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Alee Pingol

In 2015, Allen Brouwer and Cathryn Lavery launched their e-commerce site BestSelf Co. But like many entrepreneurs, the duo didn’t just expect to go viral overnight; they had a plan.

BestSelf Co. specializes in selling journals, planners, and similar products that help boost people’s productivity while teaching people how to use these tools to become their “best selves.”

With BestSelf Co., Brouwer and Lavery sought to break down the fundamentals of complex learning and turn it into more simple, digestible concepts. They didn’t want to focus on solely selling the product — he wanted to offer an unforgettable customer experience that goes beyond the idea of just a journal.

So, together with co-founder and designer Lavery, Brouwer launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising over $300,000 in just 24 days. After 12 months, BestSelf Co. reached $2.4 million in sales.

Since then, the company has used social media advertising, subscription models, and engaging web content to transform into an eight-figure e-commerce success — all in under two years.

How BestSelf Co. Began

Brouwer and Lavery met after joining The Foundation, an education and business-oriented group for up-and-coming entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own online business.

At that time, the two were operating their own separate business — Brouwer was a digital marketing consultant and Lavery was selling graphic prints. That’s when they began collaborating on ideas to start a business together.

The duo noticed the amount of planning and scheduling that went into starting a business. After many tiresome man-hours and scraps of paper, Brouwer and Lavery decided they need a planner. That way, they both could keep track of their responsibilities throughout the day. But after designing planners for their own use, they realized that it should be something other people can use, as well.

People could not only keep track of their daily work schedules, but also make note of experiences, challenges, and inspirations along the way. Brouwer and Lavery got to work; they launched a Kickstarter campaign, raised more than enough funds, and the rest is history.

Launching a Kickstarter Campaign

Launching a Kickstarter campaign isn’t a walk in the park. It times a lot of time, hard work, and effort to promote your products. But the one thing Brouwer was sure of was to start promoting products before launching the campaign.

You’ll often hear from entrepreneurs to start promoting your products and services after you launch your campaign. But for Brouwer, doing the opposite worked in his favor.

Initially, Brouwer didn’t have much to work with. He only had 3,700 subscribers at the time, but 800 of those supported his campaign. Instead of worrying about numbers, Brouwer focused strictly on the individuals who were interested in his product.

At the time, Brouwer didn’t use Facebook ads or LinkedIn posts to help promote his campaign. He simply focused on creating quality content, growing gradually and organically. Soon after, Brouwer and Lavery’s journals became a hit. More and more people were requesting their own “Self-journals,” as BestSelf Co. labels them.

The idea of having a physical guide to write down ideas and how to execute them appealed to people all over the world. But this sudden growth wasn’t stopping, and Brouwer knew he needed to take his business a step further.

Using a Subscription Model and Social Media

Many businesses use subscription models and email lists, but each does it differently, depending on the products they sell. Brouwer knew that a subscription model could be a huge tool in the growth of his business, so he set one up and offered customers discounts by using the subscription.

While this certainly helped motivate customers, there still seemed to be a missing element.

Brouwer and Lavery were writing content using blog posts when Brouwer was introduced to Facebook Groups and Ads. Technically, Lavery was the designer, which left Brouwer with the responsibility of distributing content to their target audience.

Instead of writing every business’s go-to, generic message, Brouwer started developing unique marketing strategies on Reddit and Facebook Groups. With each post, he worked to cater to each group.

This helped establish a sense of individuality for the company. People saw a business that was writing personalized messages for a specific audience, and that helped consumers create a better sense of trust with the brand.

Brouwer was able to stay in touch with customers to better understand their wants and needs, which in turn, helped Lavery create and design products that took these expressions into account.

Brouwer also mentions the importance of user-generated content, and how it helped BestSelf Co.

According to Tint, a 2020 study found that over half of consumers wished brands would create more user-generated content. Compared to regular ads, social media ads based on user-generated content experience four times higher click rates.

Still, very few brands are doing just that …

Less than 16 percent of brands have created user-generated marketing strategies. Brouwer comments in an interview with 2X eCommerce, “What really drives the value and highest conversions are user-generated content because it looks natural in the feed.” Whether it’s through Facebook Groups, user-generated ads, or subscription models, Brouwer and Lavery work to elevate the customer experience.

Helping People Find Their Best Self

Since their founding, BestSelf Co. has reached an estimated annual revenue of $5.8 million. The company has expanded to 13 products, ranging from Self-Journals, BestSelf Co. Planners, 30-Day Gratitude Journals, and even a BestSelf Co. Planner app.

It also now features three online stores — U.S., UK, and Australia — and has received Shopify’s “Build A BIGGER Business” award two years in a row. Additionally, various other new outlets have recognized BestSelf Co.’s success, such as Fox Business, New York Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Business Insider, among others.

In just over three years, BestSelf Co. has gone from launching a single product to growing into an eight-figure business. The company has since built a solid community that continues to support them throughout their journey.

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