Women-run underwear company Uwila Warrior may have had to close its Charles St. storefront due to COVID-19 regulations, but the company is still going strong.
The business, which focuses on creating functional, comfortable underwear for all women in sizes XXS to 3X, has been “trying to beef up our Amazon channel and sell online,” Uwila Warrior Founder and CEO Lisa Mullan told the Times. While there are still sales and support from the local neighborhood and regular online customers, sales were still a net negative, she said.
Mullan continues to pay her employees and rent on the Charles St. store, and are “still planning on reopening” when allowed to do so. She said thanks to a good start to the year with “tons of momentum” in January and February, the company is in a good place to come back.
Another opportunity also came along early last week that really made a positive impact on the business, and was one that Mullan and her team never could have dreamt of.
Last year, Uwila Warrior was chosen as a Tory Burch fellow as part of the Tory Burch Foundation, which supports female-founded startups. “They’ve been a huge help,” Mullan said. Aside from providing help and guidance for these small businesses during this time, they posted an opportunity on the fellowship’s Facebook group to be on Good Morning America’s (GMA) “Deals and Steals” segment, which has been focusing on helping small businesses ramp up their sales throughout this pandemic.
So Mullan filled out the application and “literally three hours later they called us and interviewed us,” she said. “It came together in like three days—we were able to go live with them on Friday.”
While Uwila Warrior runs its own website, the Good Morning America deals run on a separate wesbite, so “we were hustling to get that done” in time so people watching the segment could take advantage of the sale, she said.
GMA Deals and Steals’ Tory Johnson provided information about the company live on GMA last Friday, and from about 10am to about midnight, Uwila Warrior offered a selection of its underwear and camisoles for 50 percent off through the Deals and Steals website. In less than 12 hours, more than 6,000 orders were placed.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Mullan said. “The challenge now is we’ve got a fulfillment warehouse running on a skeleton crew,” she added, and they don’t know how long it will take for them to fulfill all the orders. “It still hasn’t sunk in.”
Mullan said they received double the orders that Good Morning America teased them with before the segment aired. She said that getting underwear out to customers for them to try for themselves is imperative to building the business.
“Once women wear our underwear,” she said, there is between a 30 and 40 percent repeat customer rate. She said that retaining even ten percent of the new customers the GMA sales brought in will be a huge win for the business.
Uwila Warrior’s existing customer base was also offered access to the sale the night before it went live so they could have first pick at the half-off styles.
Uwila Warrior Marketing & Retail Coordinator Madeleine Mulroney said that the GMA site drove traffic to the regular Uwila Warrior site as well.
“New customers are trying out our products, and we’re expanding our customer base,” she said.”It was like nothing we have ever seen.”
This influx of new sales has sent Mullan and her small team into overdrive answering emails and chats from customers about fit and sizing. “Our hard work before [the virus hit] made us ready to deal with the surge of customer service,” Mulroney said.
“As a team, we’re working remotely,” Mullan added. She said they had a Zoom chat going all day last Friday to delegate certain tasks and responses to customers via various different methods.
“This deal is going to help us pay our staff, pay our rent, and pay our vendors,” she added. She said they were concerned that their fulfillment warehouse in Lawrence would shut down during this crisis, but it’s now very busy. “It’s a ripple effect within our chain,” she said.
She thanked everyone who has supported the business, especially during these tough times. “Even before GMA, we’re so touched by how many people are coming on to order from us,” she said, adding that underwear is a necessity and something people wear “no matter what’s going on.”
“Even though it’s quiet on the streets, there’s still an outpouring of support for local businesses on the street, so thank you,” she said.