Ashley Judge is just a girl … standing in front of a boy … asking him to love her. Oh wait, just kidding – that’s Julia Roberts in Notting Hill. She’s no Julia Roberts, but Ashley isn’t so bad either.
Ashley is the President of The Funtrepreneur, Inc., a company that includes the whimsical gift site, AlwaysFits.com; the unique gift basket site, unBaskets.com; and the maternity safe nail polish line, Knocked Up Nails.
Previous to going out on her own, Ashley worked for Ambassador Swanee Hunt, planning political events, including a women’s symposium at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Also back in the days when Ashley had a boss, she worked as director of hotel logistics at Garber Travel for the 2004 Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign, as well as planned events for Goodwill in Boston. While each of these experiences were well-worth living, Ashley concluded that life was better without a boss.
Recently, Ashley shared some business lessons with American Express. To read that article, click here. Or, read below, for an excerpt from the interview with Ashley:
Getting Huge Holiday PR Buzz
For AlwaysFits.com, a Beverly, Massachusetts-based online retailer that sells “whimsical and unique gifts," the holiday season comprises nearly half the company’s annual sales. In 2011, the store got a special holiday gift of its own.
Over the summer, store founder and owner Ashley Judge reached out to the editors of numerous national magazines who oversee the holiday gift guides, pitching her store's fun products. After sending out lengthy pitch emails, four major magazines featured AlwaysFits.com products in their holiday guides. Glamour magazine featured the site's crocheted headphones as a gift item recommended by TV actress Whitney Port; Redbook featured a "Godfather" talking bobblehead (based on the movie The Godfather) as a “best gift for under $20”; Woman’s World featured mints in a box decorated with an illustrations of Marilyn Monroe; and First For Women included a Little Green Lantern baby onesie.
“The stars were aligned,” Judge says of the fact that her pitches connected with the editors of four different magazines. The publicity led to a huge spike in sales for those four gift items that holiday season, Judge adds, noting that she's sold 500 to 1,000 units of AlwaysFit.com products that have been featured in holiday guides during the holiday season compared to the 50 to 100 units she sells of non-publicized items.
“Nothing packs the same punch as an editorial mention in a national magazine with 3 million readers,” Judge says. “Those magazines sit in nail salons all year round, so they have a long impact, too.”
While AlwaysFits.com and its products continue to get mentioned in national magazines, 2011 was a particularly big year for the site. For one thing, the timing of the pitches couldn't have been better—because most magazines’ holiday gift guides, which are featured in their December issues, are usually wrapped up by early fall, editors look for holiday gift item pitches in the summer months. Moreover, small retailers and business owners would be wise to subscribe to databases sold by companies like Gift List Media to get current names and contact information for the holiday gift guide editors at major publications, as well as details about what the editors are looking for in product pitches.
If a magazine editor is interested in a product, they'll often call the product retailer in advance to let them know one of their products is being featured in the gift guides and to make sure they have enough inventory on hand to fulfill an expected spike in demand. “They want to make sure you have 1,000 or more of the featured gift item," Judge says. “They don’t want to tell their readers about things they can’t buy—it hurts the credibility of their gift guide.”
Judge says she’s already heard from several major magazines about products of hers being featured in the publications' 2014 holiday gift guides, so she’s hopeful this year may be even better than 2011. “I think we’re in some big [magazines],” she says, “but I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch.”