BALA
Healthcare professionals are on their feet all day, and BALA is the shoe that combines style, durability, and performance to support them throughout the day. BALA Twelves are non-slip and repel liquid. Its proprietary KnitFit Upper layer is knit, glove-like base layer that fits to the individual foot shape to give support.
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Gorgias
Gorgias centralizes all your support tickets in one place and enriches them with lots of extra context about a buyer's profile. Through Gorgias, you can connect directly to your eCommerce store and edit orders, modify subscriptions, and refund payments without leaving your helpdesk.
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Under The Hood: Natalie from Bala

A chat on growth & D2C with Bala founder, Natalie Holloway

Hi Natalie! So happy to be speaking with you. 2023 sounds like it’s going to be a big year for Bala. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have coming down the pipeline?

The biggest thing for us lately is we just switched Balacize, our workout app, over to monetization. So for the business, that's huge. And also for our subscribers and customers, that's huge because we'll be able to push a lot more workouts out. It makes the brand more of a full circle experience. It's not just selling products to somebody, it's actually engaging with them daily and listening to their feedback and adding more workouts. And so I think that's huge for us because it makes the brand a little bit of a different thing than just like a one-off product here and there to people.

We’ll also be launching another six products later this year. So that’s been really fun and lots of work on the product development side.

The Bala range

 

When you launched Bala in 2018, what was your acquisition strategy? And how has that changed now in 2023?

We spent literally zero money on advertising for the first two-and-a-half to three years. And we were able to do that because we essentially were acquiring customers at wholesale. We didn’t know any better because in our minds, customer acquisition costs so much money and we were bootstrapping. But looking back, that would’ve been a really good time to spend money because it would’ve been so much cheaper.

Right when we started to spend money on customer acquisition was when iOS happened. Our CAC was really low, like $12. Now it’s 20+ dollars.

It’s not just one channel that works and gets us customers like crazy. It’s a series of 10 different things that we’re trying and always testing. No one has the magic formula now. We’re constantly weighting profitability against customer acquisition and it’s such a challenging dance.

 

What are the main acquisition channels that seem to be working now for Bala?

Google Ads always. We dabbled in TikTok but it didn’t work for us at the time. Facebook’s not working at all.

We’re about to start working with another agency to start testing some things with Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, etc. So this is a big time in testing for us acquisition-wise.

Test and invest, that’s our approach.

 

Google Ads "Bangles"

It looks like another focus for Bala’s acquisition has been Amazon. Do you recommend that brands use Amazon as an acquisition channel? What have been the learnings?

It’s a tricky thing and it's changing all the time because the customer's position on Amazon is changing. Two years ago, three years ago, I would've said no, build the brand first – establish yourself. You don't want to be an Amazon dupe. But now that's not the case. I think you should still test the product DTC and you will have to spend money on Amazon for ads, but for us, it is necessary.

If you aren’t an Amazon, yes there’s a better chance there won’t be counterfeits happening. But it’s inevitable either way. So for us, we have to be on Amazon. If we’re not, a million fake Bala products pop up. And actually Amazon is our most profitable sales channel. 

We use paid ads there and it’s extremely profitable. I think CACs are $10 or something. Amazon does take a big fee so you have to weigh that. But I think the CAC is just so much better that it overall is more profitable.

 

Bala launched in-person fitness classes in your own studio in 2022. What was that experience like and were you experimenting with how that could play into acquisition and retention?

 Yes, we had a New York pop up and had a studio there – it was awesome to have an in-person expression of the brand. I want to do it again.

It was great for community building and also as a discovery platform, too. The studio was in Soho so 50-100 walked in the store every day and most of them were new to the brand. It was a great test to see whether retail makes sense for us.

 

Speaking of community, Bala has an incredibly loyal customer base. How has Bala cultivated that community so far?

 

We always try to make sure that Bala is perceived as fun and the products are here to make you feel good – to help make working out fun. We do events all the time in LA with our community, with partner brands, etc. I wish we could do that in every city to see the community growth.

But I always think of it like being a friend on Instagram. Put out things that people actually want to experience.

Our workout app, Balacize, was free for a year for our community. We don’t want to be salesy, we want it to be like giving back. Like “here’s 5 workouts you can do with your bangles,” being their friend in their workouts.

Balacize app

 

What is Bala’s tech stack?

Gorgias, Afterpay, Catch, Yotpo, Klaviyo, and Attentive. Those are the main ones.

And last question. What would you attribute your success to with Bala?

Early days, my answer would’ve been to say yes to everything. Try new products, new partnerships with brands, new retail relationships, try everything to grow. Test different platforms and different tech stacks.

But also it really goes back to your product. The bangles at the time were really innovative for the category. Having a product that is giving something completely different than anything there on the market is so important. You need to have something that is different and that you believe to be different that gives back to the customers.