By Jeanine Ibrahim
Nnenna Stella never planned to become an entrepreneur, it just happened: “I got an idea, listened to my intuition, and it’s been pretty cool ever since,” she says.
Stella was working as waitress in Manhattan, and had recently completed a self-imposed 30-day meditation challenge to help realize her full potential, when she got the itch to buy a new head wrap. She spent three days searching online, but came up short.
“I really couldn’t find any place that sold them online, and I thought other women might want the same thing, so I started a company,” she says.
So she launched The Wrap Life (www.TheWrap.life) in January 2014 as a lifestyle brand that sells head wraps and handmade goods. Stella makes it sound easy, but success didn't come fast. She worked 70 hours a week as a waitress and entrepreneur while learning a totally new trade to get her start-up off the ground.
Almost a year into it, the business saw a huge spike in sales, which Stella says came in part due to switching the site’s domain from a “dot-com” (.com) to a “not-com” (.life). She was able to quit waiting tables to focus fully on The Wrap Life.
Stella talked with Name.Kitchen about building a lifestyle brand on a 'dot-life' (.life) domain, including how her decision to ditch the original dot-com address helped to elevate her brand -- and her business.
What exactly is a head wrap?
On the surface, they’re beautiful textiles or pieces of fabric used to wrap up your hair. Women in various cultures have worn them at different times to represent status, wealth or occupation. Our goal is to revamp that traditional thought. We create bold wraps in many colors and patterns, but also have simple denim ones. We view head wraps as another accessory; as a way for you to showcase your individual style.
Is that the core message behind this lifestyle brand your creating? A celebration of individual style?
The message is to promote creativity among women from all cultures. We support and encourage them to experiment with wearing new types of textiles and fabrics to create their own style.
Do you sell more than head wraps on TheWrap.life?
Yes. For the first six months, I only sold handmade head wraps. I then added jewelry to match, and other items like incense and sacred kits. We also had some shirts, but they quickly sold out. I’m plan to add more clothing to the site to become the go-to destination for anyone who wants to wear ethnic or tribal textiles.
You mentioned a huge sales spike at the end of 2014 -- pretty awesome for your first year in business. How did that happen?
Social media is pretty magical. A lot of people found us during that time because of an online support black business movement taking place. There wasn't a direct link, instead random people, shoppers, and other businesses would hashtag us and share our products and website. That, combined with consumers’ openness to try new products during the holidays, really helped us gain a following.
How big was the increase?
Our sales from Black Friday through December more than doubled our earnings from the preceding months combined. Revenues have since continued to increase every month. We now have close to 66,000 followers across social media, mostly on Instagram.
Did your domain, TheWrap.life, contribute to this growth in followers?
I’d definitely say so. We switched from ShopWrapLife.com to TheWrap.life in the fall of 2014. We also gave the website a new look at that time. I think the simplicity of the domain combined with the polished site helped boost sales and our social media following.
Why didn’t you launch your lifestyle brand with a “dot-life” domain?
Because I didn’t know those [not-com] options existed. Initially, I wanted TheWrapLife.com, but it was taken. So we picked ShopWrapLife.com. I later heard about the 'dot-life' [.life] domain from a site like GoDaddy. I added my name to a list and bought it as soon as I could -- and we made the switch.
Why did you make the switch?
'Dot-life' is perfect for a lifestyle brand like mine. It just fits. It’s savvy, hip and new. We’ve since bought TheWrapLife.com from its former owner. Now, when people search for us as a 'dot-com,' it will redirect it to our current site, TheWrap.life.
How big of a deal is a domain for an online shop like yours?
It’s the actual address of how customers find us. Having a domain that’s short and to the point makes it easier to remember. I love that mine, TheWrap.life, is the exact name of my business -- no hyphen or 'dot-net' or 'dot-com.' It’s so concise and and just looks cool.
How about the significance of naming a company?
A brand is really a story, and a company name is like the title of a book for it. A name is the introduction, or invitation, to what you’re trying to communicate to the customer. People need to want to hear it so they will support it and give their money to it.
How did you land on your company’s name, The Wrap Life?
Honestly, it just popped in my mind. I can't explain it any better than that. I knew that head wraps would have to be sold as a lifestyle brand. So having the word "life" in the name just made sense. And I wanted a name that’s kind of generic, like Band-Aid, so everyone could relate to it.
What kind of reaction are you getting to the name?
People often hashtag “The Wrap Life” [#TheWrapLife] on social media for head wraps that aren’t even ours. I’d say 40% of the photos we get tagged in aren’t from us. But people think about the lifestyle, and they think that they're living “The Wrap Life.”
Is it difficult to learn how to wear a head wrap?
I don’t think so. We also have some tutorials on the website. But it’s helpful to have an open mind and a willingness to self-create. People see a style and want to wear a wrap exactly like it, but it’s okay to make up your own style. Have some creative expression.
Did you have a background in fashion before your company?
No, I didn’t even know how to sew until I started my company, but I learned. The first wrap took me forever to make. I did it on a small sewing machine in my apartment in Brooklyn for the first six months. I’ve since outsourced the sewing, but the head wraps are all hand made in New York City.
So it wasn’t your dream, but how do you like being an entrepreneur now?
I can’t even remember what I wanted to do before selling head wraps. I dream about ideas and wake up in the middle of the night to write them down. I’m working seven days a week now, but I’ve never been so motivated in my life.
Learn more about this business by visiting the website www.TheWrap.life.