Macon-based 'Shark Tank' duo hit nearly $2 million in sales
The owner of a Macon boutique tried on a pair of Hold Your Haunches pants about a year before she was able to order them for her store.
"I knew it was a great pant," said Julie G. Evans, who owns the Karats and Keepsakes Boutique on Forsyth Road. "I just knew it was going to be a great thing."
And from the way that Hold Your Haunches has grown in recent years, Evans' prediction was apparently on the mark.
Erin Bickley and Jenny Greer of Macon started their "shapeware" business online in 2010. By 2012, they were selling to retailers. Evans is one of two Macon retailers who carry the "behind-enhancing" women's pants that are designed to have a slimming effect. Sorella, also on Forsyth Road, is the other.
From the moment Bickley and Greer appeared on the "Shark Tank" TV show in April 2014, their business exploded. The show features five millionaire investors who listen to pitches from entrepreneurs who are looking for funding and expertise to improve their businesses.
"Shark Tank" investors Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner said they would invest $75,000 and provide a $10,000 credit line in exchange for a 40 percent stake in the company.
Bickley and Greer said the company's website and emails lit up the minute the company's name was mentioned on the show. A month after the show aired, sales had nearly tripled, going from $265,000 to more than $750,000. And its email list went from about 800 to 10,000.
They nearly sold out of merchandise within 36 hours after the show aired.
Negotiations continued after the show, which is not unusual, and the investors' share in the company changed.
"We came to an agreement in that they own much less of the company," Bickley said. "We received very little money, but we got what we wanted, which was a partnership with two women. ... They can just open doors much faster than we ever could. ... It was all around a 100 percent great experience for us."
Corcoran, one of the investors, said in an email last week that working with Bickley and Greer is like working with the Energizer Bunny.
"They have an idea a minute, know how to execute, and are receptive to new ideas or suggestions. Frankly they are a lot smarter than me," Corcoran said. "Erin & Jenny are natural born entrepreneurs. They are not only creative but they know how to execute on their dreams."
FOCUS ON ONLINE SALES
After they caught up from a backlog created by the reaction to the show, Hold Your Haunches had another bump in sales when an update on their business ran on "Shark Tank" in January 2015.
The email list is up to about 30,000 now.
"We did close to $2 million in sales in 2015," Bickley said. "We are keeping up with it and enjoying it."
They took over their own warehousing and shipping in summer 2014, which also is when they opened an office on Vineville Avenue.
"We like to pack it ourselves and make sure it's the way we want it to look to the world," Greer said.
But something other than topping nearly $2 million in sales happened in 2015.
"The big news is we were issued our design patent in October 2015," Bickley said. "That opens avenues for licensing and pursuing other uses of the product than just fashion wear. People use compression for a lot of reasons, such as post surgical or for travel."
Even though Bickley and Greer had expanded their business to include retailers, they have actually been pulling back from that method of sales, except for store owners who understand the product.
"We are not pursuing that with a vengeance as we have just found we sell very well on Amazon," Bickley said. "Probably 90 percent of our business is online."
"We like being able to control the brand," Greer added.
The pants are not the kind that can get a consumer's attention just by hanging on a rack in a store. The brand's two-layer pants have a compression feature that shapes and smooths a woman's figure.
"You have to give a little tutorial," said Evans, the owner of Karats and Keepsakes. "You can't just hand someone the pants and expect them to understand. ... It's like putting on tights and leggings at the same time."
But it's worth the effort, she said, and women of all sizes and ages like them.
"There is nothing on the market that does what these pants do -- and I've looked," she said. "They are life-changing, I will tell you that. They are not easy to put on, and they are not the pant you are going to sit out at the ballgame in the hot sun. But there is not one thing on the market that makes you look as good as these do."
The pants have creative names, such as Booty Patootie Bootcut, Sleek Cheeks Legging and Caboose Boost Capri. New colors have been added in the pant lines, and the company sells a few tops now.
Evans said even though Bickley and Greer are fairly new business owners, they have been "so easy" to work with.
"I've been in business 29 years next month, and they may be the easiest wholesalers I've ever dealt with," she said. "They are super accommodating."
While the entrepreneurs would like to grow the business, they also want keep it at a size they can maintain. Both women are married with three children each, and they still do carpools, attend their children's activities and maintain their home life.
Sometimes that means "at night we can sit on our bed and work from our computers," Greer said.
"We want to control (the business)," Bickley said. "We don't want it to control us."
Greer added: "We would rather have a big piece of a small pie than a small piece of a big pie."
Corcoran said the future is bright for the business duo.
"Their enthusiasm and energy really makes anything possible for Erin and Jenny."
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this story. To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223, or follow her on Twitter
Get to know:
Erin Bickley, co-owner of Hold Your Haunches
Age and birth place: 48, Durham, N.C.
Family: Husband, Shep Bickley; children: Kate, 21; Ella, 18; John, 14.
Education: University of Georgia, 1991, bachelor's in English.
What did you do before starting this business:? "I was a stay-at-home mom, but I had a part-time floral design and interior design business and worked with -- and still do -- a property developer out of North Carolina.
Special interests/hobbies: "Being with family and friends. I love to entertain and interior design stuff and to travel.
Pets: Dogs, Goose and Woody, and a cat, Bernie.
Jenny Greer, co-owner of Hold Your Haunches
Age and birth place: 44, Griffin
Family: Husband, Hal Greer; children: Maggie, 17; Harry, 14; Eli, 13.
Education: University of Georgia, 1994, bachelor's in child and family development.
What did you do before starting this biz? "I was a stay-at-home mom and prior to that had been a paralegal.
Special interests/hobbies: "Binge watching Netflix."
Pets: Dogs, Rosie, Google, Boss; cat, Weezie; birds, King George and King Henry.