“No paid influencers, no open ads, no viral moments. Just me and you.”
This note shared by Mia Ray to her Instagram followers in July illustrates the secret behind the unprecedented success of the Glam-Aholic Lifestyle brand. Armed with her love of fashion, her phone and some very loyal followers, Ray has disrupted the market and redefined the accessories industry.
With pieces typically ranging from $40 to $250, Ray’s imaginative line of lifestyle bags is on track to bring in $25 million in revenue for her business this year. Starting in 2010 as a blog showcasing the latest fashion and beauty trends, the brand has continued to expand its product offerings from luxury accessories to home decor and most recently, luggage.
Staying on top of the needs of her dedicated customer base, in May 2022, Ray launched her luggage line. When the collection dropped, the affordable luxury items sold out in less than 10 minutes, bringing in $700,000 in sales for the former full-time fashion and lifestyle blogger.
While less than 4% of black women entrepreneurs reach the million dollar mark, her multi-million dollar winning brand is an anomaly and shows no signs of slowing down. In our exclusive interview, Ray thoughtfully explained why her disruptive vision has seen exponential growth, year after year.
“I invest in my clients,” she replied, when asked about her strategies for breaking through the glass ceilings presented to her. A college dropout with no entrepreneurial experience, Ray started the Glam-Aholic Lifestyle blog in 2009. After spending a year blogging without making much money from it, Ray used $99 of her own funds to create Glam’s first product sample Aholic.
From there, she offered pre-orders to interested readers who put down $50 for each item they wouldn’t see for another 30-45 days. “And it worked,” she exclaimed. “My readers trusted me enough [to deliver].” Ray relied on what she knew about the market and the fashion and lifestyle industry to overcome her fear of getting started. When discussing how she allows her customers to feel seen and heard, Ray said she was able to “carve a place right in the middle” of other prominent fashion brands, which remains her commitment to Glam-Aholic’s primary consumer.
“I think a lot of people focus on the products and completely miss who they’re talking to. I filled the void of having something that was fashionable and stylish and affordable,” Ray emphasized. “It was a lost window of women who felt neglected and because I was that woman, I knew how to solve a common problem. I couldn’t afford a Chanel bag, but I also wanted something that was a step up from a Target handbag.”
“There are so many designers and luxury lines that sell a wide range of products, but never in a way that I felt I could afford,” she explained. Seeing herself as her target customer has given birth to a full line of high quality items that sell consistently. Keeping her ears to the road and her eyes on the latest fashion trends, Ray discovered early on the key to her business success.
“I always know what my client wants or needs because I am her,” Ray pointed out confidently. “When it comes to my customer base, we talk like friends.” Designed for the everyday woman, the Glam-Aholic Lifestyle brand has built a cult following with incredible conversion rates.
Previously listing her main role models as Kimora Lee Simmons, Beyonce and Oprah, Ray described being inspired by some of the top moguls in the business. “When you saw the cover of Oprah magazine, you saw Oprah, you know, on every cover. This is kind of like my marketing.”
Ray’s relationship with her 184k Instagram followers is truly a glimpse into the ethos of a leader who values authentic connection and acts with unwavering faith. “I actually met my producer through a friend of mine,” she revealed. “I’ve had the same manufacturer for 13 years now.” The partnership that has now grown into a more family partnership keeps Ray’s business poised for record launches and innovative collaborations.
In March 2020, Ray teamed up with Detroit native Melissa Butler of The Lip Bar to drop The D Girl’s collection, marked by a series of events in the heart of their city. Released on 3/13, giving a nod to city code, Ray and Butler solidified their commitment to their roots and the customers who have supported them since the beginning.
Growing from one employee two years ago to now nine employees this year, Ray shared that she still considers her business small but mighty. Having shipped just 100,000 orders over the past year, she cites her team as having made “a mighty punch”.
Doing the rest of the heavy lifting are Ray’s outstanding marketing campaigns. As the face of the brand, Ray’s associated direct-to-consumer sales techniques keep die-hard fans locked in on the business’s market climb. Last year, Glam-Aholic Lifestyle became the first fashion-based brand to film a commercial inside Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), as confirmed by a DTW official to the Michigan Chronicle.
“Storytelling is incredibly important because it makes the customer feel more connected to the product,” Ray said of her business’ continued success. Speaking specifically about her luggage collection, she described it as something she wanted her followers to know wasn’t something that just popped into her head.
Ray detailed how Glam-Aholic’s clients often watch every step of the development process, via her social media channels, and routinely act as a sounding board for her many ideas. A key moment for the brand came nearly three years ago, when it decided to treat Instagram Live as its in-house shopping network. Selling 13,000 units in an hour, and almost a million a few weeks later in the same fashion, it’s clear that Ray’s brand loyalty always starts with the seed of a story.
“I think what business owners need to realize is don’t rush greatness,” Ray said. After spending six years developing a line that sold out in minutes, the influential owner’s advice to “sit on top of things” makes more sense. Deciding to be good at one thing at a time, like offering a single style of bag available in several colors with each release, Ray’s focus on serving quality products to its target audience has been the overall differentiating factor. for her brand.
At the time of our conversation, Ray revealed that she was currently working out ways to build on the success of her latest collection, but didn’t seem overly concerned about achieving it. “I have a fire coming,” she said. “The essentials everyday women need.”
It is the demonstrated commitment to sustainability, authenticity and passion for the people she serves that have undeniably set Mia Ray apart as a high-impact entrepreneur. Making a point to diversify her brand with items she knows her customers are looking for, Glam-Aholic Lifestyle has organically expanded into a unique, inclusive luxury brand and a life-changing legacy piece for the culture.