146: Turning an Everyday Item into an Extraordinary Product with Meggan Wood of Lily-Jade Bags

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If you're a mom on Instagram, we bet you've seen a gorgeous Lily Jade bag. On today's episode of the podcast, we are pleased to welcome Meggan Wood, owner and creator of Lily Jade. We talk about her design process, working with social influencers, product manufacturing, and what it's like to be a husband-wife team.

Let's get started!

Listen Now On the Podcast

00:34 - The Inspiration Behind Lily Jade02:45 - Growing a Business Rapidly04:45 - Working with Social Influencers08:45 - Meeting Manufactures, Taking Feedback, & Lily Jade 2.016:02 - Working With Your Husband21:24 - Giveaways Galore26:00 - Adorable Mom Moment29:45 - Our Own Lily Jade Giveaway

The Inspiration Behind Lily Jade

Meggan is married to Landon and mom to two girls, Caroline, 11, and Madeline, 7. Before becoming a mom, Meggan always loved cute totes and accessories. As a new mom, she hunted for a tote that would meet her needs, but didn't scream diaper bag. She worked in outside sales before coming home to be a SAHM, and she wanted a fashionable accessory to feel less like she had spit up all over her all the time. (And we sure do understand that!)

Meggan remembers going to discount retailers and finding the biggest leather tote she could that had sturdy strapping and different carrying options. She has always valued organization and created her own ZipLock bag system to organize the contents of these totes.

She vividly remembers sitting in a restaurant with her mother-in-law, lugging 2 bags to the table -- one bag for 6 month old Madeline and one bag for herself. She sat down and announced, “One day I am going to create a diaper bag that doesn’t look like a diaper bag, and fits all of my stuff, and that’s what I’m going to do.” While at that moment nothing drastic changed, the dream of Lily Jade began.

Lily Jade was birthed out of a real-life need. Meggan knew that other women surely could relate to her struggles -- and she was right.

Growing a Business Rapidly

Lily Jade has grown quickly in just over 3 years of business. We’re amazed, and so happy for them. But, what has contributed to their rapid success?

First of all, Lily Jade creates a bag that their customer base is excited to talk about. It’s innovative, highly desirable, and appealing to a targeted niche customer. It’s not hard to find a raving Lily Jade fan!

Lily Jade also used social influencers to spread the word about their bags. Social influencing wasn’t originally part of Lily Jade’s marketing strategy, but the company quickly became aware that social influencers could be valuable to the brand. Lily Jade bags are fabulous demo products, and showcasing the bag was easy for mommy bloggers to do. (If you visit Lily Jade on Instagram, you’ll see a gorgeous feed full of moms who love their Lily Jade bags.)

Working With Social Influencers

When asked if using social influencers has paid off for the Lily Jade team, Meggan gave a resounding YES. We wondered how she found them and what her budget was.

Marketing the perfect designer diaper bag happened with a lot of trial and error. Meggan says when Lily Jade first launched they were able to work with a company who really modeled for them how to find and manage bloggers with social campaigns.

Meggan began to pursue the marketing of her product after she had already created the bag, and was in the thick of designing and finding a factory. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a business lifecycle, or business stages, click here to learn more.)

As Lily Jade approached influencers, budget wasn’t necessarily the most important factor - finding the right fit was. While numbers are important, Meggan worried more about the potential influencer’s ability to engage their audience. Did they have many likes and comments on each post? Was their board aesthetically pleasing? Was their Instagram feed thought out with time and attention to detail?

“Social channels are like window shopping for ecommerce customers,” Meggan says. (We LOVE that.) She wanted to make sure influencers they worked with would pay attention to details like the lighting of the photos, and knowing the product well.

From there, she could narrow down her list. Since Lily Jade is a higher end product, they didn’t have to necessarily worry about paying influencers; they simply could give a product away. (And these bags are so high quality and great, we know Lily Jade has a line out the door of influencers asking for a bag!)

Meggan says she has had some “full circle” moments in her business when some influencers purchased additional bags for themselves and for friends. It’s a blessing to know that someone really does love your product.

And as much as their social influencers like Lily Jade products, they’re also willing to give honest feedback. Just before Christmas 2016, Lily Jade was able to launch their 2.0 line, created by making changes that had been suggested by their customers. Meggan sees the value in taking both negative and positive feedback to heart, and making her company even better, noting, “It’s awesome to take stock of our inventory and make an honest brand assessment. Where do we do well? Where do we need to do better?”

We think that openness to feedback is brilliant.

Meeting Manufactures, Taking Feedback, & Lily Jade 2.0

Meggan has made a trip overseas to China to visit the factory that produces Lily Jade bags in person. While she says you certainly don’t have to travel, and there are many ways to stay in touch with your suppliers and manufactures, for Lily Jade, it’s vital to see the process up close and personal.

Being a Texas gal, Meggan loves the opportunity to shake hands and give hugs to the people who make her business possible. Meggan explained that “it’s an honor to meet them face-to-face and thank them for what they do.” She tells the workers that their attention to detail matters, and Lily Jade bags are showpieces, and unique treasures, because of their hard work.

We wanted to ask Meggan about sourcing this fabulous product. While at Brilliant Business Moms we know a lot about manufacturing and creating prototypes of our planners, we know next to nothing about creating a bag!

She says that the beginning steps were really slow. She sat on her idea of creating a designer leather diaper bag for several years.

Her husband had a small business, and when he sold that business, Meggan pitched the idea to him that it might be time to pursue her diaper bag idea. Her husband did some market analysis and research and told her, “I think you’ve got something here.”

Prior to Lily Jade, Meggan had zero design experience. She couldn’t even cut a straight line! She had a vision and a concept in her mind, yet didn’t even know how to get it to translate to paper or the computer.

Her very first step was to contact an Etsy seller who designed and made quilted cotton handbags. She first asked this shop owner to create a bag for Meggan to see. Meggan measured and cut the first Lily Jade mockup out of cardboard! She put pockets and inserts where she wanted them, sending the measurements to her Etsy creator. Together they created the first prototype.

Meggan carried the bag around herself for a while, and made some changes based on how the prototype worked for her, and how it didn’t.

Then, she and her husband found a design consultant from New York through LinkedIn. The design consultant was extremely knowledgable and helpful and explained lots of industry terms to help Meggan translate her vision. (Like the side of the bag is called a gusset, in case you wondered.)

From this stage, the design consultant was able to sketch out drawings and tell Meggan exactly what she needed to do get this bag to production.

Lily Jade launched with two bags, the Madeline and the Caroline -- named after Meggan’s little girls -- in a variety of colors. They started with US tandem made leather, in a New York factory. After the first run, they knew if they wanted to scale they would have to go overseas. Seeking out an international manufacturer was never a negative for them; they were honored to hire the greatest craftsmen and leather workers they could. After her husband Landon went to a trade show in Hong Kong, he choose a few factory options and settled on one in China.

Recently Meggan and her husband were able to visit the factory that puts together Lily Jade bags, and discuss a few changes to be made. Meggan thinks it is truly amazing to meet her manufacturers face-to-face and thank them for their work. (I can’t wait to experience this same thing, and visit my own manufacturers face-to-face!)

We love Meggan’s care toward those who make her business possible!

Straight Talk About Working With Your Husband Full-Time

Meggan and her husband Landon launched this business as a team. Lily Jade doesn’t exist without either of them!

I had to know what it’s like working with your husband full time! (My husband Chris has always been a helper and cheerleader to Brilliant Business Moms, and he is amazing, but even in those roles I can sometimes think, “Wait, I don’t need your help!”) We just had to hear from Meggan the pros and cons of working with your spouse.

Meggan explained their priority to keep relationship over business:

“Landon and I were husband and wife, college sweethearts, and parents ever before we had Lily Jade. Lily Jade can rise and fall, but we’re the Woods. We’re a family. We mean that, and we operate in that place. We tell our children that Lily Jade is what we do, but it’s not who we are.”

The Woods have a strong sense of family. Meggan says if you lose sight of that first commitment, working together cannot be enjoyable.

She also says a mutual respect and honor toward each other has to be a consistent theme. Working together exposes the weak places, and if a spouse is ready to pounce on a weaknesses it’s not helpful. But if your spouse can see a weak place exposed and say something like, “Do you need any help with that?” a culture of honor is upheld.

Meggan also acknowledges the advice she frequently hears to ‘not talk business on a date.’ But

the Woods family has a vision and desire for their lives, but it’s not ‘business’ to talk about Lily Jade. God has a bigger plan for the Woods family, so they very much view Lily Jade as just a 3rd party member. “They’re not our dreams, they’re God dreams,” Meggan says.

(Chris and I are the same way -- because we are dreaming big all the time, it comes up naturally and we enjoy talking business because really, we’re talking our hopes and dreams.)

Meggan speaks so tenderly about the quiet moments between she and her husband when they’re able to look into the windows of each other’s hearts, as it were. Landon will ask, “How’s Lily Jade going for you, honey? Where do you feel like you’re succeeding? Where can you use help?”

We think that working relationship is just beautiful.

Giveaways Galore

If you’ve followed Lily Jade for any length of time, you’ll know that giveaways are something they do often! For example, on the 1st Monday of every month Lily Jade hosts Adoptive Mommy Monday giveaways for adoptive moms.

The Giveaway Model in the broad sense has been part of their business model and marketing initiatives from the beginning. Early on Lily Jade would do ‘tag a friend and follow us’ type giveaways to build their social channels. Word spread and it wasn’t as necessary to do those big sweeping giveaways as often.

At this stage, they have a certain number of bags built into their inventory for giveaways each year. Meggan says it’d be fun to go all Oprah with Lily Jade and be able to shout, “You get a bag! And you get a bag! And you get a bag!”

But for now, their customers are wonderful supporters, and Megan loves seeing their pictures and reading their emails. That appreciation fuels what they do. And then people get excited and want to share a $300+ bag giveaway with their friends!

Adoptive Mommy Monday was birthed out of Meggan’s desire to bring awareness about adoption and honor adoptive moms. There’s a level of bravery, and financial risk that is unique to adoptive moms, and Meggan loves to highlights those encouraging stories. Meggan deeply believes that children matter, and their lives are valuable.

(And many of you know we adopted our son Holden from India, and I am due with our first biological child this April. We’d love to have kids from all over the place! This part of the episode nearly made me cry.)

Without adoption, Meggan wouldn’t have her sisters! She was the big surprise baby; “I was the stomach flu that didn’t go away,” she quips. She has one sibling from the Philippines and one from Georgia, which makes adoption near and dear to her heart. It’s fabulous that Meggan has used her platform to put eyes on the often unseen world of adoption.

Adorable Mom Moment

Meggan’s oldest daughter, who is 11, understands a lot of what Lily Jade is and has attended meet and greets with her parents, as well as conferences. She’s a true cheerleader, who comes in at the right time and asks, “How’s work? How’s Lily Jade? Do you feel like you had success today? What do you need to work on?” These are the same questions Meggan will ask her children through the course of the day. In this intense season of putting the hand to the plow, Meggan thinks it’s sweet her children are able to come alongside their parents and desire to participate in their work and cheer on their successes.

(I love this! And I can so relate. Holden totally thinks he’s part of my business. One time he asked, “How many sales did we make?” after a Facebook live event. He was so disappointed that this was a teaching even, and not a sales event!)

Our Own Lily Jade Giveaway

Don’t you just love Meggan? She has such a heart for serving women and making a difference with her business, and all while keeping her family at the forefront.

If you’ve never seen a Lily Jade bag, you have got to check it out. Go to lily-jade.com and click “Shop Now” to browse. Meggan’s bags are gorgeous, smart, and clever, with amazing organizational systems.

And you’re in luck! Right now we’re doing a podcast relaunch giveaway after our great big, long podcasting break. There are 4 fabulous prizes, and one is a Lily Jade bag! We’re giving away a Madeline in Brandy and Jade, this high quality bag costs over $300.

You can click the link below for more details:

bit.ly/brilliantpodcastgiveaway

To enter you simply have to hit subscribe and leave a rating and review. We’ll draw 4 random names from people who left reviews between February 6th and March 6th. Then, we’ll announce the winners on the podcast and coordinate prizes through email.

Good luck!

Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!

Stay In Touch with Meggan

Lily-Jade.comFacebook: Lily Jade CoInstagram: @lilyjadecoInstagram: @megganewood

165 episodes available. A new episode about every 22 days averaging 38 mins duration .