August 18

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How A Fearless Designer Started An Ecommerce Success

By Mimi MacLean

August 18, 2020


Stafford Meyer Image
Porch + Hall founder Stafford Meyer

Stafford Meyer, Founder of Porch + Hall

As an interior designer for twenty years, Stafford Meyer has seen countless beautiful homes. Every detail is perfectly executed except for the entryway. Usually, there is a beaten-down coir mat or a new coir mat that sheds everywhere. Sometimes it’s just an unattractive rubber thing or a pad with a silly saying on it. In almost every case, that mat is not even close to the rest of the home’s caliber.

There was a need in the entry mat market. Stafford had this idea in her head for years, but she was too busy with her interior design business and raising her kids to work on it. She would do a little research here and there but never committed to the concept until she had a stroke at the age of 46. With no underlying conditions, this was shocking and life-changing. It made her fearless.

Listen to today’s episode of the Badass CEO podcast with Stafford Meyer to hear more of her experience and advice.

Find Stafford Meyer and Porch + Hall

Episode Contents

  • Where the Idea of Porch + Hall Came From
  • The Hardest Part of Starting an Ecommerce Business
  • Delegating and Overcoming The Feeling of Losing Control
  • Running an ecommerce DTC Business
  • How Stafford Balances It All – Motherhood, Entrepreneur, and Self Care

Where The Idea of Porch + Hall Came From

ecommerce business porch and hall

Mimi:

Stafford, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. I’d love to start with talking about where you got the idea from.

Stafford:

Yeah. Hi Mimi. So happy to be here. Thanks for having me. So the idea came from my client, my third design client, who at the end of a project would say, Oh yeah, by the way, can you get me some really great entry mats? And I had to always say, actually, I don’t think I can. I couldn’t find any I liked. So that was the first place. And then from my own home, I always had the ones that shredded and that seems counterproductive to bring something into your home that you’re trying to keep out. And for the indoor mat, I couldn’t find any that were designed driven that also absorbed water and, you know, were non-skid. I just couldn’t find any that I thought he hit all those notes. So that was really where the idea came from.

Mimi:

That’s great. That’s usually where good ideas come from, right. Filling a need. Did you work on fortune hall while you were doing your interior decorating business or did you completely jump in?

Stafford:

Yeah, so, I mean, I’ve been talking about this idea for years and bugging my friends and family. And so this was like this weird itch. I couldn’t stop scratching, but I was busy with my interior design work and raising my family and my kids. And so I was pecking away at it, doing research here and there, but absolutely not committing to the concept, but I think what really made me jump in, as you say, would that I had a stroke at the age of 46? Yeah. No, but it actually ended up being a, I was blessed that it didn’t kill me. And there was a tough year rehab. I had no underlying conditions and it really made me reflect. Right. And I had a year to really sort of look on what was important. And people say this all the time, that when you have a, a life changing event that it does. And it was like that for me. And I started came out the other side after my year saying, well, heck you know, what do I really want to do? And what do I have to lose? Right. So that was really the moment where I said, we’re going to do this thing and I’m not going to mess around anymore. And it just became really crystal clear. And I also, it made me fearless. Right? It’s a lot of, I think what keeps at least what was keeping me back was fear of what if I fail. And then suddenly you realize, well, I could also be dead tomorrow. So, you know, failing or this, how bad can that be? So it was a guest really.

Mimi:

Sorry to hear that you went through that, but you do bring up a really good point about fear, right? Cause I think a lot of people don’t follow their dreams because of fear, fear of losing, fear you’re looking foolish in front of their friends and family. So you completely shut your business down, like, and didn’t go back and you just went full force into this.

Stafford:

Yeah. I decided that, you know what, I was really gonna do this. I was not going to do it as a side business out of our garage that I really needed to focus on it. And I spent two years developing Tree Fair that was before I had the stroke, I sort of said, okay, this is my concept. And our flagship product, the outsider sort of what started it all was like, why can’t it be better? Why can’t your exterior mat relate more to your home? Why can’t it be something that you’re not throwing away every three months? So I was designing more of like a beautiful frame with different finishes with woods and metals that could be different colors and palettes that coordinate with your home and then a removable insert and a base that is hidden, that drains the water. So I’ve been working on this design, but then I really needed, I needed to hire an engineer, an industrial engineer to help me really fine tune it. I needed to figure out a bunch of other things. So that was like, I made a very conscious decision that I was not going to take anymore clients. And I was going to focus on this and see what happens.

The Hardest Part of Starting an Ecommerce Business

Mimi:

That’s great. And what would you say was your hardest part starting out?

Stafford:

The hands down the manufacturing. I mean, I knew nothing about manufacturing, you know, so the designing part of it actually was the easiest because I had a pretty clear vision of sort of where I wanted it to end up, but I didn’t fit any category. Right. I’m not furniture. I’m not, I would have these components. I have rubber, I have metal, I have engineered wood. I have the insert. I had all of these things. I knew nothing about how to get to any of those people did help me make that. So that was really, and that’s when my being fearless and being persistent. I mean, I had so many dead ends. I waited six months when I thought was going to be it. And when it arrived, I mean, it was straight to trashcan. So that was like a waste of six months. But it wasn’t a waste because I learned a lot right from that. So that was for sure the hardest part of getting started was my learning curve from the manufacturing. And then it all got easier. I mean, we have interior lines now, which was really important that wasn’t just the outside with the inside. And I’ve found a beautiful mill in Italy that does our insider line. And I started designing patterns that are proprietary to us porch and through them and it got easier, but that was for sure the hardest.

Mimi:

Right. And then would you are most of your manufacturers around the world, the United States?

Stafford:

Right now we’re in Europe. Our inside lines are from the Netherlands and from Italy and in our insert for the outsider is also from Europe. Our outsider is from Asia on our final assembly is in the U S and in a perfect world. I would love to get everything as we continue to grow and get a little bit more leverage. I would love to get more in the U S it’s just cost prohibitive for us at the beginning.

Mimi:

Yeah. There’s a big difference between that. And then what would you say now is the hardest part like, is that obviously hasn’t continued to be the hardest part for you cause you seemed like you have it figured out.

Stafford:

Yeah. Hopefully, Mimi, we’ll see. So now I say two things, one juggling all the different areas of our business. As a new brand, I’m still involved in so many things from e-commerce to marketing, to product development, PR to operations, to manufacturing, right? So it’s hard when you’re trying to prioritize all of those things, but I will say one of the greatest assets of doing this as you know, I’m not 20 anymore, is that I can see a little bit more clearly as I’ve gotten older about what I’m good at, what I’m not, and learning how to hand off the things as soon as possible, better that are harder for me than those that come more easily and I enjoy, but that’s the first one. The second one is managing our financial position. I’d say, I think as we’re growing quickly, staying on top of inventory and our cash flow has been challenging. And to be honest, quite intimidating. And unfortunately I do think this is a little bit of a female. We’re not risk takers by nature, I would say, or at least I wasn’t, or that wasn’t something I would do willing to do. And you really have to constantly be checking the climate of where you are and you know, your comfort level with risk and you have to be able to take some risks or I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing. So those were the two areas

Delegating and Overcoming The Feeling of Losing Control

porch and hall ecommerce home business

Mimi:

You bring up a really good point. I love delegating because I think a lot of people will have a hard time delegating feeling that they’re going to lose control of the brand or, or the vision of the company as it grows. So that’s a really good point. And then I think you bring up another good point where people assume like, oh, I’m doing really well. I’ve seen this a lot with people where they assume they’re doing really well, but they don’t realize as they grow, that means is inventory and cash that they need. Right. As you get bigger, you need more inventory, which means you need more cash. So you get into this vicious cash cycle if you’re growing too fast.

Mimi:

Absolutely. The vicious cash cycle, Mimi yes, that is the curse of success. Right. And we’ve had this rapid growth and in part due to COVID and more people being home and looking at their home in a different way, and we’re an eCommerce business. So, but it’s meant, yeah, we’re running out of product. We didn’t think we’re gonna run out for six more months. And that means you have to, you know, what you had budgeted for your inventory is now out the window. Right. So yeah, that’s been something we’ve really had to focus on.

Mimi:

And you’re spending your inventory like what it’s done. Right. And then it takes a couple of months to come over by boat and if it’s overseas, so then you’re like holding the cash that needs to be tied up for those couple of months for it to be even sold. So there’s that dilemma too. Yeah. So the other thing I want to talk about since you are doing so well, you’re giving me some numbers earlier is customers, right? Everyone, I always say you can build a website. You can turn the switch on it doesn’t mean customers are coming just because you have the best product and the best website. So how did you get your name out originally? Cause that, I think is key for people. Like if you can’t get it’s too expensive to get eyeballs on, on your site. So how, how did you do that?

Stafford:

Yeah. So almost all of our sales have been through our digital ads on Facebook, Instagram, and we’re just starting to dabble in Pinterest which I’m hoping will grow, but so they’re finding us mostly. I mean, there’s some word of mouth, but really through those digital ads. And then we’re finding that when they get to our website, you know, they’re poking around and we have, I do think one of the greatest things we’ve done is really encouraged people to join our email list or give them incentive on their first order to grow that list. And our weekly email is a real channel for us. Now we grew to over 20,000 in a short amount of time. And I think, I mean, I don’t know what exactly that is, but I do think it’s that we’re touching on something that people, I truly believe that we’re passionate about what we’re doing and nobody’s really paid enough attention to this now. So we’re getting a lot of great response. So I would say if you can build a community, like we’re really building a community through our email and through our communication. So I think, yeah, I mean, we’re starting to get me PR I don’t have a PR person, so we’re really doing it on putting ourselves out there and really having a message that we’re trying to commit. Like you spend all of this time on your living room, which is so wonderful. And I design them as well. I love nothing more, but you spend, maybe if you’re like me, maybe 5% of your life in your formal living room and you spend 95% of your time and your, you know, in your front hall with their shoes and the in and the out and you know, we really believe that’s important. And why can’t that first thing that greets you in the last thing that says goodbye to you, be a priority and make you smile.

Running an Ecommerce DTC Business

Mimi:

You definitely hit a niche in the market and I was on your website and you have great carpets, also rubs for like the kitchen, like, you know, for the runners and the kitchen and just cheery and colorful. And they’re hard to find, you know, you definitely hit a specific point. Okay. Do you have any advice for anybody who is looking to start out like an online business? Like you have?

Stafford:

Yeah. So for an online business, I think if you don’t have a lot of prior experience with e-commerce find somebody to work with you, who does, I think that’s worth every penny because e-commerce is pretty incredible. I knew very little about it, except for, I knew that I felt when I started this two and a half years ago, that that was where the world was going. That’s about all my knowledge base on, on it was at that point. But I have a woman who I’m working with who has launched other brands, eCommerce brands. And she has been, I wouldn’t be here without her, my digital marketing consultant. I wouldn’t be here without her because they’ve really taught me so much about how to play in this space. But it’s pretty incredible that you can see a direct correlation to what you’re spending and if it’s not working, you can turn it off. Right. That’s pretty addictive and pretty fun. But I’d also say don’t be intimidated by it. I mean, I was very much so at the beginning, gosh, the anacronym the loan. I mean, first couple meetings I had on this. People are throwing out SEO and CTR and ROI and AOV. And I was like, I will never understand this game, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really not hard. And it’s an exciting world, but I really feel like it’s hard to do it without somebody who can sort of hold your hand a little bit at the beginning.

Mimi:

Now, have you hired full time employees or all these people kind of outsource consultants?

Stafford:

Right now? We’re, we’re in the process of making a couple more hires, but I started with all consultants and one full time hire an eCommerce manager because you really need somebody. Who’s got their eyes on the orders and the customer service is or at least I think it’s so important. And if you’re not getting back to your customers, you know, in the first 24 hours, we’re not doing our job and I would prefer the first four hours, right? So that was our first full time hire was an eCommerce manager and Alma was fantastic. And she, you know, obviously you also have to hire people who can wear many different hats. So I have part time person who is my CMO COO, and I have graphics people. And we’re about to hire a full time graphics because as an eCommerce brand content is the beast that keeps on needing to be fed. So we could be trying to drive content and photos and videos. That could be a full time job for me. So that’s our next hire. And then I have a squad of website developers and other people who are working with us, but they’re not full time.

Mimi:

Okay. That’s great. I was just thinking, as we’re talking, it would be fun. And maybe you’re already doing this. I should go look at your Instagram page, but like have people who are buying these to, like if you gave a prize, right. If they had a picture of their front porch with your mat.

Stafford:

Mimi! You’re good. You’re good. You’ve done that. Yeah. We call them photo challenges. And I mean, we’ve had so much fun with them. People send the funniest best pictures. And another thing is like, you know, animals love our mats and they’re always on them. And we’ve got already just countless fantastic shots of dogs that, you know, in all different shapes and sizes. So that’s been fun.

How Stafford Balances It All – Motherhood, Entrepreneur, and Self Care

Mimi:

That’s great. Okay. So I know you’re a mom as well. So how do you stay organized and on track being a working mom, especially working home at this point. Like, I don’t know if you had an office before quarantine, but we’re all working home with our kids not in school. Like how do you stay organized on track? Like give any tips, any apps, any kind of, this is my lifesaving suggestion for always trying to do it all.

Stafford:

Uh, if you’ve got that, pass it along to me, no, I’m not the greatest role model, but you know, I do have an online to do list, which is what I work off of for Porch + Hall. And I’m guilty of falling the trap of dealing with the most pressing needs and letting all of my plans and checklists go out the window. But I do know that if my desk is visually cluttered, it affects me. So that is one thing I’m good about is when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ve literally cleared the deck visually. And that’s my first step. In terms of with my family. I mean the, the upside of the down right now with COVID is, you know, my kids’ ages, they’re 13 and 19 when they’re around a lot. So it’s actually been great and that I can dip in and dip out with them in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. So in some ways I feel like I’m getting to see them more, but having that separation between I’m working and you can’t come in now, you can’t, that’s a constant struggle. And once again, Mimi, if you can figure that out for me, I’ll greatly appreciate it.

Mimi:

No, it’s true. Like, I always like to do this, to do this and I’ll sit down and I’ll make my to do list the night before. And then I realized the next day it’s 6:00 PM. And I still haven’t looked at my to do list. I don’t think that’s how it was supposed to work. Do you have, I always read about like, everyone is infatuated about hearing people’s like morning routines. Like, do you have a set morning routine that you get up at like 5:00 AM and work out and then do your yoga and whatever. I don’t know. I’m just curious if you have, I don’t really have one. So I’m just curious if you have one.

Stafford:

No, I do. And I’m so glad you asked me this question because I do try to do five out of seven days. I do try to exercise in the morning, but I’m finding that I really don’t need, as long as I was like even 30 minutes just to get my heart rate up, you know, clears my head. I feel like enough, but the biggest thing that I’ve changed. And once again, this was, since my stroke was, I made a conscious decision after the stroke, which has been like two and a half years to prioritize my mental state. Right. And we all think that it’s not as important, right. I don’t know in some weird way or I did. And there was always more pressing things. And that was the shift for me. Um, and I always tried, I knew meditation was great and I just couldn’t get there. I just, my mind would not shut off. So this device called the heart math inner balance. It’s a Bluetooth and it connects and you clip it on your ear and it goes to an app and it monitors your breathing. And what it’s really doing is trying to shift your breathing to a more regular state, which also that can replace emotional stress, emotional balance, and coherence through your breathing. And all I know is I’ve seen it really have a profound effect on my mental state. And it’s also good for somebody who can’t turn off their brain is you’re looking at your, whatever, your iPad, your phone, and you’re trying to regulate your breathing to get it to be green. And you start in red. I was red for a long time, and then you’re, there’s an orange and then you’re green. And when you can hold it with green, which is like, you’re not doing anything, but just like gentle breathing, but when you regulate it, I see it making a big difference. So I do that for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night. And then my other thing I dumped the last couple of years is take five minutes in bed in the morning. And I write down a list of five gratitudes, bullet points, five gratitudes, five worries, and five intentions for the day. And to be honest, my hit rate on intention is not so great, but I do think it helps me to look at the big picture a little bit better only downside my husband teases me that my morning routine only takes me like to lunchtime to get through, but that’s not true, but it does take longer. But I think it sets me up for being much more productive and the right head space for my day.

Mimi:

I have actually that device you’re talking about. So you just reminded me to dust it off and use it again. I was doing it for awhile and then I kind of fell out of using it. So I need to do that. And then do you write your intentions and your gratitude in a journal? Or do you do it on your phone? Like where do you do that?

Stafford:

I have a journal next to my bed and it never leaves my bedside table. Yeah. And it’s bullets once again, like I can’t be writing essays first, first thing in the morning, but just as far as like, you know, on a, on one day five gratitudes can be, you know, I named my five family members. Right. And other days it’s like a summer day, whatever it is, they’re short, but it’s just sort of makes it all simple and easy. Anything you’re worries. There’s something about writing down your worries, which takes a little bit of their power away. I think.

Mimi:

No, it’s true. It’s good. I like to, I’m going to start doing that. Okay. So what do you believe it takes to be an entrepreneur? Like if you were telling somebody, you know, who’s thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, what would you, any advice that you would give him?

Stafford:

Yeah, I mean, I really think it’s all we talked about the fearlessness and I guess the other word I would use is perseverance. I mean, I’m not any smarter or more equipped than anyone else to be a founder or start a business, but it’s just that I’m keeping at it. Right. And there’s a lot of days where it would be a lot easier to fold than to get back up. But once you do get back up, it just, you know, the next day is always better and it’s worth, worth the journey. So I guess that would be it just to perseverance.

Mimi:

Right? This has been amazing. And I really, really appreciate your time. I guess I want to make sure everyone goes to porchandhall.com and checks out your doormats and rugs into rugs because they are beautiful. And I wish you the best of luck.

Stafford:

Thank you. And I love what you’re doing here and having a, an outlet for people to hear about what other people are doing is so helpful. And so thank you for bringing this to the world. I think what you’re doing is great.

Mimi:

No, I appreciate it. It’s funny. Cause I originally thought I would be doing this for people who want to become entrepreneurs and CEOs and it’s, I’ve been getting comments and feedback from other CEOs saying, Oh, this is awesome because I don’t feel so alone. Like I know other people are doing the same battle at the same struggles and I’m not feeling like I’m doing it alone and just to stick with it.

Stafford:

Yes. So thank you.

Mimi:

Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for joining me on the badass CEO podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please leave a review and see you next time. Thank you.

Where To Find Stafford and More About Her Businesses

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