By Sarah LaFleur, Guest Writer for Entrepreneur.com

I thought I had the perfect product — but no one was buying. 

In 2011, I left my private equity job to start my own company, with the goal of making it easier for professional women to shop and dress for work. I knew that getting the business off the ground would require hard work, but I (naively) assumed it would be straightforward. Having seen the success of other hot direct-to-consumer startups, I thought that if I followed their formula of making beautiful products, pricing them reasonably and selling them through an ecommerce site, we would see instant success. I was wrong.

When we launched our website in 2013, we excitedly waited for the orders to roll in. Instead — crickets. We didn’t see any traction: No one was visiting our site, and we didn’t have a marketing budget, so acquiring customers was difficult. I realized then that other ecommerce models weren’t particularly relevant for us. We needed to go back to the drawing board when it came to how we were selling our product.

About a year after launching our site, our sales were still lagging. One day, I walked into our inventory room, and saw that it was packed with product we were struggling to sell. I thought, We are going to die under a mountain of dresses.

In an act of desperation, my six-person team and I decided to be more proactive about getting women to give us a try. We emailed our customer list, saying, “Can we send you a box of styles, and you can keep the ones you like and return the ones you don’t? You don’t have to pay anything up front.” A surprising percentage of customers responded “yes” to that email, and we made more money in that one week than we ever had in one month.

Read the full article at Entrepreneur.com

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