One Bracelet at a Time
We talk to SharkTank alum Chrissie Lam about her Love Is Project journey.
Kurt Elster: So, you were on Shark Tank? Who hasn’t been on Shark Tank? This thing’s out of control.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. We were. Yes. Love Is Project was featured on Shark Tank on January 15th and it was amazing, and it was such a great exposure, and we actually had Shark Tank re-air our episode this past weekend on Saturday, so I had no idea what was going on. It was like our store was blowing up again. I was like, “Something happened.” So, it’s funny.
Kurt Elster: That is always the coolest part about being on Shark Tank. None of that. It’s afterward when every time they run a rerun and your traffic just explodes, it’s amazing.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. Shark Tank is the gift that keeps on giving, so I-
Kurt Elster: Absolutely. So, today on The Unofficial Shopify Podcast, I am talking to Chrissie Lam from the Love Is Project, and she has quite the journey. For 12 years, she worked for big retailers forecasting trends, and somewhere along the way was traveling and… Well, you heard it. She ended up on Shark Tank and then now has this tremendously successful Shopify store. Chrissie, let’s start with what the heck is the Love Is Project?
Chrissie Lam: Yeah, so the Love Is Project works with artisans in 10 different countries creating different iterations of love bracelets inspired by the culture and craftmanship, and the whole concept is to be able to create jobs for the women in different countries, and our supporters around the world share what love means around the world with our love bracelets.
Kurt Elster: So, the end product is a bracelet, right?
Chrissie Lam: Correct.
Kurt Elster: That part sounds simple, but the explanation as to how that bracelet got produced and what it means, that’s the complicated part. So, certainly you didn’t just wake up one morning and go, “I’m gonna make bracelets that empower women.” Or did you? How did we get here?
Chrissie Lam: Yeah, so the story, I used to work corporate fashion in New York City for 12 years. I was interested… I had taken a sabbatical in 2008 and I was volunteering and working on some projects in Rwanda, and connecting creative friends of mine to rebrand NGOs and help raise awareness, raise funds, and while I was out there I was meeting with artisan groups and also women out there, and I was really inspired by what they were doing. You know, and while I was in Africa, I realized that charity is not sustainable, and that true empowerment is being able to provide jobs and economic empowerment.
Kurt Elster: Hold on. Tell me… Wait, let’s unpack that. What do you mean?
Chrissie Lam: You know, like you can keep on giving, and giving, and giving, but that’s not solving the problem. And at the end of the day, everyone wants to be self-sustaining, and be able to have pride in what they do, and have a job, and be able to help their families, and be able to help grow and fund their own businesses and whatnot. So, yeah, while being there, I was just like, “Okay, you know what? This doing charity isn’t really the way forward. It’s really about job creation.”
So, I came back, I was working corporate, recession hit, so I had a job still, but I was dabbling on the side, still trying to figure out how to leave my corporate job, and then I left in 2012, a few years later, and I moved to Kenya, and I was doing some consulting and I was working with some of the artisan groups there, like the Maasai tribe for one, and I had this idea to create a message bracelet that said love on it. The Maasai are known for their beading, their beadwork, and I was trying to think of a concept that we could scale, and produce, and sell, and that I could help market, because my background is in concept design and marketing. And so, I thought, “Okay, this is where I can come in and help these people. They know how to fish and it’s just creating the right type of fish and getting that fish to market.”
So, once I created that first bracelet, I was traveling around the world and I had this idea I was flying to Russia and I was sitting between two girls, one from Uzbekistan, once from Kyrgyzstan, and I had the idea. I was like, “Oh, you know, I have this bracelet made.” We’re talking about their countries and I hadn’t been there yet, and we were just… I was like, “Hey, I have this idea. If you guys tell me what love means, I’ll ask and I’ll take a photo of you with my iPhone, and when we land at the airport, and then I’m gonna do this for the rest of the trip.”
And they’re like, “All right, cool.” And so, I asked them those questions and I did that, and then I basically, like the rest is history. I went to another 50 countries afterwards. I had like hundreds and hundreds of people wear that very first original red love bracelet and collected all these definitions, and then put it in a book basically and pitched it to my old company, which they launched in all their stores a few months later as a social media campaign. And so, with that success it created over 400 jobs for the Maasai women there, quarter million dollar order, and I was like, “Okay, this has legs.”
We launched in the States and in Europe and then I decided a year later to create a standalone brand for Love Is Project, and now we work in 10 countries, and we’ve expanded also in Kenya to work with over 1,400 women all across Kenya, which is incredible, like the Maasai, and the Samburu, and it’s incredible to see all the impact we’ve been having in the communities there. And each country, like I said, like it started with Kenya, and then I launched it in Indonesia, and then Ecuador. The reason why I chose those first countries is that I used to live in two of them, but then also that they all sit on the equator line, so it was like a symbolic idea that this love connects us all, it’s one rotation around the globe, and Kenya’s helping out Indonesia, Indonesia’s helping out Ecuador, and then so on.
Kurt Elster: You make it sound so casual. It’s like, “Eh, just moved to Kenya. Started working with a tribe and empowered 400 people by helping them make bracelets, and then I got a book put in a quarter million stores.” It was like 30 seconds. What is the timeframe there?
Chrissie Lam: It really happened so quickly. It was really strange. It was like a personal photo project I did on Instagram. It was like July 1st of 2014 and then I came back from my trip, pitched it like in end of August, September, and then after that, like it launched in all their stores end of January.
Kurt Elster: When we say they, who’s they?
Chrissie Lam: It was my old employer, my previous employer, American Eagle Outfitters.
Kurt Elster: Oh, okay. Yeah. They have quite a few stores.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah, exactly. So, once that happened I was like, “Wow, okay, this went from just a personal photo project to social media campaign really quick.” And then I was like okay, I had some time to sort of sit on and think about what to do with it, and I hadn’t figured out… You know, I grew up in the fashion industry before digital marketing, before Facebook ads, before all this stuff, so how I thought, how you had to grow a brand was totally different. And so, I kind of was stuck. I didn’t know really how to do it, like navigate this whole space.
Actually, I didn’t even know it really existed, this whole Facebook ad thing. And I moved to Bali in 2015 and then I was talking to one of my friends who had had some friends who were in the eCom space, and she was telling me how they had multimillion dollar companies, they had grown their companies through Facebook ads. I was like, “What?” I was like, “Tell me more about this.” And she told me about this, and I was like, “ I need to be doing this immediately.” So, I felt like I had had all these limiting beliefs like how I needed to grow my business through brands, or just retailers, or wholesale, not really thinking like, “Oh my gosh, direct to consumer. I really need to be learning.”
And having to learn Facebook ads, learn how to do my CRM, so it was a huge learning process along the way, but I’m so happy I finally pivoted and got behind the whole digital marketing side of it, because it really grew our brand to where it is now.
Kurt Elster: Isn’t Bali a hot spot of entrepreneurship? Like eCommerce entrepreneurship or online entrepreneurship specifically?
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. There’s a lot of people who work remote there. I think even before this whole COVID thing, people had been living in Bali probably at least 10 years prior, kind of working remote, and Wi-Fi has gotten better over the years, and I think there’s more and more people around the world, like a lot of creatives, a lot of entrepreneurs who are based there, so it’s interesting that I learned about everything there versus here in the States.
Kurt Elster: It is. That’s quite incredible. So, at what point do you launch an eCom store and take these bracelets and I presume the book as well direct to consumer?
Chrissie Lam: Yeah, so I launched Love Is Project as a brand beginning of January 1st, 2017. So, a little over four years ago now. And I launched it from Bali, but I had gotten a fulfillment center in San Francisco, so I was back and forth, having things shipped down to California.
Kurt Elster: And what’s that launch look like? As you transition and you’re looking to scale this, how did you get the word out there? How did it go?
Chrissie Lam: You know, I had no idea what to expect. I was just hoping for the best. But I think the timing of our launch was really… I think it was great. It was obviously right before Valentine’s Day, so that’s our big season. As well as Donald Trump had just been elected, so I think there were a lot of people who were really needing a lot more love in their life, so I feel that was also a timely launch. And the book itself, like it was just a concept at the time. It wasn’t edited and copyrighted, so we didn’t actually launch the book to sell until beginning of 2020.
I had done a Kickstarter in 2019 to put my photos together, as well as all the collaborating photographers I have worked with over the years.
Kurt Elster: I don’t even know where to begin with this. I have too much to work with here. What haven’t you done? Really. What have you not done? We got Shark Tank, Kickstarter, published a book, in a whole bunch of retail stores, employed a whole bunch of people, and you visited… I have in my notes here over 100 countries.
Chrissie Lam: Yes.
Kurt Elster: That’s quite incredible.
Chrissie Lam: That was before, when I had more time to go travel. Now I’m kind of more based in a couple… one or two places now.
Kurt Elster: And where do you hang out now?
Chrissie Lam: I’m currently in Hawaii, so it is 6:00 in the morning here, so you’ll watch the sunrise here.
Kurt Elster: Oh. Good morning.
Chrissie Lam: No worries.
Kurt Elster: When does Shark Tank happen?
Chrissie Lam: Shark Tank happened during the pandemic, because you know, what do you do when you can’t travel and do your work and work with the artisans anymore? I’m like… Well, I was here in the States, shoring up the business, and it was a really good time to kind of focus on kind of cleaning our systems up and structure. And I was… One of my friends had mentioned mutual friends of ours that had met briefly that were on Shark Tank, a Yellow Leaf Hammock company, and I tuned in and watched the clip, and I was like, “Oh, wow. This is great.” I hadn’t watched Shark Tank really, so I was like I didn’t know they were into social entrepreneurship and Daniel from KIND Bar has invested like a million bucks, so I was like, “Oh, let me look online to see the application process.”
So, it wasn’t too long, at least the first one, and then I submitted, and I kind of forgot about it because I was moving out of my apartment in the city and some other things, and then I got a call a few days later, but I was… I didn’t check my voicemail. And then a few weeks later they emailed me saying like, “Hey, are you still interested?” Because they were closing everything up now. It was like end of June. I was like, “Oh, yeah. Sure. Definitely.” And so, then it was like three months of just like Shark Tank. I watched every episode of Shark Tank because I was just trying to learn everything about it. And then we kept moving to the next rounds through the different application processes, and then flew to Vegas in September to film.
And then it aired in January, so it was also a six month, seven month time from when I applied to air date, basically. So…
Kurt Elster: What surprised you most about being on Shark Tank? And especially like after you applied, then you watched a ton of episodes, so you were really familiar with how we see it. What really… What surprised you about it?
Chrissie Lam: You know, I think this year was very different, just because it was a pandemic, so we… Normally they film in L.A. We filmed in Vegas in the Venetian, in a bubble. We quarantined prior to, before for eight days. It was definitely intense, because it was you couldn’t leave your room and all that, but it was a lovely venue in place, and they were very careful, so I think everyone felt really safe. I think that was surprising, just because I was like, “Wow, this is like one of the only shows right now that’s filming.” So, that was pretty cool.
And then yeah, I think just the whole experience. I was just not used to pitch… I’ve never pitched to investors before. I’ve self-funded my own company and I don’t normally do public speaking. Like yes, in my old corporate job sometimes I would present to design team and whatnot, but it was never like… I mean, it was important, but it was never high stakes, you know? Like suddenly I’m like, “Sure, I’m gonna just do this on national TV.” And so, that was definitely nerve wracking, so I kept practicing, and trying to… and I guess the thing is is like I know they want it to be natural and stuff too, but I think it was nerve wracking just to know that everything was gonna be filmed and aired, and you didn’t know exactly what they were gonna air.
Kurt Elster: Nerve wracking is an understatement. I would be so anxious. So, did you… Did they offer you money? Did you take money? What happened?
Chrissie Lam: No. We did not get a deal. You know, I think they kept thinking we were like a charity, and I want to say it’s like we’re a for-profit social enterprise. We create jobs for the women. And yes, on top of that we’ve been investing in other income-generating projects for the women, like creating food gardens during the food crisis during the pandemic in these countries, mask-making initiatives, recycling projects, so like yes, our goal is we want to be able to make money, but it’s not the only thing we want to do. We want to be able to help the communities to be able to lift themselves up.
So, I think for them, they really just were really bottom line wanted to make money, so I think that’s… They felt like it was confused-
Kurt Elster: You think they didn’t get it?
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. I don’t think they get it. Didn’t get it. The sharks we had, and we didn’t have say like a Daniel from KIND Bars, or Blake Mycoskie from Toms, who understands social entrepreneurship a bit more. But I think honestly, it really worked out for the best, because for us to restructure the company for 5% for 250K really wouldn’t have been necessary, because we have money in the bank, and we’re growing, and we’ve been doubling our growth each year, so I think we can keep on doing what we’re doing, and then without… Like my mom said on the episode, we don’t have to share the profits with them. And again, the profits we can use to go in and help and fund other projects we care about.
Kurt Elster: Oh, your mom is so funny. She’s great.
Chrissie Lam: I know. She’s such a tiger mom. She’s really… She’s so Chinese. It’s so funny. We just yesterday, our Facebook campaign just aired that profiled us as one of three companies for women’s month, so they filmed us all day a few weeks ago and edited this really nice kind of story about how we work together, as well as the artisans and stuff we work with in the countries.
Kurt Elster: I gotta check that out.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: And everyone else should too, because your mom is a trip. She’s so funny. And inspiring, really. Let’s see. What was I gonna say? Oh, right, so you have said… You’ve used the phrase social entrepreneurship many times, and I think one of the trends we’re seeing post-pandemic as DTC, direct to consumer has really taken off, is people spending more consciously. The conscious consumer. Self-aware consumer? That’s easier to say. And so, I think it’s an important trend and it’s important to me. I notice I’m spending more in line with my beliefs. Talk to me about social entrepreneurship. Let’s assume I don’t know what the heck it is.
Chrissie Lam: You know, it’s the triple bottom line, essentially. It’s like profits, people, and the planet. And it’s really kind of considering all those things when you are doing a business. It’s like taking care of the people you work with. And it’s also trying to be cognizant of what you’re doing to the planet, like the materials you’re using, or ways to kind of lighten your footprints, because obviously it’s like I had issues, like this is I think what stalled me from launching an eCom business, because after working in corporate for so long I had been creating so many things, and like I was just like do I need any more things? Do I need to be creating more stuff in the world?
And that’s why I was consulting at first. I was like I didn’t know if I wanted to be contributing to that. And then I had to really kind of shift that and get past that, because it was like this is what I know I’m good at. This is what my skill set is. It’s like this is all I… You know, and so I can create good products, and interesting, compelling products with great stories behind it. So, I should really embrace it and own it, and really make the most out of it, and work with the artisans, and really help them, and be able to contribute more. And I was just like, “You know what? If I have to sell products, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Kurt Elster: I’m glad you were able to identify like, “This is my skill set. This is what I’m good at.” And then lean into it and really leverage it. I think oftentimes, especially with entrepreneurship, you have those moments where you have to recognize what you are and aren’t good at, and then get out of your own way, and it sounds like that’s a little bit of what happened.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: So, earlier you had said 2015, you were in Bali, and you hadn’t even thought about like, “Oh, Facebook ads and selling myself online with Shopify.” Because you had this corporate background. But certainly, I bet there are skills you have that your colleagues don’t in the self-employed world because of that corporate background. What do you think… What good came out of it? What skills, what abilities, networking, was there any… Was it worthwhile to do 12 years in a corporate gig?
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. I’m so grateful. I mean, honestly, I’m so grateful for the companies I worked with and had the opportunity to help grow their companies, the brands. But I think what I took from it, besides all the experience, I was traveling around the world for about 12 years and seeing so many things, like being inspired, shooting at concerts, events, trend forecasting, shopping vintage retail, all these places. It was such a great experience, like I mean so many… I’m so lucky.
Kurt Elster: It does sound like a lot of fun when you put it that way.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. It was the dream job. It was totally a dream job. And I think when I was leaving and people were like, “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe you’re leaving.” But I was just like I wasn’t growing anymore and I really… I felt stuck, kind of, and I needed to do my own thing, and I wanted to make more of an impact. So, that’s what happened. But I have the experience from kind of working for brands, but then also all the connections, all my friends in the industry that have been able to help partner with me, and for future brand partnerships or other things, like other great… It’s amazing. I’m still in touch with a lot of people from the industry to help collaborate on projects.
Kurt Elster: Thinking out loud, one of the things that I value most about my life is my independence. So, I really… That, for me, is like a driving force behind my love of entrepreneurship, is that independence, and you said, “Hey, I learned what I was gonna learn. I felt like I was stuck. And I wanted to make my mark.” Do you think there was any part of that desire for independence was in that decision?
Chrissie Lam: Absolutely. Again, I love traveling, and I love being able to live remotely, like live in other countries, and experience other cultures, so the life I wanted to live was freedom, and I wanted to be able to spend my time in Kenya if I wanted to, or in the States, or in Indonesia, so this job… being able to create my own job, and career, and live the life I actually wanted to, I felt like I wanted and desired, it’s like the best thing ever. I mean, the irony is that since launching it, I’ve been so busy and trying to learn everything, and I’ve had to spend a lot more time in the States. My mom has been helping with operations and finance stuff, and we’ve been working with the agency, so I’ve actually had to be in the States a lot more than I thought, because I’ve had to buckle down and get everything, lay the framework and foundation for everything, but…
Kurt Elster: If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be? Pandemic be damned.
Chrissie Lam: I mean, I’m in Hawaii right now, so it’s beautiful.
Kurt Elster: That’s pretty good.
Chrissie Lam: I’m not gonna say… I haven’t been back in 10 years, so it was nice to see friends and have some… have a little mini break. But I love Bali. Bali is like my home, so I really would like to be able to get back this year at some point to spend at least like a month or two.
Kurt Elster: So, certainly you spent 12 years in this job, and then you transition to being an entrepreneur. That’s scary. There’s no doubt. But it’s exciting. But it’s a thing a lot of people struggle with as their business grows and it starts becoming less of a side hustle and more part-time job, then eventually comes clear, like this could be a full-time job. Talk to me about that transition. How do you transition from that full-time employment to life as an entrepreneur?
Chrissie Lam: It’s definitely scary. I think since I started corporate out of college, like I was used to having my 401(k), having my perks, having all those things, like the security of everything, and like yeah, once you leave you don’t. You’re kind of like hustling to try to make it work and hope… Praying that-
Kurt Elster: That’s the flip side of like yeah, independence, I could do what I want. Also, you’re 100% responsible for every… Oh, you want to get paid this Friday? That’s on you, buddy. It’s all you.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. It’s definitely really stressful. Yeah, so when I hear friends who are like, “Oh yeah, I want to do that too, but I kind of want to be able to hire someone and have someone else do it.” And I’m like, “That’s not gonna work, actually. Trust me. You’re gonna sweat more than you ever have. You will be super stressed at times.” And obviously there’s amazing wins and stuff that can happen, but it’s never… It’s not easy. And you always have to be open to be learning, because everything keeps evolving. It’s like the moment you decide that you get complacent or you’re comfortable, you’re in a very dangerous position, I think. So, I think like I’ve learned that like… You have to learn everything.
I don’t have to be a master at Facebook ads or CRM, but it’s like I have to know all the basics so I can be able to manage other people, because if you don’t, you’re gonna get screwed.
Kurt Elster: It’s funny that you said like… Oh, you need to be wary of complacency. And I started my business in 2009 and recently I was thinking to myself, I’m like, “Wow, things are going perfect. I got no stress. Everything’s going great. Can’t be better.” And then I went, “Oh, no. It can’t be better. Oh, no!” Like I was like, “The complacency!” Right? That’s weird that that’s a genuine fear for entrepreneurs. So, in situations like that, I set new goals. It just means… I think really it just means, all right, set new goals, push yourself out of your comfort zone and stress yourself out a little bit.
So, that’s what I was going through recently. But tell me, so about that transition, what was the moment where you knew, like, “All right, I’m gonna quit. I’m gonna quit. I’m going full-time with my own thing.”
Chrissie Lam: Well, it was actually kind of perfect. I had been struggling the last two years of my corporate, because I was kind of like not sure how to leave, and if I could, and I was not totally… I wasn’t really that happy. Not because of the job itself. The company is a great company. But I just wasn’t fulfilled in my own way, and they actually… I had worked in the women’s division, in Aerie, and then I had moved over to kids like the last few years, and they then… The company decided because the kids brand wasn’t growing fast enough, they decided that they were gonna close it.
So, it actually was perfect timing because I took severance, because I had been there for a decade, and they’re like, “Do you want to work in the main brand again?” I was like, “No, it’s okay. I’m gonna leave.” So, that’s… I kind of took that as the moment to jump off, basically, because I had a cushion, as well as I had an apartment in the city I was renting out, so I didn’t necessarily have to make rent in the city, and I could kind of go off and explore, and just see what would happen and what I would kind of experience. And then sure enough, a few years later, Love Is Project.
Kurt Elster: So, some of it’s about timing, and some of it’s about comfort, but it sounds like okay, one big project in your full-time gig had ended, and that kind of freed up the mindset and the time where you felt comfortable moving forward.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: In addition to you, like all the stars aligned there.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah, correct, and I felt like with my background in the industry, it’s like I had enough leverage that I could come back and ask, like pitch collaborations, ideas, other things like that in the future, so it wasn’t like the door was completely closed.
Kurt Elster: One of the things I noticed about you is that you are tremendously good at PR. Let me rattle off the list here. You have been featured on Shark Tank, Forbes List, CNN, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The View, Oprah Magazine, Paris Vogue, NBC, Univision, Refinery 29, Glamour, ELLE South Africa, DestinAsian, Cathay Pacific in-flight magazines. Wow. So, just about everywhere I want to be. What’s the deal? How… Are you really good at PR? Or do people just love you that much? Which is it?
Chrissie Lam: I don’t know. I hope it’s both.
Kurt Elster: Maybe both.
Chrissie Lam: So, like I started doing trade shows, because I was… And so, while doing these trade shows I would meet with some press I’d reach out to prior to like Oprah Magazine, like Good Morning America, Today Show, and they’d come by my booth and we’d talk and they’re like, “Oh, cool. We should do a feature on you.” I’m like, “Awesome, that’d be great.” Or a flash sale. So, that’s kind of how that started, and then I also, with my background in the industry, like I knew friends at Glamour, Refinery 29, a couple other magazines, and so that’s how we got that press. And then say like I was doing a collaboration with a friend who’s a creative director in Paris, and so that collaboration got featured in Paris Vogue.
So, it was kind of through my contacts that things would end up getting exposure, so yes, I have been doing my own PR, but I’ve been also lucky with some of my contacts in the industry. And with Shark Tank, I mean, that’s a crapshoot, because you never know if you’re gonna get on or not, so…
Kurt Elster: Yeah. Yeah. Well, but actually that’s a good question. How often do you just go for opportunities where it’s like, “I’m going to shoot my shot, expect that I don’t get it, and then if I do, great.” And it sounded like Shark Tank was one of those.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. That was one of those. I was like, “You know what? I think I have a great story. We’ve done a lot of impact. I think this would resonate right now with the world, especially through COVID times, the riots going on in the States, we need more love. I think this is an important message to get out there.” And sure enough, I think the producers also liked it, so that was good.
Kurt Elster: But how often… Do you frequently go after those high-risk or high-risk/high-reward opportunities? I suppose there’s no risk to applying other than the time.
Chrissie Lam: That’s true. Yeah. I think I’m always up for it, like if I hear something on a podcast, or something, application process, I’m like, “Sure, I’ll apply. Why not?” I already have a lot of the foundation from my past application, so it’s kind of just repurposing it and putting it in. For example, like while I was doing research on our guest shark, Alex Rodriguez, I noticed that he was a judge for the Forbes Next 1000 list, and I was like, “Oh, I didn’t even know there was this thing.”
So, I looked at it, I was like, “Oh, I’ll apply for that too.” And sure, enough I got it, but had I not been on Shark Tank, had I not gotten Alex Rodriguez as a guest shark, I wouldn’t have known about this Forbes Next 1000 application.
Kurt Elster: Yeah. There’s so many things here that are like opportunities that came your way where the stars aligned, but at the same time, you seem to be so good at recognizing those opportunities, and then getting out of your own way and going for it and seeing what happens. I think there’s a lesson in there, certainly. But there’s too much success here. Certainly, you have to have messed up somewhere along the line.
Chrissie Lam: Yes, I have.
Kurt Elster: Show us that you’re human.
Chrissie Lam: Many things, actually. We’re still always trying to figure it out, especially when it comes to Facebook ads, and Google ads, and managing all the agencies and trying to make this whole… make everything profitable for everyone. But I would say like in the beginning, you’re having to learn all these new platforms when you have an eCom business, and it’s a bit overwhelming, and I had a fulfillment center, a different fulfillment center at the time, and everything got really crazy and busy with our first season, like we went our second month in sales, $100,000, and I was like sold out of product. There was all this back and forth. And I was on my 3PL site and I was trying to figure out some sort of exchange or return situation. I was plugging in some customer’s address and I put it in the wrong address place and it basically… This woman messaged me a few weeks later, like a month later saying… She’s like, “I’m getting all these returns to my house.”
And I was like-
Kurt Elster: No!
Chrissie Lam: I’m like, “What?” I was like, “How is this possible?” I was like so confused. And then I emailed the fulfillment center. I was like, “Do you guys have a fulfillment center in this state or something?” They’re like, “No.” I’m like, “Oh, no.”
Kurt Elster: Whoa.
Chrissie Lam: I was like, “This woman is getting…” So, I was like, “I’m so sorry.” But it was just like a big blooper and then the following year, it was like before Valentine’s Day, I was like, “This year this will never happen. We’ll have enough stock. We’re gonna be okay. This is all good.” And then sure enough, our fulfillment center had to move to this very remote area, and it wasn’t a really good situation, so we had… Number one, you should never change your fulfillment center during high season. Unfortunately, we had no other choice, and so we switched to another company, closer by, and the day we switched it was like they accidentally duplicated 800 orders and we shipped everything.
Kurt Elster: Oh no.
Chrissie Lam: During our high season. So, some people that year got a lot of love, and then it wiped out some of our inventory so we couldn’t even fulfill, and some people didn’t get love, and like literally, when I knew that happened, it was kind of like watching in slow motion, like red wine spill on a carpet, and the realization that you’re like, “What happened?” And then I was still doing my customer service on top of everything else. So, I was like, “Wow. I’m going to have to email all these. I’m gonna have to be messaging all these people and trying to figure out what… all this stuff.”
So, it was really, really stressful, and unfortunate, and it was like a $65,000 mistake, and that we got about $23,000 back from, so yeah. That was a bummer.
Kurt Elster: Well, all right. Now you get to toot your own horn again. On this incredible journey, what have you learned? What is the overarching lesson for our audience, for yourself, for whoever?
Chrissie Lam: I think… Yeah, it’s really about believing in yourself, like love is self-love, it’s if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. You gotta take care of yourself and make sure you protect yourself. I think in the past, also my personality type, I’m always giving a lot, always giving, and then sometimes getting taken advantage of or being… So, it’s just like I think I’ve had to learn that over the years, and just being more cognizant and careful. But not trying to… Still being myself, like being open-
Kurt Elster: Yeah. Without becoming cynical.
Chrissie Lam: Exactly, and you know, and it’s something I definitely needed to learn. And I think-
Kurt Elster: We all go through it.
Chrissie Lam: Yeah. And I think an entrepreneur too, it’s just like yeah, it’s lonely. You’re here, and that’s why it’s nice to have some peers and other friends who are entrepreneurs too, to kind of be able to talk to, because otherwise it can get really overwhelming and there’s times that people are like, “Oh yeah, you’re crushing it. You’re doing amazing.” I’m like, “Yeah, I am, but I’m totally exhausted and working 12 hours a day in Hawaii right now.” Or something like that.
It looks easier from the outside, I guess-
Kurt Elster: Yeah. The outside looking in is always gonna look better. Anytime you feel the slightest bit of envy about someone, you have to realize like you’re looking at their highlight reel only. And if you wanna be where they are, you gotta trade everything you did for everything they did.
Chrissie Lam: Exactly.
Kurt Elster: Once I changed those two things in my mindset, I never really felt envious of anybody after that. You can’t do it. So, what’s one thing you do every day that you wish you could just automate?
Chrissie Lam: Gosh. Management.
Kurt Elster: Management?
Chrissie Lam: Managing everyone and all the-
Kurt Elster: Just an AI that represents you, goes out and does your dirty work?
Chrissie Lam: Exactly.
Kurt Elster: I like this idea.
Chrissie Lam: Exactly. Yeah. That would be nice.
Kurt Elster: It would be pretty good, just like write some emails for you and then you check it, “Ah, that looks good. Send it.”
Chrissie Lam: Yeah.
Kurt Elster: So, having traveled to 105 countries, I bet you’ve fallen asleep someplace weird somewhere along the way. What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever fallen asleep?
Chrissie Lam: Oh my God. I actually sleep so well everywhere, so I can pass out on command, so I love naps.
Kurt Elster: See, that’s a skill that suggests to me there’s probably someplace weird you fell asleep.
Chrissie Lam: Most likely. I mean, you know, planes, cars, trains, automobiles, I mean, also-
Kurt Elster: There’s just too many places, you’re like-
Chrissie Lam: There’s too many places.
Kurt Elster: I couldn’t pick one.
Chrissie Lam: If I get a couple minutes to just chill, I literally will just… I will pass out anywhere. So…
Kurt Elster: I have a similar superpower. I think it’s a superpower. I fell asleep at a rock concert once. Yeah. And that’s when I was like, “I might be short on sleep.”
Chrissie Lam: That’s harder with the noise, I think, but my only thing is like when I get tired and I’m in the car, that’s dangerous. So, I need to make sure my windows are open and all that stuff, and I cannot fall asleep.
Kurt Elster: What’s something that people are obsessed with you just don’t get the point of? Like what is their deal?
Chrissie Lam: Gosh. There’s so many things, actually. No, I’ve never had a TV, so I don’t really watch a bunch of… Sometimes I watch a movie or shows once in a while, but I don’t get into a whole bunch of shows, or I don’t watch sports really either, so I don’t know that whole space. I know it’s a huge thing, but it’s not really my world.
Kurt Elster: You’re not really missing anything. Yeah. With the pandemic, I watched so much TV. I’m like, “I did it.” I beat TV. There is nothing interesting left. It’s over. I want nothing to do with this. And now I’ve started doing yoga, so I think net win.
Chrissie Lam: Nice.
Kurt Elster: Here we go. Final lightning question. What’s something weird you recommend everyone try at least once?
Chrissie Lam: I think getting out of your comfort zone and traveling somewhere you wouldn’t expect, normally predict, like something that would make you push you to kind of see the world differently. I think that’s-
Kurt Elster: I like that advice. I have never regretted pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Beforehand, I’m like, “What was I thinking?” And then afterward I’m like, “That was great.” So, on the Love Is Project, where is it? Where can I go to find out more about you?
Chrissie Lam: You can go to our website, loveisproject.com, and you can read more about our story, our impact, and see our products, and we’re also on Instagram. @loveisproject, and on Facebook, and all the other social channels.
Kurt Elster: And one last question, what’s your favorite Shopify app these days?
Chrissie Lam: Favorite Shopify app. Man-
Kurt Elster: You can go with like three, it’s fine.
Chrissie Lam: I mean-
Kurt Elster: You can’t just pick one.
Chrissie Lam: I mean, Klaviyo is linked in. That’s our CRM, so that generates a majority of our sales, so I feel like I can’t live without Klaviyo.
Kurt Elster: I like that choice. I think that’s a good one. All right. We will end it there. Chrissie, thank you so much. This has been inspiring, and insightful, and fun, and I’m glad we talked today.
Chrissie Lam: Thank you so much, Kurt, for having me, and thanks for all your support.