Tori (’09) and Chris (’07) Gerbig’s Pink Lily boutique is thriving
WKU Alumni Association Members Tori (’09) and Chris (’07) Gerbig have found impressive success through their Pink Lily clothing boutique, which is one of the fastest-growing online retailers in the country.
The Gerbigs met as students at WKU when they were both working at Rafferty’s Restaurant and Bar. After Tori graduated from WKU in 2009 with a degree in Marketing, she took a job in insurance sales. To supplement her income and help repay her student loans, she started selling women’s fashion items on Ebay, which was later enhanced by a Facebook group to sell clothing to people in the Bowling Green area.
After dating throughout college, Tori and Chris married in 2010 and welcomed a son, Jackson, in 2013, and a daughter, Rylee, in 2015. After Jackson was born, Tori increased her focus on her online business. In early 2014, the Gerbigs launched the official website for Pink Lily. Just six months later, they both left their jobs to concentrate all of their time on their rapidly growing business.
“I am the CEO, buyer, social media and marketing director, and I handle all photo shoots and planning—basically everything that deals with the buying and selling of our products,” Tori explained.
Chris, who graduated from WKU with a degree in Finance in 2007, had corporate jobs in finance and supply chain operations before Pink Lily. He runs the business side of the store, managing finance, accounting, human resources, inventory management, business development, operational efficiency and profit and loss.
Their success has been, in large part, due to their ability to leverage social media and e-strategy, hosting daily contests, inviting market show feedback and featuring shopper marketing with the #pinklilystyle hashtag through the website’s Instagram feed.
In just three short years, their website has grown to produce $30 million, with more than $13 million in annual sales last year and more than 1 million total items shipped. The Pink Lily has expanded to include 25,000 square feet of warehouse space and 23 full-time staff, and they will open their flagship retail store in Bowling Green later this month. They also plan to start manufacturing their own items to meet the consumer demand.
Tori said their experiences at WKU have supported their business success. While at WKU, she was a member of Kappa Delta sorority and the American Marketing Association. Her favorite professors were Dr. Lukas Forbes, who taught Advanced Personal Selling, and Dr. Ron Milliman, who taught several of her Marketing classes. “They both taught me skills I use daily,” she said.
“Chris’ Finance degree, along with an MBA, helps him understand the analytical side of the business. Every decision affects the bottom line, and we’ve uncovered many areas of improvement just be understanding the numbers.”
Indeed, the Gerbigs’ numbers speak for themselves, with 228,000 Instagram followers and 1.4 million Facebook likes, with 22 percent of them converting to sales. In addition, their channels receive 500 daily orders (with 56 percent repeat buyers) and 300,000 weekly likes, shares and comments—a whopping 25 percent engagement rate.
“We have many plans for our business,” Tori shared. “Our first plan is to continue to grow our online sales. Worldwide, e-commerce sales grew 24 percent in 2016, so this will be our first priority.”