Tired of selling hours as a freelance writer, she dreamed about creating something scalable – but didn’t know what to sell. Then her own wedding revealed an unexpected opportunity. Meet Pauline Grindvall, founder of My Perfect Day in a Smoooth Talk about how she turned her wedding decoration “leftovers” into a 1.5 million euro business, as well as how she deals with conversions, delivery problems, and reviews.
From 0 to 1.5 million euro in revenue in five years – without any bank loans or venture capital. Not bad for a freelance writer.
But the story gets even better as you’ll discover in a minute when Pauline Grindvall shares what it was like for her in the beginning as she was handling orders in her home after her daughter was born.
Let’s begin with the unexpected birth of her webstore idea: offering products and inspiration for special occasions like weddings, anniversaries, special parties, baby showers and baptism celebrations.
“I was about to get married, and had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted my wedding to look like,” she says.
“For example, I was obsessed about getting bunting in soft pink as well as various other items for the decoration. But no matter how much I looked, I couldn’t find what I was looking for in stores locally. I had to go to Ebay, and found other items on Alibaba. To get what I wanted, I had to buy a much greater quantity than I personally needed.”
Her orders sparked the idea
Pauline Grindvall realized that she would end up with an ocean of spare wedding items once her own ceremony was over.
“That sparked something. Maybe I could sell the surplus online? I saved that thought while contemplating different business concepts. I came up with a name that encapsulated what I felt inspired to create, and shared it on a car journey with my friends and my husband. Since they didn’t laugh about it, but actually thought it was good, I kept it.”
That’s how My Perfect Day was born.
The name came first, then the rest followed. Her husband, an art director, helped her with the color concepts and a logo.
When the webstore launched it had 200 different SKUs (now she has about 5,000), and the sales development is like a fairy tale:
2013: 0 euro
2014: 100,000 euro
2015: 300,000 euro
2016: 600,000 euro
2017: 900,000 euro
2018: 1,500,000 euro (expected)
“So far I haven’t had any setbacks in terms of sales. Every year I’ve been thinking ‘this might be the last year’, so I have kept pushing,” Pauline Grindvall says.
What is she most proud of on this journey so far? She answers quickly:
“That I went through that first phase from 0 to 300,000 euros with no employees, while taking care of our newborn.”
“For a few weeks, following my caesarian operation, I packed orders while she was sleeping, rolling myself around in an office chair in the room in our house that functioned as the company warehouse at the time. That period was tough.”
Looking back on the development of your business, what would you say you did right in the beginning – besides identifying and filling a gap in the market?
“I hardly gave myself any salary in the beginning, and was generally very considerate with expenses. Re-investing that money in increased storage space and expanding the product range has really paid off. We’ve grown organically, without any liquidity problems, and that has been good for my wellbeing.”
“Since the very beginning, when I decided to launch a webstore, I’ve looked through every corner of the internet for wholesalers and have cherry-picked what fit into my concept – and then stayed true to that. I’ve deliberately chosen not to offer “Disney stuff” even if those kinds of products would sell like crazy. Sticking to my clean style, with focus on colors and shapes, has been key to building a strong brand.”
What kind of decisions have you been scared to make?
“Bringing in a partner to take care of digital ads was challenging. I wasn’t used to paying for that kind of thing and thought I could do it myself. It felt like a big investment. Now I know that they deliver, and they get larger budgets every year. Of course, it’s also scary to buy large quantities of a seasonal product when you don’t know how well it will sell. Sometimes it’s a stretch buying 300 pieces, or even 10, and with other wedding products, I don’t think twice about buying thousands at once.”
Employing the first person is scary for many entrepreneurs in the beginning. What was that like for you?
“I employed my best friend of 13 years. She told me she’d had enough of her job as visual merchandiser for a clothing store and it was obvious to me how much she could contribute.”
Have you heard the advice that you shouldn’t mix business and friendship, that you can end up either losing the friend or destroying the company?
“Of course I looked at the pros and cons, but I felt sure about her. We get along extremely well and I knew that between us we would be able to handle any problem that would show up. And it turned out to be the best decision ever to bring her in. Working together is like a dream come true, we have lots of fun and share the ups and downs. When a customer is upset by some failure on our part, we can avoid getting dragged down and instead keep a healthy distance from the situation, make a decision together, and just laugh about it.”
What do you wish you had done differently in your business?
“Since I’m always telling myself that the increased sales might just be a temporary peak, I’ve been too slow employing people, and quickly outgrow the new storage spaces we move into.”
What’s your vision, looking forward?
“The goal is to become the largest store in the Nordic countries, and I really want to expand into the international market. I also want to design my own products under the My Perfect Day brand. I’m going to design them myself, and also involve one of my employees. It helps that my husband is an art director and packaging designer.”
What brings you the most joy as an e-commerce entrepreneur?
“The freedom. The freedom to create what I want. The freedom of setting the agenda for how I want the company to develop.”
What’s your biggest problem right now?
“A very concrete problem is that the goods get stuck. We should have one door where the goods come in, and another where the packages go out. When four pallets arrive while we have cages waiting to be picked up… well, the flow isn’t that great. Besides that we experience the normal growth problems: always a lack of people who constantly get more and more to do, and the building is too small despite the fact we have moved four times. It’s hard to set working routines.
How Pauline goes about
… gathering reviews:
“We have an e-mail automation that is triggered about two weeks after purchase, so that we are sure they have received and used what they bought. We simply ask for a review and offer a 10 percent discount code as a reward. That works particularly well for wedding customers, who usually need to make a second order.”
… delivery satisfaction:
“We used to make a mistake in our procedure that delayed deliveries sometimes. If there was a discrepancy – for example, if the shelf was empty for a particular item on an order – we would send an email to the customer and ask if they wanted something else instead, then wait for the reply. That wasn’t good practice. If someone is having a 2-year-old’s birthday party on a Sunday, we must deliver before that – otherwise you can bet people will be upset. Unfortunately, people wouldn’t always see our email right away, which then put the whole process on hold. Now, we send what we have in stock without any delay, while giving a free delivery code to the customer so they can add a new order at no extra cost.”
… discount codes:
“From the very beginning, we chose not to use discount codes. We don’t want to end up in a relationship with our customers where they don’t buy unless there is a discount. I want them to buy because they like our concept and want to be part of what we are offering.”
… increasing conversion rates:
“We constantly look for ways to simplify the checkout process to get customers to complete their purchases. However, I believe it’s important to recognize the phases customers are going through. When it comes to our wedding-related products for example, the number of purchases per visit is considerably lower during winter, but then peaks in the spring. During winter people come for inspiration, to get ideas for their wedding and to make plans. So we put a lot of effort into inspiration, and use a heart symbol to add products to a wishlist. This makes it easy for them to find the products they like when they later return to buy, as their special day is getting closer.”
… increasing the transactional value:
“Instead of putting much effort into ‘people who bought this, also purchased X, Y and Z’ recommendations we prefer to help people with a theme, showing what products fit well together and how to combine them”.
… getting on her customers’ radar:
“It’s profitable for us to buy ads, because our target groups are so distinct. Together with our ad agency we work to pinpoint which ones are our best customers. Generally, parents of small children are great for us. Not only do they buy, but they tell their friends about us too, sharing their experiences. We also work with influencers in that group.”
Role: Founder of My Perfect Day which sells products for special occasions like weddings, anniversaries, special parties, baby showers and baptism celebrations.
Number of employees: 8
E-commerce platform: Wikinggruppen
First online purchase: “I think it was a party top bought from Asos 15 years ago. I still lived with my parents, and remember how weird it felt that I could actually buy clothes from England without going there myself.”