Full disclosure: I am not a LuLaRoe consultant nor am I related to any (that I know of!). I did purchase a pair of LuLaRoe leggings in 2016 and they were, in fact, buttery soft.
The Gist of It
If you've never heard of LuLaRoe before you're likely not a woman in her 20s or 30s on Facebook. Some background: LuLaRoe is a direct sales company whose product is soft, spandex-like clothing. They're most famous for their leggings which come in vibrant colors and unique patterns. Think Mary Kay, but instead of a representative on your doorstep you have a consultant in a private Facebook group. While there are many many direct sale companies these days, LuLaRoe has a devoted following and frenzy about them unlike others I've seen.
Founded in 2012, financial insiders predict LuLaRoe will hit $1 billion in sales within 2017 and the company has a month-over-month growth rate of about 25%. Perhaps because of their fast growth, it's difficult to pin down the number of LuLaRoe consultants — most estimates are around 35,000, but reporting suggests there is a months-long waitlist of thousands waiting to become a LuLaRoe consultant. Which is even more impressive when you learn that it costs $5,000+ to purchase the initial inventory and setup. LuLaRoe consultants retain 45-60% of income from their sales and the company claims their top tier of consultants make in excess of $100,000 per year.
How it Works
You cannot go online to LuLaRoe.com and order your pick of item and style. Rather, you have to be invited to a LuLaRoe party or online Facebook group. In my experience and from anecdotal evidence I believe most sales happen via Facebook. Your consultant will announce via the group when she's hosting a sale or an inventory walk-through. At the designated time, your consultant uses a variety of Facebook tools including posting videos, albums, and Facebook Live to show up available merchandise. Buyers comment "sold" on pictures of individual items and the first to comment takes the product. After the sale, your consultant will send you an invoice via Google Forms and you'll receive your wares in the mail shortly thereafter. Some consultants also offer "shop my closet" events so local buyers can peruse items in person. And some of the Mary Kay party glory still exists and consultants do offer hosted events at their home or yours.
Here's the thing, though: LuLaRoe only makes a limited quantity of each item (2,500 pieces or less) in each size. If you LOVE a pair of leggings you see with a fox pattern, you need to snatch them up now or you will likely not have an opportunity to purchase them again. There's a bit of a frenzy and treasure hunt baked in to the process.
Whys is LuLaRoe a Hit?
LuLaRoe's creator, DeAnne Stidham, understood what network sales could do for women, for moms in particular, who needed flexibility and balance in their lives and careers. Rather than build her company on the end consumer (although she certainly didn't forget her), her vision was focused on the middle woman: the consultant. More so, it was a vision of women, of moms, in power — using their networks to connect with other women, provide a great product to their community, do so from a time and place that worked best for them, and earn a fantastic income in their household.
More than the creator's story, the story that resonates with most LuLaRoe fans is the story their consultant tells. It's often someone you know — or a degree of separation from someone you know — and she feels "normal," yet she epitomizes #bosslady. Watching someone close to you put themselves out there the way your consultant does gives you permission to also strike out and up.
Rockstars abound in the LuLaRoe world, which makes it even more compelling. There's a story of a mom whose husband lost his job, but she was able to grow her LuLaRoe business to bring in more income than their husband did before being laid off. There are consultants reporting incomes in excess of $30,000 month and advocating you build a team to work for you. Similarly, a married couple LuLaRoe team who sell approximately $80,000 worth of clothing per month (while working full time for the Department of Defense). The growth potential is incredibly attractive to many women looking for a product they can believe in and a flexible career path or supplementary income.
LuLaRoe's personality is upbeat, funky, female-centered, and encouraging. It epitomizes what women hope their female friendships will be. And the consultants embody the personality, plus they're often a friend or a friend of a friend. There's also something special about it: you can frequently own a piece that no one else you know owns. And if you enjoy the hunt, you can find/buy/sell/trade the high-demand, hard-to-find patterns. Finally, LuLaRoe clothing is modest, a rarity in many of today's clothing trends. The reliable coverage of the clothing appeals to many types of women.
DeAnne first imagined her company sales coming primarily from in-person parties, but these days its the widespread reach and instant gratification of Facebook, and to a degree, Instagram that drive LuLaRoe sales. In a fast-moving world, many moms don't have time to shop for themselves during normal business hours, but they can certainly pop onto Facebook to make selections. Plus, there's a bond and kinship in the Facebook group that makes the experience far more enjoyable than the the old-school days of picking clothes in a drab dressing room with fluorescent lighting.
Another factor in LuLaRoe's success? The way Facebook and Instagram allow them to visually tell their story to a wide and diverse audience. The #lularoe hashtag on Instagram has nearly 2 million posts! And specialized hashtags such as #lularoeleggings has nearly 1 million posts. It's easy to stumble across LuLaRoe if you follow fashion-forward friends or fashion bloggers.
What Can We Adapt from LuLaRoe's Success Story?
Give customers your reasons for being. Peruse a few news stories on LuLaRoe and you almost always find reporters mention that DeAnne Stidham was a mom of seven. You also nearly always see references to her Mormon faith. People like knowing these details about her. It helps explain why the company empowers women and why the clothing is modest. Moreover, you frequently see the consultants talk about why they're running this business and how it helps their family: they mention it paying for school, allowing them to quit full-time jobs, and giving them extra income to travel. You don't have to spill your entire life story online, but giving your product or service roots feels right to your audiences.
Craft your story with unique language. LuLaRoe calls their online blog their "Vibe." Consultants frequently talk about the way the feel and the spirt of the work, many talk about LuLaRoe's "blessings."
Consider how your story reads without words. You can easily recognize LuLaRoe posts online without captions or hashtags because there is a consistency in colors, patterns, styles, etc. Although individual consultants add their personal spin, the overarching funk and spirit feels consistent.
Celebrate spin-off stories. Your brand isn't what you say it is, it's what your customers say it is. You create/influence the story, but the takeaway is someone else's. Celebrate that. Show different iterations of your story, different sides of your personality, by showing the ways your product or service influences others.
Learn and leverage video. The videos embedded in this post and the ones you find on LuLaRoe's Vimeo account are shared and re-shared throughout the LuLaRoe community. And they're compelling! They give you all the feels, which is coincidentally exactly what they're trying to do. Word are good. Photos are great. Video is the best. There's no better way to own all sides of your story than to provide a clean, quick, visually-interesting story via video for your audiences.
Keep your technology simple. LuLaRoe consultants utilize Facebook and Google Forms to conduct the vast majority of their business. They don't have or need a complex sales portal for success. Because of this, the technology and interface isn't part of the discussion, customers don't think about it or notice it because they're utilizing tools they're already familiar with. Build your business with simple, easy-to-use tools and upgrade only when absolutely necessary.