The first and only pregnancy subscription service to receive OB-GYN certification, The Stork Bag has brought extra joy to many expectant mothers. With the help of a business credit card, founder and CEO Ericka Perry has taken her company global – and doesn’t plan on stopping there.
What do women really want when they’re expecting a baby? Ericka Perry knows. She’s the founder and CEO of The Stork Bag, a subscription company for those who are expecting. It all began in November 2014 with an idea – and her entire family savings.
“As a mom of three, I have a passion for helping mothers – which is why I created this product,” says Perry.
The Stork Bag is filled with necessary and indulgent items for a woman’s upcoming adventure into parenthood. It is also the first and only pregnancy subscription service to receive OB-GYN certification.
“In the spirit of supporting women and mothers as a whole, I have also set out on a mission to have 100 percent of the products carried in our bags come from women-owned companies,” says Perry, who is close to accomplishing that goal.
Each product is also curated by other moms and tailored to a subscriber’s due date.
The Stork Bag has since developed into a globally recognized brand – with customers spanning the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, West Africa, the U.K., Jamaica, Saudi Arabia and Australia. In 2018, the company partnered with the Disney-affiliated Freeform Network, and the bag was featured in its “Pop-Up Santa Special: Operation Baby Shower.”
To ensure smooth deliveries, Perry eventually incorporated the right credit card into her business.
What was the beginning of The Stork Bag like – any preliminary hardships to overcome?Being self-funded, the start was a little difficult because we had to try and be creative with marketing and how we purchased the initial inventory. When all operations rely only on founder’s funds, it can be challenging to get the business off the ground while retaining that creative flexibility.
The first couple of years were tough for us to navigate as far as trying to scale and build a globally recognized brand. There were many times that I asked myself, “What the heck was I thinking?” But we paid the outstanding invoices and we’re still here almost five years later!
There were a lot of surprise costs for us, especially in the beginning. When you think about a company that ships products, you tend to think only about the items in the bags — but there is so much more involved.
For us, we anticipated the product costs, but everything else that came along added up quickly and caught us off guard. These included the shipping boxes, tape, labels, packing materials and the visual experience for the customer. In order to maintain safe margins, we had to scale back on some of the bells and whistles.
It’s a challenge to run a business with limited capital! At what stage did you bring in a credit card?
At first, we did not use any business credit cards – The Stork Bag was fully funded using my family’s savings. It wasn’t until about year three that we started to really utilize and leverage the business credit cards and working capital resources.
Right now, we use the Capital One Spark Cash for Business. I really love it because it gives you a percentage of cash back for what you buy – unlimited 2 percent cash back on all purchases, plus a $500 bonus after charging $4,500 within three months of opening the account. (Editors note: The Spark Cash for Business card is currently offering an elevated, limited-time introductory bonus of $500 for spending $5,000 within the first three months, plus an additional $1,500 for spending $50,000 within the first six months.)
For a company like mine, this is excellent because we use our credit card a lot when purchasing inventory at volume rates.
We also utilize working capital loans such as Paypal Working Capital and continue to bootstrap the business.
What are some of the unique expenses you have to cover?
We want the customer’s experience to be great from the moment they visit our website to the time they receive their Stork Bag. Because we want them to be wowed with their gift, we invest in things such as brand-colored decorative tissue paper – which each Stork Bag is wrapped in before placing them in the shipping box. We order about 10,000 sheets every couple of months!
So, where is The Stork Bag today, and where is it heading?
We see a steady growth right now. We’re trying to manufacture as many branded products as possible to create exclusivity. We’re also attempting to expand from a pregnancy subscription bag to a more inclusive shop.
One of the great things about this product brand is that we have so many different avenues that we can explore with our personal care line of products. Our pregnancy-safe Stork Nail Polish, for instance, which was one of our first beauty products, and our Bellie and Bodie Butters, which are fan favorites.
Our plans revolve around progression. We would like to take the brand into more of a global market and start to look at more business-to-business partnerships with hospitals, insurance companies and other organizations that serve pregnant and postpartum individuals.
We also want to brand and manufacture as many products in-house as possible. Creating more Stork Bag branded products will allow us to have a competitive edge on our competitors. More branded products also equal more lateral brands – which open up our market reach.
What are some lessons you can share with other small business owners?
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to have a strategic game plan and know exactly what your product or service is, who you’re selling to and have a concise answer as to why they should buy from you. You also want to know what your “secret sauce” is – what your unique proposition is and what sets you apart from your competition.
All business owners should write down personal and professional goals because this provides a road map to their ultimate destination – which is success. Knowing your market in and out is also very important; this will help with your brand messaging and tone. Being consistent is key.
What I’ve learned about borrowing money is to be very conscious and cognizant of interest rates. I think as a new business owner, loans and credit card offers can be very tempting, but many of them come with a hefty price tag in the form of high interest rates. It can be very appealing to want to borrow more money than what the company may need when looking at projections.
It’s important for new business owners to not bite off more than they can chew in regards to borrowing funds. I learned to be as efficient as possible while sticking to the game plan, and only strategically borrow from the institutions that offer the best incentives and rates.