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How Silver Icing Used the Trade Accelerator Program to Expand Its Mission into New Markets

By Diane Amato

Published July 25, 2023 • 5 Min Read

Silver Icing is dedicated to inspiring confidence through fashion and empowering women. After more than a decade of ups and downs, Silver Icing has landed on a viable business model that has allowed them to expand within Canada and beyond its borders.

Silver Icing is an online retailer that addresses the hardest thing about shopping online for clothes — fit. “Typically, an online retailer has a 30 – 50 per cent return rate. That’s a lot of back and forth, it’s not very good for the environment, and it’s not good for customer experience,” says Christina Marcano, founder and CEO of Silver Icing.

Marcano and her team at Silver Icing have addressed the fit issue through a unique social selling model. Stylists — influencers within their geographical, professional and/or social community — work as intermediaries between the company and the customer. They crowdsource fit information amongst each other, become product knowledge experts, and communicate what they have learned about fit and fabric with their customers.

This model benefits the customer, and Silver Icing’s approximately 10,000 stylists can work from home anywhere in Canada and earn 20 per cent of all sales they make without investing in any inventory. “We are redistributing sales back into the hands of women across the country,” Marcano explains.

From manufacturer to wholesaler to online success

Marcano had over a decade of experience in the fashion industry before launching Silver Icing. A natural and resilient entrepreneur, her road has been filled with drama, ups and downs, pivots and explosive growth.

Her background in the fashion industry began in 2004 with her clothing line Skyler. She manufactured the line and had retail and wholesale channels, which experienced good success until the recession hit in 2008. When the company started struggling, she decided to pitch on Dragon’s Den.

While she didn’t get a deal, Marcano generated considerable interest through the show, most notably from a partner who agreed to manufacture her line overseas at reduced costs. The relationship ended when the manufacturer didn’t produce the collection she had spent months pre-selling, leaving Marcano and her young family with no money. “We were literally broke. It was one of the rare moments in my life where I contemplated giving it all up and getting a job or doing something different.”

Tapping into the limited inventory she had left, she experimented with a few ways to approach her business operations until she landed on the online social selling model she has today.

Establishing a local foundation before expanding internationally

Marcano and her partners — which include her husband Aaron and her father Roy, who are both systems engineers and work full-time with Silver Icing — have long identified the United States as a natural opportunity for expansion. She explains that from both a customer perspective and a stylist perspective, the market fit is strong. “In terms of the products we carry and the aesthetic that we have, there’s a very large market of women who are similar to our Canadian market.” What’s more, Silver Icing gives women the opportunity to work from home and around their current schedule to earn some extra income – even if they live in a more remote area.

But the team was intent on establishing robust systems and processes within Canada before taking Silver Icing to an international stage. “Our growth was so explosive initially that all of our energy was spent trying to keep up,” says Marcano, which inspired them to develop their group order system allowing stylists to place orders and get products into their customers’ hands more efficiently.

The Silver Icing team also needed to ensure their website could keep up with massive demand. “During one product launch, we sold over 10,000 pieces in 15 minutes,” Marcano says, explaining that people would rush to their site at once when new outfits launch and then it would go down for an hour. “We had a lot of scaling to do in order to handle that much traffic.”

She adds: “We had to go through all those growing pains in Canada. It was a controlled way to build out the systems. Because the U.S. market is so much bigger, we have to be ready for it.”

Leveraging international trade programs to go global

Marcano and her team leveraged the support of RBC and the RBC network to help take their business to the next level. “Our RBC advisor has been amazingly supportive. In my previous experience with banks, it was very transactional, whereas our experience with Mike has been very supportive. He is very invested in our success, he understands the business, and he’s rooting for us. He’s making the right connections,” says Christina.

One of those key connections was an introduction to the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP) – a comprehensive international trade workshop that takes place over four to six weeks. The program is highly interactive, offering direct mentorship and personalized coaching by industry experts to help businesses scale up and take their business global. “The course really helped us map out our entry strategy into the U.S. in more detail and make sure we are positioning ourselves correctly,” says Hayley Gregg, Silver Icing’s Chief Financial Officer. “It also helped us closely review all areas of our business, such as marketing, tax, and legal, which was an extremely valuable piece as we launch our brand in the U.S. and create our U.S. website,” she adds.

TAP provides intensive workshops and one-on-one coaching to help businesses like Silver Icing create a detailed export plan and prepare for their business journey’s next chapter.

“Fashion isn’t our focus with our clothing,” says Marcano. “Our mission is to inspire confidence, and our focus is finding clothing that actually fits and feels comfortable.”

The Silver Icing team is excited to expand this mission into a new market and help more women feel confident through a social model that builds community and connection.

Learn more about the Trade Accelerator Program

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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