Sarah Shaw is the CEO of Sarah Shaw Consulting. She started her career as a costume designer for Hollywood movies, went on to build several businesses and sold millions of dollars’ worth of products including the Sarah Shaw Handbag which got a lot of press, TV and movie placements. The bag is sold in over 1,200 stores and over 70 of the world’s most famous celebrities have worn or carried her products. Within a year Sarah Shaw Handbags could be found on the pages of InStyle, Oprah, People, Lucky and Marie Claire magazines.
Sarah provides private one-on-one coaching packages that give entrepreneurs the overall know-how to create and launch a product as well strategies she used to grow her own million-dollar company. One of her special areas of coaching is teaching clients how to get their products into the hands of celebrities and then leveraging their celebrity clientele for press and sales. He experience in production and entertainment has lent itself to unique approaches to packaging, marketing, distribution and public relations.
Sarah also founded Entreprenette, a company through which she coaches female entrepreneurs through the process of taking their fashion, home, lifestyle or accessory product ideas from concept to reality.
Period in full-time business
Sarah started her first company in 1994 but has been in full-time self-employment since 1998.
Core revenue streams
Sarah’s current business is Sarah Shaw Consulting through which she works with entrepreneurs to help them launch their product-based companies. She works with them for 6+ months in building their businesses.
Starting the consulting business
Sarah started Sarah Shaw Consulting in 2009.
Starting out in business
After college, Sarah started working in the film business doing costumes for movies. She never thought of entrepreneurship back then. In 1994, she started a clothing company that made clothes for movies. She partnered with a fashion designer and manufacturer who produced the clothes for her.
Her second business was buying wardrobe trailers and renting them to the film business. She later got the idea for a handbag in 1997. She made the bags, sold them, and they took off very well in the market. The handbag was taken up by 20 to 30 stores, and in 1998 she got a big order from Anthropologie, which drove her to quit her job as a costume designer.
Role of a costume designer in Hollywood
Sarah says costumes are the visual aspect of a movie and are therefore very critical in developing a character in the audience’s eye. She was a costume supervisor working under costume designers and some of her roles included managing the budgets and making sure all the costumes were on set when needed. She also performed a lot of other tasks and worked a minimum of 12 hours a day.
Take away from the costume supervisor job
The costume supervisor job enabled her to discover her tenacity and willingness to succeed. She learnt how to manage budgets, how not to take no for an answer, and how to put her vision to paper in the best way possible. All that helped her as she started her entrepreneurial journey.
Starting the handbag company and growing it
When she was first creating the handbags, she used to create rough designs and create samples. She consulted her former business partner in the previous clothing company she had, and he connected her to the people who eventually helped her get the first order from Anthropologie.
She had initially contracted a family that sewed the bags for her but she later started using a factory she knew to do the sewing in mass. At that point, she had a small office where she managed all the operations from. She eventually got orders from Nordstrom stores and other boutiques across the US.
Sarah did a lot of cold calling and sometimes mailed out her printed catalogue to get new buyers. Later on, she started sending out the handbag to celebrities. When the celebrities were photographed with her handbag, it generated a lot of gainful media coverage which led to an increase in sales from $500,000 to $1 Million.
Being good at those marketing techniques helped her when she started her next business. In 2003, she patented a closet organizer which she sold many units of. The massive sales were made possible by a combination of internet marketing and the traditional marketing techniques. She had that business until 2006 when she decided to start a whole new business.
Shifting business to start Sarah Shaw Consulting
Sarah Shaw handbags lasted between 1997 and 2002. Sarah lost most of her investors after 9/11. They pulled out of the company because they had too many financial problems and Sarah had to close down the company because she couldn’t run it without investors. That’s when she started selling the closet organizer while also doing some consulting work.
She later launched a handbag hanger business and in 2006 she decided to focus more on it, and that eventually led her into the consulting business where she taught some incubator programs for women starting out in business. She would have 12 to 20 product-based businesses wanting to work with her each month and Sarah really loved doing it.
The woman who used to give her the consulting work suggested that she could start a consulting business of her own and that roused her curiosity. She ended up hiring a business coach for six months to teach her how to start a service-based company. Two months after working with the coach, Sarah slowly launched her consulting company.
Handbag hanger business
The handbag hanger was a fabric strip fitted with several tools that would hold 7 to 14 handbags while hanging from a closet or wall. It helped customers create space for storing other items. Sarah marketed the business by using celebrities, the media and her enormous mailing list from her previous handbag company. By the end of 2001, the business was generating $25,000 to $30,000 in monthly revenues. She was also selling to about 400 stores and some overseas distributors.
Sarah had the business for about 10 years and decided to close it in 2013 because she wasn’t passionate about it anymore.
Current consulting business
Most people who seek Sarah’s help are those who already have a product developed and manufactured but cannot successfully market and sell the product. She helps them collect their customers’ email addresses through setting up pop-ups on their websites; get their products to celebrities to generate and increase sales; and gett their products on magazines.
Sarah recently had a client who developed a calculator for baby boomers that lights up the menu so they can read the fine print in the dark or in a dimly lit room. Sarah has gotten the calculator to about 15 celebrities so far including Betty White and Julian Moore. Real Simple magazine also recently put the calculator on their magazine because it had been highlighted by the celebrities. Sarah expects that to generate lots of sales for the client.
There is a database website that Sarah uses to get celebrities’ contacts. She works with their publicists and managers in order to get products to them. She starts by identifying how a product will resonate with a particular celebrity to make it easier for them to embrace the product. She then crafts an email pitch letter to attract the target celebrity’s attention. Follow up emails after the initial email are also critical and they include sending thank you notes or offering free samples to the celebrities where possible. One of Sarah’s clients approached Demi Moore for her travel item and Demi’s people asked her to send the item to them so Demi could sample it.
The main niche
Sarah focuses more on getting products to celebrities and her strongest expertise is in working with fashion accessories, baby products and lifestyle products.
Biggest breakthrough moment in the consulting business
She says the business has been compounding year after year. She started creating a lot of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) programs a few years ago and some of the DIY videos have been doing very well in helping people who can’t afford her services to learn how to market their products on their own. Some of the programs include a celebrity DIY program and another one that teaches entrepreneurs how to do email marketing and set up an ecommerce website.
Loving the business
Sarah loves solving people’s problems, especially those with product-based companies because most of her experience was in the product-based business. She loves helping them avoid big disasters or potential problems in order to change the course of their businesses faster than they would be able to achieve on their own.
Fear of failure
She believes having fear of failure is a healthy mentality for an entrepreneur to avoid being too over-confident. She gets worried from time to time when dealing with new and existing clients but she keeps a healthy connection to the fear of failure in order to keep moving forward successfully.
Tip: When there are problems in your business, always try to find new ways of doing things and consult experienced mentors/coaches instead of taking advice from different people
Sarah consulted a business coach when she was starting the consulting business and the coach helped her in building a coaching offer. The coach came in, analysed the needs of Sarah’s target clients and came up with the things Sarah could teach them, that they couldn’t learn anywhere else. She then taught Sarah how to aggressively market her service and within three months Sarah had made $50,000 from her first clients.
Sarah also consulted other coaches like Frank Kern, a digital marketer; and took several online programs to learn diverse technical skills.
Faith, Fun, Family, Finances, and Friendships
Family and friendships come first because they are the most important to every other aspect of her life.
A day in life when starting Sarah Shaw Consulting Vs. a day in life now
She is more focused now, than when she was starting out because she used to scramble too much to get clients and deliver gainful business development services.
Her services are now well packaged and she focuses more on her new podcast, the people she interviews and how the interviewees can add value to the lives of her listeners. She also works full-time on helping her clients grow their businesses
Normal week day
Sarah does coaching calls 2 days a week, one in the morning and one in the afternoon each day. She talks to her clients every other week and spends a lot of time on emails with her clients, coming up with promotional ideas for them, updating the documents her team has worked on for them, among other client related work.
She has one team member in Pakistan and one in Sri Lank. Her IT guys are based in Oregon.
Book recommendation for entrepreneurs:
- Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar Inc. – Gary Erickson
- Hustle: The power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum – Neil Patel
To be able to show her kids that they can do whatever they want in life while also motivating her clients to always work towards achieving their business goals – Sarah.
Best way to connect:
www.sarahshowconsulting.com – Sarah’s Business website
Sarah Shaw Consulting – Facebook
@AskSarahShaw – Twitter
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