We are live at Target! Ahhh!!! We’ve been keeping this a secret since finding out almost 7 months ago that we landed the partnership in over 500 stores. So how did we, a bootstrapped business with no sales reps or distributors get in front of Target? Well, my friends, I am here to share all the details! In this blog post, I’ll run through the entire timeline from pitch to being stocked on-shelves, and learnings from our experience.
Pitching to the Target buyer on November 7, 2019 (this was pre-rebrand to Three Ships). Moments before entering the boardroom, I went to the bathroom and struck a power pose in the mirror to calm the nerves. It was game time!
A Chance Encounter
It all started back in 2019. I had been fervently trying to get the attention of Target’s merchandising team, to no avail. Their team gets inundated with pitches on a daily basis, but I truly believed that if I could get their attention, they would see a great fit between our brand and Target. I had Target on my vision board, I wrote about Target regularly in my journal, I spoke about Target all the time – Target was always on my mind! I’m a big believer in the power of visualization and manifestation, and I truly believed that one day I would be pitching to my dream retail partner.
Well, that day came sooner than I thought! At the end of a coffee chat with a friend from school in the spring of 2019, she asked me what my BHAG was (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Naturally, I told her, “I’m just trying to find a way to get in front of the Target team.” To my surprise, she mentioned that she went on exchange with someone who worked in the Research department at Target! Even though it was a long shot, I instantly took her up on her offer for an introduction. I had an amazing call with her friend, sent her products to try, and crossed my fingers. She emailed me a few weeks later, raving about how much our products had improved her skin! She offered to introduce me to the beauty buyer. I was floored.
Take Risks and Say Yes to Every Opportunity
After a few calls with the buyer, he agreed to bring our products on Target.com as an initial test. Laura and I were beyond ecstatic, but also truly believed that our products could improve the lives of so many more people if we were carried in-store. I realized that we would be attending the same beauty trade show in August, and emailed him to let him know our Booth # and location. The day of the show was extremely hectic, with us talking to countless buyers, standing all day by our booth, while also scanning the massive conference hall for the Target buyer.
Standing all days in heels at our booth was probably not the best idea! No matter how painful our feet were, we were all smiles. :)
Towards the end of the day, I noticed him walking into the men’s room. That was my chance! I wandered to the side of the men’s room and casually waited for him to come out. When he emerged, I exclaimed, “Hey Peter (name changed for confidentiality)! It’s Connie. I know you’re extremely busy, but I’d love to chat with you for 5 minutes and introduce you to my co-founder at our booth!” He was pleasantly surprised by my initiative (at least that’s the way I like to picture it!), and agreed to swing by our booth. We explained our founding story, the gap our products filled at-shelf, and encouraged him to try more of our products. At the end of the conversation, he invited me to pitch for the 2020 line review at the Target HQ in three months. I was so excited that I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep that night!
Practicing the Pitch
Over the next few months, I spent most of my free time preparing a pitch deck and researching competitor brands. It included our brand story, traction to date, target consumer (which aligned perfectly with Target’s shopper), new product innovation, and ended with the value our brand could bring for the Target beauty team. I practiced to friends, family, and anyone who would listen to get their feedback. By the time I was on the plane to Minneapolis, I had my pitch memorized and felt confident.
Manifesting our products being carried in Target, the day before my meeting with the buyer.
The day before my meeting, I visited a few Target stores to do some competitive analysis and get a better idea of the layout of the beauty department. I also stood in front of one of their flagship stores, with one of our products in hand, closed my eyes and visualized our brand in-store. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt deep within me that it was only a matter of time before my dreams would become a reality.
My presentation, marketing poster boards, and a small display of our products. This was taken 10 minutes before I walked into the board room. I was shaking!
On the day of my pitch, I was so nervous but also SO excited! I had barely slept the night before, and I knew it all came down to this 30 minute meeting. It’s cheesy, but I went into the bathroom moments before my pitch to strike a power pose. Staring at my reflection in the mirror, I reminded myself that no one could do a better pitch than the co-founder of the brand. I also addressed my imposter syndrome, assuring my 26-year-old self that I deserved to be here. With that, I walked into the boardroom and pitched my heart out.
Wrap Up & Learnings
And, like they say, the rest is history. There’s a lot more that happened after the meeting which is confidential. Fast forwarding ahead, we finalized the partnership in July of 2020, and it’s been full steam ahead ever since. If you're curious about our launch strategy for Target, check out our interview with Glossy here. I’m so grateful and proud of our team for making our launch a success. Be sure to check out our Store Locator to find a Target location near you, and use hashtag #ThreeShipsDoesTarget if you find us at-shelf. :)
My key takeaways from this experience can be summed up in one sentence: if you don’t try or ask, you’ll never know. I’m a big believer that good fortune comes to those who are open to seeking new opportunities, and are willing to be rejected time and time again. I hope that sharing this story helps some of you, and encourages you to keep pushing for your dreams.
As always, feel free to comment below if you have any questions! Lots of love,