Combining Body Positivity & Fashion, My Beautiful Fluff Celebrates Natural Beauty In All Its Forms
Brittany Washington's small business is here to help women celebrate their natural beauty with her line of clothing and products at My Beautiful Fluff.
Brittany Washington started her business My Beautiful Fluff out of an industry need for plus-sized representation. While hunting for a t-shirt about natural hair pride, she couldn’t find her size. Like many entrepreneurs, she saw an opening in the market and thought, “If I can’t find it, I’ll create it.” From t-shirts, My Beautiful Fluff expanded into both print-on-demand and manufactured products and has continued to find new ways to grow and reach its audience.
Brittany’s business model is primarily eCommerce, with trade shows and events sprinkled in during non-pandemic years in areas near and outside the Quad Cities, Iowa, where she lives with her family. With recent insider knowledge from business accelerator programs offered by companies like GoDaddy and Amazon, Brittany is a lifelong business learner, adapting and shifting to find out what works best. She also embodies her brand and her message: Erase body stigma and love yourself from head to toe.
Read on to learn more about My Beautiful Fluff’s seven-year journey into a small business dream!
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Learning The Business Through Trial And Error
Before starting My Beautiful Fluff, Brittany worked as an area manager when a disability required her to find a job she could do from home. She tried a few options, including an Amazon store, but was left feeling unfulfilled.
She said, “I tried network marketing, which was a big fail and waste of money. Then I had an Amazon store for a while, which was okay, but it wasn’t my passion. Then I was going through a period where I was transitioning to natural hair…and I was trying to find a natural hair t-shirt and I got so frustrated because they didn’t have my size.”
Brittany wasn’t looking to start a business, but with her degree in Business Management and a growing drive to be the brand she wanted to buy and couldn’t find, My Beautiful Fluff — a shop designed to celebrate fluffiness (natural hair and natural bodies) in all its forms — was born. She said:
“Our customers are fluffy women. People that are curvy, full-figured, plus, anyone in that category is our customer base. People can be at different points in their journey with their body, either learning to love their body or currently loving their body, but people just like being able to see themselves represented in a [clothing] line.”
People can be at different points in their journey with their body, either learning to love their body or currently loving their body, but people just like being able to see themselves represented in a line.
And getting that clothing line right was the first step to My Beautiful Fluff becoming a reality.
From inception to execution, Brittany had a vision for her products. But knowing the best or easiest way to arrive at a sellable product that matched her vision was a lesson in patience and keeping a sense of humor.
“It took me a year to get a semi-usable t-shirt,” Brittany said. “I gave the manufacturer my measurements in inches and they designed the shirts in centimeters. So, I got a bunch of baby shirts the first time around.” With the conversions worked out, she was certain the second go-around would be foolproof. “I needed white large through 4X shirts, and I get a box of puke green shirts all 4X. So, I sat down and broke down each size and the exact number I needed, and I triple-checked it. I said, when you start printing, send me a picture. They did. They were white. All the sizes were right. The printing was okay. But when I got them? They’d written the sizes on the tags in marker. It was pretty bad.”
That was the moment she knew she had to go on a hunt for better manufacturers.
And she learned an important lesson, “Always pay for the sample. It’s still a lot cheaper to buy one shirt [at full-cost] versus buying 100 shirts and getting stuck with something that’s crappy.”
Always pay for the sample. It’s still a lot cheaper to buy one shirt versus buying 100 shirts and getting stuck with something that’s crappy.
The research about where to print next left her with two choices. She found Ali Baba (China’s eCommerce platform, the largest in the world) helpful as it connected her to 30-40 sellers but also found it hard to keep the inventory consistent. That was when she switched to Printify. The print-on-demand service integrates with Wix, Shopify, and Etsy for dropshipping services.
“The only thing I don’t like about print-on-demand is that you lose the personal touch,” Brittany said. “When I have an order I ship from here, I can put in a handwritten card with my logo that says, ‘Hey, show off your fluff, tag us, and we’ll show off your photos!’ Now, I’ve started to send a card separately that says, ‘I hope your experience was great! Tell us what you think and leave a review.’ And the card had a sticker with a bitly link that takes them right to reviews,” she said.
And while she adores everything she sells, the t-shirt line isn’t even Brittany’s favorite item. “If I had to pick, it would be my self-love journal. It’s a cute character with a t-shirt on and it has different affirmations surrounding her that I use. We made it in a hardcover that was absolutely beautiful,” she said.
Finding Support With Small Business Accelerator Programs
One thing new in Brittany’s business arsenal this year is the use of accelerator programs. Especially after the Covid pandemic decimated small business sales across the world, slowed supply chains, and slowed distribution, some of the heavy eCommerce hitters have launched on to accelerator programs for startups or businesses that fit certain criteria.
She was accepted into and enrolled in three accelerator programs led by three leaders of small business eCommerce: Amazon, Go Daddy, and TikTok.
“I had no idea about Amazon’s accelerator program. But I had someone from Amazon reach out to me and say they are starting an accelerator specifically for Black businesses because of the impact Covid had on Black business. With this program, you get your seller fees waived for a year, a personal mentor through Amazon, help with setting up a Shopify store, and help with setting up ads and ad spend. I can send in 50 items and they will take professional pictures and help update our listings. There is also a grant portion,” Brittany said.
Her GoDaddy accelerator program led to a write-up about her business to help spotlight small business startups.
Brittany also joined Facebook’s Career Connections Program which partnered her with an intern for the summer. The intern is a psych student looking for practical business skills. Facebook teaches the interns about targeted Facebook ads and running a Facebook ad campaign.
“She is a great match,” Brittany said. “We onboarded her and got her set up with Canva and we’re at the point now where she is running ads and doing our social media posts.”
Advice For New Small Business Owners Or Veterans
Brittany isn’t a newbie at the business game, but she admits that the small business world is constantly changing. Good business owners change with it. If she ever has a chance to mentor a new business owner, she has her mistakes and her successes to share. But her best piece of advice is for small business owners to look up and join their local Small Business Association or Development Center.
“Small business associations do webinars, classes, and you can get a mentor for free. They have a solid set of resources for people starting their business and having that help, in the beginning, will make it so much easier,” Brittany said. “This past year with Covid, I was applying for grants and I realized there were a ton of things I did wrong. We had to apply for a new EIN because I didn’t know what I was doing.” But business owners don’t need to feel like they have to do it alone — help is out there.
Small business associations do webinars, classes, and you can get a mentor for free. They have a solid set of resources for people starting their business and having that help, in the beginning, will make it so much easier.
Here are a few more rapid takes and pieces of advice:
On Using Social Media To Sell: “I think one of the best shifts with Instagram and Facebook is that before, Facebook had it where you could link the shop to your store, but now they have made it more robust where if I do a post of my tote bag, then I can tag it. And customers can click that tag and it will take you right to my website. And with Instagram, if a customer tags you, you can request to feature that product.”
On Email Marketing: “I have a lot of repeat customers. We recently switched to Klaviyo for email marketing. They have a system where you can target niche audiences. I can take all the people who bought our journal and contact them with a new journal out. Now, it’s not the most user-friendly system, but the company does have great customer service. They have an option to hop on a lunch call with them once a month, and they will talk you through different features and systems.”
On Body Positivity In The Media: “Many brands have jumped on body positivity because it’s a trend. But it’s not genuine. I think if your total message is built around selling, it’s not helping anyone. With My Beautiful Fluff, I’ve tried to make it more about just sales. I’ve set up a Facebook community where people can talk about body positivity issues in a safe setting.”
On Her Best Business Tool: “My top business tool is definitely Canva. It makes design so easy and it’s easy to teach and share with my intern. I hate Adobe. Photoshop is so cumbersome to me. I went right back to Canva.”