Welcome to ProofFactor's Entrepreneur Interviews - We've taken ProofFactor clients who are building business from the ground up and ask them the hard questions. Watch the video or read the transcript below to learn how to successfully navigate the challenges of starting a business.
- Even if you’re online - start by promoting it locally
- Word of mouth will take you far - best customers come from that.
- Do the research necessary - but don’t just sit at home, go talk to people and meet them.
Trade-offs - there are a lot of them, especially if you’re a parent. Get good at evaluating them and knowning what you're willing to give up.
Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?
I’ve been running 402&Beyond since Dec 2017, it started as an online business, but I did do “sip & shops” and parties in town to have ppl come and get together to try on the clothes. Sometimes I still like doing that, it’s very traditional. I still have people come in and out of my house to shop.
The online part worked pretty well, it got out there with some ads, but more when I switched over to WooCommerce it kind of blew up in Lincoln. So we went from an online boutique to also a brick and mortar back in August of 2018.
So the brick and mortar is currently right now my stress factor.
And you have both the boutique store and the website?
So you do more of the business through the boutique
I’d say it’s like 60-40 , I still do a lot online. The in store part has just a lot of things I need to worry about vs. online. The online I can mostly do myself.
When it comes to raising kids and starting a Brick and Mortar I had to choose between employees and a nanny for my kids. Right now since my kids are younger I choose to have employees, so I’m not there as there as much as I’d like to be...
I’ve always been into fashion, since I was little I had 3 younger sisters, and we’d pack up the family and drive an hour to the bigger malls in Omaha. So I’ve always been in love with Shopping, with the apparel retail side of it. I did do some modeling for a boutique, I saw some back ends of another one, and at that time I was like “oh, this is something I can do and I enjoy it”
Starting it was a lot more difficult, a lot more difficult than the thought process I had of it.
What went into starting 402&Beyond - both the store and the site?
When I started it, I started it online, I started it with a website, but I also wanted to get my name out there more. I had to do it locally so I teamed up with other women that had… not boutiques, but business. Like Sensy and Stella and Dot; other business that I wanted to promote.
How I chose to do it was the sit and shops and I would promote them, and on top also promote our clothes.
It gave them a chance to do their in house parties and things like that. That’s how the word go out in Lincoln which kickstarted the site.
The word online was a little bit more difficult.
I thought that I could just start this online boutique and it’ll be so much fun and all I have to do is post on facebook. I had no idea what their algorithm was, or what all of that was - until I was like “why aren’t my posts getting seen” - that took a lot of trial and error, and I still don’t have it fully figured out. It’s still trying to figure out the back end that you don’t even think about when starting a business.
How did you go about figuring it out? How have you attracted customers and grow 402&Beyond?
Still to this day I’d say word of mouth is definitely the best way to gain a new customer that is going to stick around.
When they hear about this great new boutique, that’s so friendly, and they come in... I never let anyone push products onto people. I want anything that anyone buys from my store to be something ppl absolutely love, a statement piece that isn’t just going to be just for tomorrow or something they will only wear once.
Me getting to know them, me enjoying meeting new people, it really broadened my reach and customer base in Lincoln.
Outside of Lincoln - I started with Facebook ads thinking that it would be an easy way to drive traffic, I can’t say that I’ve ever really had great success with it, it’s changing all the time, it’s… growing, everything changes.
Speaking of Facebook Ads - I know that you do or used to do things like shop on Instagram, can you talk about how social media plays?
I do have all of the social media sites, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter. But I can’t say that they get shared much, products or anything like that, on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Instagram is a good avenue, I feel like a lot of people from the website come from Instagram, but also Facebook, you have to keep up on that as much as Instagram.
I know that you used to (or maybe still) do live videos on Facebook and other social media to drive sales.
Yes - I do it - live on the IG stories work better than live on Facebook. I feel like my niche for moms and women that are fashionable has been a lot more accurate on Instagram than on Facebook.
On Facebook, I have a smaller group on the side that I tend to as much as I can - they get all the sales and items first, have first access to purchase etc. That smaller group and my IG are my niche, as opposed to my huge facebook following.
And I still don’t hit, I think my posts on Facebook still don’t hit the number of people that I think it has the potential to.
What are your goals for the future? What are you trying to accomplish?
We’re starting to bring in little items already; we’ve purchases sunglasses, keychains, I’ve always had phone cases.
In the future I’d love to bring “mommy and me” outfits in for mommy and daughter. It’s becoming a very popular thing, and it’s fun to do when they’re younger.
And also having a store that has both mom and kids clothing so that you can tackle both of them at the same time. Especially when it’s a place that’s online so you don’t have to worry about your kids running around - or if it’s in store where we have toys FOR the kids so you don’t have to worry about them there.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
I would say that the biggest obstacles are all the things online that are behind the scenes that you don’t even know about. Starting a website you learn a lot of terms, like SEO, and the algorithms that run facebook.
I had no idea what = backlinks even meant - that was something I never even got myself into. And I still don’t know as much as I would like to know, but I’m learning and it’s constantly changing - I still have to be on top of it because it’s going to change tomorrow.
If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
The way I went about purchasing the starting of my clothes - it was in December, and I started talking about opening a shop, and I didn’t do as much research as I would have liked to with wholesale stores right at the beginning.
As soon as February hit, we were in Vegas and we went to market - I learned a lot more about what to do, what not to do; what to bring in and what not to bring in. I think I would have had less struggles if I waited to go to market.
It was things like being able to see the merchandise before I purchase it - I want to see the quality of it. For example, I’m someone that doesn’t like to separate my laundry before I wash it, or dry clean only I never do.
I didn’t think about how I live my life day to day and how that impacts what I would buy. There were things purchased that were dry clean only that I wouldn't keep. Or the quality of it, I had things that I didn’t even want to represent because the quality was not there.
Now I touch almost everything that's in my store, that was a big learning curve that I think I could have prevented if I just waited a little bit.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There are so many things out there - I love listening to podcasts but I’m not stuck on one. I love listening to anything from a woman that is empowering another woman. There is so much negativity around judging, even how people raise their kids, just everything. I want to be around and listen to people that want to empower the other person, that push people to do something that they might not otherwise do. I couldn’t say that I would have done this if I didn’t have a group of friends that pushed me to do it. That is always going to be my motivation factor, people empowering others.
What's your advice for new entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Don’t rush into things, I mean I’m not an expert or know everything because I’m learning something every day, but you never know, it could be a business that takes you leaps and bounds, or it could be a business that fails in a few days.
At the beginning of mine, I don’t think I knew enough to start. If I would have taken it slow I would have learned a lot more before pushing things. My advice is to research things, and take it slow - and actually know the steps and goals that you want to have before you just do it.
Anything else on your mind?
It’s a fun being employed by yourself, but it’s scary.
When you have employees - with those employees comes risk, you want your customers to have an experience, but if that employee had a bad day, you don’t know what experience a customer is going to have.
Where can we go to learn more?