This is the story of entrepreneur Naomi Whittel, as told to Inc.'s Liz Welch.
My executive assistant was the first to suggest that I go on QVC. I brushed it off. But a very good friend of mine in the skin care world introduced me to the buyers there, and after a three-hour meeting, I realized I was wrong. The network said it would put me on the air only after a rigorous scientific and legal process. I was impressed.
But my staff was not. My sales team thought I was turning my back on our core customers--the health-food stores that had embraced our products from the start. As the news spread among our customers, the main feedback was, "How could you do this?" But I wanted to reach the shopper who doesn't shop at GNC or Whole Foods.
Before I decided to go for it, I pored over case studies and all the analytics. QVC reaches more than 90 million households, which means I would be speaking directly to the QVC customer, as well as the Whole Foods customer who was flipping channels and maybe even the CEO of GNC. In the end, my decision was based on pure instinct.
My debut was in September 2011. I was selling our antiaging Resveratrol supplements. I was very nervous and very overwhelmed. QVC has an in-house talent trainer--she told me to talk to the camera as if it were my sister or best friend. The pressure is intense. When you go on, you have one shot--you either make it or you don't. I didn't know how well I did until it was over. That's when I saw the numbers--we had reached our goal. Still, I did not exhale for months.
We have since introduced other lines. Not everyone who sees you on QVC is going to buy your product that day, but since I started this, our customer base has grown 30 percent; in 2012, revenue hit $70 million. Even better, soon after I appeared, I started getting texts from my retailers, whose sales of Reserveage products have since doubled, saying, "Great job!"