Stefanie Parks is the founder of DermWarehouse, a leading e-commerce site offering dermatological and skincare products. Stefanie’s digital marketing background and extensive knowledge of skincare products drove her to launch DermWarehouse – a skincare and beauty website, serving customers from around the country. DermWarehouse offers high-quality, professional-strength skincare, makeup, and hair care products as well as expert advice, information, and tips.
MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Stefanie to discuss her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I studied marketing at the University of Maryland, and after a couple of years in market research, my brother and I decided to start a business together. The Media Captain is a digital marketing agency that has grown to be one of the largest shops in Columbus, Ohio, where we’re from. Our dad is a dermatologist who opened a practice in Columbus over 30 years ago. After working with many e-commerce clients for The Media Captain, we saw an opportunity to combine our dad’s background with ours and start our own e-commerce site selling skincare and beauty products. That’s how DermWarehouse was born. My brother, Jason, is now running The Media Captain, while my primary focus is on DermWarehouse.
Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?
We came up with the idea for DermWarehouse back in 2012. That’s when we purchased our domain name and started thinking about launching this new business. It wasn’t until 2016, however, that we started building our website. I was actually living in Thailand at the time, which allowed me the extra time that I needed to dedicate to launching the business. When you visit any e-commerce site, you never think about the work that goes into getting it set up. It took us almost a year to reach out to brands and start forming relationships, add all of the products to the site, and get the website ready to launch. In November 2016, we launched DermWarehouse and have been growing ever since. In the year and a half since we launched, we’ve added over 1,000 products and 60 skincare brands to our website, shipped to every state in the U.S. and have become a top 10 dermatologist-backed e-commerce skincare site. I never could have imagined what running this business would be like and I can honestly say that I feel like I’ve found my calling. It’s a pretty great feeling!
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
We focus heavily on advertising to bring new traffic to the website. We spend a lot of time building our SEO so that our site will eventually rank well organically. We are also constantly adding new brands to expand our customer reach.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
I am very experienced with paid advertising. We primarily use Google shopping and PPC and this is currently our main source of traffic to our website. We have thousands of different ads running for all of the brands and products that we sell and are always working to optimize our ads and boost profitability. There is always work to be done in terms of optimizing the campaigns to make sure they’re profitable, but yes, the ads certainly do work.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
We are in a unique position because we sell brands that many people have heard of. So, even if someone doesn’t know about our company, they can easily find us by searching for the product or brand that they know and love. However, there are certainly other players in the market, so we definitely need to make ourselves stand out. First, our business is owned by a dermatologist. This is very important because anyone can ask a skincare question and get advice from someone who knows what they are talking about and has vast experience with all types of skin conditions. This also gives us access to many brands that not just anyone can sell. For many of the brands that we feature on our site, you must have a dermatologist on-board in order to be able to buy the products. In addition to that, we have excellent customer service. Our customers know that they can reach out at any time and talk to an actual person who is there to help them with whatever they need. Customer service is where we really excel and it keeps our customers coming back to us again and again.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Google Shopping and PPC have been the most profitable for us.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
Since we launched, I was handling a lot of the order fulfillment. In the last few months, we made the decision to hire someone to help with that to free up a lot of my time during the day. It was very difficult to make that move and to let go of a little bit of this part of the job, but it has made a huge difference and allowed me much more time every day to grow the business.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
With any e-commerce business, there is a lot of inventory involved. It’s tough when you have to order products that you may not know that much about or you’re not sure is going to sell. On the other hand, it’s hard to pass up certain products or brands because you don’t want to spend the money. I’d say my best advice when starting an e-commerce business where you’re selling products from other brands is to try to work with as many brands that drop ship as possible. This will lower your costs significantly and help you figure out what inventory you can move successfully.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t have waited so long to get started. As I mentioned, we purchased our domain name in 2012 but did not actually start building our website until 2016. I wish I had another 3-4 years under my belt!
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was actually by my brother. He told me to make sure that I’m doing something proactive to grow my business every single day. When you own a business, there is always so much going on and it’s easy to get caught up in all of the day to day tasks that you need to take care of. Now, I put aside a chunk of time per day (2-3 hours is my goal) to do something that I know will grow my business. Whether it’s going through our advertising campaign to see where we can expand or cut the budget, working on SEO to grow the business organically, or reaching out to new brands to add to the site, I know how important it is to make sure we are constantly growing.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
As soon as you decide that you are going to launch a new business, start working on building your SEO. Paid advertising is a great way to get immediate traffic and new customers to your site, but nothing is going to be more profitable or pay off more in the long run than getting that traffic organically. Building up your domain authority to achieve top ranking on Google can take a long time and as soon as you decide that you’re going to start a business, you should begin working on this. When we first decided to launch DermWarehouse, we built a homepage and contact us page for our site. This was over a year before we sold a single skincare product. The reason we did this is that while we were getting the site up and running, we were able to begin building our SEO strategy. Over a year later when we finally did launch, we were so far ahead of the game!