Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
I designed a niche product to solve a common pregnancy problem. What do you do when your belly no longer fits inside your jacket? It was entirely selfish though. My wife was pregnant with our first and wasn't fitting in her jacket so she ended up taking my winter jacket...which I wanted back because it was a cold winter! So after searching online and not finding a jacket extender, I designed one. The added benefit is that it can also be used by both parents to extend our jacket around a baby-carrier once your baby is born.
I progressively improved the design and built it up as a commercial offering while still holding down a fulltime career as an engineer. Initially in-house for samples but quickly realised I didn't have the time to sew as I was still working a full-time job while starting the business. I went to local fabric suppliers and simply started asking questions about if they knew services. Currently I use service providers in Montreal for everything I need from manufacturing to packaging.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Created a simple bootstrapped website (took me a couple of evenings), and then started seeing sales. I started by testing to see if this was something that anyone actually wanted to buy without investing too much time or money upfront. I did post as much as I could to Facebook and Wordpress. I think I got lucky because what I created did actually have a demand. Facebook generates traffic however most sales are from people searching on Google or having heard about us WORD OF MOUTH. Word of Mouth is HUGE!!
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
Most if not all of the apps have an iPhone version which I rely on heavily. Xporter for specific financial reporting. Orankl for reviews. Langify for bi-lingual. Ordercup for shipping. Store Locator so customers can easily find a store that stocks our product. For social media, Facebook (Pages app on iPhone for quick posts), Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Wordpress and Google+. Evernote, Any.do and Trello for work tasks. Insightly for CRM. Gmail for managing business emails. MailChimp for newsletters. Google Docs and Google Drive for storing files although still use Excel and Word. Wetransfer for large file transfer of photos and videos. Pixlr for quick photo editing online. Currently internally but might look at fullfilment in order to focus on growing the business rather than packing.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Work hard on the right things! Find some passion as this will help through the tough times which there are. Don't be afraid or shy to ask for help. Business is a team sport and you can't play the game without a team.