Nikki Gutshall and Kailynn Bowling, who built a mini fashion empire in Orange County, are now operating in San Diego and expect to reach $1 million in sales this year.
The pair has an online magazine, ChicBlvd.com, and a public relations company, ChicExecs.com, in addition to ChicBuds.com, which sells crystal-studded earphones with retractable cords for iPods.
In September, they moved their enterprise to a Vista warehouse where they’d have enough space to stock an expanding inventory of the blinged-out earphones, soon to be found on the shelves of two major retail chains: Dillard’s department stores and Fred Meyer Grocery.
They may soon sign up a couple more national retailers, and hinted that they are already outgrowing their 1,800 square feet of warehouse space.
“But the benefit of the space we have now is that it has a very high ceiling,” Gutshall said. Or put another way, there’s only one way to go and that’s up.
Gutshall, 34, who formerly worked in marketing, and Kailynn Bowling, 29, who worked for a mortgage company, teamed up to launch ChicBlvd in 2003.
They purchased knockoffs of Ugg boots wholesale at the mercantile sector in Los Angeles, sold them at retail on eBay, and then plowed their earnings into designing the Web site for ChicBlvd.
The online magazine targets an audience of women between the ages of 20 and 40 with news and tips on dating, weddings, babies and lifestyle.
Thinking of themselves as “trendy Martha Stewarts,” Gutshall said that in the beginning they wrote much of the content themselves. One of their main objectives is “to encourage women to follow their goals,” she added.
ChicBlvd has 7,000 newsletter subscribers, but the partners didn’t say how much in ad sales it generates.
Turning A Profit
In 2006, after launching ChicBuds and chicexecs, which aims a menu of public relations services at stay-at-home moms anxious to get their own products into the hands of buyers, they had revenues of $10,000. That was the first year they made money, they said.
In 2007, revenue totaled $100,000, and this year they expect to reach the $1 million mark.
ChicBuds is growing faster than their other two enterprises, Gutshall said, adding that the partners market their wares by attending trade shows where they meet retailers and sell directly to those outlets.
The earphones, which come in a variety of Swarovski Crystal colors, sell for $49 apiece.
Hollywood celebrities, including Paris Hilton, are even wearing them around town, and that’s gold to any company trying to make it in today’s high-fashion arena.
Crystal encrusted iPod cases sell for $85. Sans crystals, RockBuds for men go for $29.99, while cell phone devices are priced at $30 online.
At present Gutshall and Bowling have four employees, a stable of 10 freelance writers, a Web designer on contract and a Huntington-based shipper who drives to Vista to pick up orders. They’re planning to hire additional help.
“We’re really going through big growth,” said Gutshall. “It’s been sudden and quick, so we’re putting pieces in place to hire for each division. We’re laying the foundation for that because we’re very busy.”