Lori Morris and Kari LePage's search for tranquility led them to something quite turbulent--the ups and downs of starting a business.

The sisters share a lifetime love of the beach. For them, it is about more than the ocean and the sand--it is about the feeling of serenity they get when they are there. They wanted to create that feeling in their own busy homes, specifically in the bedroom, which they believe should be like a sanctuary. So they started with sheets.

They decided early on that it was important to manufacture their products in America, both as a way to support the U.S. textile industry and to make it easier to oversee quality. They made one other decision from the start that proved crucial: they'd strive to build a brand, not just a business. And that means building a relationship with your customer.

"They know you for more than the products you have that season," says LePage, who has a background in retail. "That means if you miss a season for some reason, which every retailer does from time to time, that customer is still coming back."

Test-and-learn mode

January 2018 marks Lime & Leaf's first full year in business. The sisters say they were in "test- and-learn mode" before that. They experimented with paid Facebook and Instagram ads and dabbled in Pinterest. They tested out different offers, audiences, and creative-experimentation gave way to conclusions about which tactics worked best.

From the beginning, email marketing has delivered a solid return on investment. They use it to build relationships with customers, drive repeat purchases, and build loyalty. LePage calls Mailchimp's marketing automation features a "no-brainer." These emails are sent automatically when triggered by a certain activity. Lime & Leaf sends automated welcome emails when someone joins its newsletter, cart abandonment emails when someone leaves an item behind, and updates when orders are placed, shipped, and delivered. LePage says the company's email open rates and click-through rates are well above industry norms, and that email campaigns represent approximately 15% of Lime & Leaf's total sales volume. 

This year, Morris says they plan to take email marketing to the next level and experiment more with Mailchimp's audience segmentation and dynamic content features. This will allow them to personalize their message for specific customers, and to test and compare the effectiveness of different verbiage and imagery.

Lime & Leaf recently launched a new product line, the Make It Easy Sheet Labeling and Folding System. Morris notes that they have been informing their customers via a series of emails-sequential storytelling that hopefully piques readers' interest.

Finding a sweet spot

Over the last 12 months, sales have grown exponentially.

"Now we are in a rhythm," LePage says. "Our growth is steady, and we can tell where it is coming from. All growth is good, but it is best when you can tell how to reproduce it. We believe we can grow this to 10 times where we are now."

The sisters attribute that success to their quality products, passion, hard work, and smart branding. Morris notes that Mailchimp has played a key role in their marketing efforts. Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to set up and manage campaigns. She also notes the importance of identifying your core values and communicating them in a way that resonates with customers and prospects. LePage advises that every email you send be a reflection of your brand. Be sure to stylize your email to reflect your tone, and think about how to make your message stand out in a crowded inbox.

Neither sister could have predicted they would be in business together, but both agree there is no one else they would rather go on this journey with. "There are times we are rolling with laughter and other times we are wondering, 'What did we get ourselves into?'" LePage admits. "You have to understand the ups and downs of a startup. You will have good days and bad."

And on those bad days, you can seek solace in your sheets.