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Mumpreneur case studies: Lust Have It

Wednesday, 1 February 2012 | By Polly McGee

Mumpreneur: Nicci Herrera

Company: Lust Have It

 

Lust Have It subtly describes the drive, determination and sense of fun owner Nicci Herrera brings to her online beauty box enterprise. She’d have to have a sense of humor, starting her business while her new daughter was only four months old, and managing growth since the virtual doors opened at an average of 30% a month.

 

Lust Have It and Nicci embody the classic journey of the mumpreneur start-up: a brilliant idea, born out of a frustration with the lack of information and education for consumers about high-end beauty items, and the concept of providing a beautiful selection to a product-hungry and selective niche of buyers. (Click here to experience the product.)

 

Nicci is no stranger to the beauty business, or taking on a challenge and giving it her all. She has lived and breathed the beauty industry since her early teens, and Lust Have It brings together her deep industry knowledge, first as a practitioner and later as a sales executive, during which she achieved a 300% growth in sales in her territory.

 

Nicci knew first-hand of the lack of awareness for many women of the variety of products in the market, and was constantly being asked for more information by her clients and insider tips. Bringing together a box of cosmetic and beauty product samples, strictly screening quality, and giving women what they wanted met with instant market acceptance.

 

The business started out of her loungeroom, with a small $13k injection of startup capital. With strategic advice and a strong digital presence provided by her partner and his web development company, it was a lean operation with Nicci, her partner, family and friends surrounded by boxes of beauty samples, lovingly packing them by hand every month.

 

The sheer volume of sales quickly brought unexpected challenges especially in logistics and distribution and managing things like posting products such as perfume and nail polish, considered to be “dangerous goods” by Australia Post.

 

On the day we meet she had recently flown back from an international beauty products conference in Hong Kong, and was feeling the competing pressures of being a sleep deprived CEO, mum and wife. When I ask her what advice she would give to mumpreneurs about to start the journey, she instantly replies with a laugh “don’t do it!”

 

“It’s a love/hate relationship some days, from fist pumping to tears, it’s a rollercoaster ride once you get on.” But seriously, would she change her decision? She says not, and that the satisfaction of creating something that works and obviously meets a gap in the market is enough to keep her getting out of bed.

 

“I’m so passionate about beauty and especially showing women (and men), what great products are out there, not the stuff you find in the supermarkets, or things that will send you broke, just high quality, niche treats that will make you look and feel fabulous.”

 

High quality and niche aptly describes where Lust Have It is positioned in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It is flattering and somewhat frustrating to Nicci to have spawned a spate of imitators, but she is clear that her product is not going to try and play in a heavily commoditised space.

 

“Leave that to StrawberryNet and other discount players,” she says pragmatically. “There is room for everyone in the market, and my buyers want an experience of luxury, but more importantly, they want the customer service and attention to detail I put into every single box.”

 

Being Australian owned and operated is important to the business model, and is part of the integrity of the brand.

 

Like all start-ups, she has her fair share of lessons learned. She credits her husband Patrick as one of the keys to her success in his support on the business and domestic front. She also counts Bahar Etminan from Rescu.com.au as a mentor and industry confidante.

 

Early growth in the business was slowed with cashflow, although prioritising revenue into marketing and social media has served the brand well. Logistics of distribution have probably been her most frustrating issue, and a steep learning curve. With increasing international demand and competition, new challenges are constantly emerging.

 

Perspiration and perseverance are paying off for Lust Have It, with investors currently knocking on her door, and a couple of serious offers on the table, which will enable a new phase of growth. Nicci is still thoroughly in control of all aspects of her business, but at the point of scale where she is acknowledges the need to loosen her grip somewhat and bring in other partners.

 

With baby Scarlett 16 months old now, and still at home full-time, Nicci can reflect on the growth, health and beauty of both her babies and the success she has achieved in a relatively short-time frame, with much more to come.