some new. Um, products that I can invent again, because we do sell a lot of products that are already available in the market, but I want to invent something new again.

So I'm working on that and then we'll be launching a kid's line as well. So I really want to get into kids kind of Karen agitates, educating the future generation natural hair. Um, but I would love to see hair accessories and tools for naturally. Available in your everyday store. So we we've got better with actual products, like shampoo, conditioner and stuff, but the accessories and tools still not available.

So I hope to fill that gap. Alright. 

[00:52:15] Joseph: Oh, I actually, I guess, uh, that was, uh, one thing I forgot. See, there was a stone I forgot to upturn, which is, um, cause I think some of your products are available in stores. 

[00:52:24] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. So we have some in the smaller, like. Stores that sound like natural hair products here in the UK and some online retailers as well, but they're very catered to curly hair.

[00:52:36] Joseph: Yeah. Yeah. Just wanted to make sure I check that one. Alright, well, um, w what Shannon, it's been, it's been great talking to you today, um, as always any chance I get to, uh, learn a little bit more about my hair. I take it. And so that was a, that's definitely my, uh, one thing that's helped me out today and to our audience as always.

Um, even if you're yourself, you might not be interested in one niche or than other, um, you should still be paying very careful attention to a lot of the key strategies and a lot of the elements that go into making a business work. So with that, Shannon, um, the final wrap up question is if you have say words of wisdom or if there is like a quote or a proverb that you really like, you're welcome to share it and then let the audience know how they can, um, find you either.

Maybe they need to go get something for their hair or they want to learn more about you on the, on the business. Yeah, definitely. 

[00:53:27] Shannon Fitzsimmons: So I wanted to share something that I actually shared on my pain. Um, it was a quote that I thought was really good because I know for me, it's taken me quite a long, a long time to get to where I am now.

Whereas I think some people were, can be quicker, but a lot of people, it puts them off. So, um, my quiet was, um, Just to keep go in. Um, it may take you four or five, seven years, but you never know that one year later it could be the year that you blow up and one of the biggest firms in the world. So just to keep going and keep that face.

[00:54:01] Joseph: Yeah. When I think I've heard that quote in the past and when I do it reminds me of this image where you have two people who are digging into. And one person is just about to hit and there's a bunch of diamonds on the other side, then the other person walks away dejected. So yeah. As long as you can dig to keep on digging.

[00:54:22] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Yeah. I love that. I love that image as well. Yeah. Let's see. You can find me on Instagram at UK curly girl. And then the business is at Oh So Curly. Oh, so currently. And, um, the website for the business is also currently.com and then you can also find my course details and any details on coach and bio, the UK Coney gal page. Oh, and YouTube. Do you take her to go. 

[00:54:48] Joseph: Excellent. And so, and so with that, um, once more, I thank you graciously for your time and your expertise today. 

[00:54:55] Shannon Fitzsimmons: Lovely. To have this talk with you, and I hope that you get a diffuser I'd love to. 

[00:55:01] Joseph: I'm not ruling it out, but I also don't want to make any promises to. As always it is an honor and a privilege to be able to collect this information and share it with all of you.

So thank you for all of you for your participation. And we look at the stats, you'll listen to the episodes, start to finish. I just want you to know that that means a lot. Cause a lot of people are struggling to keep people after the 20 minute mark. So I thank you all for being engaged and. Please, please, please.

I want to know who you are and what you're up to as well. So email podcast at dot com and get in touch and more than happy to share my expertise with you guys. So with that to take care and we will check in soon.

Thanks for listening. You might've found this show on many number of platforms, apple podcasts, Spotify, Google play, Stitcher, or right here on TV. Whatever the case, if you enjoy this content and want to help us thrive, please take a few moments to leave a review on apple podcasts or wherever you think is best.

We also want to hear from you. So whether you think you'd be a good guest or want to weigh in on anything related to our show, you can email podcast@debutify.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Finally, this podcast is created by the passionate team at Debutify. If you're ready to take the plunge into e-commerce or are looking to up your game, head over to debutify.com and see how it can change your life and the lives of many through what you do next.

Written by

Joseph Ianni

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