Despite Full-time Jobs, These Two Entrepreneurs Ran a Successful Pop-up Shop for Their Online Store

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What happens when two university admissions counsellors decide to bring their passion for Southern style and access to education together? Well, if you ask Steven and Thomas, they'll tell you an online store that sells hand-crafted bow ties and two entrepreneurs who just ran their first successful pop-up store inside a trendy women's boutique in Mississippi.

This case study walks you through the journey of two friends and their quest to run a side business while using a portion of their proceeds to help students out with scholarships for school. From coming up with a concept, going through the search for manufacturers, setting up their online storefront, to what it takes to run a pop-up, these two have a lot of great tidbits and insight to share.

Whether its using pop-ups shops to add another sales channel or using them as a way to increase brand awareness, The Good South, is a testament to why the trend is here to stay and why every ecommerce entrepreneur should consider giving them a shot.

Let's dive right in. 

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Instagram 101: How to Build an Audience of Customers for Your Brand [Video]

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We already know that Instagram is a great place for posting selfies and photos of food, but did you know that Instagram can be a highly-targeted, visual advertising channel for your brand? In fact, a recent study found that Instagram provides brands with 25% more engagement over other social media platforms.

And like any other social network out there, there are right ways, wrong ways, and clever ways to use it. So how can you use Instagram to build an audience of customers for your business?

In this video, we'll show you three concrete methods that you can use to increase engagement and build a following for your brand.

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How To Build Buyer Personas For Better Marketing

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You shouldn’t dive into paid advertising or content marketing without knowing exactly who your buyers are. Knowing and understanding who buys, or will buy your products is imperative to help you maximize your advertising return-on-investment and content effectiveness.

To understand core customer groups, it has become a standard for many companies to create buyer (or customer) personas. Buyer personas are fictional, generalized characters that build a picture of your ideal and largest markets. They usually encompass not only demographic information like age, location and income, but also psychographic information like interests, reasons for buying and concerns. 

In this post, we'll learn how to build buyer personas for your online business so you can laser target your ads and create more compelling content that will engage your ideal customers. 

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The Top 10 Online Resources That Will Help You Become a Local SEO Expert

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Whether it's researching a product, searching for a phone number, or finding out hours of operation, consumers are performing billions of local searches each month. So imagine then as a small business, how vital it is to have a well-thought out Local SEO strategy is in order to get in front of all those people looking for exactly what you have to offer. 

Frankly, as mobile adoption and dependence continues to increase exponentially, being found in local search results will become a distinguishing factor between a business that's thriving and one that's hardly able to make ends meet.

However, knowing the importance of having a Local SEO strategy is one thing, being able to execute on it and make it work is a whole other thing. Which is why, we've been creating educational resources around tactical components that include learning the basics, building citations, leveraging online reviews, and doing on-site optimization. 

But we also thought it would helpful to highlight other incredible resources out there on the web for learning more about Local SEO and really diving deep into the subject. To help you cut through the clutter, I've put together this curated list of online resources to speed up your learning curve and make it easier to ramp up on the topic.

Enjoy!

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Behind the Scenes at the Shopify Build A Business Winner’s Day in NYC

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This past July we announced the winners of Shopify’s 4th Annual Build A Business Competition.

On August 7, Shopify headed to New York City to celebrate the 10 successful startups who came out on top. They flew in from all over the world – from Canon City, Colorado to Adelaide, Australia.

Those entrepreneurs won the competition by selling the most in their category over an eight-month period. The competition resulted in 21,000 entrepreneurs who created new businesses that sold more than $120 million in products.

This year’s winners earned $50,000 and the opportunity to seek business advice from our all-star mentors: Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Cuban, Lil Jon, Arianna Huffington, Daymond John, Tim Ferriss, Chase Jarvis, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Selita Ebanks, and Amber Mac.

Each winner spent an hour with their category mentor, asking for input on their business plan, growth strategies and marketing goals.

“It was the most enlightening one hour of my life that I’ve had,” said Michael Cao, CEO of ZoomHash and the winner of Tim Ferriss’s Electronics & Gadgets category.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at what happened when this year’s winners met their mentors.

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Mobile Now Accounts for 50.3% of All Ecommerce Traffic

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Last week represented the first time in history that more people used mobile phones and tablets to visit online stores than using computers. Looking at data from over 100,000 ecommerce stores that use the Shopify platform, we saw 50.3% of traffic coming from mobile (40.3% from mobile phones, 10% from tablets) and just 49.7% from computers.

We have been watching and talking about the mobile commerce trend for years, but now there’s no disputing it: mobile commerce is now the default way that people shop online.

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The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding

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Crowdfunding has been one of the best things ever to happen to artists and entrepreneurs.

Every year since 2010 artists have received more funds from crowdfunding than they have from the National Endowment of Arts. Meanwhile, it’s propelled new businesses, like Oculus Rift, which raised $2.4 million dollars on Kickstarter before being acquired by Facebook for $2 billion; and Pebble, one of the early trendsetters in smartwatches.

This “pennies from many” model allows many more people to pursue their creative and entrepreneurial visions. For prospective entrepreneurs, crowdfunding is an exciting way to generate attention, validate an idea, and perhaps most importantly, raise capital without going into debt.

But running a successful campaign is no walk in the park. That’s why we’ve put together The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding as well as Crowdfunding 101, an infographic that gives you an overview of the two major crowdfunding platforms and the characteristics of successful campaigns. You’ll find in these two pieces everything you need to know about the right sort of product to crowdfund and how to transition to an enduring campaign afterwards, with data-driven advice on optimizing your campaign page.

In addition to up-to-date and novel advice, this guide includes in-depth interviews with four entrepreneurs who got their start with successful campaigns. These include interviews with Canary Home Securities, which raised $2 million to become Indiegogo’s most-funded hardware project; and Catan Boards, which raised 1,400% of its funding goal.

Today, we present The Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding, as well as Crowdfunding 101, an infographic with the data analysis of 400,000 campaigns. Take a look.

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How to Capture High Quality Product Photos With Your SmartPhone

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Before you spend money to rent a DSLR camera and a lens for your product photography, consider using the quality camera that you carry around with you all the time: your smartphone.

You may be thinking that using your smartphone for product photography sounds a bit crazy, but with today’s advances in technology, it’s absolutely feasible to create great product images by utilizing your smartphone’s advanced camera features and a tripod. This option is both budget and user-friendly – not to mention convenient!

Here's a step-by-step guide showing you exactly which tools and apps you'll need.

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Four On-Site Optimization Tips for Local SEO to Help You Rank Higher

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Here's something you may be wondering about: If you've already optimized your website for search engines, why do you have to optimize it again for local SEO? According to Local SEO expert David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors, properly optimizing your website could account for as much as 18% of what Google weighs inits algorithm when determining which local results to serve up to users.

With as many as 7 billion monthly local searches in the US alone, consumers are searching for business addresses, products, hours of operations, driving directions, reviews, and coupons they can use at your establishment. 

With local search becoming more and more important for small businesses (and Google as rumored by its upcoming algorithm change), it's important for merchants to understand not only the basics of Local SEO, but what it consists of.

This includes building citations, leveraging online reviews, and what we'll cover in this post, on-site optimization for increasing chances of ranking higher in local search results. 

Let's get started.

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5 Strategies To Validate Your Product Ideas

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Coming up with a product idea for your new online business can be difficult. More difficult still is building the confidence to make the jump and go through with your idea once you do have one. Will anyone care? Will anyone buy it? These are common questions you’ll ask yourself at some point in your journey.

Truth be told, you’ll never know with 100% certainty how well your product idea will do until you actually open up shop. However, by validating your product idea before jumping in head first, you can mitigate risk and build confidence in your idea before investing too much time and money.

In this post, we will look at a five strategies you can use right now to validate your product ideas.

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