Running a small business is tough. Running a small business in an uncertain climate is tougher…. and starting a small business selling personalised gifts in that uncertain climate is probably nothing short of crazy.
But what’s a little crazy between friends. I like to live life on the edge, and no amount of uncertainty was going to stop me from launching my own unique personalised gifts business in 2017.
I knew the market was tough, and I knew the economy was fragile. During a time of unknowns and the ever impending Brexit debacle, pretty much anyone with a sensible brain would have shied away from setting up a business and launching an e-Commerce website - oh, but not I.
Call me foolish, or call me brave, it’s a decision that’s paid dividends and taught me a whole lot of amazing stuff when it comes to e-Commerce and selling online.
When I launched my Lifestyle Brand, Casa Lola, I knew I was up against some seriously well styled websites showcasing my competitors and their goods. Having a business based in interior decor and personalised gifts, I’m up against the big dogs selling personalised gifts, such as Not on The High Street and the whole of the Etsy marketplace.
Now, a start up business is rarely flash with the cash, and the pot for additional spend is almost always empty. It might seem like the ultimate must-have for a start-up business to have a website built, but when you’re staring at thousands of pounds of fees it’s a pretty scary investment. We’re living in a world of social media addicts where the majority of consumers shop 24/7 on mobile devices. With the ease of social media selling, a start-up business would straight away think “do you even really need a website?” - well, take it from me, the answer to that question is yes.
It’s all very well having an Etsy store, and in fact a lot of creative businesses flourish solely on having a store on a ready made platform such as Etsy. But with a large platform, comes the fees. For every sale you pay a percentage here, a percentage there, and then throw some more profit Paypal’s way. So whilst it may seem like the sales are going well, is the profit?
The only true way to avoid this is to move to your own standalone website. You have control over fees, management of the site, and more importantly your very own SEO. After all, you want people to find you right? Your own website gives you a way to showcase your work without vying for attention whilst drowning within a sea of others swimming side by side. You’ve got total control over how much you pay per month, whether it’s a base rate for hosting or a more in depth website with paid for plug ins - the choice is yours. The best thing is, you can even choose which methods of payment you accept and take back control over just who you want to pay fees to.
With the above being said, to me it seemed it was a no brainer to create a show stopping website to showcase my wares. Of course, money was a huge factor and I took a step many a start-up business does…I created my very own Wordpress website.
With the help of a friend who had more knowledge than I, I set about creating my website. Whilst the website did the job AND was free, it was very much half finished and was such a pain to update for product listings that I literally didn’t bother. Of course the joys of free websites are yes there is no money involved - but it also means you care less about what’s on it. However, the last thing you want when you’re working hard to build brand awareness is a half arsed half finished website out on the world wide web representing your brand.
So when I started working with SiteGeek for my SEO, I took on board all of Steve’s advice and took the plunge with a Shopify website. Steve and his team created me a visually stunning website that was everything I’d ever wished for, with products that look amazing in the chosen theme. It’s easy to navigate which means I get great conversion rates and everyone is incredibly impressed when they see it for the first time. It makes my heart happy to know that customers visit my website and totally GET my brand in just a few seconds. After all, is success truly possible in the e-Commerce sector without a strong brand identity?
Under Steve’s guidance, I’ve even included video (video is the King of content I have learnt!) which people love. The result is a super slick, visually stunning and most importantly, easy to use website that gives a great user experience.
Since the website launched, I pay a flat rate of $29 a month (seriously! How good is that!) and then optional plug ins - for example, I have chosen to have a photo upload plug in installed to make my products easy to order for the customer.
I am able to blog, update products, and add content at the click of a button. I’ve gone from being a website novice to a Shopify whizz - solely because the platform is so very easy to learn to use.
I am now able to sit and update products quickly and easily, which with a product catalogue like mine is a huge must. Whereas before I would dread adding new products, now I can’t wait to get them on my website and show them off! It really is as easy as 1,2,3.
I am so pleased I took a chance on Shopify, and more importantly, SiteGeek UK. I’ve found a team of amazing people who have helped me really build my brand - and that’s coming from a branding specialist, so there’s no pulling the wool over my eyes! They supported me with the website creation, launch, and even taught me how to use the back-end of the site. After a couple of lessons and the skills under my belt, I was able to sit back and watch my SiteGeek SEO campaign take hold as the guys optimised my website to be found on top tier search engines such as Google and Bing.
I’d love to say I miss talking to Steve every day, but given that now we only speak when I update him on my sales milestones as they whizz past, I think I’ll take that.
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