An interview with Gigi Hill Bags President, Monica Hillman
Q: How long has your company been in business?
A: We created our LLC in October, 2005 and began selling our products the next summer.
Q: What types of products or services do you sell?
A: Handbags, carryalls, and accessories.
Q: How is your home party experience different from others?
A: One of the things we do is to have open houses where you can come in, shop, and go. The presentation is done when the group is at its height. Guests feel at ease because they don’t need to sit down and listen to a long speech. An open house is about two hours long.
Q: What words of advice do you give to new independent representatives of your company?
A: It’s all about the story. Our consultants can share the company’s story before they have one of their own to share. We encourage them to share stories on how the product helps customers every day to keep their lives a little more organized.
Q: If you were to travel back in time to the point when you decided to create a direct selling company, and you could give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?
A: Dig deeper when talking with software suppliers. Had we known what we know now, we would have chosen differently. Bring somebody in who knows the software industry who can help you navigate the waters. I wish we had done that.
Q: Why do you think you are successful in this economy?
A: We’re successful because our products have good price points and great value. They are high quality, stylish, functional products that are priced affordably ($17 to $250). The average price of an item is about $60.
A: Have you seen any recent changes in sales volumes?
A: For the first few years, we were in 5 states with only 10 consultants. Then, we chose to find an investor to fund the company for growth. He gave us the resources to manufacture our products in China, to obtain software, and to launch nationally. As a result, we increased our sales by 900% from last year. We went from 30 stylists in February 2009 to over 300 stylists today.
Q: In how many states do you currently have independent reps?
A: We have reps in 42 states.
Q: How do you keep your consultants motivated?
A: Really, what motivates a lot of them is that we offer a ground-floor opportunity. They are getting in when our company is small and that is what keeps them going. They have a voice in the company.
Q: What makes you stand out as a direct selling company?
A: Our passion for the product and the enthusiasm that our stylists have, the quality and commitment to excellence.
Q: Who do you admire in the direct selling community? Why?
A: We admire so many people. Doris Christopher (The Pampered Chef) started her company at her kitchen table with nothing, just like we did.
Q: Did you or do you have a mentor?
A: We don’t have a specific mentor that we work with. We look for inspiration from many people and other resources, like good books.
Q: How do you encourage positive thinking in your company and your sales force?
A: It’s just our company culture. We live it. Our consultants see us as busy women who are running a company and that sets the foundation.
Q: Do you think your products are luxury items?
A: No, I don’t.
Q: Why do you think direct sales does so well in this economy as compared to retail?
A: Because there are more people out there looking for income, so there are more people selling your products.
Q: What did you do to grow 900% in 2009?
A: We very strategically planned a national launch for the beginning of 2009. This included making sure we had the inventory and the infrastructure to support our projected growth.
Q: What would you like your company to look like 5 years from now?
A: In 5 years, we will be a leader in the direct sales industry with significant brand awareness and making a difference in people’s lives.