In 1997, I founded Three Custom Color Specialists, a color cosmetics line specializing in the duplication of discontinued shades and beauty for everyday women of all skin tones. The retail climate then was rife with opportunity - very different than it is now. 

These days, with traditional and online retail struggling like it is, many entrepreneurs are looking for more effective ways to reach the consumer.  A lot of us are having success with social networking and marketing directly from our proprietary Web sites, but it’s still a challenge to effectively build your client base so people are actually reading the blogs posts, tweets and e-mail blasts that you so painstakingly compose and design. What’s the point if you only have a handful of loyal followers?

So, how to reach new consumers in large numbers?

Television sales networks, like QVC (Stock Quote: LINTA), continue to have high viewership and sales despite the economic downturn.   Sales have dipped a bit, but they are not feeling the economic crunch like many department stores and boutiques.  And the cost to do business with them can be much lower than traditional retail and can require less staff.  The downside is that in many categories, QVC is pure consignment, and you have to ship them all the product you plan on selling in advance of your appearance. So if you do manage to get on the network and don’t do well during your sell, all your meticulously packaged product comes sailing right back to you. 

Worth the risk?  It can be.

Ten years ago, QVC may not have been the ideal place for a makeup artist brand like ours, but over the years, QVC has really come into its own especially in beauty, featuring high-end brands like Prescriptives (Stock Quote: EL) , YSL, Smashbox, Clinique and others (some of which have been resurrected from a slow death and are once again at the top of their game due to their QVC business). 

My partners and have been watching the progression of QVC and became interested in approaching them a couple years ago.  We were hesitant because we knew how competitive it was, so we wanted to wait for the right moment.

So how to get on?

Getting a meeting with a buyer at QVC is no easy task.  They are bombarded with pitches so we chose to work with a Brand Strategist (we worked with Nadia Yousif and we love her!) who was familiar with the inner workings of QVC and had a track record with bringing other brands like ours to the network. The buyers are very busy so even though the beauty buyer knew Nadia and had worked with her before, it took a couple months to secure a meeting for us – I say this merely to let you know that patience, in the case of QVC, is a virtue.

For our pitch meeting, Nadia created a Powerpoint (Stock Quote: MSFT) presentation and we spent time together strategizing what products to show the best way to introduce our brand to the buyer.

At the pitch meeting, we were fortunate enough to have a very enthusiastic reception from the buyer, but you should also expect the buyer to be more neutral.  They might need time to consider if you and your product are appropriate for the network.  Enthusiastic reception or not, it can then take a couple of months to get a concrete answer.  If it’s a go, then you - or your brand strategist - have a lot of work to do (after you have a drink to celebrate!). 

And the work begins…

Once you are accepted there is a ton of paperwork to be filled out, but that’s not all:

  • Your products need to pass QVC’s Quality Assurance test.
  • Your on-air claims need to be vetted.
  • There may need to be product testing done (in our case, dermatological).
  • You’ll have to select models.
  • You need to prepare host gifts.

…and the list goes on. 

There are also classes that need to be taken. The Quality Assurance class is taken by the person who handles the logistical matters for your brand, and the Guest Excellence class is taken by the person you have chosen to represent your brand on-air (in this case, me).   You will do mock “sells” with a host during your class and are given a DVD of your sell to study afterwards. The Guest Excellence class must be passed if you want to go on air.

The buyer will place your Purchase Order and secure your air date. You can then prepare the order yourself or work with one of several companies who can do it for you for a fee. 

Then it’s time to construct your “sell.”  Nadia and I studied the DVD from my Guest Excellence class, prepared the sell and did mock timed run-throughs. One week before our airdate, we worked with our QVC “mentor” to fine tune. You have a very short time to be effective on air, so practice, practice, practice! But all that practice is well worth it. A successful day on QVC can make your entire quarter.

We go on air August 18 during the Beauty Newsmakers show. The show is from 8-11 p.m. and we will be on during the last hour.  Wish us luck! 

Trae Bodge has more than 20 years experience in the beauty business.  She serves as Creative Director for Three Custom Color Specialists, a color cosmetics brand she co-founded in 1997, and provides consulting services for other brands - creating and editing color collections, forecasting trends and sharing her marketing, PR and education expertise.

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