Getting started - Utilise the community
It's one thing being on holiday, visualising your new venture from a thousand miles away, safe in the sunshiny bubble of a daydream. Holidays give you a clarity and objectivity that being at home simply doesn't. I could see exactly how everything was going to look and evolve, where my products were going to be stocked, the editorial coverage...the success. The reality, however is vastly different. And not, as you may think all in a bad way, although I must say, my hurdle jumping has improved over the last 18 months. Like anything new, it's a learning curve and a steep one at times so, I did what I always do and made a list, (and there were days when I added things to the list I'd already done just to run a highlighter through them to feel like I'd accomplished something)!
Coming from a brand marketing, advertising, and more recently a digital background some of it came easy, however, it did require a change of mindset - not having the budgets that some of my former clients had had to play with I needed to think differently and with agility. How could I do this on the smallest budget possible?
Note: This blog post won't be for everyone - I promise there will be news on offers, new ranges and how to get the best out of our products but I was keen to share what I've learnt - it may be useful to some of you out there.
In terms of e-commerce there are a myriad of platforms that you can use which don't require you to have extensive (or any) coding expertise - you're reading this blog on one of them - Shopify - a really intuitive platform solely focused on e-commerce. Although I didn't start here. As a relative design snob I went to Squarespace first as the templates and flexibility that it provided were simply more aesthetically pleasing to me. I spent a couple of weeks on that platform using the free trial that most of these companies provide, and whilst it was great (I have subsequently used it for other websites that I have created for clients - yes, this journey has also allowed me to generate another, unexpected revenue stream) what it lacked was an integration for Paypal. That was a real barrier to entry for me, given that it is such a ubiquitous online payment method now. Long story short - it can be worked around, but I didn't have the time, money or inclination to have something created that I wasn't completely in control of and couldn't be supported by Squarespace's support team. So Shopify it was - I did the research, read the comparison articles and asked around, whilst there are many players such as Wix, and the relatively new tictail.com which looks great, Shopify provided all I needed and more and with tiered payment plans, great customer support and forums, it was a low risk decision to make.
Secondly was the branding - now I could have noodled away on this for weeks/months and that would have been a great excuse and a comfortable space that it's easy for me to hide behind - I've learnt my lesson the hard way and have wasted valuable time and money doing so in previous ventures. In this instance that wasn't my main objective, sure I wanted a brand that made sense and reflected the ethos of the business, but I wanted to get to market quickly and economically. And this can be achieved by using the amazing creative online community. Fiverr was a god send - you can access a myriad of talent from graphic design to SEO experts and at amazing prices. I had my brand identity created and supplied for use both on and offline within 2 weeks at a fraction of the price that agencies may charge. (Note: this is relative, it can take a few attempts to find the right designer and you need to be very clear on what you are looking for). Also worth checking out is People Per Hour where you can find and hire folk to do the jobs you can't or don't want to do.
Once I had this (and whilst working on building the e-commerce site) I could at least start working on a social presence. So far I have focused on 3 platforms and am considering whittling this down to 2. Currently Lüks is on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest - all valid platforms for community building and driving traffic, but these all need time, a considered strategy and testing - they each work well for different reasons, notably PR, marketing and direct sales - but more about that another time.
What I can tell you now is two platforms that helped me create a more stylised and professional social presence. The first is Phonto a mobile app for i-phone and android, which allows you drop text onto photos (great for promotions on Instagram) and Canva which is an app which makes design for web, print and social easy, it provides free, editable templates and designs for elements such as Facebook cover pages, which has saved me a truck load of time in promoting Lüks online.
It may well be that I found this side of the business easier because it's my background, there was a familiarity to it that helped me expedite the process - what wasn't going to be so easy/or quick was finding producers and suppliers that I felt comfortable with and that made sense for the ethics of the business - the textiles industry was one I have only experienced as a consumer and delving into it felt like a whole new world.