How can ecommerce businesses build brand communities, loyalty, and long-term success by aligning with customers’ values?
In this episode, host Francois Marchand is joined by Katie McCourt—Co-Founder of Pantee—to talk about how to align your customers’ values and your own brand values within your ecommerce business strategy. Tune in to learn how to build a values-based community around your brand and your products, how to promote those values in your marketing campaigns, and if it’s possible to stick to those values as your ecommerce business grows.
- Katie’s background [1:14]
- Co-founded Pantee with her older sister, Amanda.
- Their initial concept was launching the world’s first underwear brand made from dead stock t-shirts.
- The name Pantee initially came from pants made from t-shirts.
- November 2020 – they launched a Kickstarter campaign and within the first 24 hours they were over 50% funded with a fully organic campaign. They didn’t run any paid media.
- Through 2021 and 2022 – they’ve been working on scaling the brand. They no longer make underwear from dead stock t-shirts. They expanded into using a range of dead stock fabrics and looking at new materials that they can bring into their products as well.
- Dead stock – literal t-shirts that have been made already that for whatever reason weren’t used for their intended purpose.
- There are a lot of advantages in using dead stock fabrics. On the flip side – you are going to come across inconsistencies.
- What were the values your brand wanted to promote and how did they align with your customers’ values? [6:20]
- One of the first things they did was create an Instagram account and started taking people on a journey with them.
- Early COVID days, they had a very high engagement of people following them – they’ve built a community-focused brand because of the way that they were sharing their journey.
- When you are posting daily on social media, it’s not just a one way conversation – you want to hear what people have to say and help that guide you as well.
- You can learn a lot from your customers and your community, and you can get a lot of value from those people more than just a sale or an order.
- When they first started to actively scale the business, they were running Facebook and Instagram advertising, and they were running into problems time and time again because their content was taken down – it was being categorized as sexual content, even though it wasn’t.
- So they came up with the idea to have a bit of fun with it – they shoot all of their products on different objects, like melons and pillows.
- They ran a really fun campaign, which resonated with their community and was widely shared. The campaign ended up getting quite strong press coverage from it.
- A brilliant idea from Katie’s sister Amanda and co-founder – they made a lot of mini pairs of pants and put them on lemons and sent them to influencers along with a card explaining the issues that they’ve been having.
- People were sharing it further beyond their networks and sharing on their Instagram story – it gives you the opportunity to connect with not just new followers, but people whose values are aligned with you and who are going to value your brand in a way that’s more than just transactional.
- Pantee’s mission is to create clothes that make people feel really comfortable, not just in the clothes that they’re wearing, but in every stage along the process knowing that they’re comfortable in the way that these clothes have been made.
- People are looking to buy quality and buy things that are going to last, but also buy from brands that have values aligned with them.
Being transparent with where you stand is going to help consumers feel confident in their purchase.Katie McCourt
- How did promoting those values create a better return on investment and build a customer community rallying around your brand? [11:17]
- When they first launched Pantee, 90% to 100% of their sales were coming from customers that were values aligned – they were promoting sustainability messaging and that’s very much what was encouraging people to buy from them.
- Over time that has evolved – now they have a hierarchy in their messaging. They talk to people first about the functionality of their product. And the three to five reasons why they’re better than your traditional fast fashion brand that might be of lower quality.
- Quality, social proof, shared values – it’s almost a pyramid of reassuring people through their buying journey.
- How can being involved in a values-based community benefit ecommerce businesses in general? [17:45]
- If you are using Instagram or TikTok for your social media marketing, then there will be an opportunity for you to take a look at your accounts and the way that you’re using them.
- At Pantee, they often ask their customers – ‘what’s your biggest pain point with this type of product?’ Then give them five answers.
- When people feel like they’ve been taken on your journey, they want to support the brand.
- When talking about attribution, Katie’s favorite thing to look at is their post purchase attribution survey.
- Why doesn’t Pantee do big sales events like Black Friday? [20:57]
- They do Black Friday – but they take a bit of a slightly different approach to it.
- Their first Black Friday – they turned off their website to anybody that was outside of their engaged community. So the only way people could access their website on Black Friday was via a password that would be shared to people on their email list.
- Their second Black Friday approach – they closed their website on Black Friday, made it accessible only with password. Their message was, ‘if you’re going to buy on Black Friday, buy something that you really wanted for a long time. Think about your purchases.’
- How do you make sure you stick to your values as you scale your business? [25:59]
- At the very beginning, they started making underwear from dead stock t-shirts. Then they moved from the t-shirts to dead stock rolls of fabric. At the time they were so concerned about letting go of that message because their whole brand is built around it. But you adapt and you evolve and so do your customers.
- It doesn’t mean that it’s not built on the same values, it just means that they’re in a different stage of the business now.
Giving people the opportunity to see your flaws as well as when you are doing well is impactful and people resonate with it because it feels more human.Katie McCourt
- You have to understand that no matter what you do, for some people you are not going to be enough.
- Stay in your lane, keep focused, and have confidence that you know that the work that you’re doing aligns with your personal values.
- Katie’s advice about her ecommerce experience [33:49]
- Listen to your customers, don’t outsource your customer service too soon. They’re not just customers, it’s not just transactions.
Meet Our Guest
Katie McCourt is one half of the sister duo behind the UK-based sustainable fashion brand, Pantee. Since 2020, Pantee has been on a mission to create apparel in a more transparent and less wasteful way, by upcycling deadstock fabrics that weren’t used for their intended purpose into high-quality underwear and elevated basics.
Sometimes you can be so fixed on what you’re doing and so concerned about changing, but you have to grow.Katie McCourt
Resources from this episode:
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Katie on LinkedIn
- Check out Pantee
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Francois Marchand: Values. We all have them. We even buy products based on how a company aligns with our values. And the same goes the other way around. Ecommerce businesses want to sell their products to customers who share their values as well. After all, that's how brand communities, brand loyalty and long-term success are built, isn't it?
Welcome to The Ecomm Manager Podcast. Our mission is to help you succeed in your ecommerce journey with helpful advice from the experts who made it big. I'm your host, Francois Marchand.
Today I'm joined by Katie McCourt — she's the co-founder of Pantee. And we'll be chatting about how to align your customers' values and your own brand values within your ecommerce business strategy. Stay tuned to discover best practices on how to build a values-based community around your brand and your products, how to promote those values in your marketing campaigns, and if it's possible to stick to those values as your ecommerce business grows.
Katie, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Katie McCourt: Thank you so much for having me.
Francois Marchand: Before we get started, then introduce the topic of our conversation, why don't you give us a little bit of background about what Pantee does, who you are, and how you co-founded this company? And I think it's a family thing, so let's talk about that a little bit.
Katie McCourt: Absolutely. I co-founded Pantee with my older sister, Amanda. We started working on the business in the backend of 2019, and our initial concept that we were working on bringing to life was launching the world's first underwear brand made from dead stock t-shirt. So the reasoning behind this was we'd been learning a lot about how wasteful the fashion industry was and how detrimental as an industry fashion is to the environment.
And we wanted to see if we could bring a brand to life that tackled some of these core issues, especially the overproduction within the fashion industry and the amount of garments, fabrics that go to waste. So yeah, that's where the name Pantee came from. It was initially pants made from T-shirts, literally.
We spent, um, over a year researching, developing the initial prototype for our product, really just learning as much as we could about the industry. Both of us didn't have any experience in fashion bringing a product to life, having come from marketing backgrounds. So we were very much starting from scratch.
But it's about a year later, the back end of 2020, having gone through lockdowns and the rest of it, working through this idea, we launched on Kickstarter. So that was November 2020, we launched a Kickstarter campaign and within the first 24 hours we were over 50% funded with a fully organic campaign. We didn't run any paid media.
It was just really, uh, funding that came from a small engaged community that we'd built on Instagram. And I think that really showed to us there was demand out there for brands that were looking at these problems in an innovative way, doing things outside of the box, and also just bringing a level of transparency that people are currently missing from, you know, big, fast fashion giants out there.
So, yeah, that was kind of the start of our journey. And through 2021 and 2022, we've just been really working on scaling the brand and we've come a long way since then. We no longer make underwear from dead stock T-shirts. We expanded into using a range of dead stock fabrics and you know, we're looking at new materials that we can bring in to our products as well. Because when it comes to our product development in the future, we're really looking out the different ways that we can create an impact.
Francois Marchand: People who are not necessarily familiar with what dead stock is because it can mean two different things. What is dead stock, the Pantee way?
Katie McCourt: So for us, when we talk about dead stock, initially we were focusing on dead stock garments. So literal t-shirts that have been made already that for whatever reason, weren't used for their intended purpose.
So, maybe the brand made too many. Maybe there was a default. Maybe they didn't like the color. For a number of reasons, products can end up as dead stock. And then with dead stock fabrics as well, that could be rolls fabrics that for the same reason for what, you know, whatever reason weren't used for their intended purpose.
So our initial idea was to be able to use that dead stock to keep it in circulation for longer and reduce our demand on raw materials.
Francois Marchand: The other side of the coin for dead stock is when we talk about dead stock, as in discontinued items that are appreciating in value and that are found in marketplaces like eBay and so on.
So let's say you have a discontinued line of shoes and all of a sudden these shoes are worth a lot of money. That's not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about here is waste. We're talking about fabric garments, and other items of clothing that otherwise would end up in the landfill. So what you do with your company is you repurpose and you basically upcycle, recycle and upcycle that fabric to create new products.
So it reduces the amount of waste that's being produced. It reduces shipping, the sourcing raw material. So obviously there's a, a very big positive impact on the environment in terms of sustainable ecommerce practice.
Katie McCourt: Yes, absolutely. So there is a lot of advantages in that sense of using dead stock fabrics.
Unfortunately, on the flip side, when you are using dead stock fabrics, you are gonna come across inconsistencies. So for us, we do a lot of limited edition color drops for our underwear collection. And you know, as every time we do those different colors can be slightly different feeling fabric. So some of them are super soft.
Some of them are a bit heavier in weight, so there is then an implication for the customer. Because if you're a returning customer for Pantee, you can't necessarily guarantee if you're buying, uh, from our dead stock limited edition color ranges, that you're gonna get the exact same every single time. So yeah, it's a bit of a different buying experience too.
Francois Marchand: Basically NFTs, do you make them once? You can't reproduce them the same way, so.
I'm just kidding. But they're unique. Every piece is unique and it's really cool. And now we come to the crux of the conversation for today, cuz you talked about when the company was starting out, you had a funding campaign. And before you started scaling and where you are now, you kind of saw the demand from a value-based perspective from your customers, your potential customers that aligned with your own values as a brand.
So let's talk about how you as an ecommerce company, company like Pantee or other companies out there can align their customer values with their ecommerce brand strategy. So what were some of the values that you were trying to promote? I think we touched upon a few of them, but basically in doing your research and and funding the company, what did you realize were the values that your customers had that you needed to match and meet on the market?
Katie McCourt: Yeah, it's a really good question. I think with just the nature of how we built the company in our very early days, one of the first things that we did was create an Instagram account and kind of started taking people on this journey with us. Because, like I touched on, we didn't have previous experience bringing a product to life or experience within the fashion industry.
So a lot of what we were learning about maybe the over production within the fashion industry or some of the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and also how to bring this product to life, we were learning for the first time and we were very much bringing people along that journey with that.
And I think in those early days, COVID, everybody was locked in at home and we had very high engagement people following us on this journey together and people really rallying behind us. And I think that we've very, very early on kind of built this community-focused brand because of the way that we were sharing our journey. And it's something that even as we've scaled, we've really tried to hold onto.
We see it very much as when it comes to organic social media marketing. We're not giving our customers information like it's a billboard. We wanna sit over the table from them and have a conversation with them and get their input too. I think that that's really important because when you are posting daily on social media, it's not just a one way conversation.
You wanna hear what people have to say and help that guide you as well. And you can learn a lot from your customers and your community, um, and get a lot of value from those people more so than just a sale or just an order. So we've always, like I say, really essence to our customers and I think found that middle ground and values alignment and to start with, you know, very much a story of trying to build a more sustainable brand.
And that has evolved and I think that there's a lot of things that we hold dear at Pantee. And one of those things, you know, is that we always, we try and do things a bit differently and we try and really stand up for what it is that we believe in.
So an example of that would be that when we first started trying to actively scale the business, we were running Facebook advertising, Instagram advertising, and we were running into problems time and time again because our content was taken down. Things was categorized as sexual content, which it wasn't.
Not at all. But obviously just the way that the algorithms worked and this, you know, honestly at points it was absolutely crippling us because we just couldn't get the reach that we needed on our content. We started wanting to drive traffic. We couldn't build our brand awareness, so we kind of came up with the idea to have a bit of fun with it. And also raises awareness because this is a wider issue than just, oh, this small underwear brand getting their ads locked.
It's not that there's massive issues across social media with what gets reached, what doesn't, what gets taken down or female censorship, and we want to highlight that and the impact it was having on us. But also hear from our community and see how they've been impacted as well. So we came up this idea to, um, shoot all of our products, all of our underwear on different objects, so like melons and pillows.
We, I think with a pair of pants on a disco ball. We ran this really fun campaign and we did all this fun photography, basically saying like, you know, we can't show our products how they're meant to be shown on, um, you know, women's bodies of all shapes and sizes. So, you know, here is a pair of pants on a disco ball and, um, I think it just really, really resonated with our community and it was really widely shared.
The campaign ended up getting quite strong press coverage from it. And again, it's just giving people the opportunity to have that back and forth conversation. And it's not necessarily always gonna be focusing on a sales-driven campaign, but that for us is where Pantee's had that point of difference. Because we've had a bit of fun with these issues, but we've also done it in a way where we're making our point and we're putting our point across.
And again, bringing people on the journey of the struggles that we are facing build this business and within this sector. So I think that's just one example of how we've, I guess, thought outside the box and confronted these issues head on to make it into a community feeling brand. Another thing that we did was we, a brilliant idea from my sister Amanda and co-founder, we actually made a lot, lot of like mini pairs of pants and put them on lemons and sent them to influencers along with this card explaining, you know, the issues that we've been having.
And a lot of influencers in our space, in our community have had these issues themselves where their content's been taken down because it's categorized as sexual content where, actually, no. Sometimes it's literally like a, a get ready with me video or, you know, just content that they find empowering and want to empower unity with. And it was, it really resonated. So it got really good response from that as well.
Francois Marchand: Well, you reached your audience on the same level as yourself, right?
You met each other sort of in the middle. You were both influencers, your potential customers were feeling the impact of what Pantee was going through, not just because Pantee was going through it, but because they were also going through it. So that community, that shared value obviously helped Pantee's brand building, even though that wasn't necessarily the exercise was like, okay, we'll capitalize on this opportunity to build a brand because we share the struggle.
But that's not something you can calculate, but it's something that happened. So obviously that helps build the brand and eventually I guess it helps sales, even though that wasn't necessarily something that was step-by-step laid out on a spreadsheet saying, okay, we're going to create this campaign because we're getting demonetized, or we're getting, you know, a lack of views. But all of a sudden this all happens kind of organically, correct? If I'm not mistaken.
Katie McCourt: Yeah, absolutely. All happened organically. And I think that's the thing. I think that for us that was a really good opportunity to sort of re-engage people within our community. And again, almost like grow that connection between us and the people within our community with that shared pain, I suppose, of these issues.
And then people sharing it further beyond our networks and you know, sharing on their Instagram story, sending it to France, saying like, it's funny campaign. That kind of virality that you can build into campaigns in that way that are community focused and values-driven, it does give you the opportunity to connect with not just new followers, but people that are very values aligned with you and are gonna value your brand in a way that's more than just transactional.
It's not just a purchase to them. Of course, you know, maybe they want to buy our products because they like the way they look, and the reviews say that they're really high quality and really comfortable. And other people love wearing them, or whatever the reason might be that pushes them over the edge of the purchase decision.
But when they buy that product, they're going to be reinforced with a feeling that they've made the right decision because they align with the brand on a more personal level. And we always say that our mission is to create clothes that make people feel really comfortable, not just in the clothes that they're wearing, but in every stage along the process knowing that, you know, they're comfortable in the way that these clothes have been made. They're comfortable in the values of the brand. And it's kind of this, we call it like the comfort zone that people are buying into and they can feel, you know, supported at every step of the way.
Because I think that in the current climate, people in the UK and I know across North America we've got a cost of living crisis at the moment. Things are getting more, more expensive and, and people are being a lot more considered with how they're making purchases. And I think people are looking to buy quality and buy things that are gonna last, but also buy from brands that, like I say, have values aligned with them.
And whether or not people talk a lot about sustainability, but there's a lot of other values that maybe people do are looking for as well. Whether it's female owned businesses or businesses owned by minorities or labor standards throughout the supply chain. But I think that being really transparent with where you stand, you're gonna help those consumers feel confident in their purchase.
Francois Marchand: So, yeah, at some point connecting with those customers and connecting with influencers and getting visibility through your marketing campaigns generates sales. And that's the point of owning an ecommerce business is to sell your product.
So how did promoting those values have a positive impact and create a better return on investment? Because obviously a company wants to make a profit. So can you tell me a little bit about that? How revenue was impacted by sharing these values with your community?
Katie McCourt: Yeah, so I think that when we first launched the brand, I would say 90% to 100% our sales were coming from customers that were values aligned cuz they were looking, we were very much promoting our sustainability messaging and that's very much what was encouraging people to buy from us.
And over time that has evolved to now we actually have sort of a hierarchy in our messaging. So we very much will talk to people first about the functionality of our product. And sort of the three to five reasons why, you know, maybe they're better than your traditional fast fashion brand that might be of lower quality.
So we go very much quality fast, and then seconds to that would be customer abuse, social proof, and then maybe your third and fourth for things would start to be getting into like shared values. So it's almost a pyramid of, of reassuring people through their buying journey. And I think that through the early days when we were building our brand awareness and we were very much looking at the top of funnel, introducing people to the brand, you know, trying to build our base level community that weren't just customers but advocate.
The values-driven messaging was really important to that. And some of our early customers have now, you know, returned and bought from us seven or eight times, and it's very, very difficult. It's very difficult in ecommerce at the moment, as any ecommerce doesn't know or understand or any marketer attribution is just the bane of our life. And it's, it's hard to know sometimes exactly where our customers come from or what the final thing was in their buying decision, but from the feedback that we've had from our customers, we can see that a lot of them are coming across Pantee because they are looking for a more sustainable option.
Other people are coming from us because they have seen one of our campaigns on social media or really resonate with our content. And that could be, you know, that they've seen the facts that we've put pants on melons, or it could be as much as we've been showing different women of different body shapes that you wouldn't have seen in your Victoria's Secret era, and that's maybe what's resonating with them.
There's a lot of different things about the brand that feel quite different to people, to what they have been used to from probably more specifically underwear brands, but also women's clothing across the whole. So I think that it's just adding depth to the messaging and the brand proposition. And I think that that's where it becomes quite powerful is understanding that you know, only as this a high quality garment that's really well reviewed by other people that looks really great, the brand trails maybe aspirational or has the certain look and feel to it.
But also, again, you feel reassured and the transparency information that we have about our supply chain to, you know, the value driven campaigns that we run and, and like I say, standing up for the things that we believe in. I think there's, depending on how far a customer is going to dig into the brand and then how much that brand resonates with them, there's levels of information there for them.
Francois Marchand: So let's say I'm an ecommerce manager, I run a business, or I'm an ecommerce business founder and I see what Pantee is doing and I think this is a great opportunity. I want to learn from that experience and what they're doing, and I want to make that benefit my business. Easier said than done. Does it only apply to companies like Pantee that work within, you know, dead stock repurposing or upcycling or fashion in general? Or can any business in general take that approach and make that a success, and how would they do it?
Katie McCourt: I think that it doesn't just apply to businesses like ours. I think that if you are using Instagram, TikTok for your social media marketing, then there will be an opportunity there for you to really take a look at your accounts and the way that you're using them and kind of ask yourself like, are we using this?
Ask the billboard where we're shouting our messaging to people, or are we using this as an opportunity to engage with our community, build a community, and have back and forth conversations with our customers? And I think that it's gonna support your content if you are putting content out there to people that basically they're genuinely engaged in, but they're not just watching it. They're actively liking it, engaging in it, tagging their friends, asking you questions, answering your questions.
I think that that's when you can really start to build in that back and forth. It's gonna benefit the reach that you're going to get. It's gonna support your own algorithm within Instagram or within TikTok. And I think that, you know, there's a lot of ways that you can easily start working that in. So we will often ask our customers, what's your biggest pain point with this type of product?
And maybe give them five answers and above four answers, poll. And from that we can really guide our content cuz then we can say, oh, you know, sometimes it's not what we would've thought. We asked our community what they hate the most about this, and this is what they said. This is how our product solves that problem.
And that's then you're answering people's questions, or like every time you get an Instagram comment asking you a further question on a product that you are selling or an element of your brand, create a response video answering that question, because that can be really powerful as well. You're actively listening to your customers.
You're responding to them in that way through your content. And from what we found, the more that we do that, the more people then will throw their comment in the ring and how's their stay. And sometimes like maybe it's not even gonna be, I don't know, something that you've thought of, or it might be something that they say, oh, actually I love this product, but I would like it more if had this, that we sometimes get that and that then can really help guide your product development.
And I think that when people feel like they've been taken on that journey, they want to support the brand. Like I say, in more than just being a customer, I think they're a lot more likely to then maybe recommend to a friend. Or more likely to share your content on their Instagram story and help become advocates in that way.
So I think for us, we've definitely seen more and more. When I talk about attribution, like our, my favorite thing to look at is our post purchase attribution survey. And over time more and more people have said they found out about Pantee cuz they've been referred by a friend. So I think that that becomes like a really powerful way that your organic community building can expand and drive customers as well, rather than just community.
Francois Marchand: Yeah, you talked about listening to your customers, that word of mouth kind of communal approach, sort of promoting your brand. It's everybody talking to each other and spreading the word. One thing that you don't do at Pantee is Black Friday, and I wonder how that came about. If it was based on that kind of word of mouth, community feeling, maybe the discussion within your values based community that over consumption is a concern to them. Or if it was something that you initiated yourself, how did that come about?
Katie McCourt: Yeah, so Black Friday, I wouldn't say that we don't do Black Friday. But we just take a, again, a bit of a slightly different approach to Black Friday. So our first Black Friday, which was the one, we've done two now. So we basically came up with this idea to do blackouts and we basically turned off our website to anybody that was outside of our engaged community.
So the only way you could access our website on Black Friday was via a password that would be shared our email list. And the first year we did it, we didn't run any promotion. We didn't have the stock to run promotions. We're a very small business. We didn't have any excess. We literally, at the time, I think had five products in five sizes.
We didn't have a lot of inventory, and for us it was getting closer and close to the time, and we were thinking, this just doesn't really align with our brand values and the size. Like a lot of it didn't fit. So we decided, okay, well let's do it in a different way. Let's make it more of, again, like a community event.
Anybody that wants to shop from us on Black Friday can still shop them but they have to be within our engaged community. And taking this different approach really worked the first year we did it, because at the time there was a lot of conversation around Black Friday and obviously the mats, the amounts of over consumption, the huge sales.
Is it really a, you know, a bargain if you didn't need it in the first place? There's a lot of questioning around the open consumption that happens on Black Friday and we were obviously approaching it in a very different way. So we ended up actually getting featured on one of the big, like British Sunday papers on like the second page on the week before Black Friday.
So our website traffic went through the roof. We got loads of new email subscribers and, and a lot of people came and bought from us on Black Friday without a sale just because they resonated with what we were saying. They wanted to support the brand. So again, that was a really amazing way to see the, the, our stance and like kind of, we never take it in an accusational way.
It's not like we are saying you shouldn't shop on Black Friday. Like our website was open. We were just saying if you want to shop on Black Friday, try not to get completely bombarded with all these deals when it's stuff you maybe don't need. And just really think about it, is it something that you really want?
Is it something that you really need? Like if so, go buy it. Enjoy it and love it and take care of it. And really, I think when it comes to our consumption, if you're buying things that you really need and you're gonna look after them, then, you know, it's a, it's a great step in the right direction rather than like frivolous over consumption.
That's also occurring. So last year we took a very similar approach. We did, we had a lot more stock. We obviously had had a lot more customers, a lot more people on our mailing list, and the narrative in a year really changed around Black Friday. And last year when it came to Black Friday, quite a lot of brands we saw said they weren't gonna run any promotions because it's unsustainable and all these other messages.
It's a very complicated discussion. It could go round and round in circles, but one of the things that we felt was that we did have some excess stock because when we do our limited edition color drops, they're very small batches. But you kind of get to the last 10, 15 pairs of pants and it's very difficult to sell cause we don't have the bras anymore.
So you can't buy a matching set like you are always gonna end up with these units that you need to promote essentially, to clear out. We want people to have them and there's maybe people, you know, sustainable fashion, it can come at a higher price point and it can make it less accessible for people if they do want to buy from the brand they do want to support.
So we, again, we did the exact same thing. We closed our website on Black Friday. We made it accessible only with password. Our message didn't change. Our message was, if you're gonna buy on Black Friday, buy something that you really wanted for a long time. Think about your purchases. Make a list. Don't type up from it.
Do what you can to stir, to not go mad. But we also did run some promotions on our website, but just to our community and that really well as well. So I think for us, it's a big part of it, again, is just that two-way conversation, listening to our community, not being afraid to adapt our approach. And we are learning as we go as well.
And sometimes, you know, the way that we thought about certain things two years ago isn't necessarily the way that we think about things today. So I didn't go back on what we said. Like I said, our message was the same, but we just adapted it and we adapted it based on where our business is at now and what worked for us, but also what we were hearing from our community and what worked best for them.
Francois Marchand: Yeah, that makes sense. And I mean, it brings us back to the beginning of the conversation when we were talking about how from humble beginnings, Pantee is now scaling. It's growing. Now the Black Friday strategy is not the same as it was the first year or two. Now you're having sales, but you're limiting those sales to your community. But you're growing, you're making more sales, you're making more product available based on, you know, stock availability and so on, which is the goal.
So how do you make sure that you stick to those values as you scale your business? Because that's the challenge right now. You're at a point where we're growing. Can we put that behind? Can we stick to what we're saying and can we stick to what we're doing?
Katie McCourt: Yeah, I think it's something that we have conversations about a lot. Cuz naturally as the business has grown, you know, we started at the very beginning making underwear from dead stock T-shirts.
And that was something that we outgrew really quickly and we moved from the t-shirts to like dead stock rolls of fabric. And I remember at the time we were so concerned about letting go of that message cuz our whole brand is built around it. But you adapt and you evolve and so do your customers.
And I think that at the moment we've been looking at potentially bringing in new products, not made from dead stock, but made from other fabrics that potentially are fully certified, all the way back to the, in essence, the seed of the fabric and seeing how we can get more transparency and delve more into other fabric bases.
Because for us as a brand, ordinarily, if you go onto like Patagonia as an example, massive brand. If you go onto their website and you dig into their impact section, they'll have so many different materials that they're working with and they maybe have things they're made of recycled content or organic cotton or ocean plastic.
There's all these different options that brands are exploring to bring more sustainable products to mass market. And I think for us, sometimes you can be so, so fixed on what you're doing and so concerned about changing, but you have to grow. And it's not that you are letting go of what you've done before, and that might carry with you in some way.
And the values are still the same, but you've also got to adapt and diversify. And for us, we've been using dead stock fabrics since day one, but we are now looking into other options for other fabrics as well. And it doesn't mean that it's not built on the same values, it just means that we're in a different stage of the business now.
We want to grow the business and we want to build a sustainable business, not just in our environmental elements, but also in a business that's, you know, gonna meet more and more people and hopefully bring more and more comfort to those people's lives. And we will also want to be able to bring a more sustainable alternative to mass markets so people can buy more sustainably, but without the compromise.
I think that often brands you are always choosing between sustainability, price, style, comfort, and it can be difficult to know which way to turn. And that's what we are trying to solve at Pantee. We're trying to bring products to people that potentially you have always bought from fast fashion giants that aren't as good for the environment. And they come and buy from Pantee, they don't have to compromise on their comfort, they don't have to compromise on the style, and they can also have the full transparency of wear that's been made from what materials.
And I think that's the key really for us in this next stage of the journey. We got some really good advice when we were first launching and somebody said to us that very impactful in a sort of sustainable fashion space. And she said to us, don't get too hung up. Let this stage on being perfect cuz you're already miles ahead of a lot of the brands out there, even by having these thoughts and even by having these conversations, and you have to start somewhere. But what we're all striving for is, is progress. And I think that that's not an excuse for letting big things go.
You need to have your firm lines of where your values are and what's gonna cross those and keep yourself on the right track. But also, it's the transparency that you can provide to the customer and to let them know that we literally have on our website elements that say, you know, we currently do this in this way, which isn't the best.
Like we, we know this is something that we need to fix, but we literally can't until we get to this point in the business. And I think that that people really respect that because it mirrors, again, like we were saying earlier, when you're connecting with people and their values on more personal level, like brand to human, we, we are all imperfect.
Um, if you are looking at it cuz you're trying to approach things more sustainably, as an example, you know, there's very few people out there that are probably making the best choice every single minute of every single day. But I think in general, people wanna do better and people wanna buy better and people wanna eat better or whatever it is.
Like people are striving for that progress. So giving people the opportunity to see your flaws as well as when you are doing well, I think is, is impactful and I think people resonate with it cause it probably, you know, feels more human.
Francois Marchand: That's a great answer. That's perfect because I was going to ask you if you had any advice for entrepreneurs or ecommerce business owners that are growing, that are following sort of values-based approach to not lose their way.
And I think you covered that in what you just talked about saying, be transparent. Be transparent about your imperfections. Be transparent about what you're doing and how you're growing, and the things that you've realized within your business framework that can be improved. And your audience, your customer base will respond accordingly because you're not hiding anything from them.
So there you go. Would that be an accurate sort of assessment of what we just discussed?
Katie McCourt: I would say so. And I think, I mean, I think depending on the industry that you're in with an ecommerce, like obviously for us, we sit in the apparel space. And there is a very big focus on apparel at the moment in terms of sustainability, but in terms of worker welfare and bringing that transparency. And sometimes I think that you just have to also understand that no matter what you do, for some people, you are not going to be enough.
And as the business grows, like we're a very small brand and we still sometimes get a lot of negative comments on ads and things like that. And we can get questions asking us how much we pay our workers and our supply chain, which don't get me wrong, it's a very valid question. We're happy to answer cause we actually have all that information on our website ready to go.
But we can get asked those kind of questions in a very accusational way, right above another question that's criticizing our price points. And they're two very contradictory criticisms, or not criticisms, but questions. And I think that that's the thing. And it's sometimes you look at it and you're like, oh, this is a prime example of you actually can't win because this person is gonna say that we are way too expensive for the product and it doesn't look any better than this product and things like that.
People don't know you're a small business. They don't know you're a growing startup. They see an ad, they assume that you're well established, and they don't ever give thought to the person that's the other side of that reading that comment. So I would just say like, stay in your lane and keep focused and have confidence that you know that the work that you're doing aligns with your personal values.
And again, like even personal person, you're gonna come through life and you're gonna meet people that don't align with those values. And, um, sometimes we live in echo chambers and for us, we, uh, in a space where our community built on, like a lot of our communities come into our community cuz of these shared values.
And so you live in this echo chamber where you'll say things and everybody kind of aligns with you and then sometimes you'll be confronted with somebody saying like, oh, like why would I pay X when I could get this the same price at like in certain name of fast fashion giants. And you're like, oh, okay.
They actually don't, no, they aren't thinking of us in the same way. They mainly have absolutely no idea of the like negative environmental impacts that some of these fast fashion giants have on the world or the the poor worker welfare or like the lack of living wage pay. Like all of these things that go into, but you can't assume that everybody, no, everybody's approaching the same situation in the same way with the same experience.
So I think that's the thing. You've just got to accept that not everybody's gonna be on your page. And that's also fine cuz not everybody's gonna be your customer.
Francois Marchand: That's right. That's the cost of making business going to happen. Katie, thank you so much again for being here today and talking to us about values-based products and values-based communities and how you can build an ecommerce and a successful ecommerce business at that.
And congratulations on your success with Pantee. Anything else you want to add at this point about your ecommerce experience? Maybe your number one tip or reminder for ecommerce business owners out there in the world to let them know they're doing the right thing. What's your number one piece of advice?
Katie McCourt: Number one piece of advice, I think for us, honestly, like listen to your customers, don't outsource your customer service too soon. Like they're not just customers, it's not just transactions. Like for us, it's where we've got absolutely the most value, whether or not that's from like a positive testimonial sharing about the brand or returning customers.
Buying from us a couple of times and then getting a product and actually being, you know, really upfront and honest. Be like, I absolutely love it, but maybe like next time I'd love to see this. Like you let them drive you and it's demanding the things that we've learned from our customers and how it's really impacted the direction of the business. So I would say for us, that's been one of the most important things.
Francois Marchand: Where can people follow your work and find Pantee online and in the real world?
Katie McCourt: So you can find Pantee at pantee.co.uk or .com, and you can also find us on Instagram @Pantee.
Francois Marchand: Katie, thanks again for being on The Ecomm Manager Podcast. That was so enlightening. I really enjoyed this.
And, uh, thanks everyone out there for listening. And on behalf of all of us at The Ecomm Manager, we'll see you next time.