Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA – Carolyn Lowe discusses her transition from corporate America to eCommerce –  Carolyn is the Founder & CEO of ROI Swift – a leading eCommerce consulting agency, shares her life story and her path into eCommerce. 


Carolyn started her career at Dell Computers in the early 2000s. She was able to experience the early success of selling products online for a big brand. This experience gave Carolyn the confidence needed to start her own agency while raising a family. 


With her unique ability to bridge between technology and marketing, Carolyn was able to work for established brands such as Qualcomm and Callaway. Her mission is to help brands develop a strong brand stronghold across multiple selling channels. 


Find out more about ROI Swift.

Find out more about GETIDA.


Find the Full Transcript Below

Yoni Mazur  0:05  

Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of prime dog today I’m really honored and excited to have Carolyn Lowe. Caroline is the founder and CEO of ROI Swift. It’s a leading e-commerce consulting agency. She’s doing a lot of great things in the space. Caroline, welcome to the show.


Carolyn Lowe  0:23  

Thanks for having me.


Yoni Mazor  0:25  

Sure thing. Where are you located right now?


Carolyn Lowe  0:28  

in Austin, Texas, as if the guitar background were not a giveaway in sunny Austin, Texas getting ready to survive the summer.


Yoni Mazor  0:37  

Nice. I mean, I went to Austin. Last time I was there I went to a gun range. So if you put a little gun above the top, it will be a bit easier for me to recognize Austin since my last visit, but it’s good. So everybody’s doing okay. Everybody’s good over there. You guys are still in quarantine or Texas. nobody’s doing


Carolyn Lowe  0:54  



Carolyn Lowe  0:58  

Texas is Austin is fairly still quarantined. A few things are open some salons and restaurants are doing to go but not like other states now where we’re fairly. Austin itself is fairly conservative about opening back up.


Yoni Mazor  1:12  

I got it. Yeah, it’s better safe than sorry. Okay, so I mean, this episode today is dedicated all about you and your story. You know, where do you grew up? Where are you from? Where do you go to school? And how did you develop your professional career and ended up in e commerce. So without further ado, you know, the stage is all yours. Let’s go ahead. Let’s get to it.


Carolyn Lowe  1:32  

Great. Well, I went I grew up in the northeast, just outside of Boston. And I went to school at University of New Hampshire. And that’s where I first started understanding that I loved marketing. I love product. I love brand. And I went to the Whitmore School of Business at the University of New Hampshire. And I remember our senior year, we had a great we did a lot of Harvard Business School case studies. And there was no entrepreneurship. I graduated in 1987. So if you want to figure out how old I am, you can do the math. But you know, this was in the days of Mattel and Hasbro were the only toy companies and Amazon didn’t exist. And you know, I remember doing a Stonyfield yogurt case study where they were a regional brand and trying to figure out should they go national. And that’s where I really got my love of marketplaces, e-commerce branding, you know, how do brands sell their product at the time, it was only retail. So fast forward, I worked in technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And then in 1999, Dell recruited me to come down and work in the consumer marketing division. So people were buying their first computers, if you can believe that a lot of your listeners probably can’t believe that, you know, 20 years ago, people were just starting to buy laptops, you know, they had those big clunky desktop. So I remember


Yoni Mazor  2:51  

I remember my first laptop.


Carolyn Lowe  2:54  

Yeah, it was probably in my 20s. I was in my 20s 20, it probably weighed 20 pounds. And it lasted about 20 minutes and battery life. Right?


Yoni Mazor  3:03  

No, actually my first cell phone was when I was 19 years old. So you know, figure that?


Carolyn Lowe  3:08  

Yeah. So So that’s, and so I was doing direct marketing because there weren’t computers, there was no internet, there was you know, people had AOL if they had an email at all. So I’m definitely dating myself as a dinosaur. And if you listen to some of Michael Dell’s early podcasts, and you know, sort of very similar, you know, he would call people up on the phone to try and sell things. So that was exciting. And then email started emerging is more and more people got an email. So worked in Dell. And I think we mailed out about 200 million catalogs every year.


Yoni Mazor  3:43  

Wow. And printed right at print,


Carolyn Lowe  3:46  

printed, and they were very specific like you would get one that was a laptop, and your neighbor might get one that was a desktop and feature to the printer, and so that we are very team all through statistical modeling, and databases and demographics and psychographics. So it’s basically it’s the evolution of what direct mail was 20 years ago is what we’re doing today on internet marketing and, and even on, even on Amazon today. So that evolved, and then I went and ran the consumer part of dell.com, the whole e-commerce engine, and really was fascinated by testing a whole bunch of different things and what which, which ones are most likely to buy, and how many options are too many options and what do people gravitate towards? You know, so and sort of tracking software, which is commonplace. Now you can be a mom and pop and set up a Shopify site and install a hot jar and know exactly how your users are interfacing on your website. So there’s really started almost 20 years ago and as has evolved since then.


Yoni Mazor  4:54  

So it’s fair to say that basically, your experience at Dell legends e-commerce,


Carolyn Lowe  5:00  

Yes, so started there and email and then worked with email marketing and then ran our alternative channels for consumer, which was QVC, and Costco and Sam’s Club. And that’s where I, you know, I sold about a million dollars worth of laptops and eight minutes on QVC. So that’s my, you know, 15, or I guess, eight minutes of fame. And so we really got eight minutes, million dollars. And that’s where I really decided that it was terrific to be doing all this for Dell. But I’d really love to do this for some smaller brands. And so after Dell, I decided that I would go and work with some smaller brands like three, four, or $5 million brands,


Yoni Mazor  5:44  

what year was this?


Carolyn Lowe  5:46  

This was in that. So I left Dell in 2006. And then I went to work for a global market research company, ran their global marketing events, had a child really hard to travel all over the world with a newborn. So I consulted for six or seven years. And then I went back to a mom and baby company called upspring, which is a phenomenal natural wellness brand for moms and babies.


Yoni Mazor  6:12  

So let’s backtrack a little bit. So you started at Dell, in the year 1990, I want to say nine around seven years, you were there, doing big stuff, big numbers, and then 2017 figured I can do the same kind of quality work, okay, and deliver meaningful impact to smaller organizations. And so you did it independently in 2007, or as a part of another, another organization? What was the position there in 2007?


Carolyn Lowe  6:41  

Until 2007, I was on my own consulting, so I consulted for companies like Qualcomm,


Yoni Mazor  6:52  

You spread your wings, that’s when you turn into it to be an independent business. Yeah.


Carolyn Lowe  6:56  

Yes. Yeah. 


Yoni Mazor  6:57  

Very good. How was that for you? How was that what was natural for you? Was it the big pivotal moment or was it an experience?


Carolyn Lowe  7:04  

I think it was probably being a mother is a stay-at-home mom is the hardest unpaid job ever. Oh. So I was doing that and working 20 hours a week and didn’t have sort of set help. So I think that that was in hindsight, a poor decision, I really either should have stayed working or took the time off, but I still work 20 hours a week and, and was a full-time mom. So that was I think that was the most challenging, I said, but I was happy to do it happy to stay home with my kids for the first you know, seven years of my son’s life and my daughter’s first five years.


Yoni Mazor  7:41  

That’s definitely precious. And you probably can never quantify it and money just it’s, priceless, right? The ability to, you know, I’ll bring the children and those ages and give them the attention you would like to have in accomplishing that that’s in these days in this world. It’s nothing to discount at all. So But okay, I want to understand a little bit more. So 2007, you spread your wings, you’re, you know, you’re growing the family. But you said at some point you entered another organization, a consulting firm. What was the


Carolyn Lowe  8:13  

I did the consulting from 2007 to 2014. And that was your firm 1014 I that was my firm god.


Yoni Mazor  8:22  

Okay, got it. So on your own seven years as an independent god in 2014.


Yoni Mazor  8:27  

What happened? So I guess you shifted from your own consulting gig into either you kept that and then entered another organization or you kind of wind down your consulting and then pivoted strong and to the, to the agency?


Carolyn Lowe  8:43  

Yeah, no. So 2014. I did I wind down my consulting, there was some travel, there was a bunch of different time zones. And I was looking for something a little bit more local, a little bit less travel. Yeah, I did a lot of global travel with Dell. And with kids at home. It was very challenging. 


Yoni Mazor  9:00  

You are geographically We’re located already in Texas. Are you still in Massachusetts?


Carolyn Lowe  9:04  

I’ve been in Austin since 99. Since I worked since Dell moved me here.


Yoni Mazor  9:08  

August. So Dell pretty much took you to Texas. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Okay. So 2014 you’re in Texas. And you’re what was another agency again?


Carolyn Lowe  9:19  

So it was my own consulting firm as Carolyn Lowe and Associates, but then I went to work for a company called upspring, which is a mom and baby company. So I, I stopped doing the 20 hours a week consulting and then went back into a full-time position.


Yoni Mazor  9:33  

And okay, so before we go into our script, upspring the seven years of doing your own consulting was anything like impactful and meaningful that you did on a professional level that you want to highlight or stress out? 


Carolyn Lowe  9:46  

I think there was a couple of great projects that we worked on for Callaway golf that I really enjoyed, and helping them launch some new technology and some new products with some professional golfers. So That was the time that probably a great time when I was getting paid to be on the golf course at the four seasons and in just outside San Diego and and and we were making commercials for Callaway golf that was a lot of fun. And then a lot of fun with Qualcomm had some emerging technologies like pet trackers RFID, so you could never lose your pet. And so really some interesting technology for a lot of great brands out mostly on the west coast.


Yoni Mazor  10:28  

Nice. I mean, these are major brands, how did you How are you able to, I guess, connect with them?


Carolyn Lowe  10:34  

It’s a great question. Jani. So we at Dell, when I ran a lot of their long-form infomercials, we would shoot those out in California and the agency that would shoot them for us the media agency said hey, you know, we could really use someone who knows technology who knows the market you know, we know media, but we don’t know how to think like a Qualcomm exact or DirecTV exact, or Callaway exact. So I was sort of the liaison between the brands and the motion media agency.


Yoni Mazor  11:08  

Got it. So as far as what I take from this is basically your technical skills, right? Because, you know, essentially, at the heart, Dell is a technical company, and it’s a hardware company with a lot of techs, you know, you’re, you’re well rounded and this aspect, so it was a key thing for you to be able to connect to Qualcomm and Callaway and, you know, setting up their projects because you can bridge between, you know, all the technical functions and the marketing aspect of everything that’s interesting combination are very good. So let’s hop into 2014, you’re in the baby category, take us from you know, it’s not too long ago, it’s only about six years ago. So what happened in the past six years.


Carolyn Lowe  11:48  

In the past six years, so worked with upspring, I was brought in to do their e-commerce in Amazon. So I ended up doing their email marketing their Amazon, and they were sort of a fledgling business that had sold a few products to vendor Central, but really, we were not doing a lot and they were having a lot of, you know, they had wholesalers who had come in saw that they could make great margins and said, we’ll go sell for you on Amazon. And once we did the cost-benefit, I ran the cost-benefit analysis and said, Hey, you know, we’re losing 25 30% margin by letting these wholesalers you know, do this for us? Why don’t we just do this ourselves? And so basically started self-teaching on Amazon. And, you know, fast forward five years later, now working with brands that have 50 $60 million under management, through the agency, and I said, Well, did that for a year and a half and, and I said, Well, I could go do this for a lot of other brands. So I kept him on as a client and then started the agency with a successful businessman here in town, Dan Graham, who founded build, assign, built it to 100 million, and then sold it to sign company. So what you know, partnered up with some successful entrepreneurs and launched the agency about five years ago.


Yoni Mazor  13:08  

Awesome. So I guess one thing leads to the other you will upstream Baby, I guess, you were attracted to them because of your experience as a mother, right? So yeah, obviously a natural connection. And then a year, year, and a half into your position there you realize it’s almost like a goldmine, right? Well, you’re not going to feel walls and the Amazon platform, especially the Seller Central and realize the potential, you realize that you can do this, you got this covered, you also have a good technical background. So you probably you’re very good with all the widgets and all the stuff that can be plugged in or, or tools or software’s to enhance and optimize, which is today a key figure more than ever because of the fierce competition. So you’re gonna happen to the mix, you’re able to pivot basically say, you know what, let me open this up, I’ll go back to being a business owner. I’ll add this company as my client, and then I’ll be able to have more and more brands. I don’t know if you noticed that that’s quite a twist. It’s a pathway to because, you know, are you seven years on your own a year, year and a half you molded back into working for somebody else, but pretty quickly. You’re you? Yeah, I guess the force of nature puts you back into the business. And, and you’re scaling up nicely. As you said, You’re you teamed up with an interesting, you know, team and crew and you mentioned the gentleman will always name again, the entrepreneur


Carolyn Lowe  14:29  

Dan Graham and the mice with my other co-founder was Julie Jumonville, who was one of the co-founders about spring was not involved in the day to day anymore, but it actually I think you’re giving me too much credit. I had approached Julie and said upspring is making they’re doing a lot in retail. They’re in target, they’re at Walmart, you know, they’re in bye-bye baby, but they’re making these $10 supplements and you and I know as online marketers that you can’t make money on $10 products on especially on Amazon right now. shipping fees continue to go up, it’s very difficult to make money. So I was afraid a little bit for my job. So I went to Julie, one of the founders, and said, Will you give me a reference? I might need a job because you don’t need an online person if you’re only going to sell $10 vitamins? And she said, No, no, no, you can’t leave. You know, we, we’ve seen amazing growth since you’ve been here. So that’s how she got me together with Dan. And the three of us said, Let’s, let’s start this company. And Dan is was a member of the young president’s organization YPO. So there are a lot of CEOs and folks in his group that didn’t understand, not just Amazon, but digital marketing, Facebook and Instagram advertising, Instagram advertising, when I started didn’t exist, it was only Facebook advertising and Google advertising. And so there would be all these companies that were, you know, less than 10 million in revenue, who would get taken advantage of because they didn’t have the money to pay a big agency who knew what they were doing. So they went with these smaller guys that sold them some snake oil and knew about a 10th of what the big guys knew. So we came in, I really wanted to level the playing field for these emerging brands.


Yoni Mazor  16:13  

Wow, that’s it’s an interesting tale. Essentially, because of margin issues, the issue was the margin either because you fear your price point of $10. Because you mentioned also you realize that when you’re wholesaling it out, you’re making very little margin and the rest of the margin is being made by the I guess the ones who bought from you from your brand, but the reselling it on Amazon. So what was the process there, you kind of sent him a letter that you can sell them anymore wholesale, and you carved your way into whatever technical questions you do the same listings that there was already an Amazon or you start afresh is that you create a whole new catalog for those items on Amazon?


Carolyn Lowe  16:54  

Great question. So for the items that were already there, obviously, some were had, that this was back before Brand Registry on Amazon. So some of them had, you know, vendor contributions. And as you know, back in the for Brand Registry, it was very difficult to get something changed. If if the Amazon retail team had


Yoni Mazor  17:11  

almost like a constitution, it goes verbatim, and


Carolyn Lowe  17:14  

yes, and you could never talk to someone, you would send an email saying update this bullet, please. And two days later, you get an email back, and maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t. So I have to give Amazon a lot of credit for Brand Registry, and for allowing these brand owners to really take charge and make sure that that Amazon catalog is correct. So some of these, we just started putting up listings and then in the old days, there was Brand Registry 1.0 before 2.0. So you could still own the brand. But yeah, we started you know, every brand we work with. We ask them to update the wholesale agreements that say, Yes, if you wholesale to someone, they’re welcome to sell on their own site. But they have to stay off third-party marketplaces. So Amazon, eBay thrive jet, because then they’re just competing against you for the same customer. And you’re making 25 to 30% less. So why would you know, if they’re not bringing incremental value if they’re not bringing customers that you could get on your own? Why would you give them wholesale?


Yoni Mazor  18:16  

Just Yeah, I wonder how many companies in the past five, six years, I guess, since that timeframe, you know, brands realize this, and if not, if you’re listening to this and you ran, I think it’s an important lesson to make, you know, if you’re selling your products out there wholesale, and you see your products being sold on Amazon, or being resold by the retailers that buy from you. It’s very, you know, there’s, there are solutions out there, there are agencies out there can easily, you know, break you into two into the Amazon landscape. And so you can keep your margin have a healthier business. Because it’s a no, it’s inevitable. There’s no reason for the brokering Amazon is pretty much the largest retailer online, roughly more or less 50% of the marketplace. And it’s nothing to be taken lightly. It’s even strategical, it might be even the difference between life or death or business. Right. And so if you have the ability to go DTC direct to consumers through Amazon, it’s kind of a gold rush out there. And it’s important to acknowledge and realize that I guess for you guys, it just happened organically naturally, because of the price point. And your eyes were open and you took action, I guess firm action on it. But the question is that you know, your, your boss basically told you to that she saw all this growth, right. And what does she mean by that? Because when you finally I guess took over the listings already there and create a new listing, you know, what was the growth rate? I mean, you were making 100,000 a year and all sudden it was 10 million. What was if you can share a little bit of, I guess the percentage of growth since you came in and what was the impact? What was the wow moment like? Did we get this? We really do have this?


Carolyn Lowe  19:56  

Yeah, it was I can’t share exact numbers. A private company. Although did get acquired by Reckitt Benckiser last March so and was acquired by, a multinational multibillion-dollar pair of performers.


Yoni Mazor  20:11  

It’s was it a pharmaceutical? Or?


Carolyn Lowe  20:15  

Yes, so they own Lysol, mute mucin x airborne error wick directs condoms, you name it. Yeah. So they’re a terrific, large, large, company. And so all I can say is that you know, we grew, I grew up 6,000%. So,


Yoni Mazor  20:34  

Yeah, that’s the impact, that was the reason to tell you, you cannot leave your car, it’s, it’s pretty interesting, you had all this impact. But from your perspective, you’re humble enough to feel like, you know, what, your price point is too low, I might have to find a different place. But maybe you got a totally complete opposite reaction, you know, the ones that were above he said, Nah, you’re very valuable, there’s a big thing happening here. I guess they have also entrepreneurship, you know, the perspective of evaluating things. And they said, you know, let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s sit down, let’s talk, let’s develop this, let’s see what else we can do, obviously, we can do all this with, you know, this current company. But this is something new on a larger scale, saying, we can help our company in our with our growth, trajectory, and maybe help others and by helping others is another business opportunity. And that’s what eventually happened with this with the position and the perspective that you were in, you know, kind of a, I don’t wanna say negative, but you saw some sort of a deficit or some sort of weakness, but it turns out to be a complete strength that puts you on this trajectory that we’re in right now, which your agency is pretty much raising a banner in a gold rush, you know, this is an exciting time to be in business, and especially in e-commerce. And the current crisis just made it much, much more impactful the realization of e-commerce and how important invaluable It is not just to make money for businesses, but also to the consumers who were stranded at home, right? If you’re restricted, you’re trying to at home, if there was a, if there was any a time to have a global pandemic is such a scale. On a technical level, having this infrastructure of e-commerce and online retail, I think it did a lot of magic, you know, people were able to stay home and shop and minimize their need to go out to the markets in traditional markets and you know, have this problem really be much, much larger and, and create more casualties, which we’re all trying to, to avoid here on a human global effort. You know, it’s also what’s unique about this crisis is the fact that the world is humanity, it’s kind of you to know, there are friction points. But in general, there’s come they’re coming together realize there’s a common enemy that doesn’t, you know, distinguish between nationalities and borders and religion or whatever. But the ability, that everybody has to actually realize that and feel safe about it, because there’s e-commerce, right, they can sit at home in order what they need the toys for the kids to keep them afloat, or any technical devices to keep the zoom Chad’s going on food, even though I personally had having struggles with Instacart. You know, the delivery dates are really far off. So I hope that will get fixed soon. But yeah, you’re in an interesting position. And I guess, considering that you’re supposed to be in a very good position. What are your main challenges right now? Considering you know, the chance the changing landscape at this point?


Carolyn Lowe  23:26  

Yeah, our biggest challenge right now is just hiring enough people. Right now we’re obviously growing pretty quickly. And, and so a lot of my time is dedicated to finding the right people in the right seat. So we’re a team of nine now we’ll, we’ll probably be 15 to 18 by the end of the year. So I’m dedicating my time to finding the right people, for ROI, Swift, that share that passion that shares our core values that want to make it better, and that care about what they do. And they care about the brands that we work with, you know, we have a saying if Nike wanted to work with us, we would say no. And that’s because, you know, Nike doesn’t need us to kill ourselves for another dollar, but that some of the brands that we work with, that are lifestyle brands that aren’t on Amazon, you know, we do their Facebook and Google advertising. And we say don’t go on Amazon, you know, those are the people that we get up in the morning for. And so one of our biggest challenges right now is finding those like-minded folks, our other big challenges, you know, I can’t tell you how many phone calls I’ve had of people saying, hey, I’ve just pivoted and made this new sanitizer hand sanitizer. Can you help me sell it on Amazon? Well, no, sorry, we can’t because Amazon won’t let any new entrance, especially in hand sanitizer. So we work with natural brands that, you know, sell seven, eight figures on Amazon, and they can’t even sell their own brand of sanitizer and cleaning products that they’ve been, you know, selling all along. So, I think that’s one of the big challenge

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