If I had it to do over again, I'd do it differently.
I started WC kind of fly by the seat of my pants and it took me a while to figure things out. Granted, I wasn't thinking "I'd like to start a business", it was more "well, um, maybe I'll start an Etsy shop?" and it evolved from there, but I've definitely learned a few things along the way. Some things have panned out fantastically and other things? Not so much. So let's talk about my top three tips for getting started once you know what it is you want to do!
1. Figure Out Your Logo/Branding in Advance
I didn't have a set logo before I opened my shop and it took me five or six tries and six months to find one I liked (and we're actually in the process of slightly modifying it right now), but this is really important. Your logo will be front and center on your site (whether its Etsy or your own dot com) and on your materials.
Here's the original logo thrown together in Pic Monkey
and our most recent, more professional logo:
We slap this bad boy on everything. Postcards that we mount the headbands and clips on, on the stickers that go on the outside of each package, on gift cards and coupons, you name it.
Speaking of materials, I used to print a lot of mine at home and they just didn't cut it. They weren't as professional and it's worth the cost to have them professionally printed. I love Fed Ex office or Vista Print because the quality is fantastic and there's always, always a 30% off coupon on retailmenot.com so they can be really affordable. It's worth your while to sort this out in advance so that when your first orders come in, you're confident when you send them out. If your first customers are impressed with the quality of not just your product, but your packaging and presentation, they'll be return customers and spread the word.
Steph and I talk about this all the time, actually. Think about when you order something that you're super excited about. Then it finally comes and it's crammed in a tiny little envelope that's all crushed and the packaging is just disappointing. It's kind of a let down and takes away from the whole experience. We really want people to get our products and love the headband as well as how it's packaged. That means that it arrives in perfect condition and looking professionally packaged. Just my two cents, though!
2. Learn Photography or Hire it Out
Your photos will be what sell your product. I have to say that this is the second most important thing you can do to grow a business (I'll talk about the most important in a future post). Without being able to hold your product and see if in person, customers need to be drawn in by the photo. The photos have to sell it. My early photos were a joke and I'm downright embarrassed of them. I've learned a lot of about photography and take all our lay flat shots and a good portion of our modeled shots to make up about 75% of our shots. We pay our favorite photographers to get about 20% of the other shots (mostly modeled) and we only work with photographers whose work we love and who understand our style - crisp, bright, and simple. The other 5% of shots come from customers who we love and have some major talent!
The photo philosophy extends to Instagram as well. When people first find your feed, they decide whether or not to follow based on their first impression. Dark, sloppy, or just generally unprofessional photos aren't going to help you, regardless of how amazing the product is.
I use a couple white poster boards glued together to make a white box and move that box wherever the light is best to get product shots. I mostly use a nifty fifty lens when I shoot and try to shoot as many angles as possible so that each listing has multiple photos.
I also have a white backdrop in my studio for taking photos on kiddos (fortunately my friends have the cutest little ones and let me borrow them from time to time!).
3. Research Your Competition
In my arena in particular, there are literally hundreds of other businesses offering a similar product. Headband and accessories shops are a dime a dozen it seems, and researching others in your market is important for two reasons:
- you can learn a lot from more established shops
- it will help you identify what's already being done so you can find something that's uniquely yours.
We try really, really hard not to offer the same products as anyone else. Once in a while we see someone using the same lace or a similar style piece, but we really make an effort not to use supplies or products that others are using. For example, I started out with a lot of felt hair bows and decided that wasn't really my favorite, that other people did it better, and I wanted to be known for something different. We're known now for our lace headbands and while we offer a variety of pieces, lace headbands are our signature and I'm proud of that. They're my favorite items to make, sell, and see on our customers.
Think about what you want to be known for, make sure you're unique and use researching your competition as a way to make sure you are.
I feel like I could talk on and on about this stuff and maybe it's not particularly riveting, but they're easily the three biggest things I wish I'd done before I started!