Having just reached over 50k followers on our Facebook Group, we’re stepping into the next phase of ramping up the game for all our fans, followers and shoppers. Before we get moving and start introducing even more initiatives to make our members smile we thought we’d take some time to share the story this far…
In Feb 2016, MBPE Founder Justine Okin created the ultimate accidental business. With a desire to share a fab find with her closest girlfriends, Justine set up a Facebook Group, called it My Best Product Ever, and took an iPhone pic of a bottle of £2.50 Nivea makeup remover. She invited her friends to join, telling them to check out her latest find in Boots. Little did she know, she’d just created what would become a business like no other.
Within eight weeks of setting up the group, Justine had 15k people – mainly women – following the page, uploading their own pics, adding their own friends and beginning to share product reviews. And these people, these social media engagers, weren’t influencers, they weren’t ‘Millennials’, they weren’t even particularly social media savvy. They were all real people, just like Justine and her friends, who love nothing more than helping each other out, sharing the things they love and discovering new and incredible products. And with that, as the numbers grew and grew, Justine realised that she was on to something.
"To be honest, starting a new business was the last thing on my mind, I started the group to share one product and it didn't take long before I realised that people were screaming out for a Tripadvisor for products". And as the numbers grew, so did Justine's love for the business. More and more people started posting, and as the group was a closed group, she needed to approve every single post. She began discovering new products that she'd never heard of through the community, trying them and realising that there were so many unsung hero brands coming through that just didn't have a voice. "It was at that point I realised that what I had, was a huge, captive and growing audience. We were at about the 25k mark within 6 months and people were posting day and night. I was approached by Talia, who was an avid poster, who asked if she could help. A real world beauty fanatic, Talia quickly joined the team bringing with her a broad knowledge of all the latest products on the market. A skincare junkie who also tests for Boots, has subscription boxes coming out of her ears, and devours info on trends. Talia began working with Justine as her first moderator, helping to check and upload posts.
Justine was fixed on ensuring that the group was always a positive, optimistic and cheerful space, where people feel safe to post and where the community all support one another, day in, day out. "The group is such a marvellous place, a place to search for products (simply using the search bar), a place to share the products you love with people. A place to find real reviews from real shoppers. It's also entertaining. Check it out. It's the most real space around. And the most positive one". At the end of year one, an old college friend of Justine's, Jo Chadwick came on to the scene. Jo's background in brand marketing, sales promotion and creative strategy was exactly what Justine needed to start pushing MBPE forwards into a business. A business with a focus to make everyone in the community happy, continuing to give them what they wanted, and go on supporting genius, under the radar brands with great products that can stand up to the big boys. Together they launched phase two of the business – and the web-store sprung into action, housing some of these great finds, and much-loved products (as favoured by the group) online.
The group grew from strength to strength, and has now passed the 50k mark. It's still considerably female biased – largely because us girls do like to talk – but the men are beginning to find a voice, and their numbers are growing. From around 5am to 1am every day the community members are posting reviews, sharing the love for products they have found, asking each other for advice, and supporting each others needs. There are often tiny brands that the team discover through the group, and when the reviews are all positive, and free flowing, they then set about reaching the brand owners and seeing how they could work together.
"In as far as the business is concerned, we have naturally had to commercialise what we are doing. After all, we are growing the team to support the needs of the group and we have to find a way to pay everyone fairly", says MBPE Co-Founder Jo. "Justine has never been in this for the money, but to grow the business we have to look at how we can sustain that growth. Justine is firmly fixed on making people happy so we've had to dig deep to find out how we can do that, and sustain an ever increasing need for spend".
"We use the group for insights, we can see what people are looking for, where products are failing them, what they love, what they need, and we can then go out and try to find the best products to fulfil those needs" adds Justine. "We also listen to the group. To what they love, what they are talking about. And some of the most talked about or loved products are fast becoming our best business partners. And now, we've created what we think is the best business model ever".
Over the past six months, the pair have worked tirelessly to develop a business model they can can be proud of. One that is transparent, and one where everyone wins. The brands, the business and also – and most importantly – the community. And with that desire to give people more, they launched a member shopper programme, offering year round discounts on the products they sell, have started up a trial programme and also offer brilliant, tried and tested and LOVED products the ability to promote on the group, offer advice to the community all while providing an exclusive discount for MBPE followers.
“We’re up against it day in day out”, Justine explains. “People want us to do well, want the business to succeed, but when they see a review of something great on the group, they immediately search Amazon, see if it’s on Prime and buy it. We do the hard work, Amazon gets the win. No-one wants that (least of all the brand or product owner who needs to build a brand) but it’s a fact of life. So we realised we needed to do more, give more, be more”.
“Membership has allowed us to offer preferential pricing to our members. We work with the brands to agree a reduced margin, so that we can give our members the best price ever for the best products ever. It’s simple. Some stores make a massive margins, they buy in huge volumes and sell at maximum rate. We buy in small volumes, couldn’t negotiate the fair prices, didn’t want to pass on a high price to shoppers” adds Jo, “so we have found a way where everyone wins. We agree a price with the brand owners that is preferential and covers our time creating campaigns and messaging and marketing for them, around their brands. We can then pass on the best possible price to our best (paying) member shoppers”. Not only that, we involve them in product trials, provide free gifts, samples and more. And with luck one day we’ll have enough in the coffers to offer free delivery to everyone. But we’re not quite there yet”.
The pair are definitely passionate about what they do, Justine about the shoppers and Jo about the brands. And we hope that the future will get only better for everyone involved.