If I can start an e-commerce business anyone can!
Fancy starting your own online business but worried you don’t have the skills? Read how one mum started two e-commerce websites from scratch, and why she believes you can too!
Sarah Smith had always dabbled in selling – from hand knitted scarves to setting up an eBay business with a friend. But it wasn’t until children put the brakes on her career in film and television that she seriously considered starting her own business.
Two years on and she has turned her passion for jewellery into not just one but two e-commerce websites. And she firmly believes that if she can do it, anyone can. Including YOU! To help you see just how do-able it is, she kindly agreed to share her journey with us.
If I can start an e-commerce business anyone can!
Once upon a time, in my pre-children life, I held an exciting job as head of PR in the film and television industry – fabulous at the time but unthinkable now!
I’m now in my 40s and a mum of three. I never had myself down as an entrepreneur, but after developing my passions into hobbies, I eventually turned my hobbies into businesses – and I love it! I enjoy the excitement and freedom of setting up a new business.
I made my first website myself
I have a passion for jewellery, I’m sure I’m not alone, and that’s what led me to create Sarah Smith Jewellery. The website is purely devoted to my favourite jewellery brand Bibi Bijoux, a family-run business based in The Netherlands.
I created the first version of this site myself, and my children will be the first to testify how completely rubbish I am on a computer!
Luckily though, Apple Macs used to come with an app called IWeb. It was very easy to drag and drop to make a fully functional e-commerce site simply with the creation of a Paypal add to cart button, albeit not a terribly professional-looking website.
It may have been functional rather than beautiful, but it helped to get my business off the ground with minimal investment.
I invested in a professional site and increased sales
At the start of last year, I decided to bite the bullet and take the business to the next level and have my website professionally designed. The sales immediately rewarded me for my investment, which really wasn’t as horrific as I expected it to be, and gave me the belief that maybe I could do this.
Then I got to grips with social media
Over the past 18 months with the Sarah Smith Jewellery business, I have invested an awful lot of time learning about social media. My Bibi Facebook page has a lovely community feel and people love to feel they belong.
When I first started off I thought it was important for me to portray this as a ‘big professional’ business and not just me. How wrong was I!
My unique selling point was that it was just me. People love the fact that they can ring me up for a chat to discuss a piece of jewellery and that when they ring they’ll always get me and I’ll spend time talking to them. I also respond to queries over the weekend.
I joined a local group to beat loneliness
Working by myself feels quite lonely at times so I joined a local group – The Bird Table. It’s not networking, it’s a small business development group for business women run by a professional coach.
I love it, they’re such a supportive group and I see them as an extension of my workforce, coming up with ideas such as adding a style guide – something I just hadn’t thought of. These sessions give me self-confidence and help me to identify my strengths.
I decided to start another site selling more brands
This sparked my light bulb moment: why don’t I set up another website selling lots of brands? What could go wrong? I had the financial commitment of the website to cover, but I thought that if I can’t sell enough jewellery to cover the costs, then I should pack up now. (I wasn’t too worried about being left with stock as I have various ways to sell this, including auction sites.)
I focus on excellent customer service
Promoting my new site, Piccadilly Lily as just me is the ethos for my new venture. It’s very personal and I have lots of links on the site to social media and a ‘speak to Sarah’ live chat option. For me, excellent customer service is an essential, and something that plenty of other internet businesses do very badly, which makes me stand out.
I’m learning how to spread the word online
Publicising my new site was, and continues to be, vital. I’m all Facebooked, Instagrammed, Pinterested up. I’ve had many conversations with Google about Adwords and shopping campaigns. There’s always a YouTube clip somewhere out there if I get stuck on anything.
I’ve had one-on-one social media coaching which was invaluable. I can’t believe I spent three hours purely learning about Facebook (which I thought I had an understanding of!). Knowing how they all work is the key to a good online presence.
Choosing the right brands to sell was fun
Choosing the brands for Piccadilly Lily, my latest business, was great fun; buying stock is the best part of my job. The criteria was they had to sit alongside each other well, while offering completely different styles. There has to be something to suit all ages, and more importantly, all pockets.
I held a launch party at home
I held a launch here at home for the new business, sending out hordes of invitations. It was a great success! I was particularly thrilled that the Head of Sales for Jewellery and Watches from Fossil came and was really complimentary, commenting on how impressed she was at how I had curated the collection of designers.
The business is booming and I have a job I love. I really do think it is important for me to be passionate about what I’m selling. I’m now gearing up for Christmas, where incidentally 70% of my sales will come from. Happy days!