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How a Small-Town Manufacturer Predicts Hits With Facebook

Social media cues help set in motion a leading-edge operations management process at this successful startup.

Lolly Wolly Doodle's simple strategy for selling on its Facebook Wall powers a business model that revolutionizes the apparel trade by minimizing complexity and inventory risk, much as Dell once did for the PC industry.

1. Make one sample. Every Lolly product starts with a one-off item that's tested with a preview sale on Facebook or on the Lolly website before going into wider production. Around 15 new product designs are tested in this way every day.

2. Market sample in preview sale. Several times a day, Lolly posts new designs on its Facebook Wall and website. On Facebook, fans can order the sample in their children's sizes and add monograms and other details simply by commenting on the post and leaving their email address and product specifications.

3. Close sales. The company scrapes the customers' contact and order information from the Facebook Wall, bundles these orders with website orders, emails invoices, and starts production only after receiving payment.

4. Make orders. Lolly makes only enough products to fill the orders from the preview sales. Every product at this stage is made in-house in North Carolina.

5. No overstock. Because it's using just-in-time manufacturing and not making bets on demand, Lolly has no excess inventory for its initial product runs.

6. Analyze sales. A postmortem of each sale not only determines whether the company moved a lot of units but compares the product's attributes.

7. Calibrate styles. As the company gathers ever more product and sales data, it can make smarter design choices for its next round of products, and the cycle starts all over again.

8. Mass-produce winners. If a product sells well in its preview test, the company runs a large stock order through their North Carolina factory and lists the product permanently on



IMAGE: Daniel Shea
From the June 2014 issue of Inc. magazine


Tom Foster is an Inc. editor-at-large. His work has also appeared in Popular Science, Fast Company, Details, and Men's Journal, among others. A longtime New Yorker, he is a recent transplant to Austin.

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